Natural Law and Natural Rights is widely recognised as a seminal contribution to the philosophy of law, and an essential reference point for all students of the subject. This new edition includes a substantial postscript by the author responding to thirty years of comment, criticism, and further work in the field.
This launch volume in the Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought series presents a critical examination of Aquinas' thought, combining an accessible, historically-informed account of his work with an assessment of his central ideas and arguments. John Finnis presents a richly-documented critical review of Aquinas's thought on morality, politics, law, and method in social science. Unique in his coverage of Aquinas's primary and secondary texts and his own vigorous argumentation on many themes, the author focuses on the philosophy in (...) Aquinas's texts, and demonstrates how this interconnects with the theological elements. Professor Finnis shows how Aquinas, despite some medieval limitations, makes clear and profound contributions to present debates. (shrink)
Nuclear deterrence requires objective ethical analysis. In providing it, the authors face realities - the Soviet threat, possible nuclear holocaust, strategic imperatives - but they also unmask moral evasions - deterrence cannot be bluff, pure counterforce, the lesser evil, or a step towards disarmament. They conclude that the deterrent is unjustifiable and examine the new question of conscience that this raises for everyone.
Moral Absolutes sets forth a vigorous but careful critique of much recent work in moral theology. It is illustrated with examples from the most controversial aspects of Christian moral doctrine, and a frank account is given of the roots of the upheaval in Roman Catholic moral theology in and after the 1960s.
This Major Reference series brings together a wide range of key international articles in law and legal theory. Many of these essays are not readily accessible, and their presentation in these volumes will provide a vital new resource for both research and teaching. Each volume is edited by leading international authorities who explain the significance and context of articles in an informative and complete introduction.
This paper identifies and contests the thesis it takes to be the central premise of Giubilini and Minerva, ‘Why should the baby live?’, namely that rights, subjecthood and personhood have as a necessary condition that the undergoing of a harm be experienced. That thesis entails the repugnant or absurd conclusion that we do not have the right not to be killed in our sleep. The conclusion can be avoided by adding some premise or qualification about actual capacities for experience of (...) harm, but nothing in the Giubilini and Minerva article shows that such capacities do not exist, as actual and not merely potential, in the newly born human infant (and indeed in the unborn human child/foetus). The present paper reviews an earlier philosophical attempt to deploy an awareness criterion of personhood, and proposes objections to some other aspects of the article under consideration. (shrink)
Fifty years ago this year a legal practitioner turned military intelligencer turned philosopher, Herbert Hart, published The Concept of Law, still deservedly best-seller in thought about law. It presents law, especially common law and constitutionally ordered systems such as ours, as a social reality which results from the sharing of ideas and making of decisions that, for good or evil, establish rules of law which are what they are, whether just or unjust. But right at its centre is a chapter (...) on justice, informed by Hart’s professional knowledge of Plato and Aristotle and the tradition of civilized thought about justice, thought which he sums up like this: “the general principle latent in [the] diverse applications of the idea of justice is that individuals are entitled in respect of each other to a certain relative position of equality or inequality.” “Hence”, he goes on, “[the] leading precept [of justice] is often formulated as ‘Treat like cases alike’; though we need to add … ‘and treat different cases differently’”. This article will say something about three aspects of this vast topic: (i) about the factual basis and normative grounds of equality; (ii) about the proposed principle of equal concern; and (iii) about laws and social policies that pursue equality by selective prohibition of direct and indirect discrimination, and of harassment or vilification, victimisation and offence. (shrink)
The four kinds of explanation identified by Aquinas at the beginning of his commentary on Aristotle's Ethics are deployed to show that the identity of the human person is sui generis and mysterious, even though each of its elements is more or less readily accessible to our understanding. The essay attends particularly to the explorations by Aquinas and, with different techniques, by Shakespeare of the experience and understanding of one's lasting presence to oneself as one and the same bodily and (...) mental self, and one's self-shaping by one's free choices, especially of commitments. Shakespeare further explores these, quite deliberately, through displays of mistaken identity and humiliating deflations of the personas one constructs for life in society. (shrink)
This address at the Hart Centenary Conference in Cambridge in July 2007 reflects on foundational elements in Hart's method in legal philosophy. It argues that his understanding of what it is to adopt an internal point of view was flawed by (a) inattention to the difference between descriptive history (or biography or detection) and descriptive general theory of human affairs, (b) inattention to practical reason as argument from premises, some factual but others normative (evaluative) in their content, and (c) relative (...) inattention to the deliberations of law-makers as distinct from subjects of the law. These flaws contributed to a concept or theory of law that so truncated its account of the juridical, and of the sources of legal reasoning, that it could provide little or no guidance in situations of legal difficulty. The paper suggests that these flaws result, to some significant extent, from the skeptical doubts about morality evident particularly in his later work. All this has implications for the kind of approach to law and legal theory often self-described as positivist. (shrink)
Linking theses of Plato, Wittgenstein, and Weber, section I argues that identification of central cases and settling of focal meanings depend upon the theorist's purpose and, in the case of theory about human affairs—theory adequately attentive to the four irreducible orders in which human persons live and act—upon the purposes for which we intelligibly and intelligently act. Among these purposes, primacy is to be accorded to purposes which are, as best the theorist can judge, reasonable and fit to be adopted (...) by anyone, the theorist included. Section II defends the reasonableness of practical and moral judgments, against Michael Perry's ultimately nihilist claims that egoism's challenge to moral normativity has gone unanswered and that “reason for A” does not entail “reason for” anyone else. Section III takes up Steven Smith's suggestion that such subjectivism is encouraged by the talk in Natural Law and Natural Rights of “pursuing goods,” talk which is individualistic and neglectful of persons, inimical to an understanding of friendship, and impotent in the face of egoism. Here as elsewhere the key is to grasp that understanding any basic or intrinsic human good is to understand it as good for anyone like me and thus—since as I instantiate and embody a universal, viz. human being—as a good common to anyone and everyone. Section IV argues that common good gives reason for exercise and acceptance of authority, and for allegiance, even in time of breakdown. Section V argues that natural law theory is no more dependent on affirming God's existence than any other theory is, in any of the four orders of theory, but equally that is not safe for atheists. For, like any other sound theory, it suggests and is consistent with questions and answers about its grounds, in this case about the source of its normativity and of the human nature that its normative universals presuppose and affirm; and the answers are those argued for, too abstemiously, in the last chapter of NLNR and, more adequately, in the equivalent chapter of Aquinas. (shrink)