HOW DO WE KNOW IF SOMETHING IS REALLY GOOD OR JUST GOOD OR GOOD IN ITSELF?

Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values, 1964.

Richard Robinson in this well written and once popular book is clear that secular values are needed and can be justified without God and indeed should be. He did not like the term humanist but did accept being labelled as a liberal. Robinson was a true atheist and nothing in his work can be said to have smuggled in Christian values. For example, he rejects love of neighbour in favour of making a choice not to make others more miserable than what they are or can be. So he is not about good directly. He cautions that good is always flawed and has the power to go wrong. He wants us to give ourselves the gift of living in reality not some illusion.

Evidence cannot tell you if something is good for if it could then science could tell you.  Science is descriptive and is not about values or evaluation.  But Robinson says good is about evaluation and judging and "never has any descriptive function at all". He writes, "goods exist by choice rather than by nature".  But why can't you say that though nature overall is not about good it is about good in us for it makes these choice forming beings?

Robinson says that asking what the good is, is something that the philosophers were not able to answer.

He writes, “We do not know what it is, and yet without this knowledge no other knowledge is of any use. Some think it is pleasure; some think it is knowledge; but it cannot be either. It is the only thing of which we are never content with a mere seeming. Every soul pursues it, and does everything it does for the sake of it, divining that it is something, but doubting and being unable to find out for certain what it is. In his Philebus Plato added that the good is perfect and sufficient and capable of making happy the life of man.”

So the not knowing hurts and we need it to be happy and to have a decent sense of meaning in life. If it is vague then if there is the possibility of perfect happiness or perfect wisdom no human being has reached it or ever will. Aristotle said: there has to be an end which we desire for its own sake, and this is clearly the good and the best. But this desire can only be partly dealt with.
We have to be wary of religions or anything that tells us that we must believe such and such or do such and such to have a meaning in life. It’s a private personal matter ultimately. Its about what you think not God or anybody else. It is a fluid thing for a lot of things give you meaning now that did not in the past.

God by definition is that which is the ultimate source of happiness and goodness so the God doctrine is based on a lie and is intolerant and bullying. The God "solution" is not that simple and good and happy are vague and difficult enough to find without that hindrance.

Robinson tells us that asking what is the good is a false question.

He writes, “A false question is one that implies a falsehood. For example, Why are you twenty feet tall? is an obviously false question. Every question implies some statement or other. People sometimes complain of examiners for asking questions which imply a statement that may not be true; but it is impossible to invent a question that does not do this, as you will find if you try. Hence we may reasonably ask about every question what statements it implies, and whether these implied statements are true or false.”

So to think a question is about a statement but not making one is a form of blindness.

Other false questions I can think of, "Why are you a soul?"  "Why and how are you a child of God?"  "Why do you not consider faith in God?"  “Why are you not a believer in God?” is a false question and a bully question.

He says that talk of the good implies there is only one real good but he says many things are good. He brings up Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as an illustration. He adds, “If we turn to generalities, truth is good and so is love. Hence the question, What is the good?, is false. Instead of being answered, it requires to be rejected: many things are good. Thus our enterprise seems to end before it begins, and Plato's question seems a mistake. There is no such thing as the good.”

He rejects Plato’s attempt in the Philebus to say that the good is

1 measure
2 symmetry
3 mind
4 knowledge
5 pleasures

For Aristotle the good is what we just want and that just wanting shows it is good.  Robinson writes, “Aristotle's argument that the good must exist is a mistake. He shows that there must be at least one thing that we desire for its own sake, and assumes that he has thereby shown that there is only one thing that we desire for its own sake.”

There can be several and Aristotle's error was pounced on to get people to think the one thing is God.

In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle said the good is a pure goal and is only a goal not a means to anything else.  He claimed that desire is empty and vain if you have to desire everything for the sake of some other good.  So for Christians you desire God not as a means to happiness or anything else but for no reason but God.  However Aristotle thought it was happiness was the pure good.

Robinson warns, “The idea of the good is among other things a way of shutting one's eyes to the inevitable conflicts of goods, and pretending that they do not exist or need not exist. The good is conceived as being a good that never conflicts with any other good and never has any kind of ill effect. But there cannot be such a good. Nothing is guaranteed never to have any bad effects, and never to interfere with anything desirable. If a man has more than one interest in life (and we all inevitably have) it is always possible for circumstances to arise in which he cannot satisfy one interest without disappointing another. Those who think there is a god may believe that he never has any ill effects, but they cannot show it. On the contrary, it certainly looks as if, if there is a god, he has done and is doing terrible things. When people use the undesirable phrase 'there are no absolute values', this is perhaps one of the things they confusedly mean, namely that everything has some bad effects; and in that sense the phrase is true.”

My comments on this are as follows. Robinson did not note how religion equates God with THE good so to say that there is no THE good is to deny that God is or could be the good. It is to say that faith in God may be a good but it is only one of many. Thus God is not supreme to you and God is not God. God may not be a thing but the only love and goodness that matters but in this view God is turned into just another thing. God means as much to you as your undervalued employee. Its objectification.

To put God in its right place then is to give in to the hypocrisy of saying somebody is all love and yet equal in importance to your dinner! To make God THE good is bad as well. So no matter what you do the God doctrine is bad!

From observation it is clear that the huge majority of believers do treat God who they define as perfect love and goodness as just one of many things. They get an emotional benefit and placebo from lumping God in with other things. This God makes demands by definition and they quieten those demands by objectifying him to feel superior even to him!