catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Jurisprudence for Dummies: Finnis

with 55 comments

Professor John Finnis provides the first real attempt to deal with the problems that beset natural law. He’s not an easy read, focussing on quality ideas rather than quality writing. For that reason, I’ve put considerable time into the construction of this commentary on his work. Ultimately, I don’t agree with him, but there’s no denying the rigour and care that goes into his thinking.

Finnis’ Reconstruction of Natural Law

The Problem

Natural Law suffered in the 19th Century. As a result of Hume’s discovery and Bentham’s withering attacks (Bentham was a very bright guy), it came to be seen as a ‘poor relation’ to other theories of law, particularly positivism. It was seen to derive largely from religion, which also took some heavy hits from natural science in this period (Darwin, Russell, Huxley etc). Positivism had the benefit of clarity and certainty. It seemed to ‘fit’ well with British society at the time.

Certainty, however, was undermined by the two world wars – positivists were accused of worshipping authority. It was at this point it became clear that positivist theory, because it was descriptive, could be used to ‘describe’ the legal systems of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

The formation of the UN, and the principles embodied in its Charter all emerged from the natural law tradition. WWII was incredibly destructive with catastrophic loss of life. Afterwards, many people felt the need for an alternative to positivism. Even more frightening was Hitler and Stalin’s willingness to use both law and science (formerly constructed as ‘value-free’) to achieve utterly immoral ends.

… but didn’t Hume torpedo the derivation of values from facts?

Finnis’ solution

Finnis knew that he couldn’t get over Hume’s problem, so he instead tried to demonstrate that there are universal basic values that are necessary for us to live worthwhile lives. He regards these ‘basic goods’ as underived or inherent in human nature. Finnis maintains that every person on the planet recognises the value of these ‘basic goods’, although they may prioritise them differently, depending on cultural background and goals for life.

Finnis presents as a secular natural lawyer, and only ‘slips the religion in’ towards the end of his work. He argues that if you accept his arguments in Natural Law and Natural Rights, you are also likely to accept the existence of an ‘uncaused cause’ – ie God. Finnis agrees with Hume that it is not possible to infer values from facts. However, he denies that Aquinas and Aristotle (the two greatest natural law theorists) are guilty of this error. In Finnis’ restatement, Aquinas’ first principles of natural law (specifying basic forms of good and evil) are self–evident and indemonstrable. Finnis asserts that these ‘goods’ may be grasped without the use of inference (if x then y) by anyone old enough to reason.

An important aspect of Finnis’ argument concerns the use of human intelligence. When people work out ‘what is the case?’, they use inferential logic to derive conclusions from observed facts. By contrast, when people consider ‘what is the good to be pursued?’, they engage in ‘practical reasoning’, a different type of intelligence that allows us to work out what is right and wrong.

Finnis is quick to point out that his ‘goods’ or ‘values’ are not ‘basic human urges’. People desire them because they are intrinsically good; they don’t become good because people desire them (otherwise an advertising jingle would be better than Beethoven, if both were presented to a roomful of advertising executives).

Finnis draws a distinction between his basic values and the conditions needed to pursue them. Knowledge is worthwhile pursuing for its own sake, and intelligence certainly helps in the pursuit of that goal, but intelligence is not the same as knowledge.

Finnis rejects Hayek, Dworkin and Rawls’ argument that liberty, opportunity, wealth and self–respect are ‘primary goods’. Instead, he views them as ‘instrumental’ or intermediate ends that help to make the basic values achievable.

Finnis’ 7 Basic values or goods

Life – the drive for self–preservation, including for the transmission of life.
Knowledge – preference for truth over falsehood; also encompassing curiosity.
Play – that is, doing things because we enjoy them.
Aesthetic experience – appreciation of beauty (of whatever sort).
Sociability – friendship and cooperation, as well as doing things for the sake of a friend.
Practical reasonableness – the acknowledgment of a pattern and purpose to life.
Religion and spirituality – this takes in asking questions about the world, life, reason and freedom.

For Finnis, these seven are self–evidently good. Finnis’ self–evidence has certain features:

1. The goods cannot be reduced into to a more basic value.

2. They are indemonstrable – their existence is presupposed in any attempt to demonstrate them. Finnis actually wants to create a circular reference here – that is largely his point. This particularly applies to knowledge: one can neither deny nor endorse the ‘value’ of knowledge without using knowledge. The denial of knowledge thus involves self-contradiction.

3. They cannot be verified by looking at them – they are obviously valid to those who have experience of theoretical judgment, that is, anyone with experience of inquiry, even a child.

4. Each one may seem the most important. All other values are subordinate – they are merely ways of availing the magnificent seven.

It is possible to deny them, but denial is ‘straightforwardly unreasonable’. For Finnis, evil involves the denial of basic goods, perhaps by an attack on one or more, the total absence of one or more, or indifference to one or more: ‘evil is live backwards’, is in opposition to life and liveliness.

To defeat Hume’s is/ought difficulty, Finnis doesn’t prove that these 7 are the best from observing human practices. He relies on self–evidence.

He is also keen to prove that his basic values can’t be reduced to a basic notion of ‘pleasure’. Friendship, for example, may not always bring pleasure, but it remains a good in itself.

Common Good

Finnis argues the importance of the seven basic goods leads us to the idea of the common good. That is, we are able to see there are certain conditions that are needed to enable all members of the community to attain reasonable objectives for themselves. Similarly, we may like Finnis’ 7 basic principles, but decide that we can’t be bothered extending the benefit of the basic goods to others. Finnis: unless they are extended to others there will be so social rules, let alone civil society. If each person thinks he has a right to life, knowledge, play etc, but that others don’t, or the individual in question doesn’t care, there will be no harmony, no cohabitation and no social rules.

Finnis points out that friendship is an objective good – it leads to concern for others, and leads us beyond an exclusive concern with ourselves. Finnis also argues that ‘practical reasonableness’ (another basic value) requires a person to have regard to the ‘common good’ when determining their commitments, projects and actions. Finnis is aware that this argument could easily be mistaken for utilitarianism – it looks like the ‘common good’ is just another name for Bentham’s ‘ultimate moral test’ – the greatest good for the greatest number. Finnis is quick to point out that in utilitarian theory, the individual is not intrinsically important in the calculi that determine the moral worth of an act or rule.

Finnis defines the ‘common good’ by reference to the principle of subsidiarity. This simply means that the group (be it a family, an association, a political community) exists to serve the needs of the individuals who comprise it. The common good can therefore be determined by having regard to the purposes for which the group exists.

Even so, the 7 principles are not moral. They form the ‘evaluative substratum of moral judgement’ or ‘pre–moral principles of natural law’. Natural law is derived from them by means of practical reasonableness (he’s very close to Aquinas now).

Practical reasonableness

The importance of practical reasonableness for Finnis lies in the fact that (a) all basic goods are worth pursuing and (b) life is too short to allow us to pursue each value to the maximum extent. Practical reasonableness enables us to choose how we pursue the basic goods with respect to commitments, projects and actions. Practical reasonableness requires:

1. Coherent life plan – reference to this orders one’s life.

2. No arbitrary preferences between values – one can’t aspire to just one good or devalue a good for other people.

3. No arbitrary preferences between people.

4. Detachment.

5. Commitment.

6. Efficiency within reason.

7. Respect for every basic value.

8. Consideration of the common good.

9. Following the dictates of conscience – even when you’re wrong

The tests of practical reasonableness and the 7 basic goods give a framework for natural law analysis. Finnis thinks it avoids extreme injustice and provides a model for basic rights.

Finnis v the Consequentialists (utilitarians)

Finnis is also keen to refute the hedonism characteristic of modern utilitarianism, where the highest good is pleasure. Utilitarianism has moved on since Bentham; the means of reaching the ‘good of pleasure’ is now couched in sophisticated terms. Briefly, there are two types of utilitarianism – act and rule utilitarianism. The latter is the more sophisticated version.

Act utilitarianism: One should always choose the act that, so far as one can see, will yield the greatest net good for the whole.

Rule utilitarianism: One should always choose according to a principle or rule that will yield the greatest net good on the whole.

It’s not difficult to see the selfishness inherent in act utilitarianism. Essentially, it amounts to carte blanche to do whatever one wants – as long as there’s no chance of getting busted. If there’s no copper around and no one else on the road, then lets crank the old girl up to 140 and speed (speed cameras have obviously been designed to nail the act utilitarians among us).

It’s also not hard to see that lots of modern legislation and political decisions (think of mandatory detention for asylum seekers) are based on rule utilitarianism. It may not be the kindest political philosophy in the world, but it certainly works. Incidentally, a rule utilitarian doesn’t speed on the grounds that it may be personally dangerous for him, even though there may be no coppers about, and no one else on the road. Rule utilitarians also make use of a highly sophisticated ‘calculus of utility’ that takes in as many considerations as possible before coming to a conclusion.

Finnis argues that ‘maximising good’ is senseless, because human beings don’t have a single, well–defined goal or function. What is good for one won’t be good for another. It’s therefore impossible to calculate ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. Finnis also argues that utilitarianism leads to arbitrary preferences – to the maximisation of pleasure at the expense of others. There is no utilitarian reason why we should not promote the maximisation of goods regardless of distribution. This may justify slavery if it leads to an overall increase in satisfaction.

Finnis also argues that there must be respect for basic values in every act. If an act requires damage to any basic value it should not take place, even where the good consequences outweigh the damage. It’s at this point that Finnis’ mask slips and he turns into Catholic Action’s errand boy. Because abortion and euthanasia both involve damage to a basic good, they should not be legalised, regardless of any good consequences their legalisation may have.

Overall, he is not particularly fair to rule utilitarians, whose calculus of utility is much more sophisticated than he depicts.

Finnis and Rights

For Finnis, certain rights are exceptionless or absolute; they spring from 7 basic goods and practical reasonableness:

1. Right not to be deprived of life as a direct means to an end.
2. Right not to be deceived in factual communication.
3. Right not to be condemned on charges known to be false.
4. Right not to be deprived of procreative capacity (he really hates China’s ‘one child’ policy).
5. Right to be accorded respectful consideration in any assessment of the common good.

Finnis and Law

Finnis doesn’t attempt to be brief when defining law – his definition of the ‘focal meaning’ of law traverses many definitions of law developed by other theorists and synthesises them. Finnis is modest enough to admit that ‘law’ is a portmanteau term, and his definition takes in rules made according to regulative legal rules [Kelsen, Hart], rules made by a determinate authority [Austin], rules backed by sanctions [Austin, Kelsen, Hart]. Finnis’ definition identifies the law’s central purpose as a resolution of the community’s problems.

Finnis admits that this definition allows the possibility of objectionable laws. In response, he says that natural law is not concerned with the ability of positive law to solve problems; rather, he seeks to show that the enactment of positive law should be guided by moral principles and rules.

Finnis and obedience to unjust laws

Finnis’ take on lex injusta non est lex asks whether there is an obligation to obey an unjust law. He states that a person asking this question may be using the phrase ‘obligation to obey the law’ in one of four ways:

1. Liability to sanction. This person is asking ‘will I be punished?’ It’s practically important, but theoretically banal. Incidentally, this is the only sense of the question that Austin acknowledged.

2. Intra–systemic obligation. This person wants to know if there’s a legal obligation in a legal sense. That is, is this a valid law based on notions of what valid laws are within this legal system? Obviously, this is Hart’s formulation of law, and tends to be the way lawyers look at law when giving clients advice. Finnis considers it important for law’s security, certainty and predictability, but ultimately finds it pretty limited. Conventional positivism stops here, ‘shoving morality over to some other discipline’.

3. Legal duty in a moral sense: This person accepts that the legal system is by and large just, and wants to know if a particular unjust law imposes upon him any moral obligation to conform. Positivists would not have this question discussed within jurisprudence. Finnis says that the positivists’ attitude is artificial for three reasons: (a) it would leave jurisprudence empty; (b) lawyers talk about justice all the time, and sometimes those arguments find favour with judges; (c) positive law often has explicitly moral components such that lawyers are justified in regarding them as bona fide legal principles. The equitable concept of unconscionability is one such principle.

4. Moral obligation to obey law deriving not from legality but from a collateral source. Before Finnis wheels out lex injusta non est lex, he asks if there is a duty to obey an unjust law arising not because it is a valid law but because it is part of a larger system. Even if the law is not obligatory in the moral sense, there may still be a moral reason for obeying it. An individual may have good grounds for considering taxation excessive, for example, but if everyone decided to stop paying tax, then it’s actually surprisingly difficult for the government to force tax defaulters (when there are lots of them) to pay up. This happened in the UK when the Thatcher government introduced the ‘poll tax’ – so many people refused to pay that the law became a dead letter. Eventually the tax office just gave up on enforcement. Disobedience may have the effect of undermining public respect for the law, with potentially bad consequences for the common good.

Finnis and Justice

Finnis’ major point here is that lex injusta non est lex is only one element within natural law, and a subsidiary element at that. It still has a role to play – if you can cycle through the four considerations above and still come out with an unjust law at the end of it, then in Finnis’ view (like Aquinas) there may be good grounds to refuse compliance. For Finnis, natural law’s primary concern is deriving positive law from basic, universal values.


Finnis aims to deal with the Hume problem, and although he tries mightily, I suspect he has failed. ‘Self-evidence’ is something of an emperor’s new clothes argument. There is simply no way of knowing that all rational people automatically accept his basic values. If not all people accept them, then we are back to inferring values from facts (naughty naughty).

Finnis is also confronted by ‘the problem of moral relativism’, something not considered by Hume but blindingly obvious to anyone who lives in a multicultural community. In order to produce seven values common to all cultures, he has to define them so broadly that they become meaningless. ‘Knowledge’ in Islamic fundamentalism boils down to word-perfect recitation of the Koran. In Tibetan Buddhism ‘play’ means living in the mountains and refusing to speak to anyone for years at a time. It is almost as though his basic values are ‘content free’.

Finnis chooses 7 objective values – why those seven, and why seven only? He must have realised that he’d left something off, because he’s since included work. There are there now 8 ‘basic goods’. Will there be more?

There’s a retorsive argument going on here – does it really work? What if you say that knowledge is only valuable for a good use? Useless knowledge is therefore not objectively good but your statement is useful and not self-refuting. Acceptance of this statement does not imply that you think all knowledge is good.

Finnis’ beautiful argument for the self–evident value of knowledge doesn’t work for the other goods (which is why they don’t get such a thorough defence).

If you accept that there are certain ‘exceptionless rights’, then you must ask if these are the only rights worth protecting. What about others? Is the list complete? You may also choose to risk life. If so, can you be required to risk it? Can you be conscripted to fight a bushfire?

Element 7 of practical reasonableness (‘respect for every basic value in every act’) leads to huge moral dilemmas, notably with abortion and euthanasia – how do you respect values here?

Finnis states that it’s ‘a directive not to kill any human being intentionally except in self defence’. It’s also a requirement of ‘practical reasonableness’ not to kill the innocent. Does that mean it’s not okay to kill in national wars? In abortion where the mother’s life is at risk? Where Hitler/Stalin’s assassination might give much better consequences?

Concluding Comments

I realise in covering modern natural law just here, I’ve not given people the requisite background in modern positivism, so before I move on to Hayek, I’ll do a reasonably decent post on Hart, Fuller and Dworkin, the positivist and quasi-positivist thinkers with whom Finnis engages most.

One final note: I haven’t linked to the wikipedia entry on Finnis, because it appears to have become a rather unpleasant battleground for contending views, and in places is simply factually wrong. Wikipedia seems to be aware of this – there are caveats all over it.


Written by Admin

December 12, 2006 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

55 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Some input from CL would be nice, too…


    December 12, 2006 at 9:17 pm

  2. Ah thanks, SL, but I’m no philosopher and – to be honest – I’m not familiar with the state of debate on the Finnis worldview. As you probably guessed, though, I am aware of his basic arguments and am very attracted to the elegance of his ideas and their compatability with Catholicism.

    My own Catholicism, incidentally, is more intuitive and ‘felt’ than it is philosophical. Like Les Murray, I love the pictures and I’ve always had what is today the apparently uncommon gift of ‘feeling with the Church’ (sentire cum Ecclesia). My own philosophy of living is therefore less programmatic than it is instinctive. That I feel some sympathy for libertarians is testament to the laissez-faire nature of their is/oughts but my occasional hostility to them is rooted in the same suspicion I have for the utility-maximising utopianism which, to some extent, they share with Marxists.

    The goods identified and enumerated by Finnis, their indivisible nature and the ‘rules’ he insists on for their value in guiding the life lived well seem, to me, to represent a marvellous elucidation (and development) of natural law reality in a way that gives substance to a liberty worth pursuing. I could even adapt that old Latinism above by saying that however un-programmatic I may happen to be in my own lived reality, I still ‘feel with the Finnis programme’. Catallaxy libertarians – generally suspicious about the Finnis view of abortion and euthanasia, for example – should rest assured, nevertheless, that I would never tell them or anyone to ‘get with the Finnis programme’. Nor, I think, would Finnis be so presumptuous as to believe that his own philosophy is the incarnation of the Knowledge whose pursuit and cultivation he considers fundamental to human existence. That is to say, proselytism – and its statist variant, compulsion – is not considered by him to be a necessary fulfilment of the truths he expounds and insistes on.

    By the way, I think one of the things I would disagree with in your excellent analysis is the brief and unconvincing dismissal of what Knowledge


    December 13, 2006 at 1:24 am

  3. Oops…

    … is in Islamic cultures or what Play is in Tibetan culture. I think there is far more universality in Finnisian praxis than you accept. Your suspicion on that question may reflect libertarians’ wider suspicion of the kind of proselytism inhering in the so-called Bush Doctrine too – which I think points to a major weakness in the worldview of economics-obsessed libertarians: insufficient interest in what liberty is and should be for all people everywhere and how to encourage liberty for all people everywhere. (Ken Parish wasn’t entirely wide of the mark with his description of “I’m-alright-jack-and-everyone-else-can-go-and-get-stuffed-ians”). I would also tend to the view that the later addition of Work speaks of a philosopher who was discreetly aloof from traditional Catholic Action emphases rather than one who was an “errand boy” for such a movement.

    Not much that’s interesting in these responses of mine to your invitation, SL. I look forward to reading what genuinely knowledgeable philosophers and commentators have to say on some or all of the many interesting dimensions to Finnis that you’ve essayed here.


    December 13, 2006 at 1:44 am

  4. CL, there seems to be a bit of your post missing at the end – disappears in the middle of a sentence, as it were.

    But very illuminating all the same, and I agree with you about Murray. I think he even made the point at one stage that prose is Protestant, but poetry is Catholic. In light of what you say, that makes perfect sense.


    December 13, 2006 at 1:45 am

  5. Ahh, there it is. Our posts must have crossed.

    And also agree about proselytism, too – it’s something I’ve always despised.


    December 13, 2006 at 1:48 am

  6. CL
    I hold Christian belief too, which I don’t think is at odds with a strongly held libertarian world view.

    Take abortion for example. I believe abortion is wrong because it is eliminating a life or a potential life and an individual is sovereign .

    This is not at odds with some libertarians as you could say a potential life also accrues rights that ought to be protected almsot from the point of conception.

    I go a little further and argue that I cannot and do not want to prevent other people from exercising their right to think differently from me, So I couldn’t support support restraints. As I see it restraints would only cause more problems than they are worth.

    It is better to convince people through the force of argument than it is to pass a law.

    There is plenty of room for Christians to see the world from a libertarain perspective as well.

    Those Spanish Scholastic monks got the ball rolling to some extent.


    December 13, 2006 at 2:05 am

  7. Just adding to what I’ve placed at the end of my main blogpost: the Wikipedia entry on Finnis is a mess. It looks like there’s been some sort of political warfare going on over it. Don’t rely on it, although some of the links are okay.


    December 13, 2006 at 2:05 am

  8. SL, on proselytism: as you know, jurisprudence can be exceedingly pedagogical and insistent for an entire culture (eg Roe v. Wade). In other words, it can ‘convert’ people or – at least – the way things are done. (Mabo, for example). What are your thoughts about the value of Finnis as an actual influence on judges?


    December 13, 2006 at 2:19 am

  9. Fair points, JC. It wasn’t my intention to suggest libertarianism is “at odds” with Christianity. As you know, I’ve increasingly come to see their compatability.


    December 13, 2006 at 2:22 am

  10. Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is basically a form of Finnisian natural law. This is not surprising given her constant references to Aristotle. She too starts from ‘self evident’ premises and goes on from there,

    Jason Soon

    December 13, 2006 at 8:15 am

  11. Here is a wiki summary of Objectivism – spot the similarities. This remarkable woman basically independently reworked Thomism into an ideology for libertarian atheists:

    In her one-sentence summary of Objectivism (see Summary and Sources, above) Ayn Rand condensed her ethics into the statement that man properly lives “with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life.” According to Objectivist epistemology, however, states of mind, such as happiness, are not primary; they are the consequence of specific facts of existence. Therefore man needs an objective standard, grounded in the facts of reality, to achieve happiness. The human faculty of happiness is a biologically evolved measuring instrument (a “barometer”[8]) that measures how well one is doing in the pursuit of life. Therefore the standard by which one can judge whether or not some action will lead to greater or lesser happiness is, whether or not it promotes one’s life. But, as Rand writes,

    “To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem.”[2]

    The ethics of Objectivism is based on the observation that one’s own choices and actions are instrumental in maintaining and enhancing one’s life, and therefore one’s happiness. Rand wrote:

    “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice — and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man — by choice; he has to hold his life as a value — by choice; he has to learn to sustain it — by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues — by choice.

    “A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”[9]

    There is a difference, therefore, between rational self-interest as pursuit of one’s own life and happiness in reality, and what Ayn Rand called “selfishness without a self” – a range-of-the-moment pseudo-“selfish” whim-worship or “hedonism.” A whim-worshipper or “hedonist,” according to Rand, is not motivated by a desire to live his own human life, but by a wish to live on a sub-human level. Instead of using “that which promotes my (human) life” as his standard of value, he mistakes “that which I (mindlessly happen to) value” for a standard of value, in contradiction of the fact that, existentially, he is a human and therefore rational organism. The “I value” in whim-worship or hedonism can be replaced with “we value”, “he values”, “they value,” or “God values,” and still it would remain a dissociated-from-reality ethics-killer. Rand repudiated the equation of rational selfishness with hedonistic or whim-worshipping “selfishness-without-a-self.” She held that the former is good, and the latter evil, and that there is a fundamental difference between them.[8]

    Central to Objectivist ethics is the concept of “value.” Rand defined value as “that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” The rational individual’s choice of values to pursue is guided by his need, if he chooses to live, to act so as to maintain and promote his own life. Rand did not hold that values proper to human life are “intrinsic” in the sense of being independent of one’s choices, or that there are values that an individual must pursue by command or imperative (“reason accepts no commandments”). Neither did Rand consider proper values “subjective,” to be pursued just because one has chosen, perhaps arbitrarily, to pursue them. Rather, Rand held that valid values are “objective,” in the sense of being identifiable as serving to preserve and enhance one’s life. For example, food is an objective value, because it is objectively true that food is required for survival.

    For Rand, morality is a “code of values accepted by choice.” According to Leonard Peikoff, Rand held that “man needs [morality] for one reason only: he needs it in order to survive. Moral laws, in this view, are principles that define how to nourish and sustain human life; they are no more than this and no less.”[11] Objectivism does not claim that there is a moral requirement to choose to value one’s life. As Allan Gotthelf points out, for Rand, “Morality rests on a fundamental, pre-moral choice:”[12] the moral agent’s choice to live rather than die, so that the moral “ought” is always contextual and agent-relative. To be moral is to choose that which promotes one’s life in one’s actual context. There are no “categorical imperatives” (as in Kantianism) that an individual would be obliged to carry out regardless of their consequences for his life.

    The transition from the Objectivist ethics to the Objectivist theory of politics relies on the concept of rights. A “right”, according to Objectivism, is a moral principle that both defines and sanctions a human being’s freedom of action in a social or societal context. Objectivism holds that only individuals have rights; there is, in the Objectivist view, no such thing as a “collective right” that does not reduce without remainder to a set of individual rights. Furthermore, Objectivism is very specific about the set of “individual rights” that it recognizes; as such, the Objectivist list of individual rights differs significantly from the ones adopted by most governments, for example.

    Although Objectivist literature does not use the term “natural rights”, the rights it recognizes are based directly on the nature of human beings as described in its epistemology and ethics. Since human beings must make choices in order to survive as human beings, the basic requirement of a human life is the freedom to make, and act on, one’s own independent rational judgment, according to one’s self-interest.

    Thus, Objectivism contends, the fundamental right of human beings is the right to life. By this phrase Objectivism means the right to act in furtherance of one’s own life — not the right to have one’s life protected, or to have one’s survival guaranteed, by the involuntary effort of other human beings. Indeed, on the Objectivist account, one of the corollaries of the right to life is the right to property which, according to Objectivism, always represents the product of one’s own effort; on this view, one person’s right to life cannot entail the right to dispose of another’s private property, under any circumstances. Under Objectivism, one has the right to transfer one’s own property to whomever one wants for whatever reason, but such a transfer is only ethical if it is made under the terms of a trade freely consented to by both parties, in the absence of any form of coercion, each with the expectation that the trade will benefit them. Objectivism holds that human beings have the right to manipulate nature in any way they see fit, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. From this, the right to property arises.

    On the Objectivist account, the rights of other human beings are not of direct moral import to the agent who respects them; they acquire their moral purchase through an intermediate step. An Objectivist respects the rights of other human beings out of the recognition of the value to himself or herself of living in a world in which the freedom of action of other rational (or potentially rational) human beings is respected.

    According to Objectivism, then, one’s respect for the rights of others is founded on the value, to oneself, of other persons as actual or potential trading partners (whether it be trading in a material or emotional sense). Here is where Objectivism’s claim about conflicts of interest attains its full significance: on the Objectivist view, it is precisely because there are no such (irresoluble) conflicts that it is possible for human beings to prosper in a rights-respecting society.

    Jason Soon

    December 13, 2006 at 8:21 am

  12. There is a great deal of good in Ayn Rand, especially her political economy. There is also a great deal that does not stack up, as our kiwi colleague Daniel Barnes has pointed out, possibly here and also on at least one email discussion group.

    The problem with all these things, and it applies to the debate over the existence of god, is the way that so much effort goes into establishing foundations that are supposed to the rock solid foundation. Popper (as interpreted by Bartley) and the pomos have called foundationism into question although they provide very different programs after that point of agreement.

    Rafe Champion

    December 13, 2006 at 9:30 am

  13. CL: I’m not aware of Finnis’ thought influencing judicial reasoning, although it wouldn’t surprise me if it has at some point. (Note to self – hop onto LexisNexis at work today and go looking).

    Kelsen has been invoked judicially, as has Hart, and Hayek in the US.


    December 13, 2006 at 10:38 am

  14. Rafe:
    >There is a great deal of good in Ayn Rand…

    I agree. As Greg Nyquist puts it, she is often right, but almost always for the wrong reasons.

    The puzzle of Objectivism is how programme that consists of reason, self-respect, productivity, freedom, and individualism has proved so infertile, and even negative. Unwinding the reasons for this thru criticism may improve the chances for similar programmes.

    Back on topic, Jase is right about the family likeness to Finnis.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 13, 2006 at 10:58 am

  15. What impresses me about Finnis is that he seldom decends into ‘leaps of logic’. Yes he has certain (Catholic) values, but he couches these as a by-product of his thinking, rather than its raison d’etre. That is very unusual in jurisprudential philosophy – and is in marked contrast to positivism.


    December 13, 2006 at 11:05 am

  16. I guess you have nothing to refute, Fyds, if that was your pathetic attempt at refutation.

    In any event it’s good to have you back in form. Seriously. I was worried about you. I didn’t know what had happened.

    I even thought your boyfriend could have violently attacked you or something like that.

    Nice to see you back. Please don’t bring back Nabakov. The insufferable little twerp is telling everyone how rich he is these days. nice friends you pick Fyds. to be honest I always thought you were a better shade of grey than he was, though a bigger liar.


    December 13, 2006 at 11:59 am

  17. You planning on mentioning Holmes, Posner and the pragmatists, SL?

    NiMH AA 1.2V 1400mAh

    December 13, 2006 at 11:16 pm

  18. JC, thanks for bringing up abortion, it reminds me that I always wanted to ask people here whether they opposed or supported abortion, what basis they made their decisions on, etc. Obviously everyone will feel differently, but I’d like to see if there is a “libertarian” or “liberal” position. If Skeptic doesn’t mind me going off topic, that is!

    Some questions to start off with:

    Is a foetus an individual? If not, is there a point where an unborn child does become one?

    If a foetus has the potential to be life, does it only get the potential to human rights?

    Does the mother have a ‘duty of care’ by virtue of being pregnant?

    Is abortion murder? Or more akin to amputation? Or wart removal?

    Should there be punishment for abortion? That is, should unborn children have the state or charitable organisation as a defender/avenger?

    To go on the record, as a good lefty many years ago I fully supported women’s right to choose to abort, and thought old men making laws about what they could do with their own bodies was ridiculous and sexist. However, I had a change of heart a couple of years ago. I now believe that abortion is wrong. It is not murder, but it destroys a potential life. Parents accrue responsibility for that potential life by having sex and getting pregnant, and can’t ignore that responsibility. This position allows leeway for rape, since the resultant responsibility is then forced on the mother. That doesn’t solve the problem of potentiality, only responsibility. I am still uncertain about the abortion of severely disabled unborn children, because of the variability of specific cases. In general, I would have to say that aborting them is also wrong, and that they present another argument for the welfare state – I don’t want them aborted because of the financial burden they could impose.

    Sorry to be long-winded. Perhaps a contributor would consider making a new thread?


    December 14, 2006 at 12:29 am

  19. Yes, great points fats, or at least something we agree with for a change.

    The important point I make is that people should not be compelled to behave one way or another.

    But it should also leave room for embyonic research to which some Christians take unecessarily restrictrive view.


    December 14, 2006 at 12:47 am

  20. and just to put a wrench in the works about stem cells come this story:


    December 14, 2006 at 2:35 am

  21. “Natural Law suffered in the 19th Century. As a result of Hume’s discovery and Bentham’s withering attacks (Bentham was a very bright guy), it came to be seen as a ‘poor relation’ to other theories of law, particularly positivism.”

    I put it to you all that this results from fundamental mistakes in logic and epistemology.

    But can anyone put up a good case for Hume and Bentham?


    December 15, 2006 at 10:50 am

  22. Make that Hume, Bentham and the other theories of law.

    I think there are some predjudices here that need to be turned around.

    I suspect that Natural Law beats seven shades of shit out of these other theories when given a level playing field.


    December 15, 2006 at 10:52 am

  23. come on then, make an argument, not assertions. but first see if you can refute Hume

    Jason Soon

    December 15, 2006 at 10:55 am

  24. fats waller
    what’s so sacred about potentiality? where do you draw the line?

    and as for the handicapped how about if someone who knows he’s gonna have a genetically defective child decides not to reproduce at all? obviously you’re not in favour of forcing him to reproduce? if the foetus is nibbed in the bud early in the game when it basically resembles any other animal fetus why would you be concerned? is it just the momentary sliver of pain? are you a vegetarian? pigs probably feel more pain from being killed than a human foetus at an early stage of development.

    this is going into ‘every sperm is sacred’ territory. i don’t buy it

    Jason Soon

    December 15, 2006 at 11:06 am

  25. You fucking idiot Jason.

    This is the tenth time you’ve done this.

    You make Humes case I’ll have it refuted in ten minutes.

    Why are you being such an arsehole.

    Is this a Daniel Barnes impersonation.

    OK Fuckhead.

    Lets go again:

    1.Natural Law suffered in the 19th Century. As a result of Hume’s discovery and Bentham’s withering attacks (Bentham was a very bright guy), it came to be seen as a ‘poor relation’ to other theories of law, particularly positivism.”
    I put it to you all that this results from fundamental mistakes in logic and epistemology.
    But can anyone put up a good case for Hume and Bentham?

    2. Make that Hume, Bentham and the other theories of law.
    I think there are some predjudices here that need to be turned around.
    I suspect that Natural Law beats seven shades of shit out of these other theories when given a level playing field.

    OK Jason.

    Hume didn’t refute natural law.

    If he did lets hear his argument.

    Now all you guys getting around saying that Hume and Bentham refuted natural law well I’m calling bullshit.

    So lets hear it then.

    As soon as we get to Hume this site turns into fucking Deltoid.

    No-one here has made a convincing case for Hume.


    And this time Jason attempt not to pussy out.


    December 16, 2006 at 4:03 am

  26. I’ve already refuted Hume.

    Hume can give no guidance on these matters simply because he has put the proof-bar up so high that nothing can satisfy his test.


    If we say that Hume has undermined natural law this is pointless. Because Hume has only undermined natural law and in fact all human knowledge so comprehensively that he’s undermined (if we took him seriously and I don’t) the idea that I can be sure I ought to crap AFTER and not BEFORE I make it to the bathroom.

    He’s undermined natural law only in the same sense that he’s undermined my certitude that I won’t keep burning my hand each time I place it over the flame.

    So I’m sorry. I’m sorry I have already refuted Hume and don’t fucking lie Jason and pretend I haven’t.

    Here was my earlier refutation that now awaits someone to make a positive case:

    “The Hume problem is no problem at all.
    Because nothing can pass that test.

    Its a MEGO argument to say that negativist law beats seven shades of shit out of natural law on account of the HUME problem.

    Since NOTHING AT ALL can pass Humes high bar then finding that natural law cannot pass over it……. the MEGO argument comes into play.

    That is to say MY EYES GLAZE OVER.
    Its very much like talking to a born-again Christian when you are at High-School or undergraduate level.

    And you get to the Big Bang (since then I’ve become a big-bang skeptic by the way but thats neither here nor there)
    And he says…… Aha?

    But who created the Big Bang?

    And he thinks he got you. He thinks that the inescapable conclusion is that GOD DID IT!
    God must have done it.
    This is a MEGO argument.

    But it simply hasn’t solved the conundrum. And since pretty much nothing that I’ve been told about yet CAN solve that particular conundrum of something out of nothing then no God conclusion can be taken from this.

    HIS existence has to be deduced or ruled out elsewhere but it cannot be found in this MEGO argument.

    And I would think its the same for utilitarianism, positivist (ie negativist) law… And pretty much anything that comes about by worrying about the David Hume high bar.

    You go down to the athletics track. And you look at that high-jump bar….

    You’ve measured your standing leap and related it to the best you can hope to do with the Fosbury flop.

    But then they put the bar up to 15 feet.
    You do some calculations and realise that no matter what, the Fosbury flop will not send you over the bar.

    So you retreat to the ivory tower with your philosopher friends…. And they ruminate for a few months.

    And then they put all their faith in the Scissors.

    And they never quite focus on the reality that the scissors cannot reach that high bar either.”

    So as you can see Humes contribution is no contribution at all.

    And unless someone can go to bat for him he stands on this forum as being provisionally refuted insofar as a HUME-LIKE argument is being used to undermine natural law in favour of some other theory THAT ALSO DOESN’T PASS ANY HUME-LIKE TEST.

    So when Jason claims I have to refute Hume its bullshit.


    (a) I already have.

    (b) He’s only putting the Hume-like-stringency onto natural law.

    Then he goes fucking MEGO on us and does not apply the same standard.


    December 16, 2006 at 4:21 am

  27. sorry Graeme, no cigar, not even the tobacco ash. You ‘attempted’ to ‘refute’ the wrong Hume. We’re not talking about the induction paradox here but the fact-value distinction.

    Back to square one. Thank you. Come again.

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 10:53 am

  28. No I refuted him insofar as he can be used in this debate.

    You are lying when you say I haven’t refuted him.

    And we will see this when you make your case for him.


    December 16, 2006 at 11:19 am

  29. You guys haven’t even shown how the fact-value distinction can build a case for non-natural theories of law.

    Its as if you just changed the subject. I never said you can derive what ought from what is….

    But that you can’t really do this doesn’t begin to build a case for the other law theories.

    Hume may have made this distinction. And thats fine. Thats an improvement in our way of thinking but it doesn’t put a positive case for the alternate theories.

    And only a better view of law can invalidate natural law.

    Without a better hypothesis natural law retains its validity by default.


    December 16, 2006 at 11:29 am

  30. Ok, well, my first mildly hungover comment is that in the few times I’ve thought seriously about it, it seems to me that “natural law”, no matter what its variant, to be a confusing term from the gitgo – one that tries to glom onto the laws of nature for credibility-by-association.

    All legal systems are artificial. Let’s not lose sight of that. The confusion seems to arise, as Popper points out, when “artificial” is taken to mean the same as “arbitrary” (this problem is endemic in Rand, btw). The fact that nature and convention are different does not mean they are unrelated. A funeral is a artificial convention built around a natural event, but no-one would describe such a ceremony as “arbitrary”.

    So, I suppose, all law exists in an analogous relation to nature.

    As far as this thread goes, then, I can’t see what exactly it is that GMB is defending. I think we’d better get a statement as to what he means by “natural law”, given this above confusion and that there are so many variants. Otherwise we’ll be here all day.

    As far as GMB claiming to have refuted Hume goes, my usual response is that if he thinks he has refuted either is/ought or the problem of induction (which as Rafe remarks elsewhere is basically the same problem) he should write it up and submit his findings to the various philosophical associations for comment. If it turns out GMB’s right he’ll probably be able to buy the Clock Hotel on his subsequent earnings, and I can dine out on the tale that I once made an internet bet with one of the greatest philosophers of all time. There’s no downside, folks.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 12:31 pm

  31. There is no problem of induction.

    We went over it so many times and your case was found to be wanting and a logical error.

    You were using BAD INDUCTION to say that ALL INDUCTION was useless.

    Which is itself contradictory.

    No one is stupid enough to assume that just because most crows they’ve seen are black that there will never ever be an albino-crow.

    You were shown to be an idiot last time we talked about this. And you were only able to keep going with relentless lying and evasion.

    Its true that you cannot prove the value of induction through bivalent deductive logic.

    But the fact is you cannot prove the value of ANYTHING through bivalent deductive logic on its own.

    Therefore that is no standard to judge anything by.

    Therefore pointing out that we humans are not given to this level of proof IS AN HYPOCRITICAL IRRELEVANCY.

    Now don’t you assholes be saying I haven’t ditched an argument when its clear I have.

    Either best what I’ve said above or admit that I’m right.


    December 16, 2006 at 12:51 pm

  32. But what do you mean by “natural law”, GMB?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 12:55 pm

  33. See you are going on the value of authority alone here Barnes.

    Not any of you here have been able to overcome the absolute power of the critiques that I’ve made.

    Like the one above.

    You’ve had to do a runner every time.

    I’m certainly not going to refute Hume on bivalent-deductive-logic grounds.

    But this is not the standard of proof for ANYTHING REAL.

    The standard of proof for anything in the real world is convergence. Not bivalent deductive logic on its own.

    In bivalent logic only STATEMENTS can be shown to be true or false given explicitly stated premises with strictly drawn definitions.

    The definition of things and concepts must be drawn with point-accuracy which is inappropriate for most real-world scenarios.

    Its CONVERGENCE and the use of every cognitive tool that can bring a level of certitude to human knowledge.

    And now that we can be pretty sure of this there is no reason why scientific experiments cannot be formulated to prove this to some degree of satisfaction.

    Convergence can be used to prove the value of convergence.

    But bivalent deductive logic cannot be used (on its own) to prove the value of bivalent deductive logic or anything else.

    If we can get a lot of time-saving techniques going with FUZZY LOGIC on the other hand we can combine FUZZY LOGIC and CONVERGENCE to bring a rightful level of certitude to most areas of human knowledge.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:00 pm

  34. “But what do you mean by “natural law”, GMB?”

    Simply the body of theory thats coming from that tradition.

    Since we need law of some sort we must choose not the sort of law that passes a Hume-like test.

    We have to choose the best ideas going. The best ideas going are TRUE AND VALID if none other superior ideas have emerged to replace them.

    To say that something is invalid since it doesn’t pass a sort of Hume-like level of skepticism is ridiculous.

    Since no other theory of law would pass that test either.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:04 pm

  35. GMB
    well done. In comment 33 you have basically recreated Popper. But that still doesn’t address Hume.

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 1:10 pm

  36. DB:
    >But what do you mean by “natural law”, GMB?”
    >Simply the body of theory thats coming from that tradition.

    Well that narrows it down. Not. How about a f’rinstance?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 1:10 pm

  37. GMB:
    >Not any of you here have been able to overcome the absolute power of the critiques that I’ve made.

    GMB, the reason I’m trying to extract some definition of “natural law” from you is because you tend to play ducks and drakes with your terms.

    For example, in our debate over the problem of induction a while back, you started out by defending this definition of induction as “good induction”:

    “…presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past…”

    Unfortunately, a few score comments later you’d done a 180-degree shift, and were suddenly deriding this definition as irrelevant and useless, a kind of trick I was playing on you. At that point, it was pretty clear you didn’t have that great a grip on the subject, to be honest.

    So to save everyone’s time can you make it clear what it is exactly you are defending here?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 1:11 pm

  38. Jason:
    >GMB well done. In comment 33 you have basically recreated Popper

    Yes, we kept pointing this out to him on the induction thread too…;-)

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 1:13 pm

  39. Well thats good that I’ve recreated Popper.

    Because I like to think of him as a really good bloke and likely one of the smartest guys of his generation who just made a howling error about induction.

    No I’ve addressed an refuted Hume provisionally already and don’t bullshit about that.

    I haven’t refuted him under strict bivalent deductive logic criterion. But since this tool on its own is useless its not relevant that I do so.

    I say I’ve refuted him provisionally. But the fact is you haven’t made a case for him.

    This is a continuing and ongoing error in your epistemology. That you judge things in vacuumn.

    Thats a useless way of going about things.

    We need to put up the natural law against the others in more of a grid-like arrangement.

    To see how they compare.

    The better ideas are True and Valid BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BETTER IDEAS.

    Because once you concede that we need some theory of law then they are too be judged not according to some hyper-skeptics-test but only alongside the other ideas of law.

    Now you guys are the ones making these ridiculous claims about Hume.

    But so far you haven’t offered anything.

    I know the technique and I’m not going to fall for it.

    I can shoot down anything you put up and make no mistake about it.

    And on some subconcious level you know this. Which is why you won’t put anything up in the first place.

    So you don’t be asking me about natural law. You don’t be asking me about Hume.

    The fact is you’ve all made these bogus claims.

    So put the various contending arguments UP TOGETHER.

    And then we shall see if your claims have any merit.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:24 pm

  40. I am most definately going to fucking let my undertaking to JC lapse if you keep acting like a fucking prick and continually say that I haven’t refuted Hume…….. WHEN YOU WON’T GO TO BAT FOR HUME.

    Fucking make your case for Hume Jason you evasive bastard!!!!!!!


    Let the record show that Jason Soon is being a dishonest evasive prick.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:28 pm

  41. Hurry up you fucking wanker.


    1. Stop hiding behind Hume.

    2. Go to bat for him so we can see how frivolous the argument is.

    3. Admit I’m right.

    If you tried to invoke their arguments without mentioning their names you’d get shot down.

    Essentially therefore you are just hiding behind dead white guys.

    Make a real argument.

    You see third parties. What happens even if someone is not a dumb-leftist.

    If they hang around too long with dumb-lefitsts they get dumb-leftist bad habits.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:32 pm

  42. GMB:
    >So you don’t be asking me about natural law.

    Well, if you refuse to give any specifics as to what you mean, and just try to coast on fluff like “simply the body of theory thats coming from that tradition” when we already know “natural law” a wide and confusing tradition with multiple variants, all you’re doing is signalling that you don’t really know what you want to argue – you just want to argue!

    Sorry, life’s too short.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 1:32 pm

  43. No fuck you fucking bastard.

    You put something up for a fucking change.

    You guys are the ones making these claims.

    I’m not going through this Pantomime again where you never put any of your ideas up and invoke a totally irrelevant Hume-like-level of proof in an hypocritical way.

    Its bad CHARACTER that keeps these dumb ideas alive.

    Bad Character.

    Since the invocation of Hume-level skepticism can only be used in an hypocritical way.

    You put your ideas up.

    There is no fucking way they pass the slightest commonsense test let alone a Hume-like skeptical hurdle.

    Anyone invoking hypocritically Hume-like skepticism is not only failing in logic.

    They are being a bastard.

    And ought to be given a good caneing for it.

    Its just bad behaviour.

    It not a logical thing to be doing.

    Its just shabby treatment of the other party.

    So fucking stop it.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:40 pm

  44. No Barnes.

    You are being a prick.

    What problems with natural law do not beset other theories of law?

    You guys don’t have a case.

    And Barnes when you fucking lose the argument its good manners to admit it rather then do a runner without making that admission.

    Invocation of Hume-like skepticism is NOT LOGIC.

    Its a character failing.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:43 pm

  45. (fucking stupid bastards. why don’t they just admit i’m right)


    December 16, 2006 at 1:45 pm

  46. And this idea that I’ve been pre-empted in everything I say by Popper.

    Thats bullshit too.

    Just stealing my credit.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:46 pm

  47. Come on Jason.

    Go to bat for Hume.

    Go to bat for Hume or admit I’m right.


    December 16, 2006 at 1:48 pm

  48. GMB
    Helen already explained Hume’s case in the post before. I’ll reproduce it and you refute it. Go!!!

    Much of modern legal positivism (and Hayek’s evolutionary theory) has its origins in a discovery by the Scottish philosopher and natural scientist David Hume [1711–1776]. Put briefly, Hume’s law states that you cannot infer a value from a fact. This is best illustrated by an example:

    1) The human race reproduces itself by bearing children.
    2) Jane is a human being.
    3) Therefore Jane ought to have children, or at least make the attempt.

    I have used this particular example (Hume provides lots more in his writings) because it illustrates the seriousness of the problem for natural law. Much religiously inspired natural law (to take one example) makes a case for non-contraceptive reproduction – one has only to look at the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae [1968] and the writing of John Finnis, arguably the best modern natural lawyer.

    However, unless one believes in a particular, teleological interpretation of the Bible (or Koran, or other holy book, or other defined perspective), then you cannot argue that just because Jane can have children, she therefore should have children. Inference 3 (value) does not follow logically from inferences 1 and 2 (both facts).

    Natural lawyers have been trying to prove Hume wrong ever since he first made the discovery, utterly without success. Since natural law depends so heavily on universal values, the inability to determine them with accuracy (or at all, if Hume is to be believed) makes its task of linking morality to law doubly difficult. This means that Natural law is now stuck with an extremely awkward ‘first premise’ problem. While positivism and evolutionary theory may have weaknesses embedded within their arguments, natural law theory falls at the first hurdle.

    Jason Soon

    December 16, 2006 at 1:50 pm

  49. GMB:
    >And Barnes when you fucking lose the argument its good manners to admit it…

    What argument? You’re just waffling.

    Jason, thanks for reproducing SL’s piece, that was exactly the f’rinstance I was going to offer GMB. Seeing as he can’t come up with any himself.

    He refuses to articulate a general case, and offers no particular examples either. This tends to indicate he ain’t got nuttin’ in the first place.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 2:21 pm

  50. Humanae vitae and the corpus of Catholic doctrine on sex and reproduction don’t insist that any individual “ought to have children, or at least make the attempt.”


    December 16, 2006 at 2:27 pm

  51. Well of course if we are atheists thats going to alter natural law.

    But there is no refutation in natural law there.

    It would merely alter the way you thought about it.

    Once again we go back to the hardcore stupdity of both of you.

    Supposing we get negativist law theory, utilitarian law theory and natural law theory up and compare all three.

    Which of them passes a full spectrum Hume-skepticism test?

    The answer is none of them.

    So so far you guys are just playing silly buggers with all the claims you make.


    December 16, 2006 at 2:30 pm

  52. “He refuses to articulate a general case, and offers no particular examples either. This tends to indicate he ain’t got nuttin’ in the first place.”

    You fucking leftist-projecting piece of filth.

    What is your alternative to natural law?

    You don’t have one?


    The point is you have to compare them to see which is more valid.

    As I’ve already proven.

    This character-flaw (and thats all it is) of invoking Hume-like skepticism has got to stop.

    You’ve got to swear off it.

    Its fucking shabby behaviour.


    December 16, 2006 at 2:33 pm

  53. “He refuses to articulate a general case, and offers no particular examples either. This tends to indicate he ain’t got nuttin’ in the first place.”

    You leftist-projecting piece of filth.

    What is your alternative to natural law?

    Its YOU that refuses to make a case for one.

    The point is you have to compare them to see which is more valid.

    As I’ve already proven.

    This character-flaw (and thats all it is) of invoking Hume-like skepticism has got to stop.

    You’ve got to swear off it.


    December 16, 2006 at 2:36 pm

  54. “Humanae vitae and the corpus of Catholic doctrine on sex and reproduction don’t insist that any individual “ought to have children, or at least make the attempt.”

    You have a rich body of work in natural law theory.

    Now as far as I can see its pretty transparent too unlike the JIVE that Barnes and Soon get up to.

    So as an atheist if I’m reading Aquinas I’m gong to immediately see where I disagree.

    Now it would be just silly of me to reject natural law on the basis of …..

    Ho ho…. Hume has refuted Aquinas….. Ho Ho.

    I see no reason to reject the body of work as a whole since it appears to be open to amendment.

    I would see just-war-theory as being rightly thought of as but of natural law or as an associated subject.

    Now in just war theory we have the idea of an imminent threat.

    Now I wouldn’t reject all of just war theory on the basis that this IMMENINCE business clearly needs a second look at it.

    Its gotten too nasty to leave things for an imminent threat to develop.

    So just war theory stays and we update it or amend it and we keep going.


    But what Jason and Daniel are doing is if they don’t like an idea they just pull the Hume-nuke out.

    But they don’t pull the Hume-nuke out for the ideas that they do like.

    This is not reason its a character-flaw.


    December 16, 2006 at 2:45 pm

  55. As I see it the idea of natural law is really just building up a superstructure of law doctrine….. BASED ON REASON.

    Until someone actually makes a POSITIVE CASE for these other law doctrines I will see the lack of such a positive case as being evidence that they are anti-reason-schools of silly-buggery.

    In constitutional law only originalism appears to be a sound doctrine. And I would see originalism as being in accordance with natural law and with the idea of seperating things into their appropriate categories.

    Its not so much that anti-originalist schools of thought are not as good as originalism.

    Its more that they aren’t any sort of schools of thought at all but merely leftist silly-buggery.

    But since I believe the way we hone in on some level of certitude is through CONVERGENCE some of these schools ought to be able to play a role.

    And certainly utilitarian claims ought to come into some judgements as a moderating influence.

    But as far as I can see the body of doctrine of natural law (and originalism in constitutional law) win out by default.

    Since the other guys won’t make a case.

    It doesn’t matter that originalism or natural law is not fullproof.

    Since we know we need some doctrine of law all that matters is whether it is bested by another doctrine.

    But so far I can barely see that there ARE OTHER DOCTRINES.

    We can surely keep improving on this body of work. But we won’t do it by pulling the Hume-nuke and then running off and saying any damn thing.


    December 16, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: