First 1673 words of the document:
Finnis defines Natural Law as requiring 'a set of
basic practical principles which indicate the
basic forms of human flourishing as goods to be
pursued and realised, and which are in one way
or another used by everyone who considers
what to do
However, he does allow for flexibility in the ways
people pursue these basic goods, and like
Aquinas he recognises that people do not
always use their reason well.
He focuses on goods and says that these are in Finnis, therefore, expects there to be
fact good, so that people will understand what some level of disagreement about some of the
they morally ought and ought not to do. difficult moral questions, as Natural Law is not
some kind of computer program but a way of
making decisions about moral issues and how
to live life, given certain assumptions about
John Finnis published Natural Law and what people need to live their lives well and to
Natural Rights in 1979 flourish.
tries to offer a neo-aquinian natural law human life
the basic universal drive for self-preservation.
philosophy which does not presuppose a (health & procreation)
the realisation and appreciation of beauty in
in focusing on goods rather than a single good instead of speaking about the form of the many different things:
Finnis skilfully articulates what he calls a theory good or seeking the god he will speak play, music, art, nature, the pursuit of
of moral action for our day, a theory of how to about human desires to pursue basic knowledge.
live well goods in life substantive
Background this is important for its own sake. It is good to
Revived the discussion on Natural Law with knowledge find out the truth and muddle and ignorance are
along with Germain Grisez bad.
what is now called a New Natural Law theory.
Finnis approaches Natural Law in the same this means engaging in performances 'which
one difference: without the need for God. way as Aquinas - as a type of moral theory not a SKILLED PERFORMANCE have no point beyond the performance itself,
type of legal theory, play enjoyed for its own sake' Play is vital to human
He, therefore, continues the emphasis that all
people have the ability to understand basic this does not mean any particular religion, but
7 basic goods
moral obligations and that these moral religion/holiness more a concern for the order of the
obligations apply to all cosmos.
Finnis has a list of seven basic goods that are self - integration
Practical Reasonableness has a dual role in
aspects of basic-human flourishing:
Finnis's theory; it is one of the basic human
goods, but it is also the method for working out this is both a basic good and the way in which
what ought or ought not to be done in the people ought to pursue the basic goods. It
pursuit of the other basic goods. means the way in which one is able to use one's
reflexive authenticity/ practcal reasonableness own intelligence to choose one's actions and
It also follows the Golden Rule: 'Do to others lifestyle and to shape one's character.
what you would have them do to you.'
very important for finnis
The person must also have a certain
detachment so that he or she is open to all the good friendship, he says, requires that one acts
basic forms of good, not following the for the sake of one's friend's well-being. It is the
impulses of the moment. justice & friendship unifying force
Practical Reasonableness means that a person in community and society so that all members
One should also bring about good in the has to have a rational plan for life and look at find fulfilment.
world and respect all human life. All the basic life holistically so as not to consider one basic
values must be considered when making a good more important than the others - in other Finnis considers that these basic goods apply to
moral decision - so Finnis says that words, to be open to the value of all the basic all people regardless of their culture, and refers
Utilitarianism and consequentialism are goods, and not give too much value to to anthropology to back up this view. He sees all
irrational. instrumental goods such as wealth, fame or of these goods as self-evident, but the goods in
pleasure themselves do not give any moral rules; these
come from the application of Practical
Finally, Finnis says that people need to favour Natural Law - John Finnis
the common good of their communities and act Reasonableness to the basic goods.
in accordance with their consciences.
guide us how to act in fulfilling the 7 basic goods
If each of these requirements of Practical
Reasonableness is followed then the result will influenced by Aquinas and is also Aquinas's
1) good is to be done and evil is to be avoided
be morality. basic principle of moral action
Joseph Koterski S.J. in particular says that there Some scholars have criticised Finnis's approach 2) in doing the good and avoiding evil one ought
it is this principle that gives Finnis and those
is no philosophy of human nature and therefore to Natural Law as it presumes that the basic to choose and will only those possibilities where actions that work against integral human
Weaknesses committed to global human rights, e.g. the most
Finnis is not true to Aquinas and so his theory is goods are self-evident and ignores any willing and action are compatible with 'integral fulfilment are basically wrong
rather a sort of 'Christian Kantianism'. idea of a common human nature. human fulfilment'
However, Finnis's approach does avoid Nine principles of practical reasonableness 3) one is to respect every basic value in every
charges of the naturalistic fallacy. act...tht is never choose against a basic act
However, Finnis's list of basic human goods, 4) show no arbitary preference among people
which he admits is simply his version, is a Evaluation
strong list because of its anthropological
5) foster the common good of one's community
6) form a rational plan of life
Finnis clearly states that Natural Law theory
His list does have a sense of universality, such
lays the groundwork for general moral rules to
as when he writes: 'All human societies show a
be formulated - this cannot, in fact, be 7) have no arbitrary preferences among any of
concern for the value of human life . . . and in
restrictive. Finnis's ideas, along with those of the basic goods
none is the killing of other human beings
Germain Grisez in the USA, have been
permitted without some fairly definite
influential in reviving the discussion of Natural
justifications' makes the point that Finnis' legal theory is
derivative of his moral theory
all rational agents set out to preserve or obtain
law enters into the picture as a way of effecting
things they perceive to be good for themselves
the realisation of the basic goods
however even the most rational actors can be
therefore on his theory of law Bix does not think
that he goes much beyond aquinas
we need to exercise practical reason (takes this
much legislation is merely procedural or clean
term from Aristotle) to obtain that good at any
up or trying to repair little gaps from previous
goods that are fundamental, underived from
Finnis will isolate what he calls 7 basic goods in negative do we need an overarching theory that will
other goods and irreducible to other things that one difficulty is whether the theory really reflects
life explain what we do here
are the motivation and goal of action the 'rough & tumble" of legislation or whether it
tries to "explain too much"
isn't the positivist approach to law, separating
he also has nine principles of practical
law and morality and seeing law in a much more
reasonableness that are what we might call critique Brian Bix instrumental way (i.e. the instrument to make
'methods of operation' rather than 'ends sought'
society function smoothly) a more satisfying
bix is unsure what that measn
people in the natural law tradition throw around bix reckons that it folds back to the basic goods
the word "moral" all the time but it is a "crutch word" used a lot to help the
natural law philosophers "walk" but not useful
for those who are seemingly "limb-intact"
yet he has set out the parameters for legal laws therefore should reflect the basic goods
scholars who want to apply his analysis to the and flow from the principles of practical
formulation of laws reasonableness
thus he can seemingly make common cause for Bix this remains the the most attractive
with people who are not theists today but want feature of NL - that the positivist separation of
to ground their leal theory in "eternal principles" law and morality (as Holmes talked about it) is
or 'basic principles' not intellectually or orally satisfying