Thursday, March 10, 2016

Common Good

Tim listened to the commercial and found himself shaking his head. It spoke, as always, of the need to live for the good of society. But why did it feel so hollow inside? He worked at the job that society had appointed him to based on the tests that had determined his personality and aptitude. He had married Helen, the woman the computer had determined was compatible. They had had a respectable, if somewhat, monotonous life. He could petition for a change, but it was not that. Somehow he had questions whether living for the good of society made sense. He told himself he ought to live for the good of posterity. But somehow that also seemed futile.

He shook himself out of his reverie. Karen was coming to visit today, and she was his oldest daughter. Society took them away young to educate them. But they made regular trips home. It was thought it was good to remember their roots.

 He and Helen met her at the door. She had grown into a fine young woman. She was finishing up her higher education degree. They sat around the dinner table, discussing various light subjects.

"So, what have you been studying in school?" Tim asked.

"Philosophy, all about the good of society," Karen responded.

Tim, catching something in the tone of her voice, asked, "Are you questioning that?"

"Yes, Dad, I am. Why should people exist for the good of society. Shouldn't it be the other way around? We are the ones who created society. Shouldn't society exist for the good of the individuals in it?"

"But how do you define the good of the individual if not by their place in society?"

"That's just the point; there needs to be a principle of what is good that transcends society. Otherwise it's all perfectly arbitrary. What society wants is good only because society wants it. And there is no ultimate basis for determining even what is good for society."

Tim found himself shifting uncomfortably in his seat. This was hitting very close to home. "But where do you get this law?" he asked.

"I am convinced there is a law of God that is higher than the laws of society," returned his daughter. "Without that, the good of the individual and society, cannot be determined."

He winced at that. Religions other than the official societal religion were allowed but frowned on. "What about the good of posterity?" he asked. "Isn't that a basis from which we can derive ultimate principles?"

"I believe that God calls us to love and do good to all people, including posterity. But where do you get a duty to posterity from in a vacuum?"

"The theory of evolution would support it."

"You cannot base morality on a scientific theory. The theory of gravity says that things fall toward the center of the earth; does that mean we are obligated to stay as close to the ground as possible?"

"Then you intend to live based on this belief?"

"Yes. Owen, my future husband, and I are planning to live following the truth of God."

"Is this the man the computer chose for you?"

"No, we are planning to marry who we choose and raise our own children."

Tim knew this would probably be allowed, but they would be outcasts, cut off from real citizenship in society. "I forbid this," Tim exclaimed, "No daughter of mine is going to become a non-citizen."

"I am sorry, Dad, but I have to follow what I am convinced is right."

Tim sat there, lost in his own thoughts and doubts. 

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