Democracy on Purpose

Justice and the Reality of God

Franklin I. Gamwell

"A most worthwhile addition to any college or university library."
+ Add to Cart Preorder


Request Print Exam Copy

Request Digital Exam Copy

Western moral and political theory in the last two centuries has widely held that morality and politics are independent of a divine reality. Claiming that this consensus is flawed, prominent theologian Franklin I. Gamwell argues that there is a necessary relation between moral worth and belief in God. Without appealing to the beliefs of any specific religion, Gamwell defends a return to the view that moral and political principles depend on a divine purpose.

To separate politics from the divine misrepresents the distinctive character of human freedom, Gamwell maintains, and thus prevents a full understanding of the nature of justice. Principles of justice define "democracy on purpose" as the political form in which we pursue the divine good.

Engaging in a dialogue with such major representatives of the dominant consensus as Kant, Habermas, and Rawls, and informed by the philosophical writings of Alfred North Whitehead, this book makes the case for a neoclassical metaphysics that restores a religious sensibility to our political life.

Table of Contents



Part One: The Divine Purpose

1. The Freedom We Ourselves Are
The Understanding of Reality as Such
Original Freedom

2. The Duplicity We May Choose
Rebellion Against God
The Radical Problem
The Fragmentary Sense of Worth

3. The Good We Should Pursue
Virtue and Happiness

Appendix to Part One: On the Theistic Character of Belief
The Pragmatic Character of Beliefs
The Implied Belief in God

Part Two: Justice

4. Democracy as a Formative Principle
Social Practices
The Necessity of Common Decisions
The Practice of Communicative Respect
The Democratic Association
Constitutional Rights
Formative and Substantive Principles

5. Justice as Compound
The Principle of Religious Freedom
Justice as Separate: Universalist Theories
Universalist Theories in the Constitution
Universalist Theories in the Discourse
Justice as Separate: Nonuniversalist Theories

6. Justic as General Emancipation
Our Maximal Common Humanity
The Principle of Justice
Refining the Principle
The Principles of Justice
Justice as Teleological
The Possibility of Justice

Appendix to Part Two: The Democratic Importance of Religion

Works Cited



"A most worthwhile addition to any college or university library."—Religious Studies Review

"Democracy on Purpose succeeds in redeeming the claim that metaphysical theism is a necessary basis for political theory, and in showing that 'democracy depends on a divine purpose' favoring justice. This is a uniquely important contribution to political theory and an appropriate follow-up to his redemption of claims for the necessity of metaphysical theism in moral theology."—Journal of Religion

"Franklin Gamwell wrestles with giants. In weaving his powerful argument that democracy and justice must rest on a comprehensive theistic teleology, he engages critically but respectfully with Aquinas, Kant, Reinhold Niebuhr, Habermas, Apel and Rawls. Gamwell's resulting position is both intellectually and historically engaged."—Ronald M. Green, Dartmouth College


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Franklin I. Gamwell is professor of religious ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His books include The Meaning of Religious Freedom: Modern Politics and the Democratic Resolution (SUNY Press, 1995) and The Divine Good: Modern Moral Theory and the Necessity of God (HarperCollins, 1990, and Southern Methodist University Press, 1996).

376 pp., 6 x 9

Mar 2000

376 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-876-4
Mar 2000

376 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-308-7
Mar 2000

Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ

Related Titles