Philosophy of Law: Introduction


20 Pages Posted: 24 May 2011 Last revised: 19 Aug 2011

See all articles by John Finnis

John Finnis

Notre Dame Law School; University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 25, 2011


This Introduction to my 'Philosophy of Law: Collected Essays Volume IV' (Oxford University Press 2011), published in the United Kingdom in early April, and in the United States in early May 2011, introduces the volume’s 22 published and unpublished essays, and follows the volume’s division into four Parts: Foundations of Law’s Authority; Theories and Theorists of Law; Legal Reasoning; and the Two Senses of “Legal System.” The first half of the Introduction is, in effect, a brief new essay on the foundations of the positivity of positive law, revisiting issues taken up in chapter I of Natural Law and Natural Rights and issues involved in the so-called sources thesis and in the labeling of theories as “positivist.” Later parts of the Introduction indicate some patterns emergent in the volume’s many essays on particular theorists and theories; review the bearing of the “one-right answer” thesis on legal reasoning and some prime examples of judicial misreasoning; and the relation of the idea of “legal system” to issues around the emergence of independent states in the British Empire, and around Britain’s absorption into and subjection to the European Union. The Introduction, like the volume, intersects with the Introductions to, and contents of, each of the other volumes in the five-volume set, which is published just before the second edition of Natural Law and Natural Rights, reformatted to accompany the set and incorporating a 65-page Postscript. The Collected Essays are I Reason in Action, II Intention and Identity, III Human Rights and Common Good, IV Philosophy of Law, V Religion and Public Reasons. Each volume includes the index for the set, and the author’s bibliography.

Keywords: philosophy of law, moral and political philosophy, theology, religious ethics, Catholic Church

Suggested Citation

Finnis, John M., Philosophy of Law: Introduction (February 25, 2011). John M. Finnis, PHILOSOPHY OF LAW: COLLECTED ESSAYS VOLUME IV, Oxford: OUP, 2011, Available at SSRN:

John M. Finnis (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

University College
High Street
Oxford, England OX1 4BH
United Kingdom

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