Whatever the merits you think Natural Law theories may have, you have to acknowledge at least two great achievements of the Australian philosopher John Finnis: having returned philosophical plausibility and dignity to the Natural Law tradition and having mixed Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s schemes of thought with some of the best legal philosophical insights from contemporary thinkers as Hart, Rawls, and Raz. Those are two reasons good enough for you to take a look at Finnis’s biggest work, “Natural Law and Natural Rights”.
The main thesis of the book is simple: Since law is functional to protect and realize some basic goods of human life, the only kind of descriptive theory of law which is satisfactory is one that show how much the existing law manages to reach that version in which those goods are best protected and realized. So the book is an attempt to proof Finnis’s thesis to be true and to expose various parts of a Natural Law theory as components of the descriptive approach to law best suited to fulfill that task.
I would like to do an introductory presentation of some issues in Finnis’s book and to make some critical remarks on those issues, which are: (1) Finnis’s conception of “description” of law; (2) Finnis’s argument for the basic goods; (3) the relation of Finnis’s Natural Law theory and democracy; and (4) Finnis’s conception of the authority of law. My considerations will be put in the following posts of this Blog.