One provocative but frequently overlooked feature of John Finnis’s natural law theory is its appeal to the normative role of the Aristotelian spoudaios (the mature person of practical reasonableness). Finnis’s account of the basic requirements of practical reasonableness and defense of the methodological device of “focal meaning” both have recourse to Aristotle’s claim that, in ethics and politics, things should be judged in terms of how they appear to the mature practically reasonable person. The current paper examines the normative role played by the spoudaios within Finnis’s natural law theory and provides a defense of that role against the objection that it lacks justificatory force because it is dependent upon circular reasoning. Section one contextualizes Finnis’s use of the spoudaios by considering its Aristotelian origins and also sketches some reasons for its demise in subsequent moral theory. This serves as the basis for an assessment in section two of whether Finnis’s employment of the spoudaios as an ethical exemplar conflates explanation and justification, and therefore culminates in decisionism. The conclusion of the paper is that Finnis’s recourse to the spoudaios is not viciously circular, because it is grounded in the reflexive and dialogical mode of justification proper to ethical enquiry.
Field of Research
220204 History and Philosophy of Law and Justice 180122 Legal Theory, Jurisprudence and Legal Interpretation
Socio Economic Objective
970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
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