This basically solves the problem of evil. If there was no such thing as evil, there would be no good.
... If nothing can potentially be evil/bad then everything is good, but then good becomes meaningless because there is no contrast - no point of reference. Of course this doesn't just cover good vs bad, but a myriad of things.
To answer Ataraxia's question, I really don't think it IS possible to dfine good without bad - or bad without good, come to that.
There does seem to be an agreement among you all that in some way good
requires an opposite bad
to be meaningful. Not only do I disagree but I think that this line of argument fails by its own standard; that it I do not think that good
are opposite at all!
First off I hope we can all agree that there are no metaphysical objects called T
ood and T
ad (apologies to Plato). Rather "good" and "bad" are words (usually operating adverbs though sometimes adjectives and occasionally as nouns). To understand what is meant by "good" and "bad" is not then some metaphysical project but involves an investigation into how they are used in language.
If it is true that "good" and "bad" are in fact opposites, and involved in each other's meanings then it should be possible to take every proper utterance of "good"
and replace it with "not bad" (and vice versa "bad" -> "not good"). Moreover if your theory that they are opposites is correct then it follows that to if I change "good" to "not bad" (or vice versa) I will not change the meaning of the statement
Here are just a few examples where this standard is not met:
"That food is bad" goes to "that food is not good" - Here we loose the sense (which is primary in the former and barely present in the latter) that the food in question might pose a danger to health.
"That feels good" goes to "that feels not bad" - Obviously these two utterances have different scope; the former we would only apply to things which feel really positive, the latter could apply to things which are merely not painful.
"He had a bad accident" goes to "He had a not good accident" - the former gives us information, not only had 'he' had an accident but it was 'bad one'. Whereas the latter is little more than a tautology - after all what accident is good!
There are other language considerations which should also point us to the conclusion that "good" and "bad" are not really opposites or involved in each other's meaning.
(1) They possess an asymmetry of grammatical forms - eg I can do something "badly" but not "goodly"; "Good" can be used as a statement giving permission
whereas "Bad" does not operate as a denial.
(2) They have very divergent etymologies (ie their pairing is recent) - "good" from the germanic gut
meaning right or proper whereas "bad" comes from the old english baeddell
meaning womanish or hermaphrodite.
While "good" and "bad" can operate as opposites (eg. "good dog" vs "bad dog") in many cases they don't; thus it cannot be that the meaning of one relies upon the meaning of the other.
My suspicion is that the only reason we innately feel as though they should is a covert metaphysical hangover; a sneaking (and incorrect) suspicion that "good" refers to T
ood and "bad" to T
ad. However we should purge such baseless metaphysics from our thinking; else we have created God by another name.