The Common Good: A Thomistic Tradition

Dissertation, Saint Louis University (1995)

How do individual persons relate to the societies and communities of which they are part? The impetus for this question comes from the problem of allocating medical resources. Chapter One shows that underlying the problem of allocation is a conflict between the interests of individuals and the interests of larger communities. In pursuing a solution to the underlying conflict between persons and society, my experience has led me to explore the rather ancient and somewhat neglected tradition of "The Common Good." ;Chapter Two explores the foundational elements found in Aristotle regarding the good, the supreme good, and the common good. However, Aristotle's position on the common good is ambiguous. Chapter Three examines how St. Thomas Aquinas builds upon the work of Aristotle, and develops a clear understanding of the common good. The Thomistic understanding balances the interests of society with the interests of individuals. Chapter Four draws upon the work of Francisco de Vitoria, who emphasizes the global perspective of the common good. In these three chapters, the Thomistic understanding of the common good is established. ;Chapter Five returns to the conflict between individuals and society and considers what the common good has to offer contemporary society. The work of Jacques Maritain is cited as one contemporary reworking of the Thomistic theory. My conclusion is that the Thomistic theory does indeed apply to contemporary problems. It calls upon every member of society to work for the common good--a good that surpasses private desires and encompasses the true human good. Individuals do not have an absolute right to everything society has to offer; however, every human being does have the right to be treated with the respect befitting the intrinsic dignity of persons. The chapter concludes with a brief application of the common good to the allocation of healthcare resources
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