Mirror of Justice

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

John Finnis on the Pope's address to the German Parliament

For an interesting interview with my colleague and rock-star jurisprude John Finnis, go here.  A bit:

. . . I would say that true human freedom (as St Thomas says on the first page of his great treatment of morality) is the freedom of an image of God – one who has freedom of choice and exercises it in line with goods that are truly fulfilling – fulfilling for individuals and for the friendships and wider societies in which they find so much of their fulfilment. As Augustine says, just before the passage the Pope quoted – and here the saint is transmitting the philosophical tradition established by Plato and carried forward by Aristotle – the life of an individual who gives in to cupiditas is a life of enslavement to anxiety, insecurity, unslakeable lusts, and so forth. No true freedom that way. Nor by any “existentialist” “self-determination” by which one might seek to recreate oneself as a quasi-Nietzschean master, free from the constraints of human equality and justice.  Perhaps also related to the Pope’s thought in these sentences is this: any manipulation of human nature, for example, by non-therapeutic genetic modification, makes the products of that manipulation the slaves of the manipulators, even if the latter were benevolently motivated.

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I am sure there will soon be independent posts about yesterday's fantastic Scarpa conference celebrating the work of John Finnis. One of the many interesting moments of the conference came early on in the day when John Finnis asked Patrick Brennan about his (Brennan's) reaction to Pope Benedict's Bundestag address. The question was posed in response to Professor Brennan's suggestion about the appropriate role of divine positive law in ordering a state's human positive law under certain circumstances. Perhaps someone who was there with a closer recollection of the exchange can pass along the details.

Posted by: Kevin C. Walsh | Oct 1, 2011 3:35:55 PM