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WILLIAM FLEMING - 1890 - Table of contents

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H- I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W  

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden


Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





BONUM (ἀγαθός, Good).—(1) The agreeable or desirable in the widest sense, all that pleasurably affects sensitive organism; (2) in an ethical sense, the right, as in contrast with the wrong, in which case the adjective applies to actions required by moral law. The ancient ethical philosophy was largely moulded in forms suggested by "The Good," as desirable, or the end towards which action is directed; (3) "The Good,"—the Absolute Good,—or perfect Being,—God,—The Platonic use. For the German use of the word, specially the distinction between das Gute and das Wohl, see Kant's Ethics, Abbot, p. 150.

Bonum Summum, the chief good,—The phrase employed by ancient ethical philosophers to denote that in the pursuit and attainment of which the progress, perfection, and happiness of human beings consist.


Aristotle, in his Ethics, discusses the whole subject from the standpoint of the chief good, working towards an understanding of happiness, which results in its interpretation as the activity of a perfect human life. The Aristotelic treatment of ethics thus affords illustration of the form and order of reasoning in favour in ancient ethical systems. For illustration of the same tendency, as popular during the Roman period, see Cicero's De Finibus.

Modern Ethical Philosophy has passed over to a search for an objective standard of right, contemplating first the qualities of action, and only thereafter the true end or chief good. But the Happiness Theory keeps in closer relation with ancient form,—taking Happiness as the one thing desirable (Mill's Utilitarianism; Sidgwick's Methods of Ethics, where see specially, bk. III. ch. XIV., "The Summum Bonum;" specially does this direction belong to the Ethics of Evolution, Spencer's Data of Ethics; Leslie Stephen's Science of Ethics; Simcox, Natural Law, an Essay in Ethics). For a general view of this course of thought, see Sorley's Ethics of Naturalism. Martenson (Christian Ethics) discusses his subject from the standpoint of the highest good.

From the standpoint of the modern Rational School, it is admitted that Ethics may be regarded as a system of ends; and "the relation of end to duty may be cogitated in a twofold manner,—either beginning with the end to assign the maxim, ...or beginning with the maxim to determine the end... Jurisprudence advances by the first method... But Moral Philosophy strikes into an opposite march: here we cannot commence with the ends he may design, and from them determine and formulate the maxims he has to take, i.e., the duty he has to follow, for, in the latter event, the grounds of his maxim would be experiential, which we know beget no obligation, the idea of duty and its categorical imperative taking their rise in pure reason only" (Kant's Metaphysics of Ethics, Semple, 3rd ed., p. 197). See Kant's Dialectic of Pure Reason, defining the conception of the "Summum Bonum," Abbot's transl., Kant's Ethical Theory, Practical Reason, pt. I. bk. II. ch. I. and II. p. 202.

"The conception of the summum itself contains an ambiguity,... the summum may mean either the supreme (supremum) or the perfect (consummatum). The former is that condition which is itself unconditioned, i.e., is not subordinate to any other (originarium); the second is that which is not a part of a greater whole of the same kind (perfectissimum)... Virtue (as worthiness to be happy) is the supreme condition of all that can appear to us desirable, and consequently of all our personal happiness, and is therefore the supreme good. But it does not follow that it is the whole and perfect good as the object of the desires of rational finite beings; for this requires happiness also, and that not merely in the partial eyes of the person who makes himself an end, but even in the judgment of an impartial reason, which regards persons in general as ends in themselves" (Kant's Ethics, Abbot, 3rd ed., p. 206).



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