Being and Goodness
by David S. Oderberg
The old scholastic principle of the "convertibility"
of being and goodness strikes
nearly all moderns as either barely comprehensible
or plain false. "Convertible" is a term
of art meaning "interchangeable" in respect
of predication, where the predicates can be
exchanged salva veritate albeit not salva
sensu: their referents are, as the maxim goes,
really the same albeit conceptually different.
The principle seems, at first blush, absurd.
Did the scholastics literally mean that every
being is good? Is that supposed to include
a cancer, a malaria parasite, an earthquake
that kills millions? If every being is good,
then no being is bad—but how can that be?
To the contemporary philosophical mind,
such bafflement is understandable. It derives
from the systematic dismantling of the great
scholastic edifice that took place over half a
millennium. With the loss of the basic concepts
out of which that edifice was built, the
space created by those concepts faded out of
existence as well. The convertibility principle,
like virtually all the other scholastic principles
(not all, since some do survive and thrive
in analytic philosophy), could not persist in
a post-scholastic space wholly alien to it.