With reference to your comment this evening, Dave, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the problem with finding some ultimate definition of good is the same for all systems, Martin’s included (see the entire thread here for context on that). That is, if one wants to explain what makes a good, one must analyze it in terms of some more fundamental good b. But what makes b a good thing for a to have? Doesn’t that need explaining, too? The answer is, b has some good-making characteristic c. What then makes c a good-making characteristic? Of course it’s d; without c‘s being characterized by d, how could we possibly think of c‘s being good? Okay, then, what makes d good? Well, that’s easy; we know that d is good because it exhibits e. But e‘s goodness needs explaining too! No problem there: e‘s goodness can be analyzed in that it is marked by f, and we know that f in turn is good because of g …
Well, enough already!
There has to be a point of beginning, or of ending, however you want to view the infinite regress represented there. I think actually we must think of it as a point of beginning, because if there is no beginning to the chain, then there is no chain. Beyond that beginning—call it y, for convenience—there is no more fundamental good z, for y really is the beginning. So necessarily, y‘s goodness cannot be analyzed in terms of anything whatever.
Could there be a beginning point like that? If not, then how could there be a chain at all, and how could there be any coherent way to describe anything whatever as good? So then what kind of being could suffice for such a beginning point? I’m quite sure it is God himself. Martin finds that “incoherent.” What then? If not God, what alternative would he propose? The Big Bang? That’s the only other ultimate beginning point I know of that anyone speaks of at all clearly (setting aside the question, what caused that?). Shall we take it that the Big Bang is characterized by that ultimate goodness in which all other goodness finds its source and explanation? Martin, is that your position?
But wait, there could be yet one other option for the ultimate beginning point: the awakening of sentience in organic life. Or perhaps (I’m really trying to work with this now) it is sentience itself. Sentience, with its accompanying desires, wants, needs, satisfactions, pleasures, pains, and so forth, is the ultimate beginning point of goodness, by reference to which all other goodness is described and explained. Or if not sentience, then the original organisms exhibiting sentience. Martin, is that your position?
One further possibility: does the original source of goodness reside actually in those desires, wants, needs, satisfactions, pleasures, pains, etc.? Are these the beginning of the chain that makes all other good, good?
I think it would be salutary for us to turn the tables on you, Martin. You have repeatedly insisted on us providing some analysis of that which cannot be analyzed, God himself. How about it if you try it on your own position. What is good? Please define it without reference to some other putative good that will in turn need defining; please define it in ultimate terms such that when we have your definition, we have it in its full and final form. Thank you.