The Freedom of Community: Can Virtue be Pluralistic?
Virtue is a dangerous concept. Across all cultures and generations, it is learned from repeated painful experience that the path that people tread when they presume to know what is good for others leads naturally through paternalism to coercion and, ultimately, to the totalitarian state. The most common communitarian critiques of liberalism revolve around concepts of the self, notions of public virtue and questions of empowered rights. Confusion reigns around notions of just what the Common Good consists of. For Aristotle, a good society is one that fully enables its citizens to make reasoned and independent decisions as they create their life's narratives. In this effort, both individual and community have critical roles to play, especially in maintaining a pluralistic environment which allows full freedom. Neo-Aristotelian perfectionism is, in brief, fully compatible with plurality. Indeed, it assumes plurality. Just as communities must guard against the dogmatism and inflexibility so also must they learn to coexist peacefully with other communities.