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Natural Law and Natural Rights (Clarendon Law Series) Paperback – 7 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2 edition (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199599149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199599141
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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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)

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.

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THERE are human goods that can be secured only through the institutions of human law, and requirements of practical reasonableness that only those institutions can satisfy. Read the first page
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nick Bamber on 16 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
Great book, used for Jurisprudence. Certainly one I would advise getting if you are studying anything similar. One of the clearest and strongest natural law writers.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
Clear, well-structured and comprehensive thesis on the nature of law in relation to man. Finnis takes an insightful approach to human rights, ethics and the community on the basis of the 'common good'.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A comprehensive theory of ethics, politics, and law 20 Nov. 2002
By "ibell21" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Finnis's background is that of a lawyer and legal philosopher, and so this book is ostensibly a contribution to philosophy of law, but in effect it is a wide-ranging treatment of ethical and political theory aimed at supporting a broadly Natural Law conception of the foundations of law. Finnis's starting point is a teleological but anticonsequentialist ethical theory originally developed by Germain Grisez. Grisez, and following him Finnis, attempt to combine the Aristotelian insight that human actions are fundamentally directed toward realization of or participation in certain human goods, with the Kantian (and traditionalist Catholic) position that certain actions are never morally permissible, no matter what human goods may be achieved by doing them. The justification for this restriction lies in the "incommensurability" of multiple human goods: because goods cannot be commensurated, it is never rational to say that acting against a certain basic good is justified by the overall "better" effect of doing so. This moral principle supplies a justification for certain specific political rights (e.g., the right of innocents not be killed) and so for certain (not all) rights protected in e.g., in the American Bill of Rights.
Finnis's political philosophy is based on the necessity of political communities for the realization of certain kinds of human good, which in turn is the basis for the justification of political authority and of law in particular.
The foregoing is a very brief and selective sketch of a theory that Finnis develops in great detail over the course of the book's ten central chapters. Although much of Finnis's theory is necessarily controversial--especially his account of the incommensurability of goods--the book offers a subtle, rich, and I think largely compelling alternative to purely consequentialist and purely deontological theories of law and political morality. Finnis's work clearly comes out of a specifically Catholic intellectual tradition, but I think this book can be profitably read by a much wider audience. Finnis never relies on specifically Catholic (or Christian, or religious) doctrine, and he seems to have intentionally focused the discussion away from specifically Catholic moral controversies.
The book presupposes some familiarity with moral and political philosophy, e.g., Aristotle's _Ethics_ and modern consequentialist theories. Familiarity with Aquinas will reveal some of Finnis's influences but I doubt such familiarity is strictly necessary to understand what Finnis is saying. Certainly the book's arguments stand (or fall) on their own merits, without appeal the authority of Aquinas.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A brilliantly refreshing attempt at Natural Law 4 Jun. 2002
By JUDE CHUA SOO MENG - Published on
Format: Paperback
John Finnis's book is revolutionary, and it is owing to this brilliant, though not uncontroverted work that Aquinas' theory of natural law has regained its appeal and even prestige. Finnis' arguments can be hard to grasp, principally because natural law is not argued for, but is self-evident, and can only be submitted to a defense. Precisely on this count Finnis, and his collaborators with him, Germain Grisez and Robert P George (themselves also excellent catholic intellectuals) have found criticism amongst more conservative readers of Aquinas' moral theory. For Finnis, the reasonable grasp of basic goods, i.e., the awareness of first practical principles, i.e., the natural law, is known per se nota, not derived from anything. Especially exciting his defense of knowlegde or truth as an undeniable basic good, although his treatment and defense of other basic goods require development Also interesting is his treatment of Aquinas' notion legal validity in positive law, which he argues admits of a certain abstraction from morality, thereby aligning himself somewhat with Hart's positivism. Issues of Thomistic exegesis aside, this is a magnificent work in its own right, and compulsory reading for ages to come in jurisprudence. A good and perhaps even essential companion is his Fundamentals of Ethics.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The best introduction to Natural Law Theory 19 July 2001
By Cristobal Orrego - Published on
Format: Paperback
Finnis, encouraged by the late H.L.A. Hart (20th Century leading English legal positivist), wrote this introduction to legal theory from the Natural Law Tradition point of view. In 13 chapters he shows what is a science of Law, why Natural Law classical (Plato's, Aristotle's and Aquinas') theory has been misunderstood (even by Hart or Kelsen), which are the basic principles of practical reason (corresponding to the basic human values) and the basic requirements of practical reasonableness (which allow us to reason in a morally right way), and which are the most fundamental truths regarding the community and its common good, justice, (legal and natural) rights, authority, the Law and obligation, unjust laws and, finally, the place of God in this order or practical knowledge. The book is difficult to read, but a source ot true intellectual joy. I have translated this book into Spanish, and this, I guess, might be a sign of how much I think it is worthwhile reading and using it, along with Finnis' "Aquinas" (1998).
40 of 52 people found the following review helpful
An exceptional work in moral and political theory 11 Oct. 1998
By Gary Chartier - Published on
Format: Paperback
Wow! Over a decade after I first picked this book up, I remain impressed with its clarity and thoroughness. Finnis's range and comprehensiveness are remarkable. Those who know Finnis only for his--regrettable and thoroughly inappropriate--support of Colorado Amendment 2 or his opposition to contraception may think of him as a stuffy fuddy-duddy. But such an assessment--utterly unfair--would all too likely blind prospective readers to the many virtues of the position he develops here and in _Fundamentals of Ethics_. In evidence here is the Finnis critical of Nozick's libertarian views of redistribution and implacably opposed to strategic nuclear weapons--hardly the right-wing ogre some of his detractors may suppose him to be. For those who find Kantian moral theory sterile, consequentialism unjust, and intuitionist approaches unclear, Finnis presents an impressive alternative in the Thomist tradition. There's something here for everyone--lawyers, ethicists, political theorists, and theologians will all be stimulated by Finnis's reflections. This book is a call to personal integrity and to political justice that deserves to be heeded.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful, though not simple, book 13 July 2001
By Bruno - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very good book. Nevertheless, readers should be warned: it is not about the HISTORY of Natural Law; it brings a THEORY on Natural Law (a theory based, mainly, in Aristotle and Aquinas). Anyone looking for a simple, historical look at Natural Law (as seems to be the case with the reviwer Ace Custodio) should look elsewhere. But those who care enough to face the dificulties of the text will be well rewarded.
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