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The Aristotelian spoudaios as ethical exemplar in Finnis’s natural law theory
journal contributionposted on 2013-12-01, 00:00 authored by George DukeGeorge Duke
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.