Finnis, John
6 Articles at

John Finnis teaches in jurisprudence, jurisprudence and political theory, and constitutional Law. Professor of Law & Legal Philosophy since 1989, and a law tutor at University College since 1966. From 1972 to 1989 Rhodes Reader in the Laws of the British Commonwealth and the United States.

LL.B. (Adelaide); D.Phil. (Oxford) on the idea of judicial power, with special reference to Australian federal constitutional law, as Rhodes Scholar from South Australia at Univ. College (1962-5). Taught law at Berkeley, California, before returning to Univ. Also taught law at University of Adelaide, University of Malawi (head of law dept., on secondment from Oxford, 1976-78), and Boston College. Fellow of the British Academy. Advised a number of Australian governments on federal-State and UK-Australia constitutional relations; at the English Bar argued appeals in the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal.

Wrote and annually updates the title on constitutional laws of the Commonwealth in Halsbury's Laws of England (4th ed.). Books: Natural Law and Natural Rights (OUP, Clarendon Law Series, 1980, 9th impression 1996); Fundamentals of Ethics (OUP & Georgetown UP, 1983); Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism (OUP, 1987); Moral Absolutes (CUAP, 1991); Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory (OUP, 1998: xxi + 385 pp.). Recent essays include: "The Truth in Legal Positivism" in George (ed.), The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism (OUP, 1996); "Commensuration and Public Reason" in Chang (ed.), Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Harv. UP, 1997); "Euthanasia, Morality, and Law" (debate with Ronald Dworkin) Loyola of Los Angeles L.Rev. 31 (1998) 1123-45; articles on the history and problems of legal philosophy, and on various legal philosophers, in Honderich (ed.), Oxford Companion to Philosophy (OUP, 1995); "Intention in Tort Law" in Owen (ed.), Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law (OUP, 1995).



New! Intentional Killing Is a Usurpation of God's Lordship Over Life: A Reply to Edward Feser

Permission to own slaves and suppress false religions was taught by the Old Testament, never denounced by the New Testament, and accepted in word and deed for very long periods by popes, bishops, and saints. And yet the Church eventually repudiated such permission. So, too, with intentional killing in capital punishment. The fact that death is deserved and proportionate does not license the state or any human being to intend to impose it.

Date posted: 2019-01-07

The Church Could Teach That Capital Punishment Is Inherently Wrong

Nothing asserted in Scripture read in light of the New Testament excludes the conclusion that capital punishment is inherently wrong. Nor does any definitive Church teaching. But the new revision of the Catechism, while removing from view an evident instability, remedies none of the underlying tensions and seems likely to obscure the only path to a teaching fully stabilized by adopting that conclusion authoritatively, as an authentic development of doctrine. And the revisionary documents are in other ways disconcerting. Part two of a two-part essay.

Date posted: 2018-08-30

Intentional Killing Is Always Wrong: The Development Initiated by Pius XII, Made by John Paul II, and Repeated by Francis

The Catholic Catechism's new section on capital punishment makes no substantive change of teaching. Nor did the 1997 amendment of that section. The 1992 Catechism did change traditional teaching on killing, whether in war, police actions or judicial executions. That authoritative change, partly initiated by Pius XII, has sufficient theological warrants, but it is little understood and needs much more attention. Its logical conclusion is that capital punishment is inherently wrong. But that has not yet been taught. Part one of a two-part essay.

Date posted: 2018-08-30

The Profound Injustice of Judge Posner on Marriage

The equality that demands same-sex marriage demands that all social recognition of the distinction between mothers and fathers - of the paternal and the maternal, the masculine and the feminine, and of the sexual identity of everyone as male or female - must be systematically expunged, to be replaced by the lies and seductions of "gender identities" on the ever more blurry rainbow spectrum.

Date posted: 2015-01-16

The word 'fetus' is offensive, dehumanizing and manipulative

A law professor at Oxford University argues that use of the word 'fetus' obscures our perception of moral reality.

Date posted: 2012-08-03

Abortion and Cloning

I'm going to look at some of the things being said in high places to rationalise the established policy of allowing unborn children to be killed at their mothers' request, and the emerging, not yet established policy, of allowing children to be brought into existence for the purpose only of being used to provide spare parts for other people. Most of the ways of talking and arguing that I shall look at are evasions intended to mask what is being chosen and done. Hence my title.

Date posted: 2001-12-31