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Human Dignity and Liberal Politics

Catholic Possibilities for the Common Good

A deeply considered examination of the "common good" reconciling Catholic Social Thought with secular politics and philosophy

The Second Vatican Council invites dialogue about the common good as the set of economic, political, legal, and cultural conditions for human flourishing, whether as individuals or as communities. However, some contemporary Catholic authors jeopardize this dialogue by polarizing liberalism and the common good, interpreting the commitment to individual liberty as incompatible with commitment to the common good.

Human Dignity and Liberal Politics clarifies the meaning of the common good through the three lenses of Aristotelian practical philosophy, twentieth-century Catholic Social Thought, and political liberalism. It makes the case that embracing the common good does not entail a rejection of liberalism, but that a commitment to liberal politics is compatible with faithful adherence to the Catholic tradition. The book argues that liberal political philosophy is not only compatible with Catholic Social Teaching but may also be the most appropriate framework for communicating the richness of the Church's tradition today. Furthermore, accepting political liberalism can facilitate collaboration in political life between those who hold different worldviews and foster an enriched discussion of democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.

Students and scholars of Christian ethics and political philosophy will benefit from this response to the challenges of dialogue about the "common good" in the context of the resurgence of this topic.

About the Author

Patrick Riordan, SJ, a member of the Irish Jesuit province, is senior fellow for political philosophy and Catholic Social Thought in Campion Hall of the University of Oxford.


"The present study pulls together the fruit of a lifetime of reflection by Riordan on the theme of the common good and its promise to bring a humane future into focus. Rather than the despair of opting out or the utopian demand for a world made new, Riordan suggests that our world already possesses reserves of spirit that the Church, and the long tradition reaching back to the Greeks, has never lost. What makes his project of great interest is that it was precisely on the basis of an appeal to the common good that the Christian philosophic tradition posed its own critique of liberal modernity." — David J. Walsh, professor of politics, Catholic University of America

"In an increasingly polarized world where disagreements quickly turn into violent conflicts, Riordan makes a crucial contribution to understandings of the common good. By reclaiming the teaching from critics of liberalism, he shows how the common good can be used to evaluate policies in a way that puts human dignity at the center of decision-making." — Maria Power, senor research fellow, Las Casas Institute for Social Justice, University of Oxford

"Dr. Riordan provides an innovative and exciting theory of the common good, an in-depth triangulation between liberal political philosophy, republican theory, and Catholic social thought. A must read for anybody working in social philosophy; it has greatly enriched my own work." — James G. Murphy, professor of philosophy, Loyola University Chicago

"This book is a vital contribution to a vibrant field. Riordan's clarion call is this: that we think and act beyond the polarizations of our age; that we remain engaged with a fragile world replete with need of, and possibilities for, new collaborations; that within our all too human differences we seek, with hope, enduring and truly common goods." — Anna Rowlands, St. Hilda Professor of Catholic Social Thought and Practice, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University
Georgetown University Press
Martin J D'arcy Sj Memorial Lectures

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