The Common Good of Constitutional Democracy

The Common Good of Constitutional Democracy: essays in political philosophy and on Catholic social teaching

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 560
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  • Book Info
    The Common Good of Constitutional Democracy
    Book Description:

    The Common Good of Constitutional Democracy offers a rich collection of essays in political philosophy by Swiss philosopher Martin Rhonheimer. Like his other books in both ethical theory and applied ethics, which have recently been published in English, the essays included are distinguished by the philosophical rigor and meticulous attention to the primary and secondary literature of the various topics discussed

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2010-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Martin Rhonheimer
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xl)
    William F. Murphy Jr.

    The present volume makes available, for English-language readers, a substantial collection of essays in political philosophy by the Swiss philosopher Martin Rhonheimer. In this preface, I will offer first some general introductory remarks to locate this work, which will be followed by a sketch of some basic themes and emphases of the fourteen included essays to give the reader an initial sense of the whole.

    This collection is quite different from anything in print, and—as I will explain below—there is good reason to expect that it will make a significant contribution to enriching the scholarly conversation, especially at...

  6. ONE Why Is Political Philosophy Necessary? Historical Considerations and a Response
    (pp. 1-35)

    The question “Why is political philosophy necessary?” could seem strange and out of place to those familiar with the history of philosophy and with the present-day “renaissance,” at the international level, of philosophical reflection on questions concerning politics. At the same time, an authentic political philosophy could easily seem superfluous to someone who considers the theme to have been sufficiently dealt with by ethics as such, by the doctrine of natural law, or by the social doctrine taught by the Church and in universities as an academic discipline. To still others, it could seem obvious that what the modern era...

  7. TWO The Liberal Image of Man and the Concept of Autonomy: Beyond the Debate between Liberals and Communitarians
    (pp. 36-71)

    More than a philosophical theory, today liberalism is a political reality. Even socialists and social-democrats in Western democracies profess a liberal political consensus. This consensus has its historical roots in those same political values and institutions by which liberal parties and movements traditionally struggled against absolutism, political and juridical arbitrariness, and every form of suppression of basic human rights. Today’s liberal political consensus is inspired by those same values that have promoted the free development of the creative and innovative forces inherent in society. In a certain sense we are all “liberals.” We identify ourselves with a political culture characterized...

  8. THREE The Democratic Constitutional State and the Common Good
    (pp. 72-141)

    The great majority of people living in today’s so-called developed world are also participants in a culture characterized by the political-institutional reality of the democratic constitutional state. This type of political organization of society developed during the European history of recent centuries, up to and including the century just concluded. The most fundamental principles of constitutionalism, intimately linked to the liberal movement of the nineteenth century, are an established reality within this political culture, including the principle of parliamentary representation and the demand—though not of liberal origin—for democratization through universal suffrage.

    Is it possible, in the context of...

  9. FOUR Auctoritas non veritas facit legem: Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and the Idea of the Constitutional State
    (pp. 142-160)

    The Hobbesian maxim Auctoritas non veritas facit legem (“Authority, not truth creates the law”) certainly has the character of a hackneyed phrase, a commonplace of political philosophy, but it has the advantage that it not only brings out the English philosopher’s political theory concisely and in all of its fullness, but also points out one of the decisive elements connecting Hobbes with the German constitutional law professor Carl Schmitt, active three hundred years later. Decisionism is the word for it. Since the studies of Michel Villey¹ and Simone Goyard-Fabre² especially, it has been recognized for some time now how deeply...

  10. FIVE The Open Society and the New Laicism: Against the Soft Totalitarianism of Certain Secularist Thinking
    (pp. 161-172)

    Karl Popper wrote in 1987 that, despite the fact that his book The Open Society and Its Enemies had been continually in print since 1945, only rarely had the book’s most important idea been well understood: that the essential thing is not who governs, but the fact that there can be a transition from one government to another without bloodshed. This, and not a hypothetical “sovereignty of the people,”² is for Popper the essence of a democracy, precisely as the form of political organization of an open society, a society distinguished by the fact that it is comprised of individuals...

  11. SIX The Political and Economic Realities of the Modern World and Their Ethical and Cultural Presuppositions: The Encyclical Centesimus annus
    (pp. 173-190)

    Centesimus annus,¹ the third social encyclical of John Paul II, was published in 1991 on the occasion of the centenary of Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum.² The latter was the first of the social encyclicals of the popes; with it the Church’s social doctrine began to take form as a more or less systematic body of teaching, adaptable to contemporary problems with the passage of the years. The compilation of the encyclical coincided with the epochal events of 1989: the fall of communist regimes, the failure of planned socialist economies, and the resulting “triumph” of constitutionalism, liberal democracy, and the capitalist...

  12. SEVEN The Political Ethos of Constitutional Democracy and the Place of Natural Law in Public Reason: Rawls’s “Political Liberalism” Revisited
    (pp. 191-264)

    The main concern of this essay, and the principal aim of my argument that runs through all parts of it, is to answer the question: “How in liberal constitutional democracy as it actually exists in most free and developed countries is natural law in the classical sense a legitimate and politically workable standard of reasonableness and objective moral value?” In order to answer this question, I will have to talk extensively about history (in this part). Moreover, I will develop my argument in a partly sympathetic confrontation with what I consider to be the main and most valid contemporary philosophical...

  13. EIGHT Rawlsian Public Reason, Natural Law, and the Foundation of Justice: A Response to David Crawford
    (pp. 265-291)

    In his article “Recognizing the Roots of Society in the Family, Foundation of Justice,”¹ David Crawford has provided a very valuable account of human society as founded in the family union, which on its turn is based on the marriage between two persons of opposite sex. The marital union, Crawford argues, is the expression of human beings’ bodily constitution: individual human persons are constituted as sexually differentiated as male or female. In genuinely Aristotelian tradition, he moreover affirms that human society is not formed simply by “individuals,” but by “men” and “women,” mutually ordered to each other to form the...

  14. NINE Can Political Ethics Be Universalized? Human Rights as a Global Project
    (pp. 292-303)

    Human rights are made up of all the values that concern social and political life, and are supposed to be universal. Though their origin is Western, human rights today are to be applied globally. Taken as a global political ethos, then, they form a minimum moral standard for civilized life, meaning one that is founded on full respect for human dignity. The question I would like to respond to is this: can such political ethics truly be universalized?

    As I understand it in what follows, political ethics are (or include) all those values that characterize a functioning society, insofar as...

  15. TEN Christian Secularity and the Culture of Human Rights
    (pp. 304-315)

    It is well known that the Catholic Church has come to fully acknowledge the secularity of the state and the political principles of constitutional democracy as a cultural achievement only after a long period of mutual hostility and conflict. Yet, by doing so, the Church has reconciled itself with an essential part of its own cultural heritage marked by the genuinely Christian dualism of spiritual and temporal power and the affirmation of the intrinsic secularity of the latter. This development has been possible because already in the first centuries of its existence, Christianity had assimilated the philosophical spirit of Greek...

  16. ELEVEN Multicultural Citizenship in Liberal Democracy: The Proposals of C. Taylor, J. Habermas, and W. Kymlicka
    (pp. 316-341)

    The modern political culture of the democratic constitutional state is the result of a long process of conflict, from which has arisen the awareness, typically modern, of the need to distinguish the political and juridical system (enacted by the state’s coercive power) from convictions concerning the highest, ultimate values of human life. These values refer to human good in all its complexity—which is as much as to say, to happiness and, in the religious dimension, to salvation. The modern formulas for religious tolerance, derived from the emergence of a liberal constitutionalism based on the rights of freedom of the...

  17. TWELVE Christianity and Secularity: Past and Present of a Complex Relationship
    (pp. 342-428)

    The thesis that I will propose in this essay is the following: Christianity introduced a clear separation between politics and religion into Western history, in an absolutely new way and indeed for the first time. At the same time, however, it affirms the supremacy of the spiritual with respect to the temporal, and the consequent relativization of the political power, that is, its subordination to superior and independent criteria of moral truth, natural law, justice, and criteria of an eschatological nature. For these reasons, Christianity has been the condition of possibility of the development of a secular political culture, and...

  18. THIRTEEN Benedict XVI’s “Hermeneutic of Reform” and Religious Freedom
    (pp. 429-454)

    In a notable Christmas message given before the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI cautioned against a widespread interpretation of the Second Vatican Council that would posit that the Church after the council is different from the “preconciliar” Church.¹ Benedict called this erroneous interpretation of the council a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.”

    The warning was enthusiastically taken up by Catholics plainly faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, with the opinion spreading that in his speech Benedict had opposed the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” with a “hermeneutic of continuity.” Robert Spaemann also seems to have understood it...

  19. FOURTEEN Capitalism, Free Market Economy, and the Common Good: The Role of the State in the Economy
    (pp. 455-500)

    In his famous and brilliantly written pamphlet The End of Laissez-faire, the great British economist John Maynard Keynes calls the essential characteristic of capitalism the “intense appeal to the money-making and money-loving instincts of individuals.”¹ In this same line, he somewhat contemptuously depicts an image of businessmen and entrepreneurs, governed by such capitalist instincts, whose evil economic consequences must be overcome by new forms of public business regulations. In his 1926 text, Keynes, somewhat surprisingly, contends that “progress lies in the growth and the recognition of semi-autonomous bodies within the state—bodies whose criterion of action within their own field...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 501-522)
  21. Index
    (pp. 523-535)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 536-536)