JOHN M. FINNIS-GROUP 3.docx - JOHN FINNISu2019 NATURAL LAW...

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JOHN FINNIS’ NATURAL LAW THEORY The crux of natural law theory has been to bring to light and emphasize the importance of the relationship between law and morality, reason and/or divinity. Classical naturalists like Aristotle and Aquinas, however, did not have to deal with any opposition of positivism like their later disciples. Since positivism arose in the period supervening the classical natural law theories and modern natural law theories, modern naturalists have had the additional burden of having to face and try to dislodge the arguments that have now been raised in opposition to natural law as a legal theory. John M. Finnis takes himself to be explicating and developing the view of St. Thomas Aquinas and Blackstone. Finnis believes that the naturalism of Aquinas and Blackstone should not be construed as a conceptual amount of the existence conditions for law. According to Finnis, the classical naturalists were not concerned with giving a conceptual amount of legal validity; rather they were concerned with explaining the moral force of law; the principle of natural law explain the obligatory force of positive laws, even when those laws cannot be deduced from those principles. On Finni’s view of the overlap thesis, the essential function of law is to provide a justification for state coercion (a view he shared with Ronald Dworkin). Accordingly, an unjust law can be legally valid, but it cannot provide an adequate justification for use of the coercion power and hence not obligation in the fullest sense; thus, an unjust law fails to realize the moral ideas implicit in the concept of law. An unjust law, on this view, is legally binding, but is not fully law. He argues that the natural law theory rests on the ability of human beings to grasp values directly instead of inferring them from the facts of the world. According to Finnis, there are basic values underlying the human appreciation of the value of any particular thing all of human beings’ purposive activities. He introduces these basic values as human goods or basic forms of human flourishing in his work, Natural Law and Natural Rights 1 , as follows; 1 John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, (1980)
(i) Life – the first basic value corresponding to the drive for self-preservation (ii) Knowledge – a preference for true over false belief; Finnis calls it ‘speculative knowledge’ which is knowledge sought for its own sake, in order to distinguish it from ‘instrumental knowledge’ being knowledge sought for use in the pursuit of some other objective. (iii) Play – performance for the sake of it (iv) Aesthetic experience – the appreciation of beauty (v) Friendship or sociability: acting for the sake of one’s friends’ purpose or well being (vi) Practical reasonableness – the use of one’s intelligence to choose actions, lifestyle to reflect on the origins of the cosmic order and human freedom and reason.

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