This paper connects two fundamental topics in political philosophy and development ethics: the role of feelings in public life, and the nature and provision of public goods. It links philosophical discussions of publicness and compassion in policy with the more policy-practical topics of public goods. ‘Publicness’ is used here as an umbrella term for the moral sentiments that sustain the structures of cooperation and solidarity seen in a society. The term helps us to consider the connections between public goods, public information, public reason and people’s values and cultures.

We will put forward a conceptualization of priority (or ‘basic’) public goods, and of public values required to induce support for provision of those goods. This leads to, centrally, an appraisal of Martha Nussbaum’s notable recent study of political emotions. We will refer to other research on value commitments, and to the global as well as the national scale, including from discussions of human security and human rights.

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Gasper, D.R, & Comim, F. (2017). Public goods and public spirit. In Agency, Democracy and Participation in Global Development / eds. L. Keleher, S. Kosko; Cambridge University Press, 2017. Retrieved from