Open Definitions of the Common Good

26 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2001

See all articles by Christoph Engel

Christoph Engel

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods; University of Bonn - Faculty of Law & Economics; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam Institute of Law and Economics, Students; Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 2000

Abstract

Doesn't work. Has failed. Apolitical. Naive. Pre-modern. Non-scientific. Such hardly ornamental epithets get pinned on anybody who still sets out to define the common good today. Ideas and interests cannot be translated into one another without fracture. There is no abstract basic norm from which all normative decisions could be deduced. But neither the individual, nor society and the state can forego a definition of the common good. The ostensive a priori dissolves when a closed definition of the common good is exchanged for an open one. A definition of the common good cannot claim validity once and for all, but always just for one time. Such openness is able to be created with numerous decision-making techniques. The co-existence of incommensurable ideas can be organized through differentiation. Institutions can keep the struggle between conflicting ideas open over the long run. Or decisions and reasons break up. It is easier if the conflict is only settled for the concrete circumstance to be decided upon. Sometimes there is even agreement in the concrete case about the reasons on which a decision is based; more often in any case there is agreement about the decision itself. The plasticity of the definition of the problem can also be used. The need for a decision for which no reasons can be given does not completely disappear with any of these techniques. However, it does diminish. And if it does come to such a decision, that decision is more controlled.

Suggested Citation

Engel, Christoph, Open Definitions of the Common Good (October 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=271651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.271651

Christoph Engel (Contact Author)

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Universität Osnabrück - Faculty of Law

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