In one of my classes today, we discussed the idea of “the good life.” The definition of the good life that we were given is “a life that is (sufficiently) intrinsically good for the person whose life it is.” That is, of course, only one definition of what the good life is. But what does that definition mean?
In class we talked about different types of good lives. There is the morally good life where the person lives a life within a set of moral guidelines, there is the instrumentally good life where the person’s life as a means to some further end, there is the aesthetically good life where a person lives a life of comfort and beauty, and there is the religiously good life where the person leads a life where they have followed the guidelines of their religious belief. There are many other types of good lives, but these are some of the main types. However, “the good life” is not the same as any of those good lives “the good life” is more of a prudentially good life, or a “good for me” good life.
One thought on the good life that we looked at stated that “the intrinsic value of a life no matter whose life it is derives elusively from the intrinsic values of the satisfaction (accomplishment) and frustration (inability to achieve) of a desire.” Basically, intrinsic value comes from whether or not you accomplished your desire. My professor made two good points about this idea. The first is that this thought implies that the number of desires you accomplish determine how good your life is, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as though people can lead better lives having accomplished less desires simply by being more ambitious. The second idea is that actual desires may be accomplished, but they may not be satisfactory. For example, someone may desire to join the army because they have dreams of being a hero, but then they join and realize that they don’t enjoy working within the strict hierarchy of the military. They accomplished their desire, but they weren’t satisfied by it. Instead, it seems as though we should look at theoretical desires, or the desires that a person would have if they had all the information and were rational. Basically, the facts are what makes accomplishing the satisfaction good, not the desire.
The idea in this class is that “the good life” is somehow objective. Not in the sense that there is one set of things that is good for everyone, but in the sense that, while the details may change, there is a definition of “the good life” that applies to everyone. It is possible to look at a person’s life and say “they led a good life” or “they led a bad life.” And people can be wrong about whether or not their life was a good one.
I’m not yet sure how much of this I actually agree with, but I thought it was worth sharing. Part of me agrees that there is some way to judge whether another person’s life was good, but I’m also not so comfortable about the concept of telling someone that their life was terrible when they say that their life was good. I suppose I’d prefer to look at it in degrees. If a person says their life was good, but they were abused and neglected, I’m not going to agree with them. But if a person says their life was good but they complained a lot about their job and regretted never traveling, I’m not going to disagree.
What are your thoughts about “the good life”? Does it exist? Is the given definition a useful one?