Explain Finnis’ Natural Law Theory Essay

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Explain Finnis’ Natural Law Theory (30 marks)
John Finnis, an Australian legal philosopher has tried to resurrect the natural law tradition in moral philosophy and law since the mid-1960s. He tries to offer a "neo-Aquinian" natural law philosophy which does not presuppose a divine being. By focusing attention on goods rather than a single Good, Finnis skilfully articulates what he calls a theory of moral action for our day. Or, in other words, he seeks a theory of how to live well. Finnis identifies a number of equally valuable basic goods or ends, given human nature, there are seven. Three are substantive, existing prior to action and four are reflexive which is depending on our choices.
The first is human life, including every aspect
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While Finnis acknowledges that it may not be possible to embrace some of basic goods as wholesomely as others, one should leave them open to all.
Similar to the second principle, the third is no arbitrary preferences among persons, to respect the intrinsic integrity of each individual in treating people always as ends in themselves and never as mere means. This is often referred to as the second formulation of Kant’s ‘Categorical Imperative.’
The fourth is equilibrium between detachment and commitment, detachment prohibits fatalism or obsession with specific projects, ensuring life is not drained of meaning if your objective eludes you. Commitment prescribes that someone engages in projects and pursues them beyond hardship. You should expand their horizons in seeking out creative ways to pursue their enterprises or we needlessly waste opportunities for fulfilment. Principle five discusses the consequences of a decision in particular, the limited relevance of consequences. This principle speaks to the need for efficiency in pursuit of definite goals. Finnis rejects utilitarian reasoning as ‘senseless and unworkable’ because the ‘basic forms of human good are incommensurable’. Finnis holds that the rational agent will prefer ‘less rather than greater damage to a basic good’ in single act. The sixth principle of the nine principles of practical reasonableness is respect for every basic value in every act. Finnis holds that in every act one must respect all
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