Boston College, Fall, 2010
Instructor: David Hollenbach, S.J.
Monday, 2-3:50 p.m.
Class in Room 110, 9 Lake Street, School of Theology and Ministry
Office hours: Monday, 4:15-5:00; Tuesday, 4:15-5:00; or by appointment
Instructor’s office: 21 Campanella Way, Room 318
Phone: 617-552-8855
Instructor's webpage:

This course is an exploration of the notion of the common good in Christian theological and philosophical traditions, of some of the critiques of these traditions, and of approaches to retrieval of the common good in the contemporary social, cultural, and religious context. A principal concern of the seminar will be whether and how commitment to the common good is compatible both with respect for cultural and religious differences and with freedom in social and political life.

This course is a research seminar intended primarily for doctoral students and others at an advanced level in the study of theological ethics. This seminar is not a suitable course for students looking for an introduction or overview of social ethics, for those beginning the study of theological ethics, or for those not interested in pursuing a significant research project related to the topic of the seminar.

The course has two phases.

The first stage involves careful reading of some major works relevant to the topic of the seminar. All students in the seminar are required to do this reading and to make brief presentations on it.

The second stage will be the development, writing, and presentation of a research paper related to the topic of the seminar determined in dialogue with the instructor. It will also call for students to read the work of other seminar participants, to offer constructive criticism, and generally to assist one another in producing a written paper of high quality.


2. Sessions from Sept. 20 to November 15: Working in teams, students will introduce the class discussion (the number of times depending on course enrollment). Working together, they will prepare a one-page handout as a basis for discussion, with copies to be distributed to all participants at the beginning of the class. This handout should contain: (a) the three or four major theses of the readings for the day, stated in complete sentences. A thesis is a direct, simple statement in propositional form of one of the affirmations being made by the author. In the oral presentation, the author's argument in support of each thesis should be presented. (b) One or two central questions the class should address in order to assess the significance and truth of the theses advanced by the readings.

3. Sessions from November 15 to December 6. Each student will present a draft of his or her term paper to the seminar. If the number of students in the seminar is too large for presentation of al papers on these three dates, the date scheduled for the exam will also be used for presentations (Tuesday, Dec. 14, 9 am).

The topic should be selected in consultation with the professor by November 8 at the latest. It is the responsibility of the student to make an appointment to see the professor to discuss a one page proposal that has been given to him at least 48 hours in advance of this meeting. Possible topics include:

The draft for this presentation will be distributed electronically to all seminar participants by noon of the Saturday prior to the presentation. This draft will include:

Note: A draft is not the first few pages of an incomplete paper but a sketch of the paper as a whole. All six points mentioned above should be present in the draft.

The oral presentation of the prospectus and draft will last no more than ten minutes MAXIMUM. The presenter should presume that other seminar participants have read the written material in advance. A respondent will give brief feedback to the author in the following points:

Other seminar participants should come to the discussion prepared to make constructive suggestions to the author on each of these points.

4. The final term paper, about 20 pages, 25 pages maximum, double-spaced, and is due on Thursday, December 16.


Readings marked * on sale in the B.C. bookstore. All required readings are on reserve in both O'Neill and School of Theology and Ministry Libraries.

Readings marked + are available in online reserve with the BC Library website. To obtain these readings go to the BC Libraries homepage (, then, under Find Library Materials,click on Course Reserves, then enter BC user name and password, and enter Name of Course (" The Common Good"—include “The”) or Name of Instructor ("Hollenbach"), or Title of Reading, or Author. You will need a BC user name and password to access these readings. Cross registrants can arrange this with the Registrar. Other readings are available online as indicated in the syllabus, some with links provided on the electronic syllabus.

1. Introduction to the Course Sept. 13

Recommended background reading:

+A. Nemetz, "The Common Good," New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 4, 15-19. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.

+David Hollenbach, "The Common Good Revisited," Theological Studies 50 (1989), 70-94. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.

David Hollenbach, The Common Good and Christian Ethics.

Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley, A Nation for All: How the Catholic Vision of the Common Good Can Save America from Division.

Martin E. Marty, Politics, Religion, and the Common Good.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Commonwealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet.

Philip Selznick, The Moral Commonwealth.

Brian Stiltner, Religion and the Common Good: Catholic Contributions to Building Community in a Liberal Society.

2. The Common Good in a Liberal, Postmodern Context? Sept. 20


*Jonathan Sacks, The Home We Build Together, chaps. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 20 (also read as much of the rest of the book as you can).


Alan Wolfe, One Nation after All: What Americans Really Think About God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, The Right, The Left and Each Other (Viking, 1998)

Alan Wolfe, Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in a World of Choice

Robert Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart.

Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2000), chaps. 1-4, 7, 8, 10, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22, 24.

Robert Putnam and Lewis M. Feldstein, with Don Cohen, Better Together: Restoring the American Community

Robert Wuthnow, Loose Connections: Joining Together in America's Fragmented Communities (Harvard University Press, 1998)

3. A Biblical perspective on community Sept. 27


*Walter Brueggemann, Journey to the Common Good.

4. Friendship and the good of the polis in Aristotle Oct. 4


*Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics(Penguin Classics, Paperback) Books I, 1-9; V, 1-6; VIII, 1-5, 9-11; IX, 6, 9-12

+Aristotle, Politics, Book I, 1-2, in Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle, pp. 1127-30. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.


John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, chap. VI, pp. 134-160.

Martha C. Nussbaum, "Human Functioning and Social Justice: In Defense of
Aristotelian Essentialism," Political Theory 20 (1992), 202-46.

Nussbaum, “Compassion as the Basic Social Emotion,” Social Philosophy and
Policy 13 (1996): 27-58

No class—Columbus Day Oct. 11

5. Augustine and Aquinas on the commonwealth Oct. 18


+Cicero, De Re Publica, I, xxv, III, xxii-xxxv, V, i-ix. In Derepublica, De legibus,with an English translation by Clinton Walker Keyes (New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1928), pp. 65, 211-227, 245-255. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.

+Augustine, The City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson, II, 21; XIX, 5-9, 14-21, 24-28. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.

*Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II, Q. 90; Q. 91, art. 1-3; Q. 92, art. 1; Q. 94, art. 1-3; Q. 95, art. 1; Q. 96, art. 1-4, II-II, Q. 58 (entire); Q. 61, art. 1-2; Q. 66, art. 1, 2, 7; II-II, Q. 42, art. 2. Selections in William P. Baumgarth and Richard J. Regan, eds., Aquinas: On Law, Morality, and Politics, second ed.


+Peter Brown, “Political Society,” in R. A. Markus, ed., Augustine: A Collection of Essays (311-329.

+Eugene TeSelle, “The Civic Vision in Augustine’s City of God,” Thought 62 (1987), pp. 268-80.

John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, chap. VI, pp. 134-160.

Jean Porter, The Recovery of Virtue, esp. chap. 5.

Jean Porter, “The Common Good in Thomas Aquinas,” in Dennis P. McCann and Patrick D. Miller, eds. In Search of the Common Good

Susanne M. DeCrane, Aquinas, Feminism and the Common Good.

6. Maritain's Personalist Communitarian Thomism Oct. 25


*Jacques Maritain, The Person and the Common Good.


Jacques Maritain, Christianity and Democracy & The Rights of Man and Natural Law (Ignatius Press, 1986).

Charles de Koninck, De la primauté du bien commun contre les Personalistes. Le principe de l'ordre nouveau (Editions de l'Université Laval, 1943).

I. Th. Eschmann, "A Thomistic Glossary on the Principle of the Preeminence of a Common Good," Mediaeval Studies 5 (1943), 123-165.

Eschmann, "Bonum Commune est melius quam bonum unius: Eine Studie über den Wertvorrang des Personalen bei Thomas von Aquin," Mediaeval Studies 6 (1944), 62-120.

Yves R. Simon, "On the Common Good," Review of Politics 6 (1944), 530-33 (review of De Koninck, De la primauté du bien commun).

Eschmann, "In Defense of Jacques Maritain," Modern Schoolman 22 (1945), 183 208.

Yves R. Simon, Philosophy of Democratic Government (University of Chicago Press, 1951), esp. chap I.

7. Charles Taylor on Social Goods Nov. 1


+Charles Taylor, Philosophy and the Human Sciences, chaps. 7 (“Atomism”) and 11 (“The Nature and Scope of Distributive Justice”, pp. 187-210, 289-317. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.

+Charles Taylor, Philosophical Arguments, chaps. 7 (“Irreducibly Social Goods”), and 10 (“Cross-Purposes: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate”), pp. 127-145, 181-203. Available through Online Reserve on the Boston College Library website.


Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries

Taylor, Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition, ed. Amy Gutmann (Princeton Univ. Press, 1994)

Taylor, A Catholic Modernity? Charles Taylor's Marianist Award Lecture, James L. Heft, ed. (Oxford Univ. Press, 1999)

8. Environmental ethics and the common good Nov. 8


*Michael S. Northcott, A Moral Climate: An Ethics of Global Warming, Introduction and chaps. 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 (pp. 1-45, 120-187, 232-285).


Northcott, The Environment and Christian Ethics

John Hart, What Are They Saying about Environmental Theology?

Hart, Sacramental Commons: Christian Ecological Ethics (Nature's Meaning)

9. Global society, cosmopolitanism, and the common good. Nov. 15


*Kwame Anthony Appiah , Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers


Theological Studies 69, no. 2 (June 2008), special issue on Theology and Globalization.

John A. Coleman and William F. Ryan, eds. Globalization and Catholic Social Thought:Present Crisis, Future Hope.

John Paul II, Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Encyclical of 1987. Online at:

John Paul II, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 5 October 1995, online at:

Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate. Encyclical of 2009. Online at: See commentaries on the encyclical in Theological Studies, esp. March and June 2010.

Inge Kaul, Pedro Conceicao, Katell Le Goulven, and Ronald U. Mendoza, eds. Providing Global Public Goods: Managing Globalization.

Inge Kaul, Isabelle Grunberg, and Marc Stern, eds., Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century. “Executive Summary,” online at

10, 11, 12 Presentation of draft papers: Nov. 22, Nov. 29, Dec. 6
(possibly Dec. 14, 9 am)