Chapter 18: Intelligibility, practical reason and the common good
Jonathan Crowe’s chapter considers the relationship between three pivotal concepts in contemporary natural law thinking: practical reason, intelligibility and the common good. The so-called new natural law theorists, such as Germain Grisez and John Finnis, argue that there is a plurality of basic goods that render human action intelligible. The intelligibility of an action, on this view, is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for its reasonableness. However, the new natural law theorists have relatively little to say about what it means for an action to be intelligible or unintelligible. Crowe builds on this picture to argue that actions are intelligible or unintelligible relative to a context of social practices. This understanding of intelligibility, he argues, reveals an important connection between the basic goods and the common good. The common good, understood as the project of creating a society that enables all its members to pursue flourishing lives, not only facilitates participation in the basic goods, but makes the goods possible. It does this by creating a context within which judgments can be made about the intelligibility of human conduct.
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