Tuesday, January 22, 2019


In Italian "I love you" is ti voglio bene. Literally translated this is "I want good for you". The familiar phrase, considered literally, presents an interesting and less familiar viewpoint. Not sentimental or romantic but a simple declaration of intent with no strings attached: "I am willing you goodness."

Benevolence combines bene and volere or volonta. As I see it BENEVOLENCE is the one essential quality which any human institution must have, whether it deals with matters religious, philosophical, political. financial, educational, social, scientific, technological etcetera.

Yes yes I know. I'm indulging in pie-in-sky utopian woolly snowflaky thinking. You're asking: who decides what The Good is? Every totalitarian regime - political, religious, whatever - is always absolutely sure they know what The Good is and they're going to give it to you whether you like it or not. Okay, I admit this is a problem. A big problem. So how about this:

What if criteria for Benevolence are defined and agreed upon by means of, I don't know, a worldwide vote or something? A Declaration of Benevolence. Then any organisation (including governments) no matter how big, powerful, influential, must prove that their actions are genuinely benevolent - ie that they can demonstrate Ti voglio bene to all. If they can't prove it they're out. Finito. End of.

Am I voted world leader? Never mind, didn't want the job anyway.


Tom said...

And I want good for you. In answer to your question, Gwynt 20.1.2019.

Vincent said...

Wonderful topic, Natalie! Indeed benevolence is the essential quality in relations with others at any level. And your question, “Who decides what the Good is?” takes us straight to the point.

A Declaration of Benevolence, with required conformity by any organization, will lead easily to window-dressing, papering over the cracks, lip service, weasel words and speaking with forked tongue.

The alternative? Each and every person in their own heart decides. There are companies who embody good values, such as Timpsons. Others are notorious for the opposite, such as Sports Direct here and also here.

What can be done to establish benevolent values in the human heart? One would hope that the child absorbs them naturally from early childhood onwards, as an intrinsic part of its upbringing. Sadly, this isn't always the case. Malevolence and selfish motives abound and provide role models for those who are not strong in holding to simple goodness.

My old university runs a thing called the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, as part of its School of Education. As I understand it, pupils are not instructed in these matters but required or encouraged to participate in class discussions as to what is good.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Vincent, as I said in the above post, I'm aware that what I suggest is unrealistic pie-in-sky. The Declaration of Benevolence is a nice idea but it's fantasy.

There is indeed a desire in all people of good will to live in a benevolent world. And yes there have always been disagreements on what The Good is and how it should be achieved. All religions, philosophies, political and social systems, past and present, have different versions of what the Good is. I don't know if there can ever be a universal consensus on this question. Even if everybody knows what Benevolence means, the way to live benevolently and what a benevolent soociety would look like is a source of dispute. For example, truly radical benevolence would mean that the whole of society is willing and able to love their neighbours as themselves, forgive their enemies, renounce killing, lying, cheating, exploiting etc. and that such behaviour is the norm. Who is going to agree to apply these principles on a permanent basis and in all things?
I rest my case.