Legal Theory 13 (3-4):187-209 (2007)
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It is often claimed that John Finnis's natural law theory is detachable from the ultimate theistic explanation that he offers in the final chapter of Natural Law and Natural Rights. My aim in this paper is to think through the question of the detachability of Finnis's theistic explanation of the natural law from the remainder of his natural law view, both in Natural Law and Natural Rights and beyond. I argue that Finnis's theistic explanation of the natural law as actually presented can be, without too much strain, treated as largely detachable in the way that his readers have by and large supposed it to be; indeed, Finnis's account as actually presented really amounts to no explanation of the natural law at all, theistic or otherwise, and that fact accounts in part for the ease with which Finnis's natural law view can be detached from theism of that final chapter. Nevertheless, the considerations raised in that chapter militate in favor of a much more thoroughgoing, largely nondetachable theistic account. And it is just such an account that we find Finnis affirming in the development of his views after Natural Law and Natural Rights.



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Mark C. Murphy
Georgetown University

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