- Series: Clarendon Law Series
- Paperback: 500 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (May 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199599149
- ISBN-13: 978-0199599141
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Natural Law and Natural Rights (Clarendon Law Series) 2nd Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Finnis's book not only meticulously restores a truly ancient and at times cathedral-like building in need of repair, but also in a very original way endows it with a new meaning by using some freshly developed materials and techniques."
-- American Society of International Law Newsletter
About the Author
John Finnis is Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of University College. He is Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The book is divided into three parts. The first part illustrates the radical misrepresentations and apprehensions to which natural law ideas have been subject by modern opponents like H. L. A. Hart, Joseph Raz, and Hans Kelsen. Finnis attributes some of the contemporary misunderstandings of Thomistic natural law to the late scholasticism of men like Vazquez and Suarez, whose theories "differed radically" from Aquinas's. For them, reason's decisive act in discerning the content of natural law was to grasp the difference between morally good and evil acts. This view is open to the objections of Hume and the whole Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment -- namely,what motive does anyone have for regulating his actions according to reason's apprehension of moral good and evil? Finnis elaborates the Thomistic theory that is not vulnerable to such objections.
In the second part of the book, Finnis develops a theory of practical reason grounded in the self-evident apprehension of basic goods. He identifies life, play, aesthetic experience, friendship, practical reasonableness, and religion as exhaustive and equally fundamental. Unless we recognize these goods, we cannot make sense of human flourishing. The recognition of these basic goods enables us to distinguish between good and bad desires. And practical reason enables us to attain or, more accurately, to participate in those goods. More than one way will be open to us, and the one we choose will depend on our taste, abilities, circumstances, and opportunities. The fact that no one choice is reasonable does not mean that no choices are reasonable, as Weber and Sartre imagined. Sartre's famous example of the young man contemplating whether to join the resistance against Nazi occupation or to care for his aging mother does not show that there is no rational foundation for choice. Both choices would be rational; what would be irrational would be to shoot his mother, join the occupying forces, commit suicide, or drink himself into stupefaction.
Because we live in community, we must answer the questions about the good life not only on an individual, but on social and political levels. We must use practical reason to direct us toward the common good. The latter is nothing other than the flourishing or opportunity for flourishing of every individual in society. Societies, like individuals, must make rational choices to direct them to the common good. We must keep in mind that the means to the common good are not only instrumental and external but often constitutive and internal to that good because of the good's nature. Human flourishing has to do with what kinds of beings we become and not just with the attainment of particular states of affairs. Because Finnis maintains that certain goods are truly and self-evidently so, he avoids the shallow understanding of the common good as maximum satisfaction of desire. It is the common good that is the object of justice, law, authority, and rights.
The third part of the book addresses religious issues. Can natural law be defended independent of a belief in God? The answer is obviously "yes." However, the recognition of the basic goods of human flourishing independent of human volition or decree points to the existence of a divine order of things. In following the order of reason, we implicitly recognize that God and not man is the measure of all things. Nor is it surprising to find a continuity between the proper human order and cosmic order. Human nature is a microcosm of the universe since it incorporates the inorganic, the organic, and the mental.
"Natural Law and Natural Rights" is a most rewarding book.
This changed with the revival of natural law theory, particularly in the 1980's. Although natural law has its roots in Greek and Roman philosophical thought, the idea was incorporated into Christian theology. Its most famous exponent was the Dominican scholar St Thomas Aquinas, who dedicated a fair portion of his first Summa to natural law.
The natural law has often been used by the Catholic Church to articulate and defend its teachings on moral issues, from giving workers the right to a fair wage and private property to the ban on artificial contraception. Violating these norms breaches the plan of the creator, hence the natural law provides a framework in which to judge moral actions in an evaluative manner.
Unfortunately natural law theory has many weaknesses, and the main one with the Catholic version is its inherent sectarianism. Why should a rational person for example, choose Catholic natural law instead of Islamic shariah or the law of an Aboriginal tribe? Aren't all equally 'natural?' How can we tell which one is better? The appeal to God inherent to Catholic natural law thinking will also be repellent to atheists and agnostics, who are by no means a small number in contemporary society.
Although he is a devout and conservative Roman Catholic (and admits it), Finnis admirably tries to establish a non-sectarian theory of natural law than can be used by an intelligent person as the basis for jurisprudence. Finnis does this by constructing his theory around seven 'basic goods' which every person of goodwill can recognise, including friendship, the right to life, and so on. Finnis goes into considerable detail and does his best to argue his theory without resorting to purely religious or polemical arguments derived mindlessly from church documents, a mistake many lesser thinkers than Finnis engage in.
Depending on your sympathies, Finnis's theory fortunately (or unfortunately) produces conclusions remarkably similar to the official teachings of the Catholic church, whether in sexual morality or on economic issues. This is where Finnis runs into trouble, and this is a problem that occurs in many of his papers and books - he claims to be establishing a rational theory of morality, law and political order that can appeal generally to all, whether or not they have religious beliefs, but all too often Finnis falls into the vicious circle of assuming the truth of what he sets to prove - in other words, a purely secular and rational theory of natural law should lead to exactly the same conclusions as those of the Catholic church, and very conservative ones at that (i.e. contraception is never permissible, homosexuality is always wrong, abortion is always wrong, etc). One can't but help feel Finnis in the end is selling himself simply to be an apologist for the Catholic Church, even for some of the more questionable views like the very negative ones about homosexuality. This impression is reinforced when one reads the collection of papers and addresses (many of which were previously unpublished) by Finnis that were recently released which clearly show his very conservative 'traditionalist' Catholic views on various issues, including the neuralgic ones of the 'culture' wars. Astute critics of Finnis like Nicholas Bamforth have rightly picked this up and showed this glaring flaw in Finnis's work.
Even so, Finnis deserves credit for producing a fine work of legal philosophy. He is clearly a thinker of first rank and deserves to be taken seriously. Natural law and natural rights is arguably the best restatement of natural law theory in the contemporary setting and well worth considering carefully.