Thought for the day - 23/09/2013 - Clifford Longley, Religious Commentator

Good morning ..

One of the first things David Cameron said when he became Prime Minister was that he wanted, quote, "to put aside party differences and work hard for the common good..."

That phrase "the common good" is intriguing. It's an ancient idea but a relative newcomer to the British political vocabulary, though Ed Miliband has used it and so has Nick Clegg.

Four years ago the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel devoted his Reith Lectures here on BBC Radio 4 to expounding what he called "the new politics of the common good". Professor Sandel's background is Jewish, so it is not surprising that the term "the common good" appears in the writings and speeches of the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks. It is gradually being adopted in the Anglican and Free Churches - to say things, for example about the organisation of a fair society, which are otherwise difficult to express.

The concept is a familiar one in Islam. And common good language is at the heart of the social teaching of the Catholic Church, whose philosophical ideas draw not only on the Bible but also on Aristotle and Plato via Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. This unpacks the common good principle as being about solidarity - that we are, each one of us, responsible for the wellbeing of everyone. That principle helps to shape a coherent society, and moulds our character as individuals. So is it secular or religious? Actually it's a bit of both.

We have two excellent examples already. Take the state school system. It's based on the principle that the whole of society should take responsibility for the education of all its children...

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