John Finnis on natural law

Finnis thinks that valuing certain ends or objectives is inevitable, since otherwise it would be impossible to identify descriptive features of the thing in question, so his argument is that reference to goals/normativity is necessary to even understand descriptive phenomena.

Natural law principles have no history—they are ahistorical in the sense that the origins/political consequences are completely irrelevant to his inquiry. He does not set out to provide an account about natural law theory, but rather intends to demonstrate the existence and content of natural law.

The seven basic values identified by Finnis are: life (and health), knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, sociability, practical reasonableness, and religion.

Is there a possible feminist critique of Finnis’ approach? The only way to claim that these goods are male-centered is really to say that had Finnis been a woman (per impossible), then he would have chosen different goods, and so what he includes reflects a male-centered perspective. The criticism of elitism, however, is more substantive for the reason of economics—those in the lower range of society hardly have a chance to pursue the basic goods in the same way as economic elites would. The goods are geared towards someone with time, autonomy, and resources.

Practical reasonableness structures our pursuit of goods, ensures a coherent plan of life, ensures no arbitrary preferences among values, ensures no arbitrary preferences among persons, watches detachment and commitment, efficiency within reason, respect for every basic value in every act, requirements of the common good, following one’s conscience, morality, etc.