Natural Law & Natural Rights
Clarendon Law Series
A classic work, still essential reading for all those interested in the philosophy of law and religious ethics
Adds a substantial postscript by the author developing and refining the theory in response to thirty years of discussion, criticism, and further work in the field
Pagination matches the original edition, allowing citations to be followed in the new edition
First published in 1980, Natural Law and Natural Rights is widely heralded as a seminal contribution to the philosophy of law, and an authoritative restatement of natural law doctrine. It has offered generations of students and other readers a thorough grounding in the central issues of legal, moral, and political philosophy from Finnis's distinctive perspective. This new edition includes a substantial postscript by the author, in which he responds to thirty years of discussion, criticism and further work in the field to develop and refine the original theory.
The book closely integrates the philosophy of law with ethics, social theory and political philosophy. The author develops a sustained and substantive argument; it is not a review of other people's arguments but makes frequent illustrative and critical reference to classical, modern, and contemporary writers in ethics, social and political theory, and jurisprudence.
The preliminary First Part reviews a century of analytical jurisprudence to illustrate the dependence of every descriptive social science upon evaluations by the theorist. A fully critical basis for such evaluations is a theory of natural law. Standard contemporary objections to natural law theory are reviewed and shown to rest on serious misunderstandings.
The Second Part develops in ten carefully structured chapters an account of: basic human goods and basic requirements of practical reasonableness, community and 'the common good'; justice; the logical structure of rights-talk; the bases of human rights, their specification and their limits; authority, and the formation of authoritative rules by non-authoritative persons and procedures; law, the Rule of Law, and the derivation of laws from the principles of practical reasonableness; the complex relation between legal and moral obligation; and the practical and theoretical problems created by unjust laws.
A final Part develops a vigorous argument about the relation between 'natural law', 'natural theology' and 'revelation' - between moral concern and other ultimate questions.
1: Evaluation and the Description of Law
2: Images and Objections
3: A Basic Form of Good: Knowledge
4: The Other Basic Values
5: The Basic Requirements of Practical Reasonableness
6: Community, Communities, and Common Good
12: Unjust Laws
13: Nature, Reason, God
John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy Emeritus at Oxford University and Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame
Reviews and Awards
"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." - ASIL