Dacher Keltner Reflects on Goodness

Question: What is goodness from a philosopher’s standpoint?

Keltner:    I define goodness as Confucius defines goodness and I talk about this in the book which is his concept of zen, and the idea of zen and I think it nicely translates to the idea of goodness is that you treat others with respect and kindness in a fashion that brings out their better nature.

Question: How do we evaluate goodness?

Keltner:    One of the oldest questions in human thought, is how do we think about how we’re good, and how do we think about the character of other people and people have answered it in different ways in terms of spiritual conviction or did they act in virtuous ways and being a scientist and prone to measurement, I came up with this idea of what I call the zen ratio which is a way to think about how good other people are or how you are, the neighborhood is or a community and very simply it is, in the numerator of the ratio, you put the ways or events in which you’ve brought up the good in somebody and then in the denominator you put the times in which you’ve brought out their worst nature and the bigger the score, the better the person.

Question: How do religion and science affect goodness?

Keltner:    The reconciliation is that the, what they both share, sort of a spiritual perspective upon how to be a good person and how to live a meaningful life, and then the Darwinian perspective upon it.  What they share is ideally a very close observation of who human beings are and who we are and what are nature is.  And so, I think, that’s the reconciliation and what really encourages me is that there is tremendous commonality in these 2 ways of knowing.  When Karen Armstrong, the great religious scholar was asked what unites the world’s religions and the ways of knowing from Buddhism to Judaeo-Christian thought, she said compassion, and when Charles Darwin started to ponder what are our strongest instincts, Charles Darwin said sympathy is our strongest instinct.  So, I think there’s tremendous convergence.

The Berkeley professor defines goodness after years of studying how it manifests in humans.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less