The moment Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) awakens in NBC’s hit show The Good Place, the audience is presented with a question. The supposedly benevolent Michael (Ted Danson) informs Eleanor she was a good enough person in life to merit in death a spot in the Good Place, a sort of non-denominational paradise. While we later learn that Eleanor was definitely not a good person and that Michael’s Good Place neighborhood is a farce, it seems fair to say that he was still using the real Good Place’s weights and measures as a means to judge his residents. It’s simple, really. To get into the Good Place, you have to be an undeniably good person.
But what makes one a “good person”? And how do you become a good person? Can a bad person truly become a good person? William Jackson Harper’s character Chidi might argue that these are subjective questions with too many intricacies to fully explore. The philosophers and psychologists SYFY WIRE spoke to on the subject agree—to an extent. Good, they say, is still good, and there are plenty of ways to measure, understand, and harness it.