Friday, 17 May 2019
Mark Shiffman: Human Good, Political Good, Common Good: The City of God as the Unattainable Truth of Political Community
Classical political philosophy orients the evaluation of political order by the fulfillment of human nature, acknowledging that this fulfillment will be attained by few, especially if they constitute a ruling group sharing in virtuous friendship, which makes a true common good possible. Aristotle lays the theoretical groundwork for this possibility, and Cicero sees it manifested in late republican Rome. In the absence of the best case, political life seems to be about accommodating conflicting goods rather than sharing common goods. For Augustine, human fulfillment through communion with and regeneration by God is not only the highest human possibility, but also the foundation of real community that is political by analogy and also a form of virtue-oriented friendship. By revealing the fulfillment of the human desire for true community and the limitations of political life proper for attaining it, the vision of the City of God reveals the possibility of a common good and the inadequacy of political order for attaining it.