Review of Metaphysics 59 (1):3 - 18 (2005)

Mark Murphy
Georgetown University
NATURAL LAW ARGUMENTS CONCERNING the political order characteristically appeal, at some point or other, to the common good of the political community. To take the clearest example: Aquinas, perhaps the paradigmatic natural law theorist, appeals to the common good in his accounts of the definition of law, of the need for political authority, of the moral requirement to adhere to the dictates issued by political authority, and of the form political authority should take. But while united on the point that arguments for normative political conclusions must take the common good as a principle, natural law theorists have not been united in their understanding of the nature of the common good. The differences among natural law views on the character of the common good are not trivial: they concern such deep issues as whether the common good should be understood as an intrinsic or an instrumental good, and whether the common good should be understood in relation to the good of individuals of that community or solely in relation to the good of the community as a whole. If one aims to develop a natural law account of the political order, then, one cannot remain neutral with respect to the various natural law understandings of the common good, for these various understandings are almost certain to yield differing conclusions on the source, functions, and limits of political authority.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph200559187
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