Constitutional Thomism: A Modest Proposal for Fixing Common Good Constitutionalism

This paper posits that Adrian Vermeule’s concept of “common good constitutionalism” has little to do with the Aristotelean Thomistic tradition of constitutional theory. It has to do more with the modern constitutional theory with some integralism spin. While the concept of common good constitutionalism has its conceptual flaws, it can be a basis for the constitutional theory that is directed towards the common good. This paper proposes a concept of Thomist constitutionalism that goes back to the root of Thomas Aquinas theory of human dignity. Aquinas argued that the common good is a reality so central to the perfection of man and his dignity. Thus, the principal meaning of the common good, for Thomas Aquinas, is therefore not a collection of material goods to be distributed among many (an instrumental common good), but consists primarily in spiritual goods, a substantive common good, that is, in those goods which are perfective of the soul.