Practical Reason's Foundations

John Finnis

in Reason in Action

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580057
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729379 | DOI:
Practical Reason's Foundations

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Law's sources, by reference to which the correctness (validity) of propositions of law is assessed in this chapter, include not only ‘social facts’ such as enactment but also many ‘principles of interpretation’ which look to content-based considerations — requirements of humanly appropriate behaviour. So understanding law, and specific laws, requires reference (direct or indirect) to human goods and harms, and to the various derivability of laws from first principles of practical reason (ableness). Hume's challenge to the primacy of such first principles — his claim that reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions — is here confronted, with the aid of Christine Korsgaard's critique. That critique's inadequacy is then shown, as a claim once advanced (but since substantially withdrawn) by Terence Irwin, that Aquinas contradicts himself about whether prudentia (phronêsis, practical reasonableness) concerns ultimate ends or only means. The chapter argues finally that first practical principles are transparent for the persons who can flourish in the kinds of ways to which those principles direct us; and shows the non-Humean sense in Shakespeare's dictum: ‘Love hath Reason, Reason none...’.

Keywords: sources of law; principles of interpretation; slave of the passions; Hume; Korsgaard; Terence Irwin; ultimate ends; Shakespeare

Chapter.  10875 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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