The Comprehensive Human Good

In order to be a good professional, I learn from others. I partcipate in a tradition of that profession. I engage and practice with other professional. Moreover, I bind myself to a certain intellectual tradition in that profession. There may be a code of conduct or not, but there is a certain sense of what constitutes the excellence of that profession. This is what is held up as the standard against which we are judged and practice our profession. Moreover as part of this intellectual tradition is a certain set of terms in order to understand and communicate our work. This allows for enquiry and development in the profession that we might advance together toward the excellence of our profession.

A profession and excellence in a profession is a narrow human good. It is the excellence of a human qua that profession. If I become a blacksmith I enter into a tradition of the smithy. I learn the tools and terms of the trade and from other smithies. I may enter into an apprenticeship and engage with the professional. And so on.

However, consider now the excellence of a human qua human, that is the comprehensive human good. Like the profession this is constituted by all manner of tradition and structures. It binds us to a certain way of acting and a certain intellectual tradition. It is within this intellectual tradition that we understand and pursue the comprehensive human good. The virtue of a human is not lived by a top down approach of abstract virtues lived by the individual, but by a top up approach in that the concrete actions of life within the one’s moral tradition.

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