My comments in this paper are directed to just one argument, or rather one cluster of arguments, deployed by John Finnis in just three pages of Natural Law and Legal Reasoning. I am referring to Finnis's argument that the goods and bad at stake in legal, moral and political choice are incommensurable, and to the conclusions he draws from this argument. I will argue that while the incommensurability thesis is true, that is so for reasons somewhat different than those Finnis advances (section I); that in its most common form the incommensurability thesis does not in all cases imply the non-decidability thesis (section II); and that Finnis is wrong to conclude that even if rational decision were possible, it would lack moral significance (section III). In section IV, finally, I criticize Finnis's argument for moral absolutes, and draw from this criticism a substantive conclusion about natural law: that it requires redistribution of wealth to aid in social welfare just as surely as it requires enforcement of negative prohibitions against intentional injuries to the interests of others.


Natural Law Symposium: Natural Law and Legal Reasoning

Included in

Legal History Commons