Volume 92, 2018
Philosophy, Catholicism, and Public Life
V. Bradley Lewis
Is the Common Good Obsolete?
The idea of the common good has been a signature feature of Catholic social teaching and so of modern Catholic engagement in public affairs. It has recently been suggested that the notion is now obsolete due to changes in the culture and politics of the West. In keeping with this suggestion, some argue that Catholics should abandon it in favor of an appeal based on lower intermediate goods in a manner more related to Augustine’s engagement with the largely pagan culture of his time than to Aquinas’s categories tailored to an integrally Christian society. I argue that such a solution misreads aspects of the tradition and of the present political and cultural situation and I suggest some alternative grounds on which Catholic engagement with contemporary public life should proceed and that thinking again about the common good is a necessary part of such engagement.