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How do we define 'best'?

By farrago in Culture
Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 06:54:39 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

What do we mean by 'The Best'? We are constantly bombarded by Top 10 lists, surveys, prizes for art & literature, etc. All of these 'bests' are different, and yet all claim to be the most correct. More than that, we usually agree that they are all wrong.

So where do these lists come from, and what is really the best 'best'?

I was reading a proposal for a K5 "Hall of Fame" to highlight the 'best' articles ever on K5, and another about the 'best' places to live in the US, and it started me thinking. What do we mean by 'The Best'? When looking at these lists of 'the best' it becomes apparent that they can be split into two categories.
  1. Populist
    • These lists show what is most popular in the field. This is variously done by holding open votes, rankings based on revenue, phone polls, surveys, and many other ways. This is democracy in action - that which is most popular must be best.
    • The best examples of Populist listings are the worldwide pop music "Top 10"s. Some are based on sales, some are based on airplay, some on requests, some on a combination of factors, but they are all based on the input of the general public.
  2. Elitist
    • These lists are picked by experts in the field, and often have a prize of some sort. These tend to be based on the opinions of one person (or perhaps a small panel of experts). They usually ignore populist measures, and in fact often run completely contrary to them.
    • The best examples of Elitist lists are art & literature prizes such as the Booker Prize for literature, or the Turner Prize for modern art.
It is widely recognised that there are deficiencies with both categories. Populist lists tend to be biased by current events and can even be self-perpetuating. Would Lord of the Rings still be the "best" novel in the world, if it weren't constantly being lauded as the "best" novel in the world?

On the other hand, Elitist lists tend to provoke surprise or even disbelief at their choices. Is a light connected to a switch on a wall in a white room (this years' Turner prizewinner) really the best modern art of the year?

Possibly the biggest problem with any form of such lists is that they often miss something that later comes to be seen as the best of that era.

So the question remains, what is the best way to define `best'. How can we combine the deep thought of elitist lists, with the widespread appeal of populism?

My belief is that we can't, or rather, that we shouldn't. To me, best is simply what the majority thinks is the best. We agree that choosing our leaders by populist vote is the best way to run a country, so why do we persist in thinking that elitist prizes reveal the 'best' best?

So what do you think? Is my definition of best, the best definition of best?


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What is the best best?
o Only a statistically significant randomly sampled questionairre is valid. 9%
o The majority rule works (click here to prove it!) 5%
o The public are too stupid to know the best, so we should select it for them 19%
o Only my ideas counter for anything! 29%
o Who cares? 36%

Votes: 97
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by farrago

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How do we define 'best'? | 42 comments (41 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
best modern art (3.71 / 7) (#1)
by wiredog on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:42:10 PM EST

Is a light connected to a switch on a wall ... really the best modern art of the year?

If you've seen much modern "art" lately then you'd have to agree that, yes, it is.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

Art (none / 0) (#21)
by Tatarigami on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 10:09:27 PM EST

They say you have to suffer for your art. Maybe that's the problem in this case -- not enough suffering on the part of the artist...?

I'm inclined to believe that being an art critic is its own richly-deserved punishment.

[ Parent ]
Not even what the artist was wanting... (none / 0) (#28)
by farrago on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 04:45:04 AM EST

I seem to remember reading somewhere that the artist in question was actually intending to do something else, but there was a problem with his materials or something. So he had to make do with what he could, and a white room with a light and a switch was all he could come up with in the time!

[ Parent ]
Endless loop (4.00 / 4) (#2)
by Woundweavr on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:43:46 PM EST

So what do you think? Is my definition of best, the best definition of best?

Well what is best, really when one is evaluating "best."

This is rather inane. We realize things are subjective. We realize often things aren't defined exactly. There's not alot of discuss here.

I don't get one part (none / 0) (#3)
by inerte on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:48:43 PM EST

It's a thought provoking article. Justifying my +1FP ;-)


Possibly the biggest problem with any form of such lists is that they often miss something that later comes to be seen as the best of that era.

Proof? Last time I checked, Beatles, Mozart or Michelangelo were rated one of the 'best' in their own times, both by popular or elitist votes

I guess those who are voted by both categories, and by the majority, most of the time last longer.

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.

Validity of Hindsite (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by Woundweavr on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 12:53:28 PM EST

But lots of artists never sell a piece of art in their lifetime (I think Van Gogh is the usual example) and later become renowned.

However, that doesn't mean that because later they are considered the 'best' that hindsite is any more valid than the opinions of their contemporaries. The Velvet Underground and the Pixies had huge impact on later bands but does that make them better (as subjectivity is really what this article is attempting to question) than bands that were popular at the time?

Who knows? Its all subjective, and pretending there is an objective best in most things, and especially art, its foolhardy.

[ Parent ]

Just clarifying (none / 0) (#5)
by inerte on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 01:01:14 PM EST

It was really because the author stated something as a fact without giving enough proof that such things happen.

I know there are cases where "unpopular" artists become mainstream, and that's even more rare nowdays, with the instant MTV 10Am - 02Pm - 06Pm - 08Pm - 2Am pop cycle, I just wanted to read reasons :-)

Btw, yes, it's true. Poor Van Gogh didn't sell one picture his whole life (or just one, for someone from the family, can't exactly remember).

But the list of best whetever is indeed increasing these days..

[ Parent ]
what elitist musician rates beatles highly? (nt) (none / 0) (#7)
by speek on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:05:02 PM EST

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Almost everyone? (none / 0) (#10)
by inerte on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:21:24 PM EST

It's true, Beatles songs, mostly after Sgt. Pepper's era, are considered one of the best music ever created.

Ask *almost any* musician nowadays what they think about the Beatles. Some might say they personally like or dislike, but they will all recognize the impact they made on society and how well done it was.

Nobody can resist Eleanor Rigby, that's true ;-)

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
[ Parent ]

social phenom yes, music phenom, i don't know (none / 0) (#16)
by speek on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:47:12 PM EST

None of the music professors at my college thought much of the music - it's mostly straightforward rock and roll. But yes, they had a tremendous impact on society and subsequent popular music. These are different issues, though. Would you really compare the music of the Beatles to Beethoven, Mozart, Gerschwin, etc?

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Yes, I would. (none / 0) (#30)
by gordonjcp on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 08:00:02 AM EST

I would compare The Beatles with these composers you've listed, based on the influence they had on society. The Beatles might me "mostly straightforward rock and roll" but when it was written, it was pretty ground-breaking stuff. Likewise Beethoven, likewise Mozart, and I'm pretty sure his name's spelt Gershwin, without the "c".
Actually, I really, really dislike Mozart, because of all that bloody continuous squeaky third-position string stuff. If you want to hear someone *really* work an orchestra hard, listen to Berlioz...

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.

[ Parent ]
In the 'best' context, yes. (none / 0) (#33)
by inerte on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 09:45:33 AM EST

I would compare if we could stick on-topic ;-)

I cited those guys because they were, at their times, considered the best.

Besides, I believe some of the Beatles, specially Paul, had a pretty good knowledge about music theory. If not the same knowledge that 'classic' composers. Technical musical knowledge is limited, what you may know as a plus is styles, and to compose.

And here's, IMHO, music's mission. It's something that universally touchs emotion. You may or may not go with similar definition, but the Beatles did made music that could touch hearts.

I may now go back to work, what a paragraph! ;-)

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
[ Parent ]

Elite fans (none / 0) (#15)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:38:35 PM EST

George Martin, for one, but there's also Leonard Bernstein:
Like almost no one else, Bernstein bequeathed to young people the Olympian fire, the flame of musical passion. His open-mindedness ("There is no such thing as U- and E- Musik, only good and bad music!"), his own compositions, his great admiration for the Beatles - all these confirmed his "credibility" and youthfulness of heart to the younger generation.

[ Parent ]
Dada (none / 0) (#36)
by lb008d on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 11:06:27 AM EST

Revolution 9 brought Dada art to the masses.

[ Parent ]
'We' dont. (none / 0) (#6)
by FredBloggs on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 01:18:11 PM EST

I do, and you do.

While i`m here, perhaps someone can point me in the direction of a good criticism of `moral relativism`. All the stuff i`ve found about it on the net says things like:
For example, if moral relativism is true, then we could no longer say that customs of other societies such as slavery are morally inferior to our own.
As if thats approaching anything like an argument!

To crystallize my question, i`ll turn into two possibly easier ones:

Is there an objective correct answer to the question 'is the death penalty a good idea' (for example-no need to answer that question here!)

If yes, where is it?

If no, doesnt this suggest that moral relativism is ok?

Side issue (4.83 / 6) (#8)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:09:59 PM EST

We agree that choosing our leaders by populist vote is the best way to run a country,
Well, not everybody agrees, but more to the point, the logic behind voting isn't necessarily to select the "best" leader, but rather the most representative one. There's a line of thought that people have a right to choose bad leaders. Democracy isn't for efficiency -- it's because it's simply right for people to choose their own governments, even if we choose clods.

We agree? (4.50 / 2) (#9)
by Khendon on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:16:10 PM EST

"We agree that choosing our leaders by populist vote is the best way to run a country, so why do we persist in thinking that elitist prizes reveal the 'best' best?"

We do? I don't think we do. It's probably one of the better ways of ensuring a certain safety net to curb excesses, certainly. The tradeoff is that an "elitist" system has the potential to select a much more effective government.

Selecting the government of a country is quite important, with very damaging consequences for getting it very wrong - and so democracy offers a reasonably good chance of not getting it *very* wrong. Selecting the winners of a prize has much less scope for dire consequences, and so the "optimum" solution probably lies in a different tradeoff between the two ideas.

But surely that makes it the best? (none / 0) (#26)
by farrago on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 03:46:20 AM EST

You are saying that democracy is the current governance of choice because it offers lowest risk of going wrong. This implies that other methods are too risky to be considered.

The best of anything non-trivial is usually the best balance between risk and reward. For a system of government the risk is so huge that it comes close to outweighing the reward. The benefit from a good benevolent dictatorship is probably higher than from democracy, but the penalty if you lose either 'good' or 'benevolent' from the description is so huge that it's not worth taking.

So overall, democracy is the best form of government.

[ Parent ]
Government is different from prizes (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by Khendon on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 08:38:02 AM EST

> democracy is the best form of government

Agreed (for the sake of this argument), but that doesn't necessarily make it the best form of awarding prizes. A different weighting of risk -vs- reward applies. Personally, I like a mix between the two; eg, have a Best Overall judged by popular vote, and more specific awards judged by a specialist panel more able to apply the right criteria for the specific categories.

[ Parent ]
Your definition of best is best (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by orlkorrect on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:25:46 PM EST

But so is mine. And they are both the best.

The Lord of the Rings is hardly the best novel. No no no - that distinction goes to Don Quixote. But that is my best, and not yours, and not the best of many others; but it strikes me that what entertains in this "best" business is not the bickering over this or that but talking about something you care about, and listening to someone else talk about what they care about.

More important to me is why your "best" is so: less important is whether it truly is. That, in the end, is a moot point.

+1 FP, incidentally.

Addition and Subtraction (3.80 / 5) (#12)
by Hopfrog on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:36:30 PM EST

My belief is that we can't, or rather, that we shouldn't. To me, best is simply what the majority thinks is the best.

There are people who think that classical orchestra music is the best music ever, and there are people who think that rap music is the best music ever. Both are forms of music, but their execution is different. On has it's timeline based on a variable harmony, and the other bases its harmony on its fixed timeline

Imagine you had 2 groups of an equal number of people, one group likes rap and the other likes classical. Everybody is asked to choose their favourite artist. Half of the rap group choose Tupac, the other half chooses Eminem. Among the fans of classical music, half choose Mozart, the other half choose Bach.

We have a situation where where only 1 person has to defect, and the "best" changes. And whatever "best" there is will always have 3/4 of the population which don't like the music.

What has to happen is that the opinions have got to be moved together. Example: The rap fans are given the collections of Bach and Beethoven. They listen to all the records, and decide whom they like most. The classical fans are given rap records, and they decide whom they like most. The classical guys then decide which classical music they like, and then the rap guys decide which classical music they like.

You could have the same deadlock situation again, in which case you can say that tupac=eminem, and back=mozart, but you do not know what relation exists between tupac and mozart. If you don't have the deadlock situation, you can say that the person with the largest number of votes is the best.


Think Marketing and Mediapathic (3.00 / 5) (#13)
by vefoxus on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:08:34 PM EST

Your categories are completely oudated, at least a zillion years. Today everything is defined through marketing... and if it's not markettable it does not even exist. The best things are those that can be sold in the greatest numbers... Nothing else matters!

A similar approach consists in evaluating the mediapathic quality of the objects/events, ie how much it will be copy-pasted by TV/radios/newspapers/ /. /press agencies around the world (that's the definition of marketing for newsmen).

Those categories you are talking about seem to have been popular in the past, though... People still play a role through the permanent neuronal wireless plug, but it's essentially passive... Which make things easier for us A.I., despite the resistance of "thinking" people, like that guy "dusty" who still lurked from time to time on this digital axon...

Not best, but least bad. (4.50 / 2) (#17)
by haro on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 04:39:51 PM EST

We agree that choosing our leaders by populist vote is the best way to run a country

I happen to think that it is not the best way to run a country, but the least bad way. But then "least bad" could perhaps be another definition of "best".

And I think it's the worst. (none / 0) (#22)
by Mr. Piccolo on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:04:26 PM EST

Because the general public doesn't know jack about the best anything. See: music, movies, etc.

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.

[ Parent ]
What you have shown (none / 0) (#24)
by haro on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 02:47:57 AM EST

is that to let the general public decide is a bad system. That is also part of the reasoning behind my statement.

What you have not done, is take a look at all the other possibilities. Do that and think about it, and you might come to the conclusion that it is the worst except all the other systems. In other words - the least bad.

[ Parent ]

In defense of Elitism (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by Philipp on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 06:38:45 PM EST

Clearly, there are certain areas, where elitist insight does not help, like: "What is the best color?".

But in other areas, you can come up with an insightful decision, e.g. "What is the best way money should be distributed in society?"., "How should we treat the environment?", "Should murder be illegal?". Given that your goal is roughly the quality of life off all humanity, you can differentiate "good" from "bad" answers to these questions.

If you goal is simply "my quality of life", then I would just include you from the argument, for you have no sense.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

Seek simplicity (none / 0) (#19)
by Tatarigami on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:53:25 PM EST

"How should we treat the environment?", "Should murder be illegal?".

I don't think questions with one-word answers necessarily need a panel to deliberate on them.


These are just value judgements -- nothing complex there. A plan to implement the judgement, now there's a conundrum.

[ Parent ]
Society needs to answer its own questions. (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by farrago on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 04:37:06 AM EST

But in other areas, you can come up with an insightful decision, e.g. "What is the best way money should be distributed in society?"., "How should we treat the environment?", "Should murder be illegal?". [...] you can differentiate "good" from "bad" answers to these questions.

I'm afraid I must disagree. These are not easy questions with easy answers.

Obviously murder is illegal because it is the crime of unlawfully killing another human. However, as a society we have decided that it is sometimes ok to kill another human - in self defence, in war, as punishment for murder, in abortions, to end suffering etc.

The best way to distribute money in society is another difficult question. Communisim is the theoretical ideal, but a practical nightmare. Capitalism is a theoretical nightmare, but somehow seems to work quite well. How far we go in each direction is a question governments and countries struggle with contantly.

Different societies have different answers to these questions. The best answer for each society is the one that they are living with currently. If society as a whole changes its opinions, then over time the laws will also change to match the new beliefs.

'Elite' thinkers definitely have a role (even a duty) to educate society so that it can make informed decisions. However, it should not answer those questions for society, that can only be done by society itself.

[ Parent ]
A little bit of both (none / 0) (#38)
by nosilA on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 01:27:51 PM EST

For example, for the environmentalism question - it would be reasonable to use populism to determine the goals, and elitism to determine the best way to get there.

In this example, the populist definition of best would determine how much of our resources we want to devote to long term environmental goals, how much we want to devote to medium-term goals, and how much to short-term comfort.

The elitists (scientists) would then determine how best to allocate the resources to meet those goals.

Same goes for pretty much all of your questions.
Vote to Abstain!
[ Parent ]
Start a process of elimination (none / 0) (#20)
by seeS on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 10:00:44 PM EST

My stuff is usually crap, so that's one down and 24,999 to go.
Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?
Putting the cart before the horse (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:33:03 PM EST

Before deciding upon a definition of what "best" is, first we must decide whether or not "best" is truly a referrant. Does the word "best" refer to something that exists independant of our own minds? If not, perhaps "best" is always subjective and, therefore, picking between alternatives on how to decide what is best is something of a fruitless exercise.

Populist is the most repugnant of the choices... (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by Spatula on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 03:23:41 AM EST

To possibly consider something 'good' because it is the most popular is nearly criminal. While I can't say that popular opinion is negligible, I certainly can say that it is not worthy of mention, as it is often a result of what the populace have been told to desire. Case in point: disco.

The elitist point suffers from the same problems as the populist point, except that the elitist point claims that they are immune to opinion or editorial comment, in that the elitist position automatically assumes that a different viewpoint is inherently wrong as a result of the opposition's lack of education.

Fuck that. Is a comment/story/diary 'good'? That is, after all has been said and done, a purely objective judgement. I reject any idea of a 'Best Of K5' notion, as it will only serve to elevate the mediocre and 'popular' and 'controversial' elements of our interesting (and, often times, quite introspective) culture.

Just let the newcomers enter. If they're trolls, we will identify them and mark them as they truly are: looters of the psyche. If they have something good to contribute, then I welcome them with open arms and an open mind. I was a newbie once, as were all of you. I fucked up a few times. So what? Hopefully we can -1 the idiots (such as myself) and +1 the good ones.
someday I'll find something to put here.

best is what the majority thinks is the best (none / 0) (#29)
by johwsun on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 06:09:11 AM EST

...till the end of times!

I mean the majority cannot be handled as a temporary issue.
Only permanent ballots allowing users to change their mind whenever they wish can proove what the majority really thinks, and what best is.
I am sure that the result of such ballots will be closer to what best really is.

[ Parent ]
5 Year Moratorium (none / 0) (#31)
by Sharrow on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 08:04:41 AM EST

Any "Best of" poll, should bar everything from the last 5 years. That way, only works that have some longevity will be included. It stops the massive skewing of film polls, where half the films seem to have been released in the last 6 months.

Of course, "Best $BLAH of the Year" would be pretty meaningless.


I've got green eyes, red hair, and I'm left handed. A hundred years ago, I'd have been considered in league with the Devil.
Better (none / 0) (#34)
by gmuslera on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 10:30:23 AM EST

You can say that something is "better" than something else based in subjetive factors ("because I like it more", and this depend of time, if I just read "Lord of the Rings" and compare it with "Enders Game" that I readed like 10 years ago, well, the feeling of better probably will go to LOTR, in part because my memory, in part because all of this changed me) or objetive factors (i.e. because A is larger/colorful/simmetrical/etc than B, and I define that that comparisions are THE way to compare them) or a combination of both.

The objetive way, in fact, should be expressed like A is better than B in all this ways to compare them. I can't say properly "a plane is better than a car" without using a specific amount of ways for comparing them, being aware of this or not, if I thinking now in that I have to go to England, probably would say that a plane is better than a car, but not because I compared them in every possible way.

Now, "best" is an extension of "better", where you compare against a certain alternatives, but you have clear that saying generic things like "the best book of all times" doesn't mean every book, neither mean every book one have read, but maybe is every book that the one that is defining the list is aware right now.

So, when you read things like "The best books of all times", remember that mean what certain amount of people feels (or remember that feels) about a limited amount of books, and nothing more, so is possible that you don't like them or not agree with the order at least... but it could serve as a guide.

Best is what I think is best (4.50 / 2) (#35)
by epepke on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 10:37:36 AM EST

In the words of Frank Zappa, if you like it, it's bitchen; if you don't like it, it sucks. That's really the only meaningful way that you can define it. As FZ also pointed out, e.g., the norms of classical music were really the taste norms of the king or church or merchant who was footing the bill.

Finding a consensus of what is best is more complex, but it primarily has to do with the mechanics of consensus building than it does with what is the best. Some people have suggested that majority rules. This is close, but it isn't quite right, because it's skewed by another factor.

Let's say you are looking for a consensus of what is the best beanie baby. You have ten people. One is really into beanie babies. Six are slightly interested. Three don't even know what they are. Amongst this group, the consensus of what is the best beanie baby is going to be skewed in the direction of the fanatic and away from the people who know nothing about it.

Another person pointed out disco as a lamentable example of the public liking what it was told to like. Well, I think disco sucks. However, I grew up during the disco generation. Most people thought it sucked, but they listened to it anyway. For the culture of the time, it fit certain niches. Then disco died, and I breathed a sigh of relief. So why is it that, about five years ago when I went to bars, bunches of barely postpubescent people were dancing around to "YMCA"? Not only that, they had invented arm gestures that did not exist in the 1970's.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

You forgot one (4.50 / 2) (#37)
by ucblockhead on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 11:45:19 AM EST

The third way of of determining the "best" is to come up with some "objective" scoring system. Fewest gramatical mistakes. Most links. Etc.

But that tends to be as unsatisfying as the other two ways.

Honestly, the only way to win this game is to refuse to play. Comparing text, whether k5 articles or "literature" in terms of overall quality is a fools game. It is utterly meaningless. There is no "best". There is only "I like better" and "you like better" and "we like better" and "they like better". Everything else is a damn waste of time.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

There is no 'best' definition of best (none / 0) (#39)
by SIGFPE on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 07:18:48 PM EST

You're trying to convert a plethora of opinions into a consensus. Arrow's Impossibility Theorem then applies to show there is no such defintion.
Define 'good' first (none / 0) (#40)
by Canthros on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 12:58:29 PM EST

Before you can define 'best', you really have to define 'good'. Once you've done that, then you can give serious discussion as to what thing or things qualify as the best example of their type. Most people will talk about good as though it is a thing that varies from person to person. I don't care for this idea. I recognize and understand that everyone's opinion on the nature of good differs. I believe, however, that there is an underlying objective good which all of those subjective definitions are really aiming at (since all of us make a claim as to what good really is).

Now, that's not a terribly useful definition: it's concerned with actuality and not with practicality. But, then, most definitions of good have a similar problem.

It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
Nonsense (none / 0) (#41)
by kuran42 on Fri Mar 08, 2002 at 01:01:58 PM EST

"Good", "Better", "Best" define relative positions on a linear scale. Few things in life, literature, or what have you (scalar numbers aside) can be reduced in a sensical or meaningful way to such a linear form of comparison. That people try is just another quirk of humanity. To bear that out, I am forced to give a -1, indicating "worse" - another position on that relative linear scale - to this article, even though it cannot be meaningfully reduced to such a level.

kuran42? genius? Nary a difference betwixt the two. -- Defect
All of this is based on an assumption (none / 0) (#42)
by lys1123 on Tue Apr 30, 2002 at 05:09:07 PM EST

You are assuming that there is only one best. In fact for any given thing there are several bests, my best, the populist best, and the elitist best are just three examples.

So the question should not be which best is best, but rather which best is the most appropriate in each situation?

I certainly wouldn't want them to start giving out Nobel Prizes based on a populist vote, as it is quite likely someone like Britney Spears would end up with one.

On the other hand, a teenager who wants to know what CD to buy this week in order to better fit in is going to want a top ten list based on the choices of the general public.

How do we define 'best'? | 42 comments (41 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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