Finnis on the authority of law and the common good

Legal Theory 19 (1):44-62 (2013)

George Duke
Deakin University
This paper seeks to elucidate the role played by the common good in John Finnis's arguments for a generic and presumptive moral obligation to obey the law.1 Finnis's appeal to the common good constitutes a direct challenge to liberal and philosophical anarchist denials of a generic and presumptive obligation to obey the law.2 It is questionable, however, whether Finnis has presented the strongest possible case for his position. In the first section I outline Finnis's account of the relationship between basic goods, the common good, and the authority of law. Section II demonstrates how Finnis's emphasis upon the instrumental nature of the common good leaves his position vulnerable to Joseph Raz's objections3 that not all cases of law make a moral difference and that governmental authority is often unnecessary to resolve coordination problems. I argue that Raz's critique nonetheless fails adequately to address an alternative defense of the existence of a generic and presumptive obligation to obey the law, suggested by some passages in Finnis's work, according to which the common good is integral, rather than merely instrumental, to the good of individuals. In the final section I consider whether Finnis could strengthen his case for a generic and presumptive obligation to obey the law by adopting a more consistently robustaccount of the common good
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/s1352325212000237
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 39,940
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
Law's Empire.Ronald Dworkin - 1986 - Ethics 97 (4):834-860.
Natural Law and Natural Rights.John Finnis - 1980 - Philosophical Quarterly 31 (124):282-284.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Central and Peripheral Cases and the Moral Point of View in John Finnis´ Theory of Law.Mayda Hočevar - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 40:47-52.
Toward a Unified Foundation of Natural Law Ethics.Edmund Wall - 2010 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 84 (4):747-779.
How to Speak the Truth.Timothy A. O. Endicott - 2001 - American Journal of Jurisprudence 46 (1):229-248.
Existentialism and Natural Law.Jonathan Crowe - 2005 - Adelaide Law Review 26:55-72.
Natural Law Beyond Finnis.Jonathan Crowe - 2011 - Jurisprudence 2 (2):293-308.
Intention and Identity.John Finnis - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
On Reason and Authority in Law's Empire.John Finnis - 1987 - Law and Philosophy 6 (3):357 - 380.
Aquinas, Finnis and Non-Naturalism.Craig Paterson - 2006 - In Craig Paterson & Matthew Pugh (eds.), Analytical Thomism: Traditions in Dialogue. Ashgate.


Added to PP index

Total views
44 ( #174,162 of 2,235,461 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #117,365 of 2,235,461 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature