Though officially retired from his former Oxford posts, John Finnis continues to give seminars and to supervise research students in the Faculty as an Emeritus Professor. And in his writing, a new milestone was marked this spring as Oxford University Press published The Collected Essays of John Finnis: Volumes I–V, as well as a second edition of Natural Law and Natural Rights.
The Collected Essays cover philosophy, bioethics, theology, history, law and other fields, and include almost two dozen previously unpublished works. The range of scholarship represented in the 106 essays, drawn from a wide variety of sources, may surprise readers who know Finnis only through his jurisprudential writings and even those acquainted with his wider work. He studies personal identity in Shakespeare and conscience in Newman, contends with Peter Singer on brain death and Nietzsche on punishment, addresses moral and political issues from nuclear deterrence to artificial reproduction, and engages many of the most significant thinkers of his day and ages past. The reach of the volumes, each with a newly written introduction elaborating its theme, is indicated by the individual titles: Reason in Action; Intention and Identity; Human Rights and Common Good; Philosophy of Law; and Religion and Public Reasons.
Published first in 1980, Natural Law and Natural Rights revived and developed the classical natural law tradition, and helped shape the study of jurisprudence in Oxford and beyond. The new edition preserves the original text, adding a 65-page postscript on points where Finnis sees need for amendment or supplementation.
The cover art of the new publications depicts scenes of colonial Australia taken from a gallery in Finnis’s native Adelaide, which is fitting because the volumes both record the remarkable scholarly journey that began when Finnis embarked in 1962 to study in Oxford under HLA Hart, and sketch the vista that lies ahead.