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IS-OUGHT: PRESCRIBING AND A PRESENT CONTROVERSY* SINCE THE PUBLICATION of John Finnis"'s Natural Law and Natural Rights,1 a controversy concerning the position of Aquinas on the " is-ought " question has intensified. Finnis follows Germain Grisez's stance, which sharply divides the realms of "is" and "ought", as will be explained below. Grisez articulated his views in his 1965 article "The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae, 1-2, Question 94, Article 2 ".2 Recently Grisez reaffirmed his adherence to the position expressed in that commentary and indicated that he and Finnis agree on the issues discussed in it.3 In the opposing camp are well-known interpreters of Aquinas such as Vernon Bourke,4 Ralph Mclnerny,5 and Henry Veatch.6 * I should like to express my gratitude to Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, for the faculty fellowship that made possible the research for this paper. I also wish to thank the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto for access to its library throughout the summer of 1983. 10xford: Clarendon Press, 1980; hereafter NLNR. 2Natural Law Forum 10 (1965), pp. 168-201; hereafter FPPR. In his book Finnis acknowledges his indebtedness to Grisez on pp. vii and 53. a" The Basic Principles of Natural Law: A Reply to Ralph Mcinerny," John Finnis and Germain Grisez, American Journal of Jurisprudence 26 (1981) ; pp. 21-31; hereafter Reply to Mcinerny. In his article "Natural Law and the 'Is'-' Ought' Question: An Invitation to Professor Veatch" (Catholic Lawyer, vol. 26, no. 4, 1981) Finnis reiterates and develops points made in his book. This article will be referred to in subsequent footnotes as Response to Veatch. 4 Review of NLNR, American Journal of Jurisprudence 26 (1981), pp. 24347 ; hereafter Bourke's review; "Justice as Equitable Reciprocity: Aquinas Updated," American Journal of Jurisprudence 27 (1982), pp. 17-31; hereafter Bourke on justice. s "The Principles of Natural Law," American Journal of Jurisprudence 25 (1980), pp. 1-15; hereafter Mcinerny. 6Review of NLNR, American Journal of Jurisprudence 26 (1981), pp. 247-59; hereafter Veatch's review; "Natural Law and the 'Is'-'Oµ~ht' 1 JANICE L. SCHULTZ All three criticize the Grisez-Finnis position for failing to ground adequately ethics in metaphysics, and for holding that Aquinas did the same. Bourke, for example, says that " Finnis' approach to ... natural law ... [reveals] his lack of interest in realistic meta.physics. Because he is too much impressed with Hume's version of the relation of 'is ' and ' ought', Finnis does not pay enough attention to the realities of the world in which man lives ..." 7 In criticizing Grisez's exposition of Aquinas's ethics, Bourke states "....Grisez's ethics is too far divorced from Aquinas's general metaphysics and philosophy of man." 8 Similarly, Ualph Mcinerny takes issue with Grisez's "insistence that no transition from is to ought, from fact to value is going on in natural law ".9 Most overtly distressed is Henry Veatch, who attributes to Finnis the position that, in truth as well as according to Aquinas, ethics need not be based on metaphysics, that the norms of human existence are not founded on the facts of human nature.10 Veatch dubs this stance, which he ascribes also to Grisez, a." canker" on Finnis's otherwise excellent account,11 which establishes a wall of separation that provides support for an ethics of mere convention.12 Of course Bourke, Mcinerny, and Veatch take issue with Grisez and Finnis on a variety of points; in so doing, they reveal Question," Catholic Lawyer, vol. 26, no. 4 (1981), pp. 251-65; hereafter NLIOQ. The aoove citations are not intended to be exhaustive. Furthermore, there are other authors on both sides. Some, such as Joseph M. Boyle, explicitly adopt Grisez's position (e.g., " Aquinas and Prescriptive Ethics," Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 49, 1975, esp. pp. 86 ff.) Obviously, depending upon how one identifies the points of disagreement , there are an enormous number of other authors who fit into one camp or the other. 7 Bourke on justice, pp. 23-24. s Bourke's review, p. 244. In both articles cited here Bourke notes Finnis's...

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ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 1-23
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-15
Open Access
No
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