Is it better to be good or to do good?

  • Leanne Sykes University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • George P Babiolakis University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • William G Evans Retired specialist and former SADJ Editor
Keywords: N/A


People have contemplated what it entails to be good and to do good. Philosophers propose that being good is an idea about yourself or others, while doing good is an action, towards yourself or others. Other theorists feel that those who want to ‘be good’ actually want to ‘be seen as good’, while those who strive to ‘do good’ are more concerned with following some calling or moral character. If we consider the dental situation, it raises the question of whether the motivation to do good should reign over the practical delivery of good dental treatment. This brings up many new considerations related to being good and doing good, and whether we are looking at good in terms of the practical performance of the clinical work or in terms of addressing the patient’s best interests and welfare. This paper will explore some of the interesting dilemmas that clinicians may face in their daily practices. It aims to raise their awareness of the differences between patients’ demands, actual needs, as well as their own philosophy towards treatment provision.


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