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Reason, Morality, and LawThe Philosophy of John Finnis$
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John Keown and Robert P. George

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199675500

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199675500.001.0001

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Finnis on Legal and Moral Obligation

Finnis on Legal and Moral Obligation

(p.379) 23 Finnis on Legal and Moral Obligation
Reason, Morality, and Law

Maris Köpcke Tinturé

Oxford University Press

This chapter unpacks and evaluates Finnis' intriguing claim that law and legal obligation are ‘isolated’ from moral reasoning. Properly understood, Finnis' idea of law's ‘isolation’ provides a crucial complement to his general argument about the law's moral purpose. It explains the idea of law's ‘isolation’ as a combination of ideas of positivity, ease of identification, determinacy, and conclusiveness. Together, these features render a legal system uniquely capable of carrying out the complex social coordination that is required in order to promote justice in a large human community. It is therefore morally necessary that the law is thus ‘isolated’ from morality — or, put somewhat differently, it is morally necessary that legal validity not primarily turn on moral considerations. The chapter concludes by casting doubt on Finnis' view that the law does not claim to be morally obligatory.

Keywords:   legal obligation, legal validity, coordination, positivity of law, isolation of law, moral claim, determinacy, conclusiveness, identification

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