. 2
( 8)


ipated in by the poorest, least educated, and most vulnerable members of
the community. Disdain for the heretics™ (real or perceived) intellectual
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

pride and its deleterious social impact lies beneath the surface of some
uncharacteristic and very immoderate articulations by Aquinas. I argue
that while Aquinas™s expectation of humility on the part of others is rea-
sonable and socially bene¬cial, calmer and more thorough re¬‚ections on
the political implications of humility as he himself understands it could
have prevented our great-souled author from allotting properly religious
jurisdiction and discipline to political authorities.
This chapter and book close with some re¬‚ection on the forms, over-
lapping but not identical, of social and civic moderation proposed by
Aristotle and Aquinas, with special attention given to both the common
nature of the good of political life and the depth of the religious aspiration
in human persons and societies. If we take Raphael™s “School of Athens”
painting as a guide, we might speculate that Aquinas would much appre-
ciate Aristotle™s outstretched arm encouraging the mean, even while
respectfully admonishing his mentor that to achieve the human good
and ¬rmly found our social and civic life, one must also join Plato in
pointing heavenward.

Contemporary Responses to the Problem
of the Common Good
Three Anglo-American Theories

Contemporary political philosophy has not overlooked the problem of
the common good; indeed, scholars of political thought and normative
theory have recently reviewed the question of the common good from a
variety of vantage points.1 Anglo-American (or broadly “analytic”) polit-
ical thought is no exception. Not surprisingly, given the contours of the
current Anglo-American world, some prominent representatives of this
tradition of inquiry are sensitive to the desirability of balancing (or com-
pleting, or replacing) rights-based theoretical and civic discourse with
a deeper appreciation of shared goals and goods, including goods of
character. Against the backdrop of the previous chapter™s explication of
the promise and problem of the common good, this chapter surveys the
approaches to the common good found in seminal works by three promi-
nent Anglo-American theorists: John Rawls, Michael Sandel, and William
I will argue that Rawls™s academic blockbuster A Theory of Justice (TJ:
1971; rev. ed. 1999),2 philosophically more important and engaging, in
my view, than Rawls™s later writings postdating his pragmatic or “political”
turn (see Rawls 1985, 1993), accords an unusually signi¬cant place for

1 Studies on the common good include Barry (1973), Crofts (1973) Diggs (1973), Tassi
(1977), Douglass (1980), Clark (1984), Udoidem (1988), Kalumba (1993), Smith
(1995), Haldane (1996), Miller (1996), Riordan (1996), Diggs (1998b), Finnis (1998),
Kempshall (1999), Palms (1999), Wallace (1999), Carrasco (2000), Honohan (2000),
Pakaluk (2001), Baldacchino (2002), and Brink (2003).
2 Since Sandel was responding to the 1971 edition of Rawls™s TJ, I will quote from the 1971
edition but also provide 1999 page numbers for convenience. Most changes in the 1999
edition do not alter the original sense or argument.

Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

a liberal theory to the concept of the common good.3 I paint in broad
strokes Rawls™s deontological contractarian theory of the common good,
one paradoxically built on a strong recognition of the radical separateness
of desires and ends pursued by diverse human beings, as Rawls presents it
in Part Three of TJ. I ¬nd that Rawls™s overaccentuation of difference, of
the “otherness” that justice rightly entails, together with his instrumental
accounts of rationality and goodness, renders his philosophic founda-
tions unable to support his own thick theory of the common good. In
this conclusion I concur with Sandel, but not for identical reasons, as will
become clear in the chapter™s next section.
After discussing the promise and the problem of Rawls™s liberal com-
mon good, I examine Sandel™s communitarian or civic republican alter-
native, gleaned principally from the positive theoretical implications of
his critique of Rawls in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (LLJ: 1982; 2nd
ed. 1998). Sandel takes philosophic anthropology and our “commonal-
ity” more seriously as suitable foundations for political thought than does
Rawls. Still, there are problems with Sandel™s approach to the problem
of the common good. Sandel follows the modern theory he has reserva-
tions about in privileging epistemological investigations into the nature
of identity or moral subjectivity over more objective ontological inquiries,
and this approach renders his normative foundations uncomfortably soft.
Sandel often seems to identify “community,” as a shared identity and
source of moral worth, with the common good. In focusing on the lim-
its of justice, he overlooks important arguments regarding the normative
and ontological limits of community. In particular, while in the Preface to
the second edition of LLJ (1998) Sandel clearly states his conviction that
the goodness of a community is not founded on commonality alone, and
that moral judgment is necessary in political life to distinguish between
worthy and base ends, he still says very little about how we may theoreti-
cally distinguish good communities from bad or better ones from worse.
Sandel™s focus throughout most of LLJ remains disproportionately on
the “common” dimension of the common good; a fuller, sounder, more
balanced theory of the common good requires that greater heed be paid
to the good in its own right. I argue that a move from epistemology to
an ethical anthropology that can speak of human nature in more robust
(and doubtless more controversial) terms is needed to complete the work
Sandel begins with his criticism of deontological liberalism.
3 Michael Sandel, perhaps Rawls™s most famous sympathetic critic, recognizes this facet of
Rawls™s “justice as fairness,” particularly in Rawls™s notion of common assets, but does not
believe it can be supported by Rawls™ concept of the person as prior to his or her ends.
See Sandel (1982, 1998), chapter 2.
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 31

William Galston™s work Liberal Pluralism (2002) offers a blending of
advantages characteristic of Rawls™s and Sandel™s respective approaches to
political theory and the common good. As is the case for Rawls, Galston™s
moral subject is primarily the individual human being rather than any
communally de¬ned agent.4 He supports the protection liberalism has
traditionally accorded to individuals by prioritizing “negative liberty” over
other social and civic values. Like Sandel and unlike Rawls in his later work
(1985, 1993), Galston adopts an explicitly “comprehensive” rather than
“freestanding” approach to political theory: he takes political theory to
be integrally linked with ethics and other parts of philosophy (Galston
2002, 8, 39“47). Galston emphasizes that even in liberal societies human
beings generally ¬nd purpose, ful¬llment, and happiness in forms of
community and association, especially in family life, and urges political
thought and practice to respect and support this variegated social incli-
nation. Especially in his earlier Liberal Purposes (1991), Galston offers a
more extensive account of social and civic goods and virtues than either
of our other two Anglo-American authors. Galston thus endeavors to take
both the common and the good dimensions of personal and political wel-
fare very seriously indeed, a fact that may account for much of the prima
facie attractiveness of the liberal pluralism he promotes.
Nonetheless, I am not wholly persuaded by Galston™s mode of nav-
igating the problem of the common good. In a manner analogous to
Rawls™s TJ,5 Galston™s liberal pluralism too quickly and too easily con-
cedes the irreducibility of diversity, the impossibility of bringing various
values, virtues, and ends back around to what Aquinas would term com-
mon causes and ¬rst principles. As a consequence, Galston also rejects
the possibility of underlying universal and permanently binding moral
precepts (a properly natural law) as well as of a substantive common
content to human happiness or ¬‚ourishing, beyond negative liberty and
a few other minimal basic goods. In his defense of the comprehensive

4 Galston, however, apparently considers the individual agent to have a personal moral
responsibility that Rawls, on his part, seems to deny (Galston 1991; 2002, 46, 42; cf.
Galston 1991, inter alia 131“2).
5 But see Galston (2002, 31), where he categorizes Rawls as a “monist” theorist because he
lexically ranks some principles of right or justice over others (say, principles of goodness or
¬‚ourishing). However, for Rawls the right is distinct from the good and independently
derived. Therefore, to classify Rawls as a value monist (of the “freestanding” rather than
“comprehensive” type), Galston must include both the right and the good within the
overarching category of “value” and count justice among the many human values or
goods: “A theory of value is monistic . . . if it either (a) reduces goods to a common measure
or (b) creates a comprehensive hierarchy or ordering among goods” (Galston 2002, 6,
emphasis added).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

nature of political thought, Galston alleges that what matters is that
the student or scholar grasp the “connections” between political theory,
ethics, and other human sciences, not that he or she posit ethical or even
philosophic-anthropological “foundations” for politics. The foundations
question, remarks Galston, is ultimately not that interesting or important:
“I am not advocating ˜foundationalism™; indeed, it is not clear that this archi-
tectural metaphor really clari¬es anything. The point is not foundations, but,
rather, connections. Theories in any given domain of inquiry typically point
to propositions whose validity is explored in other domains. Thought
crosses boundaries”(2002, 8, emphasis added).
My response is that foundations do matter, not least for discerning
the scope and proper purposes of politics. It is in fact reasonable to read
Galston™s own political theory as founded ultimately on Isaiah Berlin™s
value pluralism, considered by Galston to be the best available account
of our common moral universe. Foundations evidently do not do every-
thing for political theory, and Galston is right to insist that we be open
to, acknowledge, and explore connections that are not properly founda-
tional. Nonetheless, the “architectural metaphor” can help clarify much
in the realm of ethics and political philosophy, as the recent resurgence
in the popularity of Aristotelian approaches to political science (positing
politics as an “architectonic” art and science) also indicates. By employ-
ing the foundations metaphor as an ordering trope for the following two
parts of this work, I illustrate both its utility and its important place in
political thought.

2.1 Liberal Deontologism: Contractarian Common Goods
in Rawls™s Theory of Justice
In LLJ (1982), Sandel contends that Rawls™s deontological liberalism,
premised on the priority of the right (and hence, for Sandel as for Rawls,
of justice) over the good, is incapable of justifying one of Rawls™s own
principles of justice. Sandel focuses on what Rawls terms the “difference
principle” of TJ, the ¬rst proviso of Rawls™s second principle stipulat-
ing that “[s]ocial and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that
they are . . . to the greatest bene¬t of the least advantaged” (Rawls 1971, 83,
emphasis added; cf. 60; 1999, 72; cf. 53).6 Indeed, Rawls™s fundamental

6 The ¬nal version of Rawls™s two basic principles of justice is: “First Principle [:] Each
person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liber-
ties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all. Second Principle [:] Social and
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 33

de¬nition of injustice, the ¬rst vice of social institutions, is inequality that
does not somehow conduce to everyone™s bene¬t (1971, 62; 1999, 54).
Sandel maintains that Rawls™s theory needs to incorporate an explicit
philosophic anthropology, one that sees persons and their assets, talents,
and moral worth as to a considerable extent socially embedded and com-
munally constituted, if Rawls is to offer a persuasive case for the rational
choice of the difference principle of justice. The deontological liberalism
of Rawls eschews such a thick account of human subjectivity and agency,
but as Sandel sees things, Rawls™s theory of justice cannot stand without
it. For the difference principle to hold, the moral subject must be under-
stood as “an enlarged self, conceived as a community,” contributing to
and participating in goods rightfully judged to be common possessions
(Sandel 1982, 144; cf. inter alia 78).
In the next segment of this chapter, I consider some aspects of the
positive philosophic anthropology and theory of the common good that
underlie Sandel™s critique of Rawls. Here I focus on other aspects of the
common good theory present in TJ, to re¬‚ect on some salient features that
Sandel does not treat as extensively as he does the difference principle. In
the ¬nal part of TJ Rawls develops a surprisingly elaborate theory of the
common good, one especially suitable for his liberal contractarian the-
ory of politics and justice. I explicate some principal aspects of the com-
mon good that Rawls considers as “congruent” with “justice as fairness,”
and then indicate why I consider the theoretical foundations of TJ to be
incapable of supporting such a robust concept of the common good.

The Common Good of A Theory of Justice
In the third part of TJ, signi¬cantly entitled “Ends,” Rawls insists that
a narrowly individualistic view of human nature and the corresponding
political paradigm of “private society” fail to do justice to the deep mean-
ing of the “social nature of mankind.” He further maintains that interpre-
tations of liberal social contract doctrine as necessitating individualistic

economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest bene¬t
of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to
of¬ces and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity” (1971,
302; 1999, 266). In two conjoined “priority rules,” Rawls speci¬es ¬rst the priority of
the ¬rst principle over the second in that “liberty can be restricted only for the sake of
liberty” (cf. 1999: “the basic liberties can be restricted only for the sake of liberty”), and
second, the analogous liberal priority of “fair opportunity . . . [over] the difference prin-
ciple” (1971, 302“3; 1999, 266). These principles are deemed to be chosen by rational
parties in a fair initial choice situation (on the “original position”and its role in his social
contract theory, see Rawls 1971, 17“22 and 118“92; 1999, 15“19 and 102“68).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

foundations, outlooks, and aspirations are sorely mistaken. Rawls™s own
version of liberal contract theory aims to take the common good very
seriously, as crucial to both personal ful¬llment and societal ¬‚ourishing
(1971, 520“9, 545“6; 1999, 456“64, 478).
Rawls™s basic argument may be summed up as follows: A well-ordered
society, one based on the two principles of justice chosen in the original
position, will best provide its members with the material means, self-
respect, and maximum freedom compatible with the equal liberty of
others7 to pursue their own conceptions of the good. In such favorable
circumstances, what Rawls terms the “Aristotelian Principle of motiva-
tion” will be given free rein and take full effect. This descriptive prin-
ciple posits that “other things equal, human beings enjoy the exercise
of their realized capacities . . . and this enjoyment increases the more the
capacity is realized, or the greater its complexity.” Faced with a choice
between activities they perform equally well, people tend to prefer that
which brings into play “the larger repertoire of more intricate and sub-
tle discriminations” (1971, 426; 1999, 374). The Aristotelian Principle is
bound up with the (again descriptive, not normative) “principle of inclu-
siveness,” for “the clearest cases of greater complexity are those in which
one of the activities to be compared includes all the skills and discrimina-
tions of the other activity and some further ones in addition” (1971, 427;
1999, 375). A well-ordered society, in permitting and even promoting
these motivational principles™ free operation, will allow for and positively
encourage the realization of a greater number of goods in people™s lives
than any other, less just form of social and civic organization.
Rawls posits that common as well as personal goods will be promoted by
the principle of “justice as fairness.” He ¬rst theorizes the circumstances
of life created by the institutional structure of a “well-ordered” polity as

7 Rawls later abandoned the 1971 criterion of maximal equal liberty in response to some
important criticisms by H. L. A. Hart (1973). The 1971 formulation of the ¬rst principle
ran: “Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal
basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all” (1971, 302). However,
in Political Liberalism (1993), Rawls incorporates Hart™s criticism of maximum liberty and
radically revises the ¬rst principle accordingly: “the scheme of basic liberties is not drawn
up so as to maximize anything, and, in particular, not the development and exercise of
the moral powers. Rather, these liberties and their priority are to guarantee equally for
all citizens the social conditions essential for the adequate development and the full and
informed exercise of these powers in what I shall call ˜the two fundamental cases™ [the
application of the principles of justice to the basic structure of society; and the application
of the principles of deliberative reason in guiding our conduct over a complete life]”
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 35

themselves constituting a form of common good, which Rawls loosely
de¬nes as “certain general conditions that are in an appropriate sense
equally to everyone™s advantage” (1971, 246; 1999, 217).8 Yet it is impor-
tant to realize that in Rawls™s schema this formal common good gives rise
to a more substantive common good. In the near-ideal conditions of a
basically just society, to put it poetically, a thousand ¬‚owers will bloom.
Each individual will have a far greater chance than she or he otherwise
would to realize her or his personal conception of the good, embodied
in her or his unique plan of life. These diverse and beautiful life plans
and achievements, moreover, will bloom not only as private goods but
also as shared goods, participated in and appreciated by all the society™s
citizens. Protected by the priority of the right over the good and harmo-
nized in accord with the two principles of justice, the lives of all will weave
a tapestry of dazzling variety and beauty to which each contributes, and
in the totality of which all take pleasure and pride.9
Rawls thus prepares his readers relatively early in TJ for the full-blown
theory of the common good that he develops in the book™s third and
¬nal part. There Rawls explicates the foundations and illustrates the sub-
stantive nature of the social good he envisions, in greatest detail in his
sections on “The Idea of Social Union” (§79) and “The Good of the
Sense of Justice” (§86). Rawls™s full or thick theory of the common good
comprises three distinct but integrally related elements.
First, as sketched previously, in a well-ordered society, when each car-
ries out his or her life plan to the fullest extent possible, the citizens
together in an aggregative and participatory sense “realize their common
or matching nature” as a shared or common good. Due to constraints of
time and talent, of energy and inclination, each individual can develop
only a small fraction of his or her latent potentialities. But if community

8 Compare this formulation by Rawls with John Finnis™s description of the political common
good in Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980): “in the case of political community . . . ,
the point or common good of such an all-around association [is] the securing of a whole
ensemble of material and other conditions that tend to favour the realization, by each
individual in the community, of his or her personal development” (154 ff.; cf. 147“8).
9 See, for example, Rawls (1971, 523; 1999, 458f): “one basic characteristic of human
beings is that no one person can do everything that he might do; nor a fortiori can he do
everything that any other person can do. The potentialities of each individual are greater
than those he can hope to realize; and they fall far short of the powers among men
generally. . . . Different persons with similar or complementary capacities may cooperate
so to speak in realizing their common or matching nature. When men are secure in
the enjoyment of the exercise of their own powers, they are disposed to appreciate the
perfections of others, especially when their several excellences have an agreed place in a
form of life the aims of which all accept.”
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

is genuine, as it should be in Rawls™s well-ordered, basically just polity,
the citizens will view themselves as bene¬ting from the ¬‚ourishing of
all the others. Rawls envisions a society “the members of which enjoy
one another™s excellences and individuality elicited by free institutions,
and . . . recognize the good of each as an element in the complete activ-
ity the whole scheme of which is consented to and gives pleasure to all”
(1971, 523; 1999, 459).
At least in part because of the participants™ re¬‚ective appreciation of
their shared ¬‚ourishing in a well-ordered society, Rawls indicates in the
second place that citizens will come together also in af¬rming the two
principles of justice and the social and civic institutions supporting them.
“Each citizen wants everyone (including himself) to act from principles
to which all would agree in an initial situation of equality . . . and when
everyone acts justly, all ¬nd satisfaction in the very same thing” (1971, 527;
1999, 462). The right and the good are independently derived, the for-
mer universally valid and the latter radically diverse for individuals.10 Yet
because the attainment of everyone™s good is facilitated by the circum-
stances of justice (“given favorable conditions”: 1971, 529; 1999, 463),
justice itself and the institutions re¬‚ecting and administering it are nor-
mally af¬rmed by the citizens as good for each and all. People eventually
come to see in this af¬rmation, and in the community of life and action
to which it gives rise, a parallel “shared ¬nal end” or common good.
Finally, as the third integral aspect of Rawls™s contractarian common
good, all citizens come to regard participation in the political life of
their well-ordered society as a very great good in and of itself. This is so
because the citizens appreciate that their self-realization and ful¬llment
through their chosen life plans depend in many ways on their political
regime and especially on the theory of justice inspiring it. At least in the
privileged circumstances of a basically just society, justice (or right) and
the good are congruent. As the polity and its institutional structure af¬rm
the citizens™ personal value, they too often ¬nd value in taking part in
its public discourse and administration. Moreover, a logical extension of
Rawls™s Aristotelian Principle of motivation indicates that to participate
in the public life of a political community is to engage in structuring the

10 Of course, according to Rawls, the right makes use of a “thin theory” of the good, but this
consists only of goods that are the necessary foundation for the effective pursuit of most
any conception of the good. As such, the primary goods are viewed less as a constraint or
guide than as an empowerment of individuals. For an explanation of the primary goods,
see, e.g., Rawls (1971, 90“5; 1999, 78“81).
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 37

“most complex and diverse [and hence presumably the most satisfying]
activity of all” (1971, 528“9, 571; 1999, 463, 500“1).
For these reasons, Rawls considers his contract doctrine to ful¬ll the
conditions of real “social union,” requiring the existence and actual cit-
izen valuation of shared ¬nal ends and common practices, understood
as good in themselves and not merely as instrumentally valuable (1971,
522, 525; 1999, 458, 460“1). Moreover, Rawls posits these goods of com-
munity as attainable only where the right is acknowledged as prior to the
good (his deontologism), where a shared commitment to the principles
of justice suitably chosen serves as the bond of society, removes or greatly
ameliorates the circumstances of general envy, and frees the Aristotelian
Principle to have its widest effect for individuals and for society as a whole.
Only this form of political organization can create the spiral of develop-
ment yielding the widest variety of human excellences, experienced as
truly common goods. Rawls™s deontological liberalism thus appears to
constitute the only adequate foundation for an inspiring vision of the
common good, both in theory and in practice.
Such is Rawls™s strong claim. The question is whether he in fact suc-
ceeds in the task of constructing the “good of social union” upon a lib-
eral contractarian foundation that Rawls admits “in its theoretical base
is individualistic” (1971, 264“5; 1999, 233“4). In the passages that fol-
low, I argue that he does not, at least not in a manner consistent with
Rawls™s preferred criteria for the justi¬cation of a theory such as his own:
“[J]usti¬cation is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations,
of everything ¬tting together into one coherent view. . . . Accepting this
idea allows us to leave questions of meaning and de¬nition aside and to
get on with the task of developing a substantive theory of justice. . . . The
three parts of the exposition of this theory are intended to make a uni-
¬ed whole by supporting one another” (1971, 579; 1999, 507).11 My
contention is that important elements of Rawls™s theory of justice do not

11 Here we should recall Rawls™s subsequent drift toward some version of liberal pragma-
tism, in which he maintains that his theory of justice is “political, not metaphysical” and so
independent of all philosophic truth claims (Rawls 1985, 223). Galston correspondingly
lists Rawls™s work (citing mainly his contributions post-TJ ) as a prominent freestand-
ing (not comprehensive) political theory (see Galston 2002, 8, 39“47). While I cannot
present here a full account of my reasoning, I would argue that Rawls™s later pragmatic
glosses fail to provide a plausible interpretation of TJ. Although to my knowledge Galston
does not advance this argument, TJ seems clearly to count as a comprehensive theory as
Galston uses the term, as entailing links or “connections” between political theory and
ethics, “value theory,” and other related academic disciplines (including metaphysics
and the natural sciences: cf. Galston 1991, 36“7).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

in fact support his conclusion in Part III of TJ that liberal “justice as fair-
ness” best provides for the value of community and the congruence of
the right and the good. Whereas Sandel™s argument to this effect focuses
on what he judges to be dif¬culties with Rawls™s justi¬cation of the “dif-
ference principle” of justice, mine emphasizes the incongruity between
Rawls™s instrumental vision of “goodness as rationality” and his “Kantian
interpretation” of human nature and its ethical ful¬llment.
Rawls begins the third part of TJ with the notion of “goodness as ratio-
nality.” Rawls repeatedly reminds his readers that what he has in mind by
rationality is instrumental reason: reason™s role in assisting an individual
to attain her good is in this schema restricted to determining the means
best suited to help her ful¬ll her “separate system of ends.” These “ends”
are in turn nothing other than that individual™s strongest desires: for Rawls
as for Hobbes, Hume, et al., reason is fundamentally the servant of the
passions and preferences. What is good for an individual is the plan of
life most likely to get her whatever she actually wants most, to the extent
that the contingencies of circumstance and the constraints of justice (in
a well-ordered society at least) permit. According to Rawls, the most that
reason can do is to help her to clarify what she really wants, that is, to
rank her multiple desires in a hierarchy of relative intensity (1971, 401,
410“24; 1999, 352, 360“5). Signi¬cantly, while Rawls™s political theory is
emphatically antiutilitarian, his principle of rational choice for the good
of individuals is in fact a version of the utility principle (1971, 23, 26“
7; 1999, 20“1, 23“4). Justice as fairness in principle avoids reference to
concrete personal desires and preferences except those that seem to be
a condition for all other desires and preferences, such as the desire for
the primary goods.12 That is to say, goodness as rationality is based on the
agent™s desires and preferences as a given.
Rawls™s vision of the good of social union is dependent upon a signif-
icant social presence of the “excellences,” that is, the virtues and other
“attributes of the person that it is rational for persons to want in them-
selves and in one another as things appreciated for their own sake, or
else as exhibited in activities so enjoyed.” The excellences Rawls has in
mind are thus personal goods that are also in a meaningful sense good
for others (cf. 1971, 443; 1999, 389). He considers that this condition,

12 Of course, neither the primary goods nor the adequate development of human capacities
are required to commit suicide, but Rawls would most likely agree with Hart that society
is not a “suicide pact” and self-destructive desires need not be catered to by our political
and social institutions.
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 39

the presence of the excellences, must necessarily obtain in a polity where
the social and civic institutions are ¬rmly founded on the principles of
justice: “It is clear that these excellences are displayed in the public life
of a well-ordered society. . . . [I]t is by maintaining these public arrange-
ments that persons . . . achieve the widest regulative excellence of which
each is capable” (1971, 528“9; 1999, 463).
Yet this optimism appears excessive. Rawls™s principles of rational
choice are not intended to provide persons with any guidance as to the
ethical or other substantive, real value of the activities open for them
to pursue. His Aristotelian Principle states only that when they have the
necessary amount of (social) primary goods, most people prefer to pur-
sue more complex activities; the principle has nothing to say regarding
the intrinsic value of the ends or practices they might choose. “Complex”
and “inclusive” are not synonymous with “excellent”; one does not have to
think too hard to imagine elaborate and complex pastimes that, if given
a prominent place in the life plans of ordinary adults, would entertain
without ennobling their practitioners or contributing much of value to
society. A society comprised of individuals skillfully pursuing their own
unique versions of the more complex could easily fall short of Rawls™s
lofty vision of shared excellence in a diverse liberal community.
The neutrality regarding diverse desires, excellences, and aims of
Rawls™s principles of rational choice for individuals has its macro-level par-
allel in Rawls™s defense of “democratic neutrality,” the principled public
refusal to judge among or rank order diverse conceptions of the human
good. Given the strict conceptual separation Rawls posits between good-
ness on the one hand and right or justice on the other, it is hard to see
how a basically just social structure could promote other socially valu-
able virtues or excellences such as courage and clemency. By removing
dialogue about goods and the possibility of legislative promotion of civic
virtues from the just public square, TJ opens Rawls™s contractual polity
to an increased risk of indifference and incoherence, and perhaps also
to a softness discouraging the pursuit of noble yet arduous goods. The
democratic neutrality of political life coupled with the primacy of instru-
mental rationality in private life might further fuse to in¬‚uence civil soci-
ety and personal and familial mindsets, undermining the neat distinction
between the (public) right and the (private) good and undercutting the
crucial concern among the citizenry to cultivate the excellences beyond
the “sense” or virtue of justice itself.
A related consideration that casts some doubt on the viability of Rawls™s
substantive common good follows from his “Kantian interpretation” of
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

the desire to af¬rm just institutions: namely, acting justly posited as the
best expression of our common human nature. Through this theoretical
move Rawls aims to demonstrate that “the regulative desire to adopt the
standpoint of justice belongs to a person™s good . . . , that this desire is
indeed rational; being rational for one, it is rational for all; and there-
fore no tendencies to [socio-political] instability exist” (1971, 567; 1999,
497). This common desire and its object in the af¬rmation of justice,
as we have seen, constitute a shared end on which Rawls™s contractarian
common good depends: “The Kantian interpretation enables us to say
that everyone™s acting to uphold just institutions is for the good of each.
Human beings have a desire to express their nature as free and equal moral persons,
and this they do most adequately by acting from the principles that they
would acknowledge in the original position. When all strive to comply with
these principles and each succeeds, then individually and collectively their nature
as moral persons is most fully realized, and with it their individual and collective
good” (1971, 528; 1999, 462“3, emphasis added).
Such a common end or desire, however, and the common ¬‚ourishing
in which this desire is ful¬lled are simply not possible as such if we
accept one key premise that Rawls himself has articulated and indeed
started out from in the ¬rst part of his theory of justice: namely, that
the good of each individual is essentially whatever he or she desires,
that each individual determines (not discovers or discerns) his or her
own life plan comprised of a “separate system of ends.” Recall Rawls™s
famous example of the person who dedicates his life to counting blades
of grass (1971, 432“3; 1999, 379“80). If this person does not af¬rm
the principles of justice, or the social union of a well-ordered society,
or the excellences of others enjoyed in that society as parts of his indi-
vidual good, so be it; if after attempts at friendly persuasion he remains
unconvinced, we have no theoretical or anthropological grounds to con-
clude that he has misunderstood who he really is and what makes for
his truest personal and social happiness. He is simply different from us.
On Rawls™s own terms, therefore, we cannot convincingly maintain that
justice is congruent with the good for all persons; Rawls himself admits
this towards the end of TJ (cf. 1971, 575“6; cf. 528“9; 1999, 504“5; cf.
463). Because “goodness as rationality” hinges on individuals™ separate
systems of ends, a fully common good and ultimately the (ontological)
“common or matching [moral] nature” (1971, 523; cf. 528; 1999, 459;
cf. 463) on which it must be founded cannot be said to exist within
Rawls™s liberal paradigm. Concern for personal and common goods
should lead us to appreciate Rawls™s painstaking work on their behalf,
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 41

but not to rest completely content with his theories of justice, goodness,
and the purposes of politics, or to build directly on Rawls™s philosophic

2.2 Communitarianism or Civic Republicanism: Sandel against
Commonsense “Otherness”
No one seems to want to be called a “communitarian” these days. While
reasons for eschewing this title vary considerably among scholars, one
signi¬cant concern is bound up with what founder of the communi-
tarian movement, Amitai Etzioni, has candidly termed the “soft, weak
underbelly” of contemporary communitarianism: its lack of solid, speci-
¬able moral foundations.13 If the community™s own ethos and the values
it espouses constitute the moral core of the polity and the grounding
of the rights and responsibilities it recognizes for its citizenry, then the
problem of identifying distorted communal ethoi and halting demeaning
social practices seems intractable (or at least nearly so) for any particu-
lar political community and its members. Common sense, memory, and
experience convey to us that contemporary political society is still at risk
of becoming a shadowy cave, and communitarianism as a comprehen-
sive theory appears unable to account for any compass or sun to help
its denizens discover the truth of things, the truth about justice and the
requirements of the common good.
This appears to be Michael Sandel™s main reason for rejecting ex post
facto the appellation “communitarian” for his own approach to political
theory and especially for the argument of his most famous contribution
to contemporary social philosophy, LLJ. In his preface to the second
edition, Sandel seeks to clarify the situation: “Along with the works of
other contemporary critics of liberal political theory . . . LLJ has come to
be identi¬ed with the ˜communitarian™ critique of rights-oriented liber-
alism. Since part of my argument is that contemporary liberalism offers
an inadequate account of community, the term ¬ts to some extent. In
many respects, however, the label is misleading. . . . Insofar as ˜communi-
tarianism™ is another name for majoritarianism, or for the idea that rights
should rest on the values that predominate in any given community at any
given time, it is not a view that I would defend” (Sandel 1998, ix“x). Hence
Sandel™s title to his new preface, “The Limits of Communitarianism,”

13 From my notes taken at the “Communitarian Summit” conference, Washington, D.C.
(1999); cf. Beiner (2002).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

intending to correct any misimpression his initial focus on “The Limits
of Justice” might have conveyed to his readers.14
Throughout this section, I therefore use the term “civic republican,” or
“republican” for short, rather than “communitarian” to describe Sandel™s
theoretical project and its common good“centered alternative to deonto-
logical, rights-based liberalism. I also argue, however, that in my judgment
the positive philosophical underpinnings of LLJ do seem to leave Sandel
where he emphatically does not want to stay, with a communitarian, com-
munally based and de¬ned value foundation for persons and polities. In
practice this must often translate into a majoritarian system of selecting
and promoting political ends, as Sandel himself suggests in his descrip-
tion of conventionally de¬ned communitarianism previously quoted.
The second edition of Sandel™s LLJ leaves unaltered the text of the orig-
inal, framing it with a new preface and a new concluding chapter (the
latter on Rawls™s Political Liberalism and related writings post-TJ). The new
preface™s argument for the necessity of moral judgment made according
to unspeci¬ed, noncommunally de¬ned premises seems to add to,
rather than to illuminate or modify, the substantive theory of the original.
In the original™s Introduction, Sandel indicates that LLJ is primarily “an
essay about liberalism” and against the deontological, rights-based variety
thereof (1982, 1). Sandel also advises his readers that the critical argu-
ment of LLJ comprises important positive implications for understanding
persons and polities and the nature of their good: “But attending to this
[deontological, Kantian or Rawlsian] liberalism is of more than critical inter-
est alone. For Rawls™ attempt to situate the deontological self, properly
reconstructed, carries us beyond deontology to a conception of community that
marks the limits of justice and locates the incompleteness of the liberal
ideal” (1982, 14, emphasis added). What is this conception of commu-
nity explicated and endorsed by Sandel, and how does it dovetail with
his accounts of personal and common goods in the narrative of LLJ ?
Sandel argues for the importance of a strong or “constitutive” sense
of community through a critique of Rawls™s TJ, both on the basis of the
latter™s own internal logic and “as an account of our moral experience”
(1982, 177). The core of Sandel™s critique is that Rawls goes too far in
his liberal endeavor to take seriously the plurality of and distinctions

14 Sandel in previous publications appeared much less concerned, if concerned at all, to
distinguish communitarianism from civic republicanism or to avoid giving the impres-
sion of promoting a theory that could be called communitarian: see, for example, Sandel
(1984, 5“11).
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 43

among persons (1982, 50“1). The liberal individualism that grounds
Rawls™s project shows itself, according to Sandel, in Rawls™s insistence
that each individual comprises his or her own unique “system of ends,”
and his conclusion that while it makes sense for an individual to seek to
maximize the ful¬llment of those concrete desires or ends, it makes no
sense to try to order society on this principle of individual rational choice.
As we have seen, people™s ends are too diverse for any common measure
or possibility of fair aggregation to obtain on the social and civic levels.
The right and the just must therefore constitute the ¬rst principles of any
decent social order and must be derived independently of our concepts
of the good and the good life.
Against this paradigm, Sandel argues that Rawls™s “priority of plurality”
over “our commonality” rests on a faulty philosophic anthropology. Eager
to reach the deeper core constituting “the person [one is],” Sandel takes
issue with Rawls™s mode of individuating the human self or subject on the
basis of our own moral experience, of our aspiration to self-knowledge
not limited to identifying one™s wants and their relative intensity at a
given time. Sandel terms Rawls™s version of deontology (in comparison
with Kant™s especially) “deontology with a Humean face.” His Humean or
empiricist bent leads Rawls astray when he “unre¬‚ective[ly]” follows com-
monsense perception to distinguish human selves according to empiri-
cally perceived “bodily bounds” among individuals (cf. Sandel 1982, 13“
14, 79“80). Sandel argues that our experience of close friendship, of
“other selves” who in some respects know us better than we know our-
selves and can therefore assist us in deliberating about what is right and
good for us to do and to be, requires a deeper human commonality or
intersubjectivity than Rawls™s model of the self allows (see 1982, 178“
83). Community among humans must be capable of reaching beyond
the choice to associate; it must enter into the very constitution of our
identities. “Constitutive community” is Sandel™s term for such thick social
unions that broaden our understanding of the human self or moral agent
from an “I” to a “we” and locate the identity of the moral subject more
fundamentally in commonality (or commonalities) than in individuality.
On Sandel™s account, only a “self, conceived as a community” is capable
of the serious, sustained moral re¬‚ection that presupposes some pre-
given or discovered aspirations and ends, as well as a social context for
deliberating about and discerning these ends. On Sandel™s account, these
aspects of an “enlarged self” or constitutive community are unavailable
to Rawls™s “empirically-individuated” human agents for whom the virtue
of (deontological) justice is primary (1982, 160“7).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

Sandel™s argument advances further still, concluding that Rawlsian
liberalism actually requires this understanding of the intersubjective self
or constitutive community in order to render its own theory of justice
coherent and justi¬able. Recall that according to Rawls, the justi¬cation
of a theory “is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations,
of everything ¬tting together into one coherent view” (1971, 579; 1999,
507). Sandel™s focus throughout much of LLJ is on Rawls™s difference
principle, which stipulates that permissible social and economic inequal-
ities must conduce to the bene¬t of the least advantaged members of
society. According to Sandel, the choice of the difference principle of
justice by the parties in the original position cannot be reconciled with,
much less supported by, Rawls™s theory of the radically individuated self,
nor with the mainly contractual model of society that corresponds to it.
In the context of distributive justice, the acceptance of the difference
principle implies that in the original position each party has agreed to
regard his or her assets and talents as common assets, in some real sense
the prior possession of the political community (1982, 101“3). In order
to ground or justify such a social agreement, the parties must hold an
“encumbered” theory of the human self as at least partly situated in a
community or communities from which the constitution and very de¬-
nition of this selfhood are derived. Only on such a theory of the moral
subject can one assert that a person™s qualities, talents, and other goods
ought rightfully to be shared with others and redound to a community™s
good as a whole. Only thus can we know our possessions as ¬rst and
foremost common goods (Sandel 1982, 77“81, 85“103).
Once again the argument of LLJ is brought back around to posit the
epistemological priority of community in the inescapable human quests
for self-knowledge and for knowledge of right or justice. On Sandel™s
account, we cannot know, much less achieve, justice unless we ¬rst know
and acknowledge the epistemic priority of “the good of [constitutive]
community” (1982, 65, 178“83). On Sandel™s account, then, constitutive
community and the deepest common good appear to comprise one and
the same object of knowledge. Together they open up for persons a path
to deeper human knowledge of self and society.
The signi¬cance of the convergence, if not coextension, of constitu-
tive forms of community and common goods in Sandel™s anthropology
and civic republicanism comes to light especially in his treatment of the
problem of moral responsibility. Sandel™s account once again picks up
where Rawls™s leaves off in TJ. In defending the difference principle,
Rawls advances an argument against assigning distributive shares on the
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 45

basis of desert or merit. He opposes taking any form of merit into account
in distributive justice on the grounds that what we call desert and merit is
actually, so far as we can judge, the accidental outcome of contingent nat-
ural and social advantages for which no individual human being can prop-
erly claim credit (Rawls 1971, 310“12; 1999, 273“5; cf. Sandel 1982, 92).
Sandel appears to ¬nd this “argument from arbitrariness” compelling on
the individual or personal level. He does not undertake to disprove it
in the relevant sections of the original LLJ, and in his Postscript to LLJ ™s
second edition he explicitly endorses the reasonableness of Rawls™s differ-
ence principle of justice and the “convincing” arguments Rawls offers in
favor of the conception of distributive justice it embodies (Sandel 1998,
206“7). What Sandel ¬nds wanting in Rawls™s defense we might frame
in terms of a missing minor premise. Granted the major premise that no
individual can claim to deserve “all the way down” or to merit his or her
assets, attributes, and qualities of mind or character, according to Sandel
we still need to establish a minor premise: that rather than belonging to
nobody, these goods are in a meaningful sense the rightful possession of
a community or communities.
In order to reach this conclusion, writes Sandel, we need to recognize
the existence of “intersubjective selves” or “constitutive communities”
that go deeper into the identities of their members than the liberal model
of voluntary association for the mutual securing of individual advantage.
Again, there must be some valid claim to desert or merit if our intuition
that the difference principle is a rightful requirement of justice is to be
sustained. If my individual assets and attributes and their societal value
are owed to the in¬‚uence of a community or communities “ family, clan,
political community, among many others “ on my upbringing and social
situation, then a case can be made that these communities are morally
responsible, rightful “subject[s] of possession” in a more defensible sense
than I am individually (cf. 1982, 95“103, 133“47, inter alia). And if “my”
advantages are truly societal possessions, then I am better understood as
their guardian on behalf of my community/ies than as an owner “all the
way down.” My share in life™s good things should therefore be used to
the advantage of the other members of my community/ies, especially if
I am to enjoy them in greater abundance or intensity than others; hence
the difference principle™s requirement that inequality always advance the
welfare of society™s worst-off members.
On this understanding of character and moral responsibility, so central
to the argument of LLJ, one can readily see why some readers conclude
that Sandel founds the common good and the place of justice therein
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

on the values actually espoused by the community/communities in ques-
tion. If constitutive communities are the truest moral agents and crafters
of character in such a way that they transcend individual human persons
in rightful possession and responsibility, then it is dif¬cult to see where
these communities and their members are to look beyond (or beneath)
their own bounds for insight into the nature and content of the mani-
fold human good. How are these enlarged, intersubjective selves to catch
and correct de¬ciencies, even aberrations, in their moral outlook and
practices? For after all, as we noted in the previous chapter, scholars who
experienced ¬rsthand the various totalitarianisms of the twentieth cen-
tury frequently observe that communal ethoi and communities capable
of “con¬dently situating” their members can nonetheless be far from
truly good in themselves or for their members. In political theory and
practice that posit the epistemological and moral priority of constitu-
tive community, how are human selves to have access to truly ennobling
and potentially civicly critical conceptions of personal and common
Sandel™s 1998 preface underscores the import of presumably personal
(in the conventional or commonsense sense) moral and political judgment
of a sort that seems to require extracommunal access to understandings
of genuine human goods that one™s particular communities may not actu-
ally espouse. In the original text, now perhaps with greater clarity in light
of the new preface, we see Sandel aiming at a middle course between the
Scylla of the radically separate individual and the Charybdis of the “radi-
cally situated subject,” absorbed entirely into a communal entity (cf. 1982,
149). Sandel does suggest one way that constitutive community can coex-
ist with a measure (however imperfect and provisional: see 1982, 179)
of personal detachment from communal mores, which are both requi-
sites for meaningful moral agency and some degree of personal moral
responsibility to obtain. He calls this practical moral epistemology “strong
re¬‚ection,” following a line of thought developed by Charles Taylor. This
mode of inquiry, as Sandel stresses throughout LLJ, comprises a form of
re¬‚ection on one™s own identity, a seeking of self-knowledge. One almost
always (or perhaps always “ Sandel does not say which) belongs not to
“the community,” but to many and varied communities.
This plurality is crucial. There is no sense in speaking of “the com-
munity,” or “society” tout court; we need what we might call “community
pluralism” for adequate moral and civic theory. What I can do as an agent
to “constitute” or at least properly discern my identity is to weigh and
re¬‚ect on what I personally have received and can af¬rm from the various
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 47

societies that claim my allegiance. This is not a one-time epistemic exer-
cise but rather the ongoing task of a lifetime. On this model, self determi-
nation and moral growth go hand in hand. By reassessing the amount and
kind of af¬rmation and loyalty due to each community and their relation
to the person she is, an agent may modify her self-conception, aims, and
aspirations even as she forges for herself a deeper moral identity. The
“constitutive community” model thus appears an oversimpli¬cation: the
human self is actually located at the nexus of various overlapping com-
munal subjectivities. It is not “radically situated,” therefore. It bears some
personal responsibility for its identity and its actions (cf. 1982, 144“7,
153“61, 179“81).
Yet this last conclusion is what Sandel appears to deny, in agreement
with Rawls, by approving the argument from arbitrariness as applied to
individuals and therefore af¬rming the difference principle just as Rawls
describes it. If we nonetheless judge that this conclusion is acknowledged
and indeed intended by Sandel “ that the theoretical dialectic of LLJ is
designed to af¬rm some meaningful personal agency within a frame-
work of communal epistemic and moral priority “ then further dif¬cul-
ties emerge. If moral agency is a matter of weighing and assessing the
notions of the good embodied in the ways of life and norms of diverse
communities, a person must rely also on some scale or measure “ that is,
some account of the good (even if provisional and open to modi¬cation)
that enables her to rank competing accounts and so to construct her true
moral identity. Sandel appears to agree, for on his account it is not only
deontological liberalism™s account of community that is faulty, but also its
account of the good as reducible to actual individual desires, thus varying
in¬nitely among individuals™ radically separate “systems of ends.”
Unfortunately, Sandel does not offer his readers such an account of
the good beyond his elaboration of the good of (constitutive) commu-
nity. Given that LLJ is primarily a work of criticism, it is perhaps not
fair to expect Sandel to offer such an account in any detail. Yet with-
out at least a sketch of an account of the good allowing for its distinc-
tion from spurious “goods” and also for some discernment as to which
goods are more fundamental, which less so, or an indication from which
philosopher(s) or other works Sandel derives his implicit account, the
reader cannot grasp what Sandel actually understands “moral judgment”
to entail. The reader therefore cannot conclude with any certainty that
Sandel™s account of the human good is distinguishable from the primary
good of constitutive community, the only good Sandel describes in detail
as a rival to liberalism™s account of the morally primary right or justice.
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

Insofar as it can be gleaned from LLJ, Sandel™s positive ethical and polit-
ical theory thus appears to me to overemphasize the common dimension
of the common good. Even readers who applaud Sandel in challenging
contemporary liberalism™s detachment of the right from the good and
its assertion of the right™s absolute social priority can reasonably request
further inquiry and explanation regarding the nature of the good we might
seek and hold, as persons and in common.

2.3 A Third Way? Galston on the Common Goods
of Liberal Pluralism
William Galston™s most recent work (1999, 2002) combines interpreta-
tions of Isaiah Berlin™s value pluralism and (less evidently) Aristotle™s
natural right theory to delineate a variegated, “capacious,” and indeed
“generous” ideal of the public good that can effectively accommodate
and “connect” actual political conditions and the permanent features of
our common moral universe. Galston classi¬es his “preferred” political
philosophy as a form of “comprehensive pluralist” theory, and at the out-
set of our discussion it is worthwhile to pause and parse this phrase. The
“comprehensive” side of the equation is the argument that Galston is most
con¬dent in asserting throughout Liberal Pluralism (2002).15 Galston con-
trasts “comprehensive” with “freestanding” political theory: whereas free-
standing thought “seeks to decouple political theory from other domains
of inquiry,” comprehensive approaches understand political inquiry as
closely and unavoidably connected with other branches of philosophy
and human, social, and natural sciences (Galston 2002, 8). It makes no
sense to try to achieve a deeper grasp of politics and justice without simul-
taneously incorporating insights from philosophical (and, presumably,
empirical) anthropology and ethics, for instance, and vice versa. “There
is one assertion about which I remain steadfast “ the propriety of rejoining
value theory and political theory” (2002, 92).
With this argument I am in wholehearted agreement, and it seems
an important point to press in the contemporary academy, where cen-
tripetal forces draw scholarly practitioners into ever greater disciplinary
fragmentation. Nonetheless, Galston is far less persuasive when he further

15 Cf. Galston (2002, 92): “There is one assertion about which I remain steadfast “ the
propriety of rejoining value theory and political theory. I make no claims as to the
priority of either over the other. My point is only that each has a bearing on the other,
and that we must strive for consistency between them.”
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 49

maintains that to engage in comprehensive theory is not in some way to
take up the question of social and civic “foundations”: “I am not advo-
cating ˜foundationalism™; indeed, it is not clear that this architectural
metaphor really clari¬es anything. The point is not foundations, but,
rather, connections” (2002, 8). This assertion is untenable: foundations
do matter. If politics is a part of the search by humans for a good life, to
envision and to build and to preserve as decent, equitable, and ennobling
a common life as possible within the very real limits of our all too human
condition, then the foundations of political aspirations and aims must
be included in a vision of the human person and human communities,
especially in their ethical dimensions.
While Galston argues that he makes “no claims as to the priority of
either [value theory or political theory] over the other” (2002, 92), on my
reading his pluralist liberal political theory is in fact founded most deeply
on Isaiah Berlin™s account of human goods and the ethical life known as
value pluralism, illuminated from Galston™s perspective by a version of
classical (Aristotelian) natural right theory. As Galston speci¬es, the value
of both “negative liberty” (freedom from imprisonment or enslavement)
and “expressive liberty” (liberty to live according to one™s vision of what
gives life its greatest meaning) are also foundations or at least strong
supports for his political pluralist thought; but each of these in turn
gains its justi¬cation, at least in part, from the truth of value pluralism
as the best, most compelling account yet given of our common “moral
universe” (2002, 30).16
As Galston sees things, the key insight of liberalism is not the overrid-
ing value of individual autonomy, but rather the inescapability of value
diversity. Galston™s liberalism is “based on” the second of these two “prin-
ciples” (note the foundational language Galston employs), on diversity
as signifying “legitimate differences among individuals and groups over
such matters as the nature of the good life, sources of moral authority, rea-
son versus faith, and the like” (2002, 20“1; cf. 23“7).17 Following Berlin,

16 In this respect the title of Part II of Liberal Pluralism is instructive: “From Value Pluralism
to Liberal Pluralist Theory” (Galston 2002, 13).
17 Galston distinguishes autonomy-based liberalisms (those of Locke, Kant, Mill, and
Emerson, among others), as forms of what he terms “civic liberalism,” from the diversity-
based accounts of Berlin and himself, among others, which he groups under liberalisms
defending “individual and associational ” liberty (2002, 20, emphasis added). The import
of the associational dimension of Galston™s project should not be underestimated and
will be elaborated later in this chapter. (Note also this passage™s all too standard formu-
lation of the “reason versus faith” question. Cf. [2002, 45], where Galston does qualify
this stance somewhat, although without elaborating his rationale.)
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

Galston articulates a vision of our moral universe that is best described
by the great multiplicity of inexhaustible, incommensurable, irreducible,
and often con¬‚icting goods, rules, and sources of worth in human exis-
tence. Moral life and moral theory must resist the temptation to over-
simplify things, to overlook or dismiss the real value of certain goods
that might attract us less powerfully even as they appeal to and motivate
others all the more. We might rest better with a more reductive, pre-
dictable picture of how we perceive the good and order our individual
and common lives around it, but there are too many aspects of our com-
plex and variable moral experiences that cannot honestly or intelligently
be accounted for in such a way.
Galston speci¬es for his readers ¬ve aspects of pluralist theory that
he holds to be central to the value pluralist worldview (Galston 1999,
770; 2002, 30“1). First, value pluralism is a form of ethical, indeed ultimately
metaphysical realism: it “is offered as an account of the actual structure
of the normative universe.” It is premised on what we know (however
imperfectly) about ourselves and our world, not on what we do not or
cannot know. Second, value pluralism is not to be confused with relativism: it
af¬rms the basic distinction between good and evil apprehended by “ordi-
nary experience” and supported by “philosophical re¬‚ection.” There are
indisputable basic human needs that delineate a short list of universally
valuable basic goods, from which the theorist can then generalize basic
norms of human conduct, an “ordinary [baseline] morality” or “minimal
content of the natural law” (borrowing from H. L. A. Hart and Stuart
In the third and central place Galston advances the de¬ning proposi-
tion of pluralism: “Above this domain of basic goods are found a multiplicity of
genuine goods that are qualitatively heterogeneous and cannot be reduced to a com-
mon measure of value. . . . [H]eterogeneity exists not only between, but also
within, the spheres of moral and nonmoral goods. The effort to desig-
nate a single measure of value either ¬‚attens out qualitative differences or
(as in John Stuart Mill™s version of utilitarianism) embraces these differ-
ences in all but name.” Fourthly, our moral universe houses no rationally
defensible summum bonum for all human beings, nor any other ordering principle
according to which we might de¬nitively rank these heterogeneous val-
ues. As a consequence and in the ¬fth place, Galston™s pluralism entails
that there is no good, principle, virtue, or value, or set of such goods or values,

18 For the notion of a “minimum content” of natural law, see Hart (1994, esp. 193“200).
Cf. Hampshire (1983, esp. 155).
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 51

according to which we should always guide our action. This postulate is suf-
¬ciently signi¬cant to merit quoting Galston™s summary in its entirety:
“No single good or value, or set of goods or values, is overriding in all
cases for the purpose of guiding action. Even if A is by some standard
loftier or nobler than B, it may be the case that B is more urgent than
A in speci¬c circumstances, and it may be reasonable to give priority
to urgency over nobility for decisions that must be made in those cir-
cumstances.” It may seem that Galston is referring here only to discrete,
concrete goods such as honor, political of¬ce, family fortune, excellent
health, professional position, and the like; and thus understood his posi-
tion appears reasonable enough. But as we shall see shortly, Galston™s
account also includes “values” such as the basic principles of “univer-
sal ordinary morality” (see 2002, 69“78), and as such it is eminently
Against scholars such as John Gray who have argued that Berlin™s eth-
ical pluralism undercuts his support of political liberalism, Galston con-
tends that liberal democracy is indeed the best regime for self-aware
value pluralists to support.19 More than any other political form, liberal
pluralism as a regime type respects the diversity of values and under-
girds this diversity precisely by maximizing the negative liberty or free-
dom from coercion enjoyed by its citizens. The range of value diversity
permitted and the weight of support allotted to any given good or pur-
pose by the polity cannot be limitless: in contradistinction to the Rawls
of TJ, Galston understands constitutionalism as the unavoidable public
choice to elevate certain values above others for public purposes and
for the forging of civic cohesion around that set of common aims. Still,
he argues that the set of constitutional aims should be parsimonious
and allow ample scope for individual, familial, and associational self-
determination (see 2002, 62). In a manner analogous to Rawls™s rights-
based yet diverse, excellence-promoting liberal public square, a liberal
pluralist polity should see itself at the service of a society re¬‚ecting and
respecting the manifold diversity of valuable desires, aspirations, and
A politics of “self-aware pluralism” should thus view society in as capa-
cious a manner as it can, see in tolerance its chief civic virtue, and aim
to accommodate rather than quash as many con¬‚icting beliefs and con-
cerns as possible, provided that the basic requirements of a stable and

19 For a more recent critique of the compatibility between Berlin™s pluralism and his liber-
alism, see Franco (2003, 494“8).
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

rights-respecting political order are met.20 One insightful case study
Galston presents in this regard offers liberal-pluralist support for respect-
ing parents™ moral and religious worldviews that do not accord skepticism
and autonomy pride of place. Rather than label those parents obscuran-
tist and intolerant and reject their demands out of hand, public school
of¬cials ought rather to seek reasonable paths of accommodation. Rep-
resentatives of public or political authority should show an awareness of
plural spheres and sources of moral authority, of which they are one but
not the only one. More is to be gained through respecting the authority
parents rightly hold in the education of their children, as well as acknowl-
edging the value they understandably ¬nd in the expressive liberty to
raise their children to appreciate the goods and ethical principles they
themselves hold dear (2002, 101“9).
This example brings us to another aspect of the case Galston mounts
for the political power of pluralism: Galston™s conviction that a well-
conceived and fairly administered pluralist polity is likely to attract the
allegiance and even the grateful affection of denizens who do not or even
cannot embrace an ethical pluralist worldview (2002, 108 and 118n13).
This argument Galston advances mainly by way of his account of the good
of expressive liberty, the freedom of persons and groups within a polity
to order their lives around their own understandings of what gives their
lives meaning, around their most deeply cherished understandings of the
good life. Galston argues for a politics of “generous openness” or, one
might say, a liberalism notable precisely for its liberality toward its citizens.
Galston is on to something important here. To give just one example,
the experiences of many immigrants to the United States from polities
governed by illiberal or decidedly ungenerous liberal regimes re¬‚ect just
such a desire to live out their religious convictions without reprisals in the
form of limited civil rights or limited educational and employment oppor-
tunities. In my own family there is a lingering gratitude for the journey

20 Galston de¬nes toleration as “a principled refusal to use coercive state power to impose
one™s own views on others, and therefore a commitment to moral competition through
recruitment and persuasion alone.” As a virtue, it is a “core attribute of liberal pluralist
citizenship” (Galston 2002, 126). Earlier, Galston offered an alternative de¬nition of,
tolerance as “the conscientious reluctance to act in ways that impede others from living
in accordance with their various conceptions of what gives life meaning and worth.” In
conclusion he writes that “[t]olerance is the virtue sustaining the social practices and
political institutions that make expressive liberty possible” (2002, 119, emphasis added).
This last claim goes too far, even on Galston™s own account: the ethical and civic virtue of
gratitude, to give just one salient example, is another powerful source of sustenance and
support to regimes committed to respecting expressive liberty, as Galston indicates in
(2002, 108, 118n13; cf. 104), on gratitude owed parents, and the arguments in Chapters 6
and 8 on the social and political relevance of gratitude.
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 53

to the New World, largely undesired except for the expressive liberty or
something quite like it available on those far shores. Now, that liberty
obviously could be (as in fact historically it often has been) grounded
in a form of Lockean rights theory rather than value pluralism21 ; but
Galston™s practical point seems to hold that this sort of “thick freedom”
accounts for a good portion of liberalism™s grassroots appeal.

Value Pluralism and the Common Good
Now that we have surveyed the central aspects of Galston™s comprehensive
theory of liberal pluralism, we may re¬‚ect on the account of the common
good his theory contains. I focus on what I take to be problems with the
normative basis of Galston™s pluralism, dif¬culties that shed some light on
the problem of the common good and prompt further investigation into
the ethical and anthropological foundations of politics. Galston™s pluralist
theory, I have argued, gives up too quickly in the search for universal
foundations “ for goods, norms, and aims that communities and their
members do or ought to hold in common. Recall how Galston maintains
that the foundations metaphor does not illuminate much in the realm of
practical philosophy, and yet his own political theory becomes much more
intelligible when understood as founded ultimately on Berlin™s theory of
ethical or value pluralism. Pushed to justify liberal political pluralism,
Galston™s theory invokes both the de facto “deep diversity” characterizing
many modern societies and the (often, not always) nonnegotiable goods
of negative liberty and expressive liberty. Pushed further to justify the
legitimacy and the (ordinarily) primary status accorded to these social
facts and values, a theorist arguing from Galston™s vantage point must
inevitably bring the argument back around, in the spirit of Aquinas™s
reducere, to “value pluralism as the best available account of our moral
universe.”22 This aspect of Galston™s comprehensive theory is not merely
connected with the others; it supports them on a deeper level.
Galston indicates that in a teleological sense value pluralism does not
posit the existence of a human common good, not even of a “unitary yet

21 See Zuckert (1996) for a Lockean interpretation of American liberty.
22 It is important to note also, however, that Galston uses the verb “reduce” quite differently
from the Thomistic reducere discussed in Chapter 1, when Galston describes a monistic
“theory of value” as one that “either (a) reduces goods to a common measure or (b)
creates a comprehensive hierarchy or ordering among goods” (2002, 6, emphasis added).
Galston™s term denotes a ¬‚attening, a narrowing of diverse goods to one material or
moral measure; Aquinas™s refers to a ¬nding of common causes and the corresponding
overarching measures. It is not misleading to correlate Galston™s use especially to modern
natural science and Aquinas™s to metaphysics.
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

complex” kind (cf. MacIntyre 1990b): there are only multiple, heteroge-
neous, and often con¬‚icting goods and virtues among which diverse indi-
viduals, families, associations, and political communities must choose. Yet
as we have also noted, Galston follows other analytic theorists in af¬rm-
ing a minimal yet meaningful cluster of “basic goods” without which
human beings and societies as we know them cannot ¬‚ourish. Among
these Galston devotes the greatest attention to the good of freedom from
chains and enslavement, Berlin™s primary value of negative liberty (2002,
48“52, 56“7) that underscores the liberal character of liberal pluralism
(see 2002, 61).
To enjoy freedom in this way, of course, one must ¬rst be alive. If one
looks at H. L. A. Hart™s descriptive theory of the “minimum content of
natural law” to which Galston prominently refers in explicating his own
theory and the role of basic goods in it, one ¬nds it based on linguistic
and behavioral evidence for a human wish to live. That wish is all we can
generalize in an uncontroversial way from observation and description of
human wants and the goods valued by varying social groups and diverse
ways of human life, as well as from the presupposition of our language
and everyday discourse: People regularly band together to ensure their
own survival (see Hart 1994, 191“3; Galston 2002, 30, 111). From this
sole common aim of survival Hart goes on to elaborate the “core of good
sense” contained in the generally overambitious “natural law tradition,”
speci¬cally the identi¬cation of those basic human traits from which we
can conclude in broad strokes how we ought to order our lives together
and our conduct toward one another if we are to survive (see Hart 1994,
194“9).23 Stresses Hart, “our concern is with social arrangements for
continued existence, not with those of a suicide club” (Hart 1994, 192).
Galston likewise and quite sensibly places preservation of life “ the
survival of the community and its regime “ among the chief aims of any
decent polity as liberal pluralism understands things. In fact, the section
of Liberal Pluralism entitled “The Common Good” (2002, 86“8) focuses
on the primacy among political aims of polity preservation, even over
cherished civil rights. Abraham Lincoln™s suspension of habeas corpus

23 Hart lists ¬ve descriptive characteristics of human beings as we know them: “vulnerabil-
ity,” “approximate equality,” “limited altruism,” “limited resources,” and “limited under-
standing and strength of will.” Not surprisingly, he locates the origins of his “low but
solid” natural law teaching in the early modern thought of Hobbes, Hume, and others;
see Hart (1994, 191ff). It is important to note that Hart™s theory of natural law is a descrip-
tive analysis of the conclusions drawn by unimpeded instrumental reason in the service
of the human species™ current desire for survival: nothing more, and nothing less.
Contemporary Responses to the Problem of the Common Good 55

during the Civil War, justi¬ed by its necessity for the preservation of the
Constitution and the Union, is Galston™s main case in point. Galston
echoes this Hartian refrain in key passages throughout Liberal Pluralism,
that a liberal pluralist “democratic polity is not a suicide pact” (2002, 88,
126; cf. 121). In contrast to Hart™s usage, however, Galston employs this
phrase less to elaborate the positive principles of the core of common-
sense, empirically sound, “ordinary universal morality” than to show the
limited validity of these principles. Precepts such as “thou shalt not kill
innocent human beings” applied in warfare to specify that “thou shalt
not directly target noncombatants” are for Galston principles that under
normal circumstances all decent human beings and their political and
military leaders should acknowledge and abide by. Nevertheless, pushed
to extremes, not even the inviolability of noncombatants, nor of chil-
dren, the handicapped, or the very old, holds in all circumstances. Basic
moral premises or “practical principles” operate in Galston™s pluralism
as “powerful” but “rebuttable presumptions,” much like positive legal
norms based on precedent in a constitutional court (see 2002, 69“78).
A consistent pluralist like Galston cannot argue that even this principle
holds in an absolute or exceptionless way (see, e.g., 2002, 84n5); yet his
core principle guiding public action for the common good remains the
maxim “Salus populi suprema lex” (2002, 87; cf. 76).
An important passage in the chapter in Liberal Purposes on “Liberal
Pluralism and Political Community” follows Michael Walzer™s discussion
of the morality of using lethal force against noncombatants, indicating
that he approves of its basic points and premises:

In the end, Walzer cannot quite defend the thesis that the rights of noncombat-
ants are inviolate, regardless of the circumstances. While he resists utilitarian-
ism . . . , the weight of human experience moves him instead to offer a thesis that
falls just short of absolutism: Instead of ¬at justicia ruat coelum, act justly unless
the heavens are really about to fall. The war convention is overridden in cases
of imminent catastrophe or supreme emergency “ credible threats to the very
existence of a nation or a people, or the likely victory of a murderous tyranny.
From this perspective, if the terror bombing of German cities during World War II
had been absolutely necessary to defeat Hitler, it would have been justi¬ed. Sim-
ilarly (this is my example, not Walzer™s), if the Israelis were faced with imminent
defeat and probable genocide at the hands of Arab military forces, they would be
justi¬ed in using atomic weapons against Damascus and Baghdad if there were
no other way of averting catastrophe. Rights have great moral weight, but they
do not function as trumps in every shuf¬‚e of the deck. Rights have enormous
value, but they are not the only things of value in our moral universe. (2002,
Virtue, Law, and the Problem of Common Good

In Galston™s pluralist theory, to say that the carpet bombing “would have
been justi¬ed” does not mean that it would be absolutely required. If a
society collectively, legislatively determined that it stood for, say, the good
of nonviolent gentleness as prior to the good of self-preservation, and if
those members who disputed this ordering of values had the freedom to
emigrate, that community would have been equally (or almost equally)
justi¬ed in choosing not to engage in carpet bombing, even at its own
mortal peril. Still, Galston™s use of these two examples of targeting civilians
is much too sanguine, and it is not clear to me how he or Walzer could
justify it without lapsing into utilitarianism or something quite similar.
The core of my objection is simply that the refrain “political society is not
a suicide pact” does not directly apply to the examples at hand. There is
a difference between killing oneself, suicide proper, and letting oneself
die at the hands of others rather than commit an inescapably evil deed
to preserve oneself. Another question relevant to Galston™s scenario is
whether, and under what conditions, political society is a homicide pact
legitimizing what we would ordinarily term murder. Galston suggests that
nuclear weapons might justi¬ably be used against civilian populations to
avert catastrophe. Catastrophe in such a case would be in¬‚icted rather
than suffered by the polity in question, but certainly not averted.
There are then, for Galston™s minimal natural law or basic human
goods theory, no holds barred, no bedrock of indispensable precepts
that protect a substantive moral core of the human good, which poli-
tics must respect always and everywhere even while seeking to advance
many and various goods, including in a preeminent place the polity™s
and government™s preservation. Galston™s argument appears somewhat
contradictory, indicating both that one need not act according to justice
under extreme circumstances and at another point claiming that such
ordinarily unjust actions as carpet bombing would in an extreme emer-
gency be “justi¬ed” (2002, 76“7). At the very least, this critical portion of
Galston™s liberal pluralism and its moral-foundational problematic sug-
gest some bene¬ts that might be reaped from reexamining an account
of the natural law and the common good that holds out prospects of
both a stronger moral foundation and a higher moral telos, such as that
proposed by Thomas Aquinas. It goes without saying that H. L. A. Hart
was right to note that such an (alternative) account cannot but be more
controversial (Hart 1994, 191).
part ii


Unearthing and Appropriating
Aristotle™s Foundations
From Three Anglo-American Theorists
Back to Thomas Aquinas

3.1 Aristotelianism and Political-Philosophic Foundations,
Old and New
In this chapter I begin to investigate Aquinas™s social and civic founda-
tions, probing their philosophic origins in Aristotle™s texts. As several
statements in On Kingship and especially in the ST make clear, Aquinas
understands politics to be rooted in our common human nature, which
in turn encompasses an inherent rational inclination toward participa-
tion in the common good of a just and bene¬cial social order. It is easy
to see in this position shades of Aristotle™s position in the Politics, “that
the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is
by nature a political animal” (Pol. I.2, 1253a2“4). To probe more deeply
the meaning and resonance of this Aristotelian foundation for Aquinas™s
theories of virtue, law, and the common good, we need to return to the
relevant passages of Aquinas™s Commentary on the “Politics” of Aristotle,
too often neglected in studies of Aquinas™s thought. There we learn how
Aquinas interprets the anthropological and ethical arguments with which
the Politics commences and that appear to ground Aquinas™s theory of
political life and the common good. For Aquinas, I will argue, political
community is natural to human beings in a real yet relative and quali¬ed
way. The analogy Aquinas draws between this social and civic naturalness,
and the naturalness to human beings of moral virtue, is critical for appre-
hending the purposes as well as the problematic of politics as Aquinas
sees them.
In this chapter, I challenge the common misperception that Aquinas
views political society as a “substantial” or “organic” whole. He does not,

Aquinas™s Social and Civic Foundations

except in a metaphorical sense. Political society at its core is not a “thing”
or an organism, but rather a form of unifying social interaction among dis-
tinct human beings, households, and associations “ a “communication”
(communicatio) or “conversation” (conversatio), in speech and in deed,
about just and bene¬cial living together, and about the nature, exchange,
and distribution of proper and common goods. Aquinas™s theory in this
regard strikes a helpful middle ground between Rawls™s radicalization of
the distinctions among persons and Sandel™s focus on the good of con-
stitutive community. In Aquinas™s understanding of the naturalness of
politics, political community™s conversational unity is real, yet also rela-
tive and contingent. Communication in justice, peace, and virtue comes
closer to politics™ essence than violence or any form of coercion.
Chapter 1, on the promise and problem of the common good, opened
with the question “Why Aquinas?” In noting now some key Aristotelian
dimensions of Aquinas™s political thought, there seems no similar need
to ask “Why Aristotle?” “The Philosopher” “ and I shall have more to say
about this scholastic usage shortly “ is in today™s political theory almost
ubiquitous, his work constantly inspiring new studies in the ¬elds espe-
cially of ethics and political philosophy.1 Many contemporary theorists
whose work is not historically based and whose approaches differ signif-
icantly from Aristotle™s still incorporate aspects of the Stagirite™s ethics
and politics into their own thought, at times even into their political-
philosophic foundations. Three cases in point are the three Anglo-
American theorists of Chapter 2: Rawls, Sandel, and Galston. All incorpo-
rate Aristotle into their theories, citing most frequently the Nicomachean
Ethics. Their explicit references to the Politics are by comparison quite
few, yet these still reveal three parts of the Politics™ teaching that are on
any account (Aquinas™s included) foundational for Aristotelian political
philosophy and its approach to the problem of the common good.
In Liberal Purposes, Galston embarks in part from a premise that he
shares with Alasdair MacIntyre: that “contemporary political thought has
been weakened by its neglect of the Aristotelian tradition of the virtues”
(Galston 1991, 66). On Galston™s account, recovering Aristotle™s under-
standing of arete¯ or excellence entails appreciating the twofold nature of
virtue: as an end in itself (human virtue “simply,” intellectual and ethical)
and as a means to another end, particularly the welfare of the polis and
the preservation of its speci¬c regime (217“19). As Galston™s emphasis on
“liberal,” and thereby on the regime type of liberal democracy, indicates,

1 See inter alia Saxonhouse (1992), Tessitore (1996, 2002), Bartlett and Collins (1999),
Smith (1999, 2001), and Collins (2004).
Unearthing and Appropriating Aristotle™s Foundations 61

his work from Liberal Purposes through Liberal Pluralism focuses on the lat-
ter form of virtue, on civic virtue, which is neither wholly other than nor
simply identical to the set of ethical virtues. In this crucial context of polit-
ical virtue, Galston honors Aristotle as a political-philosophic founder:
“[S]ince Aristotle™s classic discussion of the matter [in Politics III], it has
been evident that political communities are organized around concep-
tions of citizenship that they must defend, and also nurture through edu-
cational institutions, as well as by less visible formative processes” (Galston
2002, 111). Galston™s lone reference to the Politics is thus to its “second
beginning,” to the second theoretical foundation that Aristotle constructs
for his political science: the speci¬cation of regime types and the corre-
sponding conceptions of citizenship and civic virtue (see Politics III.1“5).
On Sandel™s part, the one passage he quotes from the Politics is from
the beginning of what we can consider its third foundation: Aristotle™s
endeavor in Politics VII and VIII to grasp and describe in detail what the
best possible political regime might be, “the sort of political partnership
that is superior to all for those capable of living as far as possible in the
manner one would pray for” (Pol. II.1, 1260b25“9). Sandel writes: “A sec-
ond [not strictly communitarian] way of linking justice with conceptions
of the good holds that principles of justice depend for their justi¬cation
on the moral worth or intrinsic good of the ends they serve. . . . Aristotle™s
political theory is an example: Before we can de¬ne people™s rights
or investigate ˜the nature of the ideal constitution . . . it is necessary for
us ¬rst to determine the nature of the most desirable way of life. As
long as that remains obscure, the nature of the ideal constitution must
also remain obscure™” (Sandel 1998, xi, quoting Barker™s translation of
Pol. VII.1, 1323a14).2 While Galston™s invocation of the Politics under-
scores the impossibility of a political science that does not take into
account diverse regime types and the particular character and exigencies
of citizenship relative to each regime, Sandel™s passage from the Politics
and its context emphasize rather the intrinsic connections among politi-
cal theory, the critical evaluation of regimes and their practices, and the
search for the best way of life human beings might live together.3 Both

2 Signi¬cantly, Aristotle™s passage does not itself speak of rights, but only of the best regime
or “ideal constitution.”
3 Sandel here argues for a broadly teleological or perfectionist (versus communitarian or
majoritarian) foundation for political justice (1998, xi). Sandel™s “perfectionist” theory
must be rightly understood, however, in the context of his unequivocal rejection of utilitar-
ianism in LLJ. He is clearly not advocating a sort of hyper-teleological, species excellence
maximization program. On the moderation of Sandel™s teleological politics, see his recent
Atlantic Monthly article on the human cloning and genetic enhancing debate, aptly titled
“The Case against Perfection” (2004).
Aquinas™s Social and Civic Foundations

usages capture central premises and themes of any Aristotelian political
Surprisingly, however, it is to Rawls, the least Aristotelian of our three
Anglo-American theorists, that we must turn to bring the argument back
around to Aristotle™s ¬rst political-philosophic foundation, to the ground-
ing argument that precedes temporally and ontologically the second
and third foundations. This ¬rst foundation comprises Aristotle™s famous
argument in Book I, chapter 2 of the Politics that the polis and political
life are natural for humans; conversely, that human beings are naturally
political animals; and that the demonstration of both of these conclusions
is bound up with the natural human capacity and inclination to speak of,
debate about, and ultimately share in what is good and best, fair and just,
and to avoid their opposites or at least participate equitably in them. In
TJ, Rawls paraphrases the conclusion of this key passage from the Politics
as follows: “Aristotle remarks that it is a peculiarity of men that they pos-
sess a sense of the just and the unjust and that their sharing in a common
understanding of justice makes a polis (Pol. I.2, 1253a15). Analogously
one might say, in view of our discussion, that a common understanding
of justice as fairness makes a constitutional democracy” (Rawls 1971, 243;
1999, 214).
Admittedly, Rawls™s selection from and paraphrase of this foundational
Aristotelian text are selective. While Rawls™s rendition of this passage from
the Politics faithfully re¬‚ects its emphasis on justice, it also separates the
just from the good in a way Aristotle™s text does not. Aristotle™s actual
argument states rather that “it is peculiar to man as compared to the
other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just
and unjust and other things [of this sort]; and partnership in these things is
what makes a household and a city” (Pol. 1253a15“19; emphasis added).
Aristotle™s actual text thus supports Galston™s and Sandel™s endeavors to
reconnect political theory and theories of justice with our best under-


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