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Spending some months in mid-1966 teaching in the Law School in Adelaide on his way back to take up the position as Law Fellow of University College Oxford that he was to hold until 2010, Finnis read intensively in the works of Vitoria, Suarez, and later scholastics whose moral theories and accounts of law and obligation were spoiled by their failure to grasp reflectively practical reason’sfirst principles and their normativity.
On returning to Oxford in October 1966, Finnis was asked by Hart to contribute a book to the Clarendon Law Series, a series that Hart founded, edited and made internationally known by his own volume,and encouraged him not to hurry.
The volume’s arrangement tracks that of the five volumes of the It begins, then, with an essay by Joseph Raz on value theory and ends with an essay by Grisez on the proper articulation of the last end and first moral principle, and includes a wide range of philosophical, political, legal and constitutional issues (and two discussions, one by Finnis, of Shakespeare’s ).
Since then, Finnis’s research has begun to look to Vatican II’s teaching on the eye-witness character of the Gospels; to that teaching’s unwarranted abandonment by mainstream biblical scholars professing to teach and write as Catholics; and to the critique of that mainstream being mounted by some mainly French and English-speaking scholars.
My Collaboration with John Finnis by Germain Grisez I first became aware of John Finnis when he sent me a congratulatory note on the publication of my 1970 book, One of the chapters in that book was the fruit of extensive research in law libraries, and I was tremendously pleased to get a favorable nod from an Oxford don and teacher of law. Those six days spent on the were the first of forty-two days we eventually worked together on projects closely related to the Catholic Church’s teaching, including work I was asked to do on the early stages of John Paul II’s encyclical on fundamental moral theology, project, we next worked together from April 16–27, 1979, in John’s office at University College, Oxford, on the major documents of Vatican II.
In 2011 Oxford University Press published in five volumes 106 essays that Finnis had selected from his philosophical and theological papers, published and previously unpublished, along with introductions by him to each of the five volumes.May one of the first two lay members of the International Theological Commission, where during his five years’ membership he was a principal redactor of a never-published Commission project on moral absolutes, the conclusions of which are reflected in John Paul II’s encyclical, (1991) sets forth compactly his understanding of the philosophical and theological grounds for affirming that there are some negative moral norms or precepts that exceptionlessly exclude from deliberation and choice some kinds of action specifiable without other normative moral premises.In preparation for the first volume of Grisez and Finnis spent nearly a fortnight in Oxford reading through virtually all the documents of the Second Vatican Council in Latin, comparing the two principal English translations.C., and Emmitsburg, during which we discussed nuclear deterrence, among other things.
That day was the first of sixty days we eventually spent on publications of which we were co-authors.At the same time, not only the deterrence book but later works of Grisez and Boyle profited from Finnis’s special gifts and skills for identifying relevant data, analyzing texts, and minimizing the ambiguities in important formulations.