Guide to Goodness, Truth and Beauty



The Good, the Beautiful, the True


All that is good, all that is true, and all that is beautiful brings us to God.

 Pope Francis



In dealing with truth, beauty and goodness, I am dealing with issues that affect the lives of all individuals. On a daily basis, we all have to decide which statements to believe and which to question, which scenes, songs and stories to value and which to spurn, how to behave toward others and how to judge others’ behaviour towards ourselves . . . In the end, I concluded that the core of truth, beauty and goodness can – and, indeed, must – be preserved.

Professor Howard Gardener


Goodness, beauty and truth, are the three things we all need; goodness relates to the will and to human relationships, and beauty to the heart, feelings, desires, or imagination and truth relates to the mind. These are three things that are attributes of God, and therefore of all God’s creation: three universal properties of reality.


We need to be able to know how to critically reflect on all aspects of reality utilizing Catholic values in a disciplined intellectual tradition. This intellectual tradition involves not just teaching facts and skills, but is also essentially focused on seeking to know the value and nature of things.


It is desirable that we critically reflect and creatively express the efforts and choices made by individuals, small groups, and organisations that have played a decisive role in the state of mind of humanity. Thanks to Galileo Galilei, we have an altered understanding of the truths governing our physical environment. Thanks to Planck, Einstein, and De-Broglie we’ve gained a greater understanding of the natural world. Thanks to painter, architect and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti, we have a richer notion of beauty. Thanks to Jesus we have a full sense of the good person, the good action, the good life. Thanks to Martha Graham, we have an expanded notion of what counts as beautiful. Thanks to Pythagoras, we have a reverence for mathematics.



“The wisdom of the tradition reminds us that if we choose to journey on the path of truth, it then becomes a sacred duty to walk hand in hand with beauty.” John O’Donohue


“Facts are many, but the truth is one” Rabindranath Tagore


“A person is not called wise because they talk and talk again; but if they are peaceful, loving and fearless then they are in truth called wise” Buddha



A core strategy to guide critical thinking is to keep focus on goodness, beauty and truth. These aspects of intellectual inquiry can be used to evaluate a subject under consideration. These three elements are often understood as being among the transcendentals, which are the timeless and universal attributes of being. They are the properties of all beings. They reflect the divine origin of all things and the unity of all truth and reality in God. These elements are among the deepest realities. They help unite humanity across time and culture and are often a delight to explore and discuss, because they are substantive to our very nature.



Beauty is the property of experiences. We tend to apply the descriptor “beautiful” to works of art or scenes of nature, but in fact almost any experience – be it a trip, a conversation, a meal, an equation, a surgical procedure – can be considered beautiful.

Howard Gardener


Beauty can help evoke wonder, awe and delight, which are foundations of a life of wisdom and inquiry. Beauty involves apprehending unity, harmony, proportion, wholeness, and radiance. It often manifests itself in simplicity and purity, especially in math and science. Often beauty has a type of force upon the spirit, for instance when one witnesses a spectacular sunset or the face of one’s beloved. Beauty can be understood as a type of inner radiance or shine coming from a thing that is well ordered to its state of being or is true to its nature or form.


Beauty pleases not only the eye or ear, but also the intellect in a celebration of the integrity of our body and soul. It can be seen as a sign of God’s goodness, benevolence and graciousness, of both His presence and His transcendence in the world. It can serve as re-enchantment with the cosmos and all reality and assist in moving our students to a rich and deep contemplative beholding of the real.


Some essential questions related to beauty to stimulate reflective thinking:


·      Is this person, meal, theory, tool, life, role model, procedure, artwork, musical composition, device, relationship, service, and environment beautiful? How so? Why not?

·      Which of these (i.e., poems, experiments, proofs, theories, people, functions, concepts) is beautiful and why? Why might others have thought this beautiful?

·      How does this person/thing attract? Is this person using their God-given gifts to attract in a way that pleases God and draws others closer to God?

·      What is delightful, wondrous about this person/thing?

·      How does this shine? Radiate?

·      How is faithfulness to form or nature powerfully evident here?

·      Where is there unity and wholeness here?

·      Where is there proportion and harmony here?

·      How does this reveal graciousness, presence, and transcendence?

·      What does my response to this reveal about me?




Goodness describes the relations among human beings. We should aspire to have good relations with others and vice versa – and we should spurn relations that are unequal, repugnant, and toxic. We’d all like to live in a society composed of good persons, good workers, and good citizens, and we’d all prefer to flee from a society where persons are evil, workers promote only themselves, citizens are selfish or oblivious.

Howard Gardener


When we explore issues of goodness with our students, we are fundamentally asking them to consider questions of how well someone or something fulfills its purpose. Goodness is understood as the perfection of being. A thing is good to the degree that it enacts and perfects those powers, activities, and capacities appropriate to its nature and purpose. A good pair of scissors cuts, a good eye has 20/20 vision, and so forth. We have to know a thing’s purpose, nature, or form to engage in an authentic discussion of “The Good.” When we get to questions of what is a good law, a good government, a good father, or a good man, the discussion quickly grows richer, deeper, and more complex.


As Catholic educators, our goal is to help our students to become good persons. Among those qualities we deem good are wisdom, faithfulness, and virtue. Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. We are free to the extent that with the help of others, we have maximized these goods, these proper powers and perfections. as man. Such efforts raise fundamental questions of what it means to be human and our relationships with each other, the created world, and God.


It is a fundamental responsibility of the Catholic school to teach and pass on Catholic culture, a Catholic worldview, and these very fundamental truths about the good and what constitutes the good life. Particularly, in this and all our efforts as Catholic educators, we build our foundation of the good on Jesus Christ.


Some essential questions related to goodness to stimulate reflective thinking:


·      What is this thing’s purpose? What do we know from our senses and reason? From nature and natural law?

·      What is this thing’s nature?

·      Who radiates goodness in the world? How do they do this?

·      What perfections are proper to this thing in light of its purpose?

·      What, if anything, would make this better?

·      How well does this work? Is this procedure, theory, device, artwork, program, story, and film - a good example of what it is? What makes it a good . . .? Is she a good mother, is this device a good navigator, and is the theory of relativity a good theory? Is Picasso a good artist?

·      What values associated with this lead you to decide it to be good?




Truth is the property of statements. Any statement can be judged as true, false, or indeterminate. No truths – not even mathematical truths – can be considered secure for all time.

Although truth is the property of statements, we can also speak of the truths of practice. In any skill area from reporting to microsurgery, there are diverse ways of arriving at the desired result then the truth-value of those statements can be ascertained.

Howard Gardener


A simple definition for truth is the mind being in accord with reality. We seek always to place our students and ourselves in proper relationship with the truth. Nothing we do can ever be opposed to the truth, that is, opposed to reality. Catholics hold that when our senses are in good condition and functioning properly under normal circumstances, and when our reason is functioning honestly and clearly, we can come to know reality and have the ability to make true judgments about reality. Through study, reflection, experimentation, argument and discussion, we believe that an object under discussion may manifest itself in its various relations, either directly or indirectly, to the mind.


Whether we are dealing with a historian or an economist, a surgeon or a reporter, we need to understand how these professionals go about their work so that they can with some confidence put forth a proposition that they believe to be true. We must trouble ourselves to understand the method: a blogger versus a trained reporter, a barber versus a board certified surgeon – then our chances of ascertaining truth are sharply reduced.


Some essential questions related to truth to stimulate reflective thinking:


·      How do we know this to be true?

·      Is our mind/concept in accord with reality?

·      Are we looking at this clearly and with our senses and reason properly attuned?

·      Is the thinking rational and logical?

·      Is the information and reasoning clear and precise?

·      Is the approach fair and balanced?

·      On what intellectual or moral principle are we basing this?

·      Now that we know this particular truth about a thing, what other questions does that raise? What more do we want to know?




Cardinal Newman Society. (2019). Cardinal Newman Society. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019].


Gardner, H. (2011). Truth, beauty, and goodness reframed. New York: Basic Books.


Steiner, R. (1986). Truth, Beauty and Goodness. [Pamphlet] Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib.


Tolle, E. (2005). A new earth. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Audio.


Wattles, J. (2019). C. S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and the sequence: truth, goodness, and beauty. [online] A New Philosophy of Living. Available at: [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019].




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