Natural Law and Natural Rights

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Natural Law and Natural Rights
Natural Law and Natural Rights (first edition).jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author John Finnis
Language English
Subject Natural law
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 500 (2011, 2nd edition)
ISBN 0199599149

Natural Law and Natural Rights is a 1980 book by the philosopher John Finnis. A restatement of natural law doctrine, it is considered a seminal contribution to the philosophy of law.[1] The work was commissioned by H. L. A. Hart for the Clarendon Law Series.[2]


Finnis argues that social theory cannot be value free and that Humean ethics, unlike genuine (as opposed to neo-scholastic) Thomist ethics, commits a naturalistic fallacy. He bases his radically rearticulated Aristotelian political and legal theory on dialectically defended first principles of practical reason and methodological principles of practical reasonableness (morality).[2] He defends the following basic human goods: life, knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, sociability (friendship), practical reasonableness, and religion, defined as "all those beliefs that can be called matters of ultimate concern; questions about the point of human existence."[3]


The philosophy lecturer Stephen Buckle sees Finnis's list of proposed basic goods as plausible, but notes that Finnis's account of the basic requirements of practical reasonableness is more controversial. Buckle sees Finnis's requirement of "respect for every basic value in every act" as intended both to rule out consequentialism in ethics and also to support the moral viewpoint of the Catholic Church on a range of contentious issues, including contraception and masturbation, which in his view undermines its plausibility.[3]

See also[edit]




  • Buckle, Stephen (1997). Singer, Peter, ed. A Companion to Ethics. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-18785-5.
  • George, Robert P. (2005). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926479-1.
Online articles