The Fallacy of the Phrase: The Greater Good

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posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 02:59 PM
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As I have been getting more into politics and social and economic systems, one phrase that constantly gets brought up is "The Greater Good". It really got me to thinking, what exactly does this phrase "The Greater Good" mean. When politicians use this phrase it is involved with selling a new law or policy. When capitalist, socialist, communist, New Agers, etc. use it they are using it to sell their ideology. So what exactly is "The Greater Good?"

Technically, the "The Greater Good" means:


the benefit of the public, of more people than oneself; that which is better and more correct


Now when I look at this, something jumps out at me. Specifically the last phrase in that definition, "that which is better and more correct". Well who exactly determines what is "better" and "more correct"? What works for one person might not work for somebody else. What one person thinks is "more correct" might not be correct for the next person. All of us think we have the answer, we in reality none of us really do. All we have is idea's of what the answer might be.

Now there are some things that are really for "The Greater Good" such as the abolition of slavery, womens rights, etc. Ahhh! Now I see, the "Greater Good" is what an individual thinks, "is better and more correct". Now, obviously I'm not saying slavery and womens rights are bad things, just using them as examples, but what I am saying is that "The Greater Good" originates from one person or a group of people.

So now at this point I'm really starting to question this phrase "The Greater Good". I'm thinking it sounds more like a marketing pitch then it is for anything "good" or "better" and I'm really questioning the "greatness" of all of it too. What exactly will make this so "great"? Well we all know what happens when you ask that question, you get bombarded with all kinds of hypothetical situations and Utopian world views. Then comes the phrase, "The Greater Good" well now you're right back to the beginning of where you first started with no real world examples.

As I stated earlier there are some things that are for "The Greater Good", but it takes generations to come to these conclusions along with lots of evidence to back up these claims sold as "The Greater Good". So the point I'm trying to make is that most things are not for the "The Greater Good" as we have been sold. In most cases "The Greater Good" applies to only those who would benefit the most off of these idea, and the ruler of the day is special interest.

In this day and age "The Greater Good" is a fallacy, because no one section of the population is actually "greater"(larger) than the next. As the population grows people will become more diversified and more divided. The phrase "The Greater Good" is nothing but a sales pitch, to further one small groups agenda.


I'd like to know what are all of your thoughts about this, because as I have mentioned I know somethings are actually for the "Greater Good" and there are some things that I haven't mentioned that I have a hard time putting into words. Thoughts? Comments?

I'd also like to state that I don't want this to turn into a debate on ideologies, there are already plenty of threads on that subject, this thread is to specifically to debate the merits of the phrase "The Greater Good", and whether you agree with my assessment and why, or why you disagree.

Note to Mods - if this is in the wrong place please move. Thanks!

[edit on 15-7-2009 by Hastobemoretolife]

[edit on 15-7-2009 by Hastobemoretolife]




posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:16 PM
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THe greater good really means the opposite. When they are doing something 'for the greater good', does it do anything good for the people? No, I wouldn't think so. So we now know that when they use that phrase to try and pass a bill, we vote against it.



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:21 PM
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reply to post by The Killah29
 


At one time I could see where it meant what it was supposed to mean, but these days it seems like the "greater" part of it is the who is "greater" in political connections.

It almost seems like the last sales pitch of a desperate salesman.



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:30 PM
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Interesting post.

"The Greater Good" specifically refers to the Ethical theory of "utilitarianism" which proposes that morally right actions are actions that generate the most amount of "happiness" for the most amount of people.

Thus, when the phrase "the greater good" is referred to, it must always be interpreted through the lens of the utilitarian philosopher.

Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy that has many detractors, and rightly so. It has often been dismissed as ultimately being a numbers game.

However, to stay on topic, I do not think that it is reasonable to say that "the greater good" is a fallacy, First because it is not a logical argument, and thus can not be a correct or incorrect statement, and second because "the greater good" can reasonably be quantified. (see my previous post at: in defense of reason

if 100 people exist, and 51 benefit from an action, while 49 neither benefit nor detriment from the action, than it can be reasonably be said that the greater good has been met because 51% of the populace benefit, while the remainder are unharmed.

That said, I haven't been up on my ethics reading of late and don't really have a good feel for how the theorists are approaching utilitarianism these days. Back in my undergrad days, we mostly scoffed at it as an unreasonable ethics.

cheers



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:30 PM
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Spock said, 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.' Then he croaked giving his life (not really) for his fellows. Valiant.

But as accurately stated above, it no longer means anything valiant. It means more control. More pain. More compromise. More pushing. More taxes. More hunger. More anger.

More profits for the guys pulling the strings. It doesn't mean anything about the 'good' of mankind. It means that that a few people get to eat GOOD food, drink GOOD water and enjoy a GOOD life. While the rest of us are thrown out with the bath water.

[/rant]



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:38 PM
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Originally posted by KSPigpen
it no longer means anything valiant. It means more control. More pain. More compromise. More pushing. More taxes. More hunger. More anger.

More profits for the guys pulling the strings. It doesn't mean anything about the 'good' of mankind. It means that that a few people get to eat GOOD food, drink GOOD water and enjoy a GOOD life. While the rest of us are thrown out with the bath water.

[/rant]


Really, it never meant anything valiant, the very term was design not as a valiant answer to anything, but as a reasonable answer to a question. The term "the greater good" means now, exactly what it meant when the term was first coined and written about for hundreds or thousands of years. Whether the term is currently being used properly is a totally different question. We know that certain terms change in meaning over time (the word 'gay' for instance has a much different meaning than 50 years ago), this however is not one of them.

Suggesting that the greater good is not being met is reasonable, suggesting that the greater good means something different now is not reasonable.



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 03:49 PM
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Originally posted by Tamale_214

Originally posted by KSPigpen
it no longer means anything valiant. It means more control. More pain. More compromise. More pushing. More taxes. More hunger. More anger.

More profits for the guys pulling the strings. It doesn't mean anything about the 'good' of mankind. It means that that a few people get to eat GOOD food, drink GOOD water and enjoy a GOOD life. While the rest of us are thrown out with the bath water.

[/rant]


Really, it never meant anything valiant, the very term was design not as a valiant answer to anything, but as a reasonable answer to a question. The term "the greater good" means now, exactly what it meant when the term was first coined and written about for hundreds or thousands of years. Whether the term is currently being used properly is a totally different question. We know that certain terms change in meaning over time (the word 'gay' for instance has a much different meaning than 50 years ago), this however is not one of them.

Suggesting that the greater good is not being met is reasonable, suggesting that the greater good means something different now is not reasonable.


Thanks friend. Sometimes I get confused. I suppose I confused what it 'means to me' with what the definition is.


Hmm....does 'dork' mean the same thing now as it did fifty years ago? Why can not our belief of what THIS phrase 'means' change over time? Are you the official 'decider' of whether a phrase or word means the same thing today as it used to and whether or not it is being used correctly?

Regardless, thank you for your correction. I'm sure it will make a tremendous difference in the way I perceive the way 'the greater good' is bending everyone I know over.






posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 04:07 PM
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reply to post by Tamale_214
 



Thanks for the stating the origins of where the term came from.

Now, I understand why you say the topic phrase is not logical, when you apply absolutes, but in the current environment not many people apply absolutes. People are more enticed by cleaver marketing terms. This being one of them.

Now mathematically 51 over 49 is greater, but in the way the term is applied and used today it seems like they are trying to sell it as being greater than half. But in the same light and in theory the 49 is not supposed to be harmed, but as we know that isn't the case.

I don't know how Utilitarianism is looked at these days either, but what I do know is the way the phrase is used, it is used as a marketing ploy to make people feel all lovey dovey and the original intent of the phrase is long gone.

Thanks for your post!



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 04:18 PM
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reply to post by Hastobemoretolife
 


Cheers, and thank you for posting in the first place. It is nice to engage in a meaningful discussion here. You mention the exact point that makes people question the validity of utilitarianism: 51% is greater, but is it best? Shouldn't ethics promote the best possible outcome? 51% is merely the lowest common denominator.

as for your last statement "it is used as a marketing ploy to make people feel all lovey dovey and the original intent of the phrase is long gone." I agree. However this is a result of a greater lack of reason in (especially western) society.

cheers,



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 04:28 PM
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reply to post by KSPigpen
 


Sorry to see you getting upset with me about my response to your post. I mean no disrespect, just engaging in friendly debate. Your ad hominems however do imply disrespect.

cheers. :-)



posted on Jul, 15 2009 @ 04:52 PM
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Originally posted by Tamale_214
reply to post by KSPigpen
 


Sorry to see you getting upset with me about my response to your post. I mean no disrespect, just engaging in friendly debate. Your ad hominems however do imply disrespect.

cheers. :-)


My apologies. (going to look up ad hominems)


No disrespect intended, was just feeling slighted due to the perception of condescension. I'm working on it though.


Thanks for making me look up utilitarianism...and those hominems. Nope they don't make grits out of 'em.





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