John M. Finnis

Biolchini Family Professor of Law

Office: 2117 Eck Hall of Law
Phone: 574.631.5989
Fax: 574.631.4197
Staff Assistant: Tracy Zielke
CV: View
SSRN: View

To read the paper "From the Heart Come Forth Words and Deeds that Defile," click here.

Known for his work in moral, political and legal theory, as well as constitutional law, John Finnis joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 1995. He earned his LL.B. from Adelaide University (Australia) in 1961 and his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 1965. At The University of Oxford he held the positions of lecturer, reader and a chaired professor in law for over four decades until 2010. In addition, he served as associate in law at the University of California at Berkeley (1965-66), as professor of law at the University of Malawi (Africa) (1976-78), and as the Huber Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the Boston College Law School (1993-94). He is admitted to the English Bar (Gray’s Inn), and in 2017 was appointed Queen's Counsel [QC] (_honoris causa_).

Finnis teaches courses in Jurisprudence, in the Social, Political and Legal Theory of Thomas Aquinas and in the Social, Political and Legal Theory of Shakespeare.

His service has included the Linacre [now the Anscombe] Centre for Health Care Ethics (governor since 1981), the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee on Bioethical Issues (1981-88), the International Theological Commission (1986-92), the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1990-95), and the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita (2001-2016). He has published widely in law, legal theory, moral and political philosophy, moral theology, and the history of the late Elizabethan era. He is an adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Notre Dame.

Courses Taught

LAW73807, Social, Political and Legal Thought of Shakespeare
LAW73809, Social, Political and Legal Thought of Thomas Aquinas

London program: Jurisprudence


Recent publications include:

Review Essay: [Anscombe’s Essays], National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 9 (2009) 199-207.

Marriage: A Basic and Exigent Good, The Monist 91 (2008) 396-414.

Reason, Revelation, Universality and Particularity in Ethics, American Journal of Jurisprudence 53 (2008) 23-48

Grounds of Law and Legal Theory: A Response, 13 Legal Theory (2008) 315-344.

On Hart's Ways: Law as Reason and as Fact, 52 American Journal of Jurisprudence 25-53 (2007).

Nationality, Alienage and Constitutional Principle, 123 Law Quarterly Review (July 2007) 417-445.

On the Incoherence of Legal Positivism Notre Dame Law Review 75 (2000) 1597-1611.

Natural Law: The Classical Tradition€, in Jules Coleman and Scott Shapiro, The Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law (Oxford University Press, March 2002), 1-60.

Aquinas on jus and Hart on Rights: A Response€, Review of Politics 64 (2002) 407-10

€œLaw and What I Truly Should Decide, American Journal of Jurisprudence 48 (2003)

€œHelping Enact Unjust Laws without Complicity in Injustice, American Journal of Jurisprudence 49 (2004) 11-42

"The Thing I am": Personal Identity in Aquinas and Shakespeare€, Social Philosophy & Policy 22 (2005) 250-282; also in Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred. D. Miller & Jeffrey Paul (eds.), Personal Identity (Cambridge & New York, Cambridge U.P, 2005), 250-282.

"€œRetribution: Punishment's Formative Aim"€ The American Journal of Jurisprudence 44 (2000) 91-103.

"Shakespeare'€™s Intercession for Love's Martyr"€, Times Literary Supplement, no. 5220, April 18, 2003, 12-14


NATURAL LAW & NATURAL RIGHTS (Oxford, 2d ed. 2011).

REASON IN ACTION: COLLECTED ESSAYS, VOL. I (Oxford University Press 2011).


HUMAN RIGHTS & COMMON GOOD: COLLECTED ESSAYS, Vol. III (Oxford University Press 2011).

Philosophy of Law: COLLECTED ESSAYS, VOL. IV (Oxford University Press 2011).

RELIGION & PUBLIC REASONS: COLLECTED ESSAYS, Vol. V (Oxford University Press 2011).

Aquinas: Moral, Political and Legal Theory (Oxford University Press 1998).

Moral Absolutes: Tradition, Revision and Truth (Catholic University of America Press 1991).

Ed., Natural Law, 2 vols. (New York University Press 1991).

Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism, with J. M. Boyle Jr. and G. Grisez (Oxford University Press 1987).

Fundamentals of Ethics (Georgetown University Press and Oxford University Press 1983).

Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford University Press 1980; 9th impression. 1997).

Book Segments

Telling the Truth about God and Man in a Pluralist Society: Economy or Explication? in Christopher Wolfe (ed.), The Naked Public Square Reconsidered: Religion and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2009), 103-115 & 195-200.

Discriminating between Faiths: A Case of Extreme Speech?, in Hare and McNeil (eds.), Extreme Speech and Democracy: (Oxford University Press 2009) 430-441.

John Finnis, Restricting Legalised Abortion is Not Intrinsically Unjust, in COOPERATION, COMPLICITY AND CONSCIENCE: PROBLEMS IN HEALTHCARE, SCIENCE, LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY 232 (Helen Watt ed., 2005).

John Finnis, A Vote Decisive for... a More Restrictive Law, in COOPERATION, COMPLICITY AND CONSCIENCE: PROBLEMS IN HEALTHCARE, SCIENCE, LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY 269 (Helen Watt ed., 2005).

Intention in Tort Law, in Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law 229 (David Owen ed., Oxford 1995).

Natural Law and Legal Reasoning, in Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays 134 (Robert P. George ed., Clarendon 1992).

Intention and Side-Effects, in Liability and Responsibility: Essays in Law and Morals 32 (R. Frey and C. Morris eds., Cambridge University Press 1991).

Commonwealth and Dependencies, in 6 Halsbury's Laws of England 315 (Butterworth 4th ed. 1974 and annual supplements); complete revision in 6 Halsbury'€™s Laws of England 345 (1991).

Revolutions and Continuity of Law, in Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence: Second Series 44 (Simpson ed., Oxford 1971).


Allocating Risks and Suffering: Some Hidden Traps, 38 Cleveland State Law Review 193 (1990).

Legal Enforcement of "Duties to Oneself": Kant v. Neo-Kantians, 87 Columbia Law Review 433 (1987).

On Reason and Authority in Law'€™s Empire, 6 Law & Philosophy 357 (1987).

On "The Critical Legal Studies Movement," 30 American Journal of Jurisprudence 21 (1985); also in Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence: Third Series 145 (Bell and Eekelaar eds., Oxford 1987).

The Authority of Law in the Predicament of Contemporary Social Theory, 1 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 115 (1984).

Reason and Passion: The Constitutional Dialectic of Free Speech and Obscenity, 116 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 222 (1967).

Areas of Expertise

  • British Commonwealth Constitutional Law
  • Euthanasia
  • Jurisprudence
  • Shakespeare: Law & Politics

In the News

In Defense of Professor Kenneth Howell, (Quotes: John Finnis) July 16, 2010