Every day, we hear people tell us what a good person is like, and now and then someone define for us what is morally good, right or acceptable. But is living a moral and a good life all about virtue signalling? In other words, does telling others how to be good or what a good life is like makes us good people?
When we go about our daily activities, we see a lot of friendly people. We also know a lot of good people, but one common thing is that even some good people have bad habits. Often, we misunderstand some good people because of their bad habits and consider them bad. But isn’t it true that even good people have bad habits? Indeed, the answer is yes, I expect. But, having a bad habit is not the problem. Instead, the problem is that people who have bad habits always consider it as natural and to a greater extent, some are not even aware. This is one of the reasons Socrates would remind himself of self-examination; what Psychologists call introspection. The crux of the matter is that an examined life keep us from falling into the temptation of self-righteousness. Thus being critical of oneself is a compass that keeps us steadfast to the ways of truth and away from bad habits. Bad habits can range from jealousy, pride lies telling, pretentiousness gossip, and you can name the rest.
Conversely, being a good person is not about virtue signalling because when we spent time telling people what is right and doing nothing to examine ourselves there is a possibility to even become worse. Bad habits are not natural. They are cultivated, and the good news is that they can be replaced if the individuals subject to, become conscious and willing to work out for good ones.
Philosophers have argued that human actions to a greater extent are always motivated by some purpose emanating from the very fundamental essences of rationality which defines humans humanity as a rational being. By implication, this means that human beings, as rational beings; their actions are always guided by purpose. However, purpose in it ourselves do not determine the moral evil or goodness of and action. But instead, it only tells us that human always acts bear and intent which desire an outcome. Whether the result in itself is good or bad, that is another topic that can be discussed. Other’s intended outcome might be good for them but harmful to others, and this in itself is problematic because it posts a question of moral objectivity. Is that which is morally good universal and objective or subjective and relative?
It is no doubt that the deontologist will argue for moral objectivity, while the consequentialist will argue for moral relativism. But the question of what is morally right or good goes beyond just arguments. Let’s say like Aristotle would say that a true friend is the one who in wishing us well with it for our own sake or like Sartre would say that in choosing himself, he chose humanity. Now the question one would ask is what criteria would Sartre use to think that what is subjectively good for him will become a universal good for everyone. On what grounds would Aristotle considered a moral good for those that wish us well for our good which in turn advertently affect them negatively. Now would you prefer someone to please you in other to displease themselves and if so would that be morally good? Suppose that the people that wish you well do so because they expect you to reciprocate would that not be considered as sharing in the moral worth of morality? One would think that what is morally good is something to be shared, and it is neither subjective nor universal. Like Seneka, the grade would say, anything good without having something to share with is not worth having. That is why we have shared values, shared opinions, even some that we disagree with, and we also share the space that nature provides us.
It is no contradiction when Aristotle says that philosophers love what is good not because it is theirs but because it is good. Are there cultures we love and admire though they are not our cultures? When we look around, don’t we see people that are more talented than us? This is to say that just because we don’t have something does not make it good or bad. It is the perception that matters.
Happy World philosophy day to all
FROM MICHAEL ANKINIMBOM