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Common Information

Western analytical philosophy has contributed two major elements to the theory of the political good. It is unfortunate that the value of the first element, personalism, has been diluted by its close association with the second element, valuational solipsism. 

Personalism was developed in response to the belief that nations, states, religions, or any other corporate entity have interests that transcend the interests of the individuals that comprise them. The central tenet of personalism, therefore, is that institutions are good or bad insofar as they are good or bad for the individuals that are affected by them. Institutions are not good, for example, because they preserve the nation’s culture or because they protect the natural world, unless preserving the nation’s culture or protecting the natural world is good for the individual. As a philosophical assumption, personalism is most useful in countering arguments for practices that harm individuals in the name of "the greater good," or the "society at large." The personalist credo basically states that when it comes to interests, there are no interests but human interests.

However, an excessive devotion to the theory of personalism may lead one to fall into the trap of valuational solipsism. The word solipsism derives from the Latin for "lone self" and the theory of valuational solipsism takes the isolated individual as the sole judge of value. The problem with this viewpoint is obvious. By using the individual as the measure of the good, valuational solipsism neglects to consider the whole range of social values that are part of the political experience. These values include citizenship, status, and community, none of which can exist without reference to other individuals.

Instead, political theories are based entirely on non-social values such as happiness, material welfare, and utility, which are not dependent on interactions with others. Such a view obscures a fundamental quality of the political good.


Common Information Question: 2/4

The passage suggests that a follower of personalism would be most likely to reject which one of the following policies?


A union head decrees that all members must strike when the union strikes because it increases the power of the union.


A politician intends to lower taxes on the middle class to put more of the workers’ money back into their hands.


A school decides to abandon its uniform standards after the student body votes against them.


The owner of a company decides to cancel the company insurance policy in order to increase his profit.


The head of a religious institution announces that its members no longer have to give part of their incomes to the church.

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Option(A) is correct

This is a supporting idea question. The passage says that personalism "basically states that when it comes to interests, there are no interests but human interests."

Thus, choice A is correct because a personalist wouldn’t believe that an action increases the strength of a "union."

Choices B, C, D and E all consider the interests of individuals, so a personalist would probably agree with them.

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