John Finnis

John Finnis

Biolchini Family Professor of Law

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

Known for his work in moral, political and legal theory, as well as in constitutional law, John Finnis joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 1995. He earned his LL.B. in 1961 from Adelaide University (Australia) and his doctorate in 1965 from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar at University College Oxford. He was lecturer, then reader and then a chaired professor in law in the University of Oxford for over four decades until 2010, while also a tutorial fellow of University College Oxford. He was associate in law at the University of California at Berkeley (1965-66), the professor of law at the University of Malawi (Africa) (1976-78), and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Boston College Law School (1993-94). A barrister of Gray’s Inn, he practiced from 1979 to 1995 and was appointed Queen's Counsel [QC] (honoris causa) in 2017. Finnis teaches Social, Political and Legal Theory of Thomas Aquinas (Fall semester) and Social, Political and Legal Theory of Shakespeare (1-credit, Spring), and at the London campus Jurisprudence (Spring). 

He is a Fellow of the British Academy (Law and Philosophy sections), was a member of the Philosophy sub-faculty at Oxford, and is an adjunct professor in the Notre Dame Department of Philosophy. He was a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See 1986-91, the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace (1990-95), and the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita (2001-2016).

Courses Taught

LAW73807, Social, Political and Legal Thought of Shakespeare

LAW73809, Social, Political and Legal Thought of Thomas Aquinas

London program: Jurisprudence


Books include:

Judicial Power and the Balance of Our Constitution (London: Policy Exchange, 2018)                               

Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford University Press, 1980, 2nd ed. 2011)

Collected Essays of John Finnis (Oxford University Press, 2011):

  I Reason in Action

  II Intention and Identity

  III Human Rights and Common Good

  IV Philosophy of Law

  V  Religion and Public Reasons

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

Moral Absolutes (CUA Press, 1991)

Fundamentals of Ethics (Oxford University Press; Georgetown University Press, 1983)


Recent publications include: 

Judicial Power and the Balance of Our Constitution (London: Policy Exchange, 2018), including “Judicial Power: Past, Present and Future” (26-61), “Rejoinder [to Comments]” (111-32), “Brexit and the Balance of Our Constitution” (134-56), “Postscript” (157-64)

“Aquinas and Natural Law Jurisprudence”, in Robert P. George and George Duke (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Jurisprudence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 1- 56

“Germain Grisez, Christian Philosopher”, Public Discourse 7 February 2018

“Grounding Human Rights in Natural Law” American Journal of Jurisprudence 60/2 (2015) 199-233; also in Daniel Philpott and Ryan Anderson (eds.), A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), 194- 233

“Subsidiarity’s Roots and History: Some Observations”, American Journal of Jurisprudence 61/1 (2016) 133-41

“Judicial Law-Making and the ‘Living’ Instrumentalisation of the ECHR” in NJ Barber, Richard Ekins and Paul Yowell (eds), Lord Sumption and the Limits of the Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2016), 73-120

“Equality and Religious Liberty: Oppressing Conscientious Diversity in England”, in Timothy Shah. Thomas Farr and Jack Friedmann (eds), Religious Freedom and Gay Rights: Emerging Conflicts in the United States and Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 21-40.

“On Anscombe’s ‘Royal Road’ to True Belief”, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90/2 (2016) 347-68; =  “Body, Soul and Information: on Anscombe’s ‘Royal Road’ to True Belief”, in Luke Gormally, David Jones and Roger Teichman (eds.), The Moral Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe (St Andrews Studies in Philosophy: Imprint Academic, 2016) 263-88.

“Absolute Rights: Some Problems Illustrated”, American Journal of Jurisprudence 61/2 (2016) 195-215

“Truth and Complexity: Notes on Music and Liberalism”, American Journal of Jurisprudence 62/1 (2017) 119-24

“On Moyn’s Christian Human Rights (2015)”, King’s Law Journal 28/1 (2017) 12-20

“Towards Vatican II’s Centenary: Your Next 50 Years” Ave Maria Law Review 14 (2016) 1-18

  “On Realizing the Last Things in Shakespeare” in Elizabeth C Shaw (ed.), Eschatology (Proceedings, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars 17th Annual Convention) (2016), 33-74

“The Misuse of Amoris Laetitia to Support Errors against the Catholic Faith” (with Germain Grisez),