Common Question

In 2020–21, CQ asks you: What is the common good?

How do we define what is good for society as a whole? What happens when collective benefit runs counter to individual benefit? How are questions and assumptions about the common good built into academic inquiry, as well as our daily lives?

The sources below consider these questions from creative, scientific, and humanistic perspectives. We invite you to start with these core sources, wander on the “Explore” page, and join the conversation.

Start Here

  • Vesla Weaver, “The State from Below: Urban Citizenship in Policed Communities” (2019)

    “Citizenship in poor communities is greater than the sum of exclusions…. Instead, it is a broad difference in the way the government—from police to schools to the welfare system—orients itself towards its residents.”

  • Danielle Allen, “Aims of Education” address (2001)

    “Friendship is crucial to encountering what is novel, alien, and unsettling, and such is the business of learning.”

  • Mark Phillips et al, “Genomics: data sharing needs an international code of conduct” (2020)

    “Further regulatory uncertainty risks…undermining people’s faith in scientific collaboration for the public good.”

  • Eula Biss, “Sentimental Medicine” (2013)

    “Herd immunity…is implausible only if we think of our bodies as inherently disconnected from other bodies. Which, of course, we do.”

  • Ada Limón, “Dead Stars” (2018)

    “What would happen if we decided to survive more?”

  • Michael Sandel, “Are We All In This Together?” (2020)

    “We need to ask a basic question… What do we owe one another as citizens?”

  • Story of Noah in the Bible, Quran, & Torah

    “‘My Lord, let me land at a blessed landing place’”(Quran).

    Read more in the Bible, Quran, and Torah
  • Raj Chetty, Opportunity Insights

    “The defining feature of the American Dream is upward mobility – the aspiration that all children have a chance at economic success, no matter their background.”

  • Colin Raymond et al, “Understanding and managing connected extreme events” (2020)

    “Extreme weather and climate events and their impacts can occur in complex combinations, an interaction shaped by physical drivers and societal forces.”

  • James Baldwin, “My Dungeon Shook” (1963) read by Chris Rock

    “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason.”

  • James Madison, Federalist No. 10 (1787)

    “Complaints are everywhere heard…that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival Parties.”

  • Andrew L. Russell & Lee Vinsel: “Make Maintainers, Engineering Education and an Ethics of Care” (2019)

    “Innovation is not a value in itself, although it is often treated like one.”

  • Moon Duchin, “Can geometry save democracy from gerrymandering?” (2020)

    “How hard could it be to write down what it means to be a good shape and what it means to be a bad shape when it comes to political districts?”

  • People’s Republic of China, Spokesperson’s Response to Muslim Internment in Xinjiang Province (2019)

    “It is reported that…Xinjiang had interned over 1 million Uygurs, Kazaks and other Muslim minorities who all are subject to persecution in internment. What’s your answer to such allegations?”

  • Jhumpa Lahiri, “A Temporary Matter” (1999)

    “Tonight, with no lights, they would have to eat together.”

  • Thomas Cole, “The Oxbow” (1836)

    “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm”

  • Jill Lepore, “The Atomic Origins of Climate Science” (2017)

    “Weapons and the weather are twisted together, a wire across time, the long fuse to an ongoing debate about the credibility of science, the fate of the Earth, and the nature of uncertainty.”

  • Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (1989)

    “Are we gonna live together? Together, are we gonna live?”

  • President Harry S. Truman, Press Release by the White House August 6, 1945

    “It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.”

  • Alec MacGillis, “The Third Rail” (2016)

    “The Baltimore riot of April 27, 2015, started with a shutdown of public transportation.”

  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future (2015)

    “Truth, tell the truth.”



PDF Document: View list of source and image citations.