Celebrating the Work of NDLS Professor John M. Finnis

Author: Charles Williams

John Finnis

Last spring, Oxford University Press published a five-volume collection of essays by Biolchini Family Professor of Law John M. Finnis and a second edition of Finnis’s masterwork, Natural Law and Natural Rights.

To celebrate this remarkable achievement, Professor Gerard Bradley and Notre Dame Law School hosted an all-day conference at the Law School on September 9, 2011.

See event schedule.

The Finnis Conference speakers numbered among the world’s foremost legal philosophers:

Joseph Boyle, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto;
Dean Timothy Endicott, Oxford University;
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton;
The Hon. Neil Gorsuch, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals;
Germain Grisez, the Most Rev. Harry J. Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics, Mount Saint Mary’s;
John Keown, Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown;
Patrick Lee, John N. and Jamie McAleer Chair of Bioethics, Franciscan University of Steubenville;
Rev. Peter Ryan, Professor of Theology, Mount Saint Mary’s.

finnis celebrate story Oxford University Press explains that the Collected Essays of John Finnis brings together 122 papers, including over two dozen previously unpublished works. “Thematically arranged, the volumes provide ready access to his contributions across central areas of modern practical philosophy – the philosophy of practical reason; the philosophy of personal identity and intention; political philosophy; the philosophy of law; and the philosophy of revelation and the role of religion in public life.”

An Oxford publication of this magnitude is a singular honor.

As Princeton’s Professor Robert P. George notes:

“Oxford University Press (OUP) has a more than merely plausible claim to being the most prestigious academic publishing house in the world. Across an extraordinarily wide range of intellectual disciplines, OUP publishes books by scholars of the highest standing. There is no academic writer in any field for whom a book contract with OUP is anything less than a high honor.

“In philosophy of law, OUP is simply peerless. It has published important works by almost all of the leading thinkers in the field, including H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz, Neil McCormick, Jeremy Waldron, and John Finnis.

“OUP has now honored Professor Finnis in a remarkable way. It has published in five volumes his collected writings in philosophy of law, political philosophy, ethics, action theory, and religion. And it has done this while publishing a second edition of Finnis’s masterwork, Natural Law and Natural Rights.

“Such a decision by a publisher as eminent as Oxford University Press testifies powerfully to the originality, importance, and influence of John Finnis’s work, and to the esteem in which he is held by his academic peers. Needless to say, Finnis has won this esteem by the force of his intellect and the power of his arguments, and not by validating or reinforcing prevailing academic orthodoxies. Indeed, at every level Finnis’s work challenges and undermines such orthodoxies.

“It is fair to say that within the academy, Finnis has truly “comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.” On issue after issue, whether the question is methodological, metaphysical, empirical, or ethical, he has challenged—-and often unnerved—-the establishment. His courage and devotion to truth have inspired not only those of us who have had the honor formally to study with him, but also the thousands upon thousands of people who, having benefited enormously from his writings, regard themselves as “Finnis students” secundum quid.