What is good? Good is good and that is final is what G.E Moore said. How can we approve of something that we, ourselves cannot define? There is no list in the world, which is split in two, telling us what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’. We can only associate ‘good’ with something that we have experienced and been taught from a very young age, so that we can weigh out good and bad. For example, if a young boy pushes over another little child, the mother would tell her son off, saying to him that he was naughty and he wasn’t being a good boy. Now this boy will learn that hurting some one else is not good and learn to compare his actions with a foundation that his mother built for him. As he grows up he would be able to understand any actions that may cause others pain, not just physical but emotional and mental pain, i.e., to hit, to steal, to kill etc. is wrong.
However, one can argue that if a child was brought up believing that hurting someone would be beneficial for them or for his or her people, than in their eyes that is also good. An example of this is the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Every day there is a new generation of suicide bombers being born in both Palestine and Israel because these babies are being born in a world where both sides are the enemies. The Palestinian children will grow up believing that the Israelis did them wrong and that bombing them is the ‘good’ thing to do as they are fighting for their cause. This also applies to the Israeli children, they will grow up believing that the Palestinians are the enemies and responsible for the grief and struggle in their country. We can criticise their actions as we have been taught that the actions that they are taking is wrong, however if the people who say that the actions of the Israeli and Palestinians are wrong, were brought up in the same culture, would they think that the actions of the two countries were wrong?
A persons view can be very different depending on their upbringing and beliefs. For example, religion and culture has great influences on people. At present there are some religions or belief groups who believe that sacrifices are good things that it is the right thing to do to offer a gift to whoever they worship. This is where the statement comes in. ‘anything that people agree on is good’, well if a small community, or a small cult agree that their actions are good, who is to say they are wrong. Just because people agree in things doesn’t make the action good. What the small majority of the people agree is good may not be the same as what other people think. Who is to say that the majority is right? In the western world we would consider a man who was married to more than one woman to be a bigamist or otherwise considered unfaithful. However, an Arabian man can have up to 4 wives, and in their culture this is considered normal yet in ours it is considered to be wrong. So how can we ever decide what is good and what is bad?
There have seen many cases in the past where beliefs, paranoia and naivety have contributed in alot of people agreeing on the wrong decision and taking the wrong actions that at the time was considered good. Examples of this are the witch-hunt in England in the medieval time and McCarthyism.
Long time ago people stupidly accused others people who seemed to be lucky in life i.e., had better crops than others or were prettier than people, of being witches. Anyone who defended the ‘accused’ would also be considered witches. This meant that they all had to agree that what they were doing was an act of goodness, to save them. This was ridiculous as the only method, in their eyes, of finding a witch was to see if they drowned or floated in the water. If they floated they were accused of being witches and if they didn’t they were dead anyway because they would have drowned. The same went for McCarthyism in America in mid 1900s. When a group of leading politicians lead by a powerful and persuasive man call McCarthy began accusing people of being communist people thought condemning them and sending them to prison even before they were proven guilty, all because people agreed that what they were doing was ‘good’ saving the country from future disaster.
Good isn’t what we all agree is good. In some cases it is but it all depends on the background of the people who are agreeing. People views are completely different depending on their culture, religion and education. So we have no idea what good is in it, without comparing it to something. So what is good? How would one describe an act of goodness? It is a fact that if a specific question is asked in different countries there will be many different answers. How can we ever know what is good and what is bad? In conclusion, does the answer, good or bad, right and wrong, actually depend on the background of the people and not whether everyone agrees?