Axiomatizing the Ambiguity of Goodness

I want to be a good person. I imagine most people want to be good as well. The challenge comes when trying to pin down what exactly it means to be good.

We could start by listing some actions that we believe are unambiguously good. Our list might include actions like charity, honesty, and pacifism. However, we can construct contexts where the “unambiguous goodness” of these actions is called into question. Would you consider it good to make a charitable donation to an opposing political party? Would you reveal your best friend’s secret on the grounds of honesty? Would you restrain yourself from using violence to defend your child from assault?

Each of these situations presents a tension between your moral responsibility to the world at large and your moral responsibility to a privileged party. In the case of the donation, you forgo charity and privilege your chosen political party. When you keep the secret, you privilege your best friend over the inquirer. When you use violence to protect your child, you privilege their safety over the safety of the aggressor. In all of these cases, you impose your own notion of goodness onto the world.

We can axiomatize the tension present in all of the above situations. Consider the following definitions:

I propose that:

OC    ¬UG O \cap C \implies \neg UG

Proof: C implies that a conflict between two (or more) people exists. O implies the people on both sides of this conflict are trying to be good. If UG, then there would be no conflict, since both sides could swiftly resolve any potential conflict using their shared unambiguous notion of goodness. Since there is conflict, we must not have UG.