Love and the Common Good

Things must be used in accord with their nature, argues Karol Wojtyla in Love and Responsibility . Human persons are rational and volitional, and thus “using” them as mere means to an end “does violence to the very essence of the other” (27).

But then what of employers trying to get employees to achieve the goals of the company, or commanders “using” soldiers to achieve strategic ends? This is only licit, Wojtyla argues, on the basis of love.

“I may want another person to desire the same good which I myself desire” and so I reveal my goals to him and persuade him that it is a good. “If this happens, a special bond is established between me and this other person: the bond of a common good and of a common aim.” Such a bond has an inner dimension, which “constitutes the essential core round which any love must grow” (28).

Thus, “if the employer and the employee so arrange their association that the common good which both serve becomes clearly visible, then the danger of treating a person as something less than he really is will be reduced almost to nothing. For love will gradually eliminate the purely utilitarian or consumer attitude to the person of the employee.” Commanders avoid treating soldiers as means to ends when “both are united by an attitude based on something like love . . . deriving from the joint pursuit of a common good” – the defense of the fatherland, for instance (29).

And relationship of persons, and any organization of persons, must have this same structure. Love is the essential foundation for a society that acknowledges the personhood of persons.

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