The Common Good Project

The Common Good Project seeks to foster a discussion of the relationship between law and the common good. The Project explores the notion of common good in law and society from an array of perspectives.
Many legal theorists assert that law must be directed to the common good, but few agree on what the common good is. Even those who might agree on the same formulation for the common good have nuanced differences in how the common good plays out in practical relationship with specific law. Many theorists also describe both the common good as a conceptual whole but also speak of common goods in the plural.
Of course, not everyone holds to the notion that law must be directed to the common good, and some legal theorists find the term 'common good' dubious in itself. The Common Good Project will also explore theories of law and society that deny there is a discernible common good or dismiss the common good as impractical or an imperfect anchor for law.
In relating law to the common good, the Project takes as its framing point a key criterion in Thomas Aquinas' definition of law as 'an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the one who is in charge of the community.' For Aquinas, a 'law' must be directed to the common good to have the character of law.
The Project will address questions such as whether the common good is focused on material well-being of individuals or ideals of justice, whether material conditions and ideals are one in the same, to what extent imperfect but well-meaning laws might be considered sufficiently directed to the common good in the context of constraints in culture and politics, and how the classical and contemporary notions of equity interact with the common good. The Project will examine the common good in drafting legislation, crafting regulations, judicial decision-making, the growth of administrative law, and foundational constitutional questions, among many others.

What is the Common Good? An Ongoing Conversation Series

The Common Good Project began with a series of 'conversations' with legal theorists, law-makers, philosophers, economists, and others during Hilary Term and Trinity Term 2021 and will continue during the the 2022-2023 Academic Year. 
The conversation series asks guest scholars to reflect on a repeated baseline question: 'What is the Common Good?'
The Conveners explore each guest scholar's view of the common good as well as practical examples of how current or past laws do or do not relate to the common good. A key sub-theme running throughout each conversation will be where the individual fits in the common good. The conversations will be live events open to members of the University and recordings will be available on the Project's YouTube Channel.
Co-Hosts of 'What is the Common Good?'
Past Events in the Conversation Series
Harvard Law School
22 February 2021
University of Texas at Austin
2 March 2021
King's College London
10 March 2021
European University Institute
16 March 2021
Trinity College Dublin
'Constitutions, Property Rights, and Judicial Assessments of the Common Good'
Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh
'The Common Good and the Commonwealth'
Contributing Editor, American Purpose
Author, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology
Director, The McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life
Christ Church, Oxford
Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center
Senior Fellow, Abigail Adams Institute
'Vindicating Mary Wollstonecraft's Rights:
The Priority of Duty, Virtue, & the Common Good'
Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford
Member of the House of Lords
Director,  International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute
'Reimagining the Common Good'
Member of the House of Lords
Member of the House of Lords
Chancellor, Regent's University London
The Common Good Project Lectures (Trinity 2021)
Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford
'Regulations and the Common Good: Compliant to the Common Wind'
Lecture 1: 'Revisiting the Morality of Law in Regard to Regulations'
Lecture 2: 'The Common Good and the Metaphysics of Law'
Lecture 3: 'Regulating Human Acts Without the (Meaningful) Approval of Legislative Bodies'
Lecture 4: 'The Common Good as Orientation for Regulations'

Advisory Board
Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law
Harvard Law School
ACUS Council
Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Senior Fellow, Abigail Adams Institute
Founder and Director, The Wollstonecraft Project
Professor of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas, Austin
Max Weber Fellow
European University Institute
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Professor of Philosophy
King’s College London

Related content


What is the Common Good?                   A Coversation with Adrian Vermeule
    First event of the Project's Conversation Series, 22 February 2021