Common good

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Definition

The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics, and political science.

However there is no strict definition of the common good for each situation. The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, water and shelter - that are always good for all people.

The common good is often regarded as a utilitarian ideal, thus representing "the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals". In the best case scenario, the "greatest possible number of individuals" would mean all sentient beings. This definition of the common good present it as a quality which is convertible, or reducible, to the sum total of all the private interests of the individual members of a society and interchangeable with them.

Another definition of the common good, as the quintessential goal of the State, requires an admission of the individual's basic right in society, which is, namely, the right of everyone to the opportunity to freely shape his life by responsible action, in pursuit of virtue and in accordance with the moral law. The common good, then, is the sum total of the conditions of social life which enable people the more easily and straightforwardly to do so. The object of State sovereignty is the free choice of means for creating these conditions. Others, in particular John Rawls, makes the distinction between the Good, that is actively creating a better world however that may be defined, and the Just, which creates a fair, liberal social infrastructure that allows the pursuit of virtue, but does not prescribe what the common good actually is.

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