Brainstorming Ideas about Institutions, Communities, & Citizens

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Brainstorming Ideas about Institutions, Communities, & Citizens

For G. E. M. Ascombe: “What is institutional must exclude all that is personal, casual or sporadic.”[1] This is because institutions:

  • erode individuals,
  • corrode their creativity,
  • and commode only resentment.

Despite our institutions, we must strive to be good citizens, right? Why not ask Goethe?

“Well,” said Lothario, “I hope to be able to make a good patriot out of you. A good father is one who at mealtimes serves his children first; and a good citizen is one who pays what he owes the state before dealing with everything else.”[2]


  • The dutiful citizen pays the police before going out to buy his own gun.
  • The sincere confessor gives consent before receiving his reward.
  • The merciful cop shoots the criminal before turning the gun on herself.
  • And while Trump has paid few taxes and given little to charities, he now must serve the community. For what is a community but a collection of institutions?


[1] Anscombe, G. E. M. “On the Source of the Authority of the State.” From Ratio 20 (1), 1978. The Collected Philosophical Papers of G. E. M. Anscombe Vol. III: Ethics, Religion and Politics. Blackwell: Oxford. 1981. p. 131.

[2]  Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. (Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.) VIII, ii, 311.


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