“Summum bonum” is a term introduced to me by my ethics professor. The word translated from Latin into English means the “highest good.” A lot of conversation surrounds not only the term itself but how it applies to humans. First off, what is the highest good a human can achieve? Is it something we do, something we strive to be, or maybe something else? I don’t have an answer for you, but as always, I have a strong opinion. Before I continue with my opinion, I’d like to give you a chance to formulate your own thoughts surrounding Summum bonum.
What do you believe is your highest good? Do you think your actions everyday reflect your desire of summum bonum?
The reflection of your highest good in it of itself can really open your perspective on life, love, and happiness. Personally, I believe the highest good I would like to achieve is happiness but not in a dystopic mindset. I believe life is messy and is not without struggle. I believe happiness is a means and not an end. Meaning, I don’t believe there will be a day where I’ve checked off everything on a list and then magically be the happiest version of myself. My highest good will be to enjoy the journey life takes me on. I think it is easy to overlook the journey especially with such high societal standards and pressures on success and happiness. Before I encountered this idea within class, I probably would have answered the question I posed to you in a very straight forward manner. I would have said something along the lines of, “I want to graduate undergrad and get into the graduate school I want. I want to then graduate from there and get a good job in my field.” I’d probably also add somewhere in there that I want to have a family and house with a great yard. As a human, is my biggest success in life a career, a house, or kids? I often hear and see people weigh their success on the things they’ve done, achieved, or collected. It is not wrong to want things for yourself or to set out goals. However, I too often see people, including myself, drowning themselves in the work they do to get to those said goals. I also suppose it is valid to address that a fact of life is its impermanence. Life can end at any moment, so why spend your time solely trying to get somewhere? People often explain wanting to achieve things in life comes from a desire to have something to show for their time on earth after they’re gone. While this is valid, what if your life ends before you reach that wealth, education status, quota, family, or goal? My point being, life is not promised so finding the joy in everyday big or little makes me feel like I’ve already reached my summum bonum.