Friday, August 12, 2016

Common Good


One might be tempted to say that “communal happiness” is something common by way of predication, that the common good is simply the greatest good of the greatest number. As we have previously shown, however, what Aquinas means by the term “common good” is a single end pursued and enjoyed in common. Indeed, it is in response to one of the objections in this very article that Aquinas makes clear that a common good is “common, not by the community of genus or species, but the community of final cause.”
Thomas can only mean that man achieves happiness as a part of the civitas, by participating in the political common good precisely as a common end, not as an instrumental good ordered toward the private pursuit of happiness. The civitas does more than simply provide safety and security, and material prosperity. It is ordered toward the good life, the life of virtue lived in common with other members of the city
From a TAC tutor talk called Aquinas on the Family and the Political Common Good and though I haven't finished it yet, I wanted to highlight this part (the bolding is mine).

I thought this was a useful distinction, especially in today's political climate.   I think possibly one of the unexamined assumptions of both conservatives and progressives in our American political sphere is that the "good" is basically a utilitarian measuring stick oriented, as he says, towards the "private pursuit of happiness".  I know that both sides also have a moral language oriented towards the wider community as well, but the emphasis is instrumental.   I have no more to say about this because I haven't finished reading the article and I haven't thought it through.  

I am just starting to try to read hard things again, and I notice that I get paused on certain passages that I have to think about before proceeding.    In traditional (Catholic) spiritual books about meditating, there is often an emphasis on dwelling on the parts that bear fruit.   I most recently read it in The Ways of Mental Prayer.

It seems there is an analogy there to ordinary "hard" reading.   Certain parts of it are going to resonate more than others, and can be an entrypoint into further understanding of the work (different in intention and hopefully in result from the common modern practice of pulling quotes out of context and using them as clubs to beat a topic over the head, or as misdirected universal statements).

The roll-off bin just arrived so we can clear the "green" waste from our mountain acre.  And I hear a granddaughter knocking at the door.  So bye for now....



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I would love to hear your thoughts on this!