Drawing upon three moralist philosophers that is John Locke, William Blake, and Pope Francis, we explore the role of good virtues of altruism in the pursuit of common good. We asked ourselves, “what are the roles of mercy, pity, peace, and love in a prosperous society?” to which a few strong answers emerged.
For John Locke, concepts of equality, of justice, and of respect are birthed by our love for one another. He claimed, “This equality of men by nature…that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men, on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity” (Chpt. 2 Sec. 5). He goes on to paraphrase the Golden Rule of Christianity in which, “Do unto others as you would have them done unto you” when he stated, “…so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should shew greater measure of love to me, than they have by me shewed unto them” (Chpt. 2 Sec. 5). This rule reinforces the notion that we are bound to each other by good actions else evil deeds, such as vengeance or wraith, would lead us to ruin.
Pope Francis is then a believer of Locke’s principles as well. In his Papal Encyclical, he called for “social peace… stability and security” that is found through distributive justice (Chpt. 4, Passage 157). Virtues of mercy, pity peace, and love are contributive to the common good therefore it is quintessential to an equal society. If Locke’s philosophy rings true, then an equal society is a loving society. Furthermore, Pope Francis asks us to think of our climate and environmental problems of which are products of corporate greed and short-term thinking (Chpt. 1, Passage 25). The link we share with nature, ourselves, and with God is the earth we inhabit. Destroying what little we share is harmful to our greater good thus he (Pope Francis) calls on society to unify in said virtues before it is too late.
William Blake is another proponent for said virtues although he perceives love within humanity much differently than Locke. Through Songs of Innocence and Experience, we’re able to witness Blake’s philosophy of humanly love, of which is a spiritual and emotional bond we all share. It is feelings of compassion, and altruism that binds our society as opposed to Locke’s belief in equality. Locke agreed with a monetary system of trading, one that is a result of a surplus in resources, of which inequalities are a by-product. If he is a proponent of such inequalities then he is not a proponent of the love he claimed exists. Blake on the other hand, has humanist principles about him that is found throughout his works in experience. He perceived poverty as a result of greed in which the road to salvation is traveled only by those selfless.
All three philosophers are wise to their own end, but none have the solutions to societal woes because we are complicated creatures with dual complexes. The virtues we mentioned are difficult in practice especially on a large scale, but perhaps we should take a step back. Perhaps our practice of said virtues on a smaller scale, one that is the size of our daily lives, is the first step to finding the common good.