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Economics a commodity or service that satisfies a human need
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in ethics and philosophy, that which includes definite positive meaning. In philosophy the question of good was posed in attempts to explain the meaning of existence and human life and was treated as the problem of the greatest good (summum bonum in Latin, a term introduced by Aristotle); this greatest good determined the relative value of all other goods. The Greek philosophers viewed the greatest good as happiness— “eudaemonia” —the exact meaning of which was defined in various ways by representatives of different schools. For example, the Cyrenaics and Epicurus defined it as pleasure, the Cynics as abstention from passion, and Aristotle and the Stoics as virtue (in the sense of the supremacy of the higher and more rational forms of nature over the lower). Plato considered “the good” to be “the one” which is the basis of all existence. Aristotle distinguished three kinds of good: corporeal (health, strength), external (wealth, honor, glory), and spiritual (intelligence, moral virtue). In the Middle Ages, scholasticism attempted to rework the ideas of the ancient philosophers in terms of the principles of Christian theism. The result was the identification of the greatest good with god, the source of all good and the ultimate goal of human aspiration.

New European philosophy emphasized the role of the subject in determining any sort of good. T. Hobbes and B. Spinoza said that the good is that for which man is striving, that which he needs. Another development which was characteristic of new European ethics was the utilitarian interpretation of good, which reduces it to the idea of usefulness. Kant distinguished the supreme good from the absolute good. The former is good will and moral virtue; and latter requires that virtue be combined with happiness. Thereafter the concept of the good gradually lost its significance and, from the middle of the 19th century was replaced by the concept of value.

In the narrower and specifically ethical sense of the word, the concept of good is opposite to that of evil.


Material goods Economists consider material goods from two different points of view: in terms of their usefulness (their capacity for satisfying a particular human need) and in terms of how much man has contributed to their production. Accordingly, there are two kinds of value—use value and exchange value. Material goods are usually considered to include consumer goods (services as well as wares) which satisfy a great variety of human needs.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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