1. destinationless
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    destinationless Member

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    A Good Person?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by destinationless, Oct 18, 2008.

    I've been trying to figure a lot of things out lately, and in the process of 'rewiring my mind,' so I've come to reference it as, I've decided that I need to understand what a good person is. I know that my idea of a good person isnt everybody's, so the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what someone else thinks a good person is.

    So my question to you is this: What, in your opinion, makes a person a good person? What qualities or characteristics does he have? What does he do? How does he treat others? Why does that make him a good person?

    It's completely an opinion question; a good person to you might be have the characteristics of a mass murderer, while another's might have the characteristics of the Pope. I'm interested in the what and why you think that those characteristics are good and noble.

    I will post my own opinion on this thread later, when I return.

    -D
     
  2. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    I have no set standards for determining the worth of another human being. One person might be a terrible liar, and very irresponsible, and not be able to keep a job, and I'll like him because I find him entertaining to be around. Another person might be very dedicated always to being truthful and upstanding, and might be supportive and caring, responsible, and kind, and I won't like him because I find him boring.

    And vice versa.

    I try to look beyond "types" when I look at other human beings. Just as there is no such thing as a "completely bad" person, there's no such thing as a "completely good" person. For example, a person who says that he "never lies" is lying--everyone lies at some point, there's no way we can get through life without lying at least once in awhile. A person who commits robberies for a living might be a really loving father to his kids.

    Ya know?

    As it regards characters in a story, characters that are presented as "good" by a writer are very boring to me. "Bad" characters are usually a lot more interesting because they are less restricted in what they can say, think, feel, and do.

    Characters in fiction are always more interesting if they have characteristics that the writer feels are both "good" and "bad". I'm currently reading the classic novel Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. None of the characters in this great work of fiction is entirely a "good" person or a "bad" person--the reader doesnt' have any difficulty in seeing where Tolstoy's sympathies lie, of course, and who he considers to be "good" and who is "bad", but he doesn't make his personal preferences the whole point of the story. There's no real clear-cut "hero", and there's no "villain" that we can feel secure in hating. There are just people with all their weaknesses and strengths, their kindness, their falsity, their doubts and insecuries, their joy, their passion, their deceptions, their trials and suffering, their sadness and tears, their LIVES.

    While there are indeed some interesting stories about "good versus bad", I always find those stories interesting because of the writer, and not because of the goodness/badness of the characters.

    Anyway, I hope this helps to answer your question. As far as my own personal preferences regarding good and bad people--as stated above, I try to leave those considerations out of my day-to-day life and thinking. They are abstractions, and of little worth in determining the value of another human being, in my opinion. yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  3. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not sure what determines who is good and who is bad, and I do not think it is black and white like that. I mean, you could have a person who was horrible to men, like shouted and bullied them, but was lovely to women and children. Does that mean he is a bad person, even though he is lovely with kids. Or is he good, even though he is horrible ot men?

    I don't know, I just think a person should try their best to be a nice person, to try and get along with people and smile as they walk past, just because it is nice. If you don't, it doesn't make you bad, but it is nice if you do.
     
  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    You should not bother yourself with such trivialities. What is good or bad or right or wrong is merely a point of view.
     
  5. Vertz
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    Vertz Member

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    I'm probably going to upset some people by saying this, but oh well.

    I'm not a big fan of the concept of moral relativism. At some point, we do have to take a moral stance, even if we like to say that good and evil are just points of view. That doesn't mean that everyone is right -- I'm not going to allow someone to kill just because I think they are entitled to their opinion.

    In terms of what it means to be good, I find a respect for life most important. I look at that as not killing other humans, and maybe moving into not hurting other animals, as well. Treating people as ends rather than means is incredibly important (I've been reading too much Kant...). For me, this also requires giving people equality. John Rawls had an interesting take on equality. He said that if we were to form a society with no knowledge of where we would be placed in that society (rich/poor, etc) we would create a society that gives a great deal of equality -- in voting, in opportunities, and, sometimes, in economic goods.

    I recognize that there is a lot of gray in life, and I don't think that I'm making the world black and white by saying there are such things as good and evil. We have the potential for both, and we have the choice of how we balance life.
     
  6. Farseer
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    The most important quality in a person is, to me, an open mind. One should be able to accept if not understand another person's point of view, and tolerate it if not accept it; being able to at least accept that someone else is allowed to be "wrong." This treads much further into the realm of opinion, but it is something very meaningful to me: Honesty. I find I like someone much more if they can be honest, especially about little things. Given the choice to say "I don't want to go to the club with you guys on Saturday," and "I dunno, I've got stuff to do, and my mom's really sick, and..." I cannot see why more people aren't honest, even if the honest answer is not the nice one.

    I am adept at spotting lies in most situations, and it simply makes my blood boil when one cannot spare another the most basic of respect in being honest about something which they will freely admit is inconsequential. The difference in my two preferred qualities here, in my mind, is that I will not defend the importance of honesty as I will that of an open mind.

    These two qualities will not make a good person, but they are a large step on the path to being one in my eyes. I will add to this as I am able to think more on the subject.
     
  7. destinationless
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    destinationless Member

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    Thank you all for taking the time to respond to this; your answers, while not what I expected, were superb. And you're all correct! *is put to shame*

    Vertz- I love what you said, quoting John Rawls. It's something I'm going to have to think on, but a lot of truth resonates in that concept. Thank you; I hadnt heard that idea before.

    I guess I phrased my question in an incorrect way; I may have come across as asking you to say "____, ____, and ____ make up a good person; ____, ____, and ____ make up a bad person." That's not what I meant at all, although I see how it could be interpretted that way! Oops!

    I'll rephrase. What sort of qualities do you yourself have or wish to have, that you feel would make you a 'better' person?

    What spawned this question in the first place is my need to feel validated, I suppose. I feel that if I had ____, ____, and ____ qualities, that I'd be a 'better' person; I would be able to validate myself as doing the right thing and making progress in my singular life.
    ...Is that any more clear? (I have a feeling I may have just muddled the question even further! :p )

    These are the top three characteristics I envy; I believe that possessing these qualities would make me a 'better' person.

    1) Wisdom. I have the highest regard for those who can present themselves in an intelligent way and know about the world around them. I want nothing more than to be wise.
    2) Activism. My worst enemy. I can plan and organize and come up with the most fabulous ideas and schemes, but when it comes to executing them, I fall flat on my face. It's not laziness, but... fear, I suppose. If I could overcome the fear of failing, I could be more active as a person. (This is something I'm working on, by the way.)
    3) Respect. Respect for the self and for others is something I consider very important. If you dont respect yoursellf, why should I? If you dont respect others, you will be, socially, in a very bad position indeed. I have a little thing I do; I respect everyone in the most unbiased way that I can, but if someone does something to lose that respect, it's an ordeal to gain it back.

    -D
     
  8. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I honestly have no way of answering this since I do not brand specific meanings onto things; thus, I do not personally define what it means to be a "better" person; however, I will try to give you an answer....

    Since you mentioned the need to feel "validated," you must be trying to be a good person in terms of society's view right? If you feel that you must be a better person, first you must define what the society you live in demands of a "better" person. Once you have found that out, you can try to change to match that/those demand(s). Although, you may not feel happy doing that.

    If all you're asking are things to make yourself better in your own view, then you should already know what it takes....
     
  9. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Though I agree that to a great extent good and bad is relative, there are finite points that are most definitely bad (stealing, murder for example), while others can be called as most definitely good (kindness, charity for example).

    Honestly if you want to know what makes a good person, I doubt anyone can give you a concrete definitive this is how it is answer. I think there is no concrete description of a good person. There are many ways to go about it. I've always looked to kindness, humility, and patience as traits I like to ascribe to, but I don't think that those traits would automatically make me good and make those who don't have them bad.

    The best I think anyone can do is to be mindful of the needs and feelings of others and act accordingly, but at the same time you're a person too, so don't forget to keep your own well being in the equation :p. It's pointless is you pour out your soul to everyone else and then have nothing left to keep yourself going.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...one who does no harm, or causes no harm to be done to another living creature, does one's best to be equally kind/responsible to our earthly habitat, and doesn't think only of oneself, doing what one can to be helpful/caring toward others...

    ...compassion, universal love, humility, self-respect, a kind/generous spirit, the desire/commitment to do good...

    ...whatever s/he is capable of doing to improve the world and the lives of others...

    ...with dignity, respect, empathy, compassion, love, understanding, forgiveness [if necessary]...

    ...because at base, 'good' means to help and 'bad' means to harm... and being anything less than what i've listed above would not be 'helping'...

    ...see my take on 'good' and 'evil' here: http://saysmom.com/maia/content.asp?Writing=97
     
  11. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I'm pretty much going to echo the sentiments of lordofhats...

    The simplest response that I have to the question at hand is respect.

    For me, respect is kind of the umbrella over all the qualities that I personally appreciate. I feel that all the subsequent qualities that I could list really lead back to one having a healthy respect for themselves and the world around them. Of course, it's not nearly that black and white in real terms - I certainly don't have a ruler by which I measure someone's 'goodness' - but I can't really answer the question in broader terms without it becoming an essay... :p
     
  12. Ennui
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    The good person is whom harbour the sense of humanity and also to impart his knowledge to others readily.

    The sense of humanity is the optimal feeling one should have.In life one must be benign and loving,so others would revered this person.

    Knowledge would not be acknowledged if one does not know what his life,his studies,etc are for.If a person,who is sublimely humane,would teach the person some of his knowledge,the person would be indebted to him.

    With this kind of good person,life would be meaningful and exhilarating. And there is no reason to blacklist this person.
     
  13. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    My idea of "good" isnt really of someone "better" than someone else. I respect some people far more than others, but the things that make them "better" or more worthy of rescpet in my eyes doesnt necesseraly include the fact that they are "more good" :p

    It seems that a "good" person is defined loosely by society as someone who helps others - putting other people, or even other animals, before yourself. And there are people who do that to varying degrees, and there are some who don't.

    But there is no one truly "good". There is noTHING truly "good". Nothing is without selfishness. There are no innocent "good" animals or organisms, from gentle herbivores to trees and grass. Trees suck up nutrients and water from the soil, unphased whether the other plants nearby get any. They grow as tall as they can, spreading their leaves to soak up as much sunlight as they can, overshadowing those that could not grow tall enough, leaving them to wither and die if they cannot survive in the shade. A deer won't lie down selflessly and let a starving wolf have a free meal, it will flee, preserving itself, leaving the predator to starve and die.

    Humans can think more about the choices they make than animals, and so can act more selflessly at times. However, they are still organisms, and organisms are naturally selfish. No animal, including humans, can be completely selfless, so cant be innately good.
     
  14. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I think that is a little ludicrous. A tree is selfish because it sucks up nutrients? I guess the fact that countless life forms depend on that tree sucking up nutrients for survival is a trivial matter? The whole argument makes little sense.

    Do most people do what they do because they want something out of it? Sure. A lot of people give something to the poor to ease their conscience, or help people in need because they feel guilty. Whatever.

    You think that starving family the Red Cross just gave a months worth of food is going to care in the slightest why the food was given to them? Ultimately the only thing that really matters is what a person did not why they did it, and I fail to see how getting something out of a good deed for myself makes it a selfish thing either, it's not like I'm the one getting the better end of the bargain from all that charity money (Hypothetical statement. I don't have any money to give XD).
     
  15. Vertz
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    Vertz Member

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    I agree. Plus, humans do things that are NOT selfish often enough. Imagine having a lost child in an airport come up to you, crying because he or she can't find his or her family. Do you help because you think you're getting something out of it? Or because it is the "right" thing to do? We are social creatures, and we care about others, despite how selfish we can be. At some level, we do have some concern for fellow humans.

    And dragging trees into a discussion about SENTIENT goodness makes little sense. Trees just do what they do -- they don't think. Humans think. Some animals think (though it's debatable how much they think).
     
  16. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    I didnt mean that a tree can think like a sentient lifeform -.- Was just a random example. All plants, all animals, are programmed at the most basic level to act to preserve themselves and their own species. I only mentioned it because i read on a link posted in this topic something about a predator being "evil" for harming other creatures, and other animals as "good"...

    But anyway, my idea of "good" is selfless, and since all humans have a degree of selfishness, no human can be completely "good". That is all.

    Most people would help normally, but what if you were literally running through the airport, trying to catch the last flight for several days to your destination? I personally would assume someone else would deal with it, and make sure i get my flight. And if you wouldnt, then what if the stakes were higher? What if you were going home to see the birth of your child? What if it was literally a life or death situation that you had to make the flight? Even though the problems of the lost child dont get any smaller in the scenario, id imagine everyone would eventually reach a point where they rank their own interest higher than it, and would leave someone else to do the good deed. Maybe im way off, and everyone else out there is completely selfless. As far as i can tell though, everyone still has some degree of selfishness about them.
     
  17. Vertz
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    Vertz Member

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    Fair enough. I just want to point out that there is a difference between non-sentient creatures -- who do not act, necessarily -- and sentient creatures -- who do act. And yes, there is some "programming," if you want to call it that, to preserve the species. But that doesn't make each creature personally selfish....

    Also, fair points. Humans are more likely to be selfish in desperate situations, but there always seems to be someone who is selfless to a degree (think firefighters -- rushing into burning buildings? Pretty desperate situation, but they certainly give of themselves). I know for myself that if a child were clutching at my leg I would, at the least, take that kid to an airport/airline employee, THEN go about my business. I'm still assuming that someone else will take care of it, but also doing what I can. It's even more convenient that I have to pass by an employee pretty much every direction I go.

    I'm not saying everyone is completely selfless. It's true that everyone has a point where they will act selfishly. Desperation, especially, leads to selfishness. My point is that, as social creatures, we have a response to other people, a sense of something outside ourselves. Life would lack the social connection we need if everyone were only inward looking. I want to be a teacher not because I think I'll make a lot of money or be famous, but because I want to improve lives where I can. (sorry if I sound overly self-sacrificing...). That is the kind of connection I'm talking about.
     
  18. Farseer
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    Please keep in mind that others' opinions are, to them, just as valid and that they are their own. Think of why it is that you are... I hesitate to say "arguing." If it is to convince the other that your viewpoint is more "correct..." I would advise you not to attempt to do so. It is only detrimental.
     
  19. Vertz
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    I disagree... I don't find arguing over points necessarily detrimental, unless we're just resorting to calling each other names. Not trying to say you're wrong -- I agree that we do have our own opinions and I'm probably not going to convince anyone to change their mind. In fact, I'm not trying to make anyone change their mind -- rather, I'm trying to have a discussion about issues. We can all state our points and have them respected, but I think that ought to include having a willingness to discuss those beliefs. Sorry if it seems like I'm being argumentative -- I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything. I've found that we can have good, civil discussions, even if we disagree about beliefs.
     
  20. Farseer
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    I was stating that attempting to convince another of the wrongness of their beliefs in your eyes is detrimental, not arguing itself.
     
  21. Vertz
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    OK, so we kind of agree, then. Like I said, just trying to have a discussion....
     
  22. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    That is the point of arguing/debating/discussing. And it's hardly detrimental. Someone trying to prove you wrong forces you to try and prove you're right which in turn makes you a better debater and a more knowledgeable person on the subject being discussed. This is of course negligable once the "your mom" phrases start flying.

    And just because the point is valid to the individual doesn't make it true.

    I fail to see how being selfish makes one bad. Being selfish is what gives various emotional and physical conditions value, and is necessary to be empathetic. An empathetic individual must be selfish, because without a good understanding of their own wants and needs they are incapable of understanding the wants and needs of others. Being selfish can be quite beneficial as long as you don't go overboard.

    And like I said before. Helping a parent find that child is pointless if you miss your flight and then get fired from your job because you weren't at that vital meeting. It's pointless to help others if doing so ruins your own well being in the process. EDIT: Remember, we're all human. We all have lives that are of value to ourselves and others. There is a point at which you have to let it go. You don't send ten fire fighters into a building that could explode at any second just to save one life. There is a point, where there just isn't anything you can do without making the losses worse.
     
  23. Vertz
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    I like what you said about being selfish as long as it's not too much. That's a great point. We do have selfishness, but life isn't only about the self.

    And yes, it's true that we do have priorities. I wasn't saying that I would miss my flight because I'm scurrying around helping this kid. I'm saying I can have it both ways -- I can get help for that kid, probably from an airport employee, and still get on my flight on time. It's true that there are points where we will not self sacrifice. I'm not saying that we have to be sacrificial at all times -- very few people are likely to do that. I'm saying that we have a connection to others, and that, along with some selfishness, is a driving force in our lives. We help as we can.
     
  24. Farseer
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    I apologize for the nature of my statements, though not the content. I am not at my most lucid lately. On the subject of selfishness... I agree, somewhat, with both of you. Were we not selfish to some degree, we would, as individuals, be far less likely to live and prosper as we naturally wish to. Selflessness goes against human nature. Striking a balance between the self and others is one of life's challenges, and that balance is different for all of us.
     
  25. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Hmm....I'm seeing some discussion of being selfish here.... Maybe I'll add to this (hope I can sound objective).

    Selfish can be said to mean "self-interest." When people hear/read self-interest, that think of someone that cares for only his/herself. This is indeed true, but it is also true that everyone, yes everyone, does things based on his/her self-interest. People are too quick to label things; thus, when someone shares with some else, we see that person as not being selfish; however, a more liberal view of this is that the person that shared would not be sharing if it were not in his/her interest. In other words, a nice person shares because sharing would make that "nice person" feel better; thus, this "nice person" is acting on self-interest, even though others that view this---perhaps even the "nice person"---would not see this as being selfish. This is also true even if you just "like" to help someone. You are only helping someone because it satisfies this "liking" of yours.

    (Hope I didn't sound pessimistic!)

    Umm....back to the discussion of good.....
    Yeah....so....just do what society demands of a good person since there is/are no universal meaning(s) to what good and bad are. For example, in our society, we see killing siblings as a bad thing, but in the society of certain eagles, killing your sibling(s) is a good thing because it raises the chance of successful breeding, and the parents does nothing to stop this. Perhaps from our point of view, this is bad, but not necessarily from the eagles' point of view.
     

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