In John Keown & Robert P. George (eds.), Reason, Morality, and Law: The Philosophy of John Finnis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 327-345 (2013)

Timothy Endicott
Oxford University
John Finnis says that central cases of the concepts of social theory (such as the concept of law) fully instantiate certain characteristic values (which are instantiated in more-or-less watered-down ways in peripheral cases). Yet the instances of some such concepts (such as the concepts of slavery, of tyranny, and of murder) do not instantiate any value. I propose a solution to this puzzle: the central cases of such concepts focally instantiate certain ills. The central case of a concept essential to social theory may excel in some specific good or in some specific ill, or in neither, or in both. What about law? The central cases of a legal system, or of a law, involve goods that Finnis ascribes to them; I argue that the central cases also involve certain ills. That is the irony of law. Law secures essential goods for a community, and also (and, in fact, by the same token) it incurs certain ills that are necessarily involved in its specific techniques for securing those goods.
Keywords law  concepts  methodology in social theory  central cases  paradigms
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