What is The Good?

Integralists often talk about The Good. You might hear them calling for “a politics with a robust conception of the Good.” What does that mean?

(For a complete and thorough description, we recommend Pater Edmund Waldstein’s “The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good.” His 37 theses provide a basic overview of Aristotelian-Thomist thought.)

The basic meaning of “The Good” is the “end” or “purpose” (telos in Greek) of a particular thing. So if we talk about the Good of a knife, we are talking about its ability to cut. If we talk about the Good of a plant, we are talking about its ability to grow and blossom. If we are talking about the Good of human life, we mean virtue.

Virtue, though, is very difficult. That’s why we need help to live a virtuous life. God (Who is the source of all Goodness) gives His grace to help us, but while we are meant to have a personal relationship, we are also meant to have a community which leads us to God. The perfect community of God is His Church, but we also have to live in another political community. This worldly community shouldn’t be abandoned, but it should be perfected by the grace of God.

That’s where integralism comes in. Most integralists talk about politics having a real conception of the Good, because the purpose of law is to lead people to virtue. Political systems, rulers, and laws need to recognize their purpose. A knife expected to clean dishes, or a flower expected to catch mice, will fail. A human who doesn’t live a virtuous life will be unhappy. And a politics which doesn’t lead people to virtue will fail, just as liberalism has for centuries.

In liberalism, there is no real conception of the Good. Sure, the liberals say that “freedom” is the good of human life and of politics, but this isn’t a real conception of the Good. The “freedom” of liberals is negative freedom, not positive freedom. Their idea of the good isn’t objective; it’s defined by every individual differently. Because of this, liberal politics is just a compromise between many different versions of individuals who define their own “good.” Liberalism is civil nihilism, civilly enforced. The results are catastrophic.

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