Human Rights and Common Good by John Finnis


This central volume in the Collected Essays brings together John Finnis’s wide-ranging contribution to central issues in political philosophy.

The volume begins by examining the general theory of political community and social justice. It includes the powerful and well-known Maccabaean Lecture on Bills of Rights — a searching critique of Ronald Dworkin’s moral-political arguments and conclusions, of the European Court of Human Rights’ approach to fundamental rights, and of judicial review as a constitutional institution. It is followed by an equally searching analysis of Kant’s thought on the intersection of law, right, and ethics. Other papers in the book’s opening section include an early assessment of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, a radical re-interpretation of Aquinas on limited government and the significance of the private/public distinction, and a challenging paper on virtue and the constitution.

The volume then focuses on central problems in modern political communities, including the achievement of justice in work and distribution; the practice of punishment; war and justice; the public control of euthanasia and abortion; and the nature of marriage and the common good. There are careful and vigorous critiques of Nietzsche on morality, Hart on punishment, Dworkin on the enforcement of morality and on euthanasia, Rawls on justice and law, Thomson on the woman’s right to choose, Habermas on abortion, Nussbaum and Koppelman on same-sex relations, and Dummett and Weithman on open borders.

The volume’s previously unpublished papers include a foundational consideration of labor unions, a fresh statement of a new grounding for the morality of sex, a surprising reading of C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man on contraception, and an introduction reviewing some of the remarkable changes in private and public morality over the past half-century.