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Does Common Good mean anything?

Does Common Good mean anything? was the title question of a lecture given in the Loyola Institute on Wednesday, 31 October 2018 by Dr Patrick Riordan SJ, Irish Jesuit and philosopher at Campion Hall in Oxford. Before his talk, he spoke with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications and referenced a few of the themes that he would be addressing later.

One of his particular concerns was the common usage of the term ‘common good’ by many vested interests attempting to justify their own worldview or political actions. Whilst they use the term, Dr Riordan noted, they fail to elaborate on what they mean by it, and often they have no idea themselves what they are talking about. He cites the example of a nobel prize winning economist who set out to write a book on the common good and economics, and ended up devoting only one chapter to the concept of the common good, and not a particularly enlightening one at that.

Dr Riordan asks: “How do we filter out the waffle – the empty phrases, the pious phrases that don’t actually mean anything?” He acknowledges the incompleteness and complexity involved in the notion of the common good, but nevertheless believes a more profound exploration and understanding of it can be achieved. He says we should be cautious of populist policies claiming to be based on the common good and appealing to ordinary people, but which he believes are often without any substance.

Recovering Common Goods is Dr Patrick Riordan’s latest book.