good, good for, and the Absolute

Kolakowski on if God were good apart from creation:

Such an idea violates our linguistic habits, which imply that goodness is a relative characteristic that must, in order to make sense, involve an intention directed at something or someone else. Self-centered, non-intentional goodness which is also actual not just potential, seems to go beyond our conceptual resources.

Kolakowski speaks cautiously, and wants to use the problem to set up a mytho-poetic account of divine goodness. The problem seems to be this: the good is good for something, which makes us divide “good” (bonum quod) from “what it is good for” (bonum cui). Having venom in some of your organs is good for snakes and bad for rats.

Why not say that the quod-cui distinction sometimes demands absolute identity between the two? I treat my own existence as a good but all I mean by this is that I preserve what I am. For that matter, my own identity or individuality is a good for me, but the quod and cui in this case specify things that are identical both in reality and in thought. The only difference is in the way the things are signified, that is, Kolakowski spoke exactly when he described a total overcoming of this distinction as violating a “linguistic habit”, since it is impossible to do without the distinction in what the Medievals called the modus significani. Taking this as the paradigm for goodness, we see that than which nothing better can be thought as a being for which every mode of quod-cui distinction in goodness is linguistic while being neither logical nor real.


  1. Kristor said,

    October 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    The Trinity would seem to be the implementation of the quod-cui distinction, linguistic, logical *and* real. The Persons intend and circuminceed each other.

  2. Curio said,

    October 13, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Everyone should read more Kolakowski.

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