Despite the diverse meanings of the term good, most conceptions of the common good share certain characteristics. In particular, a common good is a motivating force behind human activity. This motivation is embodied in the idea of public life. During public life, citizens are engaged in collective deliberation on questions of social responsibility and public policy. In addition, the good is part of a broader view of relational obligations.
A common good refers to any facility in a community that serves the common interest of the community. It may include institutional facilities like schools and hospitals, or cultural facilities like libraries and museums. Often, the facilities are open to all community members. The common good also embodies a legal order that provides members with freedom to pursue their own interests, including the freedom to vote, work, hold office, and participate in collective rule-making.
The common good is often confused with the public good. Public good is defined as a good that the members of a community would not have access to if motivated only by self-interest. In contrast, the common good is a benefit shared by all members of a community, which may be achieved through the coordination of social resources like labor and land. This may lead to the better use of resources within a community. The common good also serves as a model for political deliberation, as citizens must embody certain patterns of conduct to meet the demands of their common interest.
The good is the sum of pleasure over pain, and it has several different forms. It can be an object of desire, an activity itself, or an object of knowledge. Various philosophers refine the concept of good in various ways. Some identify it as an object of appetition, others as the object of knowledge, and still others as a synonym for the highest good. Despite its many meanings, the term good is a universal one.
In addition to its role as an object of appetition, the good also functions as a knowledge synthesis. Various forms of knowledge can be attributed to the good, including the knowledge of the difference between good and evil, the knowledge of just and unjust, and the knowledge of virtuous and unvirtuous people. This knowledge is a product of reason, as the pattern of this knowledge is based on the synthesis of all virtues. Moreover, it is a good that serves a practical purpose, as it enables man to reach his highest good.
The concept of good is also an important topic of philosophical reflection about the common good. Some philosophers have theorized that there is a moral defect in private society, and that a society lacking a common good will lack the capacity to reach its collective goals. In other words, the concept of the good has its roots in a political bond that predates the interests of the individual. A market can help to draw citizens into the common good by promoting social coordination through markets, which can generate more resources for everyone.