To create values of Goodness, Beauty and Benefit in any sphere of life, action is required. Obviously, a negative action - leading for example to destruction or deformation - will create the opposite impact, becoming anti-value:
“However, value is called evil, loss or ugliness according to the kind and degree to which it is recognised
as being harmful to the maintenance of life.” (1)
The Criterion of “Value and Anti-Value”:
The actual outcome or the result of one's action (whether it leads to happiness or sufferings) -
is the criterion for verifying whether the nature of a given action was that of value or anti-value.
This perspective gives a simple and direct definition of:
Goodness: removing sufferings, imparting happiness, uniting people
Evil: causing sufferings, harm and dividing people
Beauty: creating harmony and satisfaction of the senses.
Ugliness: disharmony, deformation and unpleasantness.
Benefit: progress, betterment and advancement
Loss: deterioration, worsening, decline and destruction in people's life.
Good and Evil
Makiguchi explains that Goodness (removing sufferings) and Benefit are interconnected:
“Makiguchi defined “Good” as something contributing toward or providing public benefit” (2)
and that Evil (causing harm) and Loss are also linked:
”That which has a harmful influence on the social fabric, or destroys social institutions, is called evil” (3)
The criterion suggested by Makiguchi on whether an action can be called 'good' or 'evil' is found in the effect of that action, and its impact on the life of people involved. This perspective on what Goodness is- differs from Kant's definition of Goodness, and which he expressed as having 'good will to fulfil one's duty'.
“The only thing that is good - without qualification or restriction - is a good will”.(4)
What Kant calls “good will” is only a cause (or a motivation for action) but not the full action. The full action is caused by the individual's inner will - but, in order to take shape or take place in reality - this requires the availability of external factors. Therefore, to reduce the value of "action" to just the "intention" behind the action - is incomplete consideration of the nature of the event taking place. To judge an action as being good, it is imperative to consider the effect – or the practical result of the action - on those who were subjected to the "good action".
History provides horrible example of cases, where actions of violence including indiscriminate terror - were carried out by those who were convinced that they are "right" and that they have "good intention" and "will" to serve their system of beliefs.
How important is “Wellbeing”?
While the Eastern perspective on the concept of Value sees no contradiction between 'individual's wellbeing' and 'virtue', a philosophical analysis of Kant's work points to his doubts about the consistency between 'virtue' and 'personal wellbeing and pleasantness':
“Unfortunately, Kant noted, virtue does not insure wellbeing and may even conflict with it”. (5)
For Kant, duty is so highly dignified that expecting satisfaction or pleasantness as a side effect of fulfilling one's duty degrades its value:
“I admit that I cannot associate any pleasantness with the conception of Duty, just because of its dignity.
For it involves unconditional obligation, which is directly contrary to pleasantness”. (6)
This view comes in contrast to Ikeda's statement on the subject:
“From the stand point of the philosophy of value creation, individual happiness and social prosperity are
definitely not opposed. They are actually closely related, like the rotation and revolution of the earth.
Through exerting oneself for the wellbeing of society, one becomes happy”. (7)
While values are a driving force of motivation for action, it is imperative to view the effect of applying a certain value in the reality
of human existence. The three values of Good, Beauty and Benefit are not abstract goals in themselves, but serve to create the ultimate goal of happiness:
“Happiness, as used by Makiguchi, refers to a state of man's life when he is engaged in the process of
attaining and creating value”. (8)
What is the “highest good”?
In his reference to the philosophical question: “What is the highest good?” - Ikeda states that:
“The highest good is to help people open up the world of Enlightenment
in their lives, and forge global solidarity of good will. (9)
Based on the principle of interconnectedness, the sheer existence of individual human being is the result of compassion and benefits experienced through family, society and all of humanity -
to which one essentially belongs, offering inexhaustible opportunities for creation of value within one's and others lives. In this sense, Ikeda points to the highest good on the individual's level as:
“To repay one's debts of gratitude is the highest of virtue”.(10)
This overview of the two systems of values clarifies the major differences in the outlook of many philosophers on which of the desirable goals in the life of the individual - is the most worthy and valuable. We usually act spontaneously, without theoretical analysis of our values, but this does not mean that the discussion about values is abstract. On the contrary, it is because we tend to act spontaneously – awareness of our subconscious beliefs, or those taken for granted – this awareness becomes extremely important. History presents examples of violent conflicts in which both sides - the aggressor and the defender - equally expressed the “highest level of goodness” by the good will to fulfil “duties”!
As tragic events in contemporary society show, valuing what is believed to be the “Truth”, can be destructive, while valuing actions aimed at “benefit to humanity” is a cause for prosperity and peace.
(1) Makiguchi, Philosophy of Value, p. 84. Quoted in “The Value Creator”- p.52, Dayle M. Bethel. Published by Weatherhill Inc. New York, Tokyo. 1994. ISBN 0-8348-0318-6
(2) The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra Vol.3 p 81 ISBN: 978-0-915678-71-6
(3) SGI Newsletter 5097, 9 Aug.2002
(4) Kant's Philosophy
5) Kant's Moral Philosophy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(6) Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason
(7) The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra , Vol. 6 p. 114. ISBN 0-915678-74-8
(8) Makiguchi, Philosophy of Value, p. 84. Quoted in “The Value Creator”- p.56, Dayle M. Bethel. Published by Weatherhill Inc. New York, Tokyo. 1994. ISBN 0-8348-0318-6
(9) The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra 3 p 90. ISBN: 978-0-915678-71-6
(10) The Hope-Filled teachings of Nichiren Daishonin p.222. World Tribune Press
2009. ISBN 978-1-932911-96-1