Limited Government

John Finnis

in Human Rights and Common Good

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580071
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729393 | DOI:
Limited Government

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This chapter contains the text of a 1996 essay which predates the author's revised understanding of Aquinas. But it points to other aspects of Aquinas's theory that promote (partly following Aristotle) the idea of morally required limits — of various kinds — on state government and law. One kind of limit is that (concerning killing of the innocent) rejected by Leo Strauss. Section III gives a brief list of the basic human goods, indicating that the political common good as such is not one of them — unlike marriage, which is. The political common good is, in a sense, instrumental. Section IV argues against framing political theory as liberal or non-liberal, and begins the critique, extended into the remaining two sections, of Stephen Macedo's incomplete rejection of state neutrality and espousal, instead, of a requirement of ‘public justifiability’. Natural law theory accepts that requirement, but not the artificial interpretation of it advanced by Rawls and Macedo. The discussion is illustrated by, inter alia, an examination and defence of the classical judgments (Plato, Plutarch, Musonius Rufus) about marriage and anti-marital (inter alia same-sex) practices.

Keywords: Aquinas; Aristotle; Macedo; Rawls; state neutrality; political common good; Plato; Plutarch; Musonius Rufus; same-sex practices

Chapter.  12541 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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