What is the Common Good?

The Common Good Project seeks to foster a discussion of the relationship between law and the common good. The Project will begin its efforts by exploring the common good 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.

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.

Events: Conversation Series
The Common Good Project begins with a series of 'conversations' with legal theorists, law-makers, philosophers, economists, and others. 
The conversations for Hilary Term and Trinity Term 2021 will be a repeated baseline question: 'What is the Common Good?'
The Conveners will 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.
Please watch this website as more information, features, and events develop.


For more information or to be placed on a mailing list of events for The Common Good Project, please contact Ryan Meade at ryan.meade@bfriars.ox.ac.uk
First Conversation in the Series
What is the Common Good?
An Informal Conversation with Adrian Vermeule
22 February 2021, 7.30pm
Visit the event site here or click here to register. The online platform will be Zoom.
The following articles provide a backdrop for the discussion between Prof Vermeule and Ryan Meade.


Second Conversation in the Series
The Flavours of the Common Good
A Conversation with J Budziszewski
2 March 2021, 7.30pm
Visit the event site here or click here to register. The online platform will be Zoom.
The following provides a backdrop for Prof Budziszewski's paper and his discussion with Ryan Meade.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Prima Secundae, Question 90, Article 1, “The Essence of Law” (click here


Research Fellow, Blackfriars Hall
Faculty of Law, Oxford
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Researcher, Oxford 

Advisory Board

The Conveners of The Common Good Project wish to thank the external advisors for serving on The Project's 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



The Common Good Project is pleased to offer a schedule of 12 Guest Scholars who will discuss the question "What is the Common Good?" from a variety of perspectives.

Click here 

for the Schedule for Hilary Term and Trinity Term 2021.