Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Good for Me... Good for You?

In my Philosophy 101 class, we discussed Plato and his claim about the Forms and how they are the true form of something that merely represents it. For example the light we see in its various entities is merely a representation of the Form of light. Needless to say, my mind had a difficult time trying to grasp the full concept of what was being laid out (it became more complicated or maybe my brain just wasn't having it) and trying to fully articulate my own idea on Plato's claim became a challenge.
When I started reading Aristotle, my mind automatically went into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prematurely, of course. What made this easier to digest was Aristotle's take on goodness. In his "Nicomachean Ethics," when he mentions good, it seems to represent Plato's claim for the Forms: "it is clear that this one ultimate End must be the Good, and indeed the Supreme Good" (5). Identifying as the Supreme Good comes awfully close to saying it is the Form of good, but his various takes on goodness leave me wondering if he actually strays away from his mentor's ideology.
Mainly, in tune with happiness, his take on goodness does not seem to represent goodness as being inherent. When Aristotle says that "Ordinary people identify [happiness] with some obvious and visible good, [...]" he is pointing out that goodness is measured by relativity. It depends on what lens is being used to look at what is good. What may good for a poor person may not be good for a rich person. Getting a C in Finite may be good to a student who struggles with mathematics but absolutely horrifying to a student who strives for straight A's. It is all relative and depends on a common variable to make it so: people.
It certainly may not be that easy to digest as the idea of goodness gets more complicated and more fascinating as Aristotle continues to explore it, but one thing seems unchanging and quite clear. When Aristotle says "it frequently occurs that good things have harmful consequences," it is as if he is speaking about our current times and how many good things actually have negative side affects. Take antidepressants, for instance. These little pills are meant to make a mentally unbalanced person feel more balanced, yet even reaching that desired effect yields to some not-so-pleasant side affects, such as loss of sexual appetite or even increased suicidal thoughts. In this case, what is good is meant to help but it has that chance of doing the opposite.
The road to hell, after all, is said to be paved with good intentions.

1 comment:

  1. Ricky- Your explanation of Plato and how you studied the form of an object versus its' representation helped me understand what Aristotle seemed to be getting at with the concept of (almost unattainable) good.

    How I'm reading this is, for example, if goodness were a beam of light. We can look at a representation of the beam of light (what we see as the beam) all we want, and being far enough away, we have perspective enough to define it and describe it. However, if we were standing directly in the beam, we would know we were in a path of light, but it might be so bright and so intense we wouldn't be able to really see it, much less define it.

    Am I kind of getting your point?

    I like how you included real-life applications such as with PTSD (I'm not sure I understood what your mention of PTSD was illustrating?) and antidepressants, and how side effects, such as with meds, are an illustration of how the means might not justify the end.

    Pls. LMK if I'm "getting" your writing.


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