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Philosophy 3013E

THURSDAY 1:30 - 4:30 PM
St. Peter’s Seminary, Room 108

519-432-1824, ext. 205

Office Hours: St. Peter’s Seminary, Room 230 on Wednesday 11:00 A.M.—12:00 P.M., Thursday 11:00 A.M.—12:00 P.M. or by appointment.


An advanced course in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas for those already familiar with his thought, focusing specifically on Aquinas’s natural law theory as interpreted by Germain Grisez and John Finnis. The course comprises four parts: (1) a study of the of the key Thomistic texts on morality and the natural law; (2) an in-depth examination of the Grisez/Finnis revision of Thomistic natural law theory; (3) a study of the application of the Grisez/Finnis theory to selected moral problems; and (4) a survey of some important criticisms of Grisez and Finnis by contemporary Thomist philosophers. Antirequisite: the former Philosophy 173. Prerequisite: Philosophy 2014.


This course will assist students to grow in the following knowledge, skills and attitudes.

What Should Students Know:
- To understand St. Thomas Aquinas’s natural theory as interpreted by contemporary Thomist philosophers

What Should Students Do:
- To demonstrate a grasp of philosophical method in and outside of the classroom.
- To argue effectively for philosophical positions.
- To write essays which are stylistically and grammatically correct.
- To express ideas clearly and concisely.

What Students Should Value:
- To participate in philosophical discussions in a civil and non-coercive manner, respecting others even though disagreeing with their ideas.


First Semester

Two Exams

(1) Thursday, October 13
(2) Thursday, November 17

One Essay (2000 words), due Thursday, December 1

Second Semester

Two Exams

(1) Thursday, February 9
(2) Thursday, March 8

One Essay (2000 words), due Thursday, March 29

Final Exam: Held on a date in April to be set by the University


Four Exams 40%
Two Essays 30%
Final Exam 30%


The Natural Law Theory of St. Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas, Thomas. Aquinas Selected Political Writings. Edited with an introduction by A. P. D'Entrèves. Translated by J. G. Dawson. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1954.

Aquinas. Selected Writings. Translated by Ralph McInerny. New York: Penquin Books, 1998.

The Grisez/Finnis Theory and Its Applications

Finnis, John. Aquinas: Moral, Political, and Legal Theory. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

_____. “The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations: Some

Philosophical and Historical Observations.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 42 (1997): 97-134.

_____. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.

_____. “Natural Law and Unnatural Acts.” Heythrop Journal 11:365-87.

_____. and Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., Germain Grisez. Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism. Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.

_____. “The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion.” In The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion edited by Marshall Cohen, Thomas Nagel, and Thomas Scanlon. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press,1974.

Grisez, Germain. “Against Consequentialism.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 23 (1978): 21-72.

_____. Contraception and the Natural Law. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1964.

_____.“The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae, Question 94, Article 2.” Natural Law Forum 10 (1965): 168-201.

_____ and Joseph Boyle Life and Death with Liberty and Justice. Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame University Press, 1979.

_____, Joseph Boyle and John Finnis. “Practical Principles, Moral Truth, and Ultimate Ends.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 32 (1987): 99-151.

_____. “Practical Reasoning and Christian Faith.” in Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 58 (1984):2-14.

_____. “Toward a Consistent Natural Law Ethics of Killing.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 15 (1970): 64-96.

_____. The Way of the Lord Jesus, Vol. 1-3. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983.

Criticisms of the Grisez/Finnis Theory

Dewan O.P., Lawrence. “St. Thomas, John Finnis, and the Political Good.” 64 Thomist  (2000): 337-374.

Grisez, Germain and John Finnis. “The Basic Principles of Natural Law: A Reply to Ralph McInerny.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 26 (1981):21-31.

Hittinger, Russell. A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987.

McInerney, Ralph. “The Principles of Natural Law.” The American Journal of Jurisprudence 25 (1980):1-15.


Biggar Nigel and Black Rufus. (eds.) The Revival of Natural Law: Philosophical, Theological, and Ethical Responses to the Finnis-Grisez School Aldershot, Hants,
England ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2000.

Black, Rufus. Christian Moral Realism: Natural Law, Narrative, Virtue, and the Gospel. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Di Blasi, Fulvio. God and the Natural Law: A Rereading of Thomas Aquinas (trans. by David Thunder) St Augustine’s Press, 2006.

Finnis, John. Fundamentals of Ethics. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press,1980.

_____. “Human(s) and Practical Reasoning.” In Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 58 (1984): 23-36.

_____. Moral Absolutes : Tradition, Revision, and Truth.Washington, D.C. : Catholic University of America Press, 1991.

George, Robert P. (ed.) Natural Law and Moral Inquiry: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Politics in the Work of Germain Grisez. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University
Press, 1998.

All of the required texts are on reserve at the SPS Library. Finnis’s Natural Law and Natural Rights you may purchase at the UWO Bookstore.


1. The Natural Law Theory of St. Thomas Aquinas

Readings from: Aquinas (Selected Writings [#s 12, 21-24]) & Aquinas (Selected Political Writings, pp. 97-199).

2. The Grisez/Finnis Interpretation of Aquinas’s Natural Law Theory

Readings from: Grisez (Contraception and the Natural Law [Chaps. 2&3], “The First Principle of Practical Reason,” [with Boyle & Finnis] “Practical Principles, Moral Truth, and Ultimate Ends,” “Against Consequentialism,” The Way of the Lord Jesus Vol. 1 [selected chapters) & Finnis (Natural Law and Natural Rights [Chaps. 2-6, 12, &13 ] & Aquinas [Chaps 3, 4, & 5])

3. Applications of the Grisez/Finnis Theory

Readings from: Finnis (“Natural law and Unnatural Acts,” “The Good of Marriage and the Morality of Sexual Relations,” “The Rights and Wrongs of Abortion,” [with Boyle & Grisez] Nuclear Deterrence, Morality, and Realism [Chaps. 10 & 11] & Grisez (Contraception and the Natural Law [Chaps. 2 ], [with Boyle] Life and Death with Liberty and Justice [Chaps 10 & 11], “Toward a Consistent Natural Law Ethics of Killing” & The Way of the Lord Jesus. Vol.3 [selected chapters]

4. Criticisms of the Grisez/Finnis Theory

Readings from: Dewan O.P., Lawrence. (“St. Thomas, John Finnis, and the Political Good”), Grisez & Finnis (“The Basic Principles of Natural Law: A Reply to
Ralph McInerny”), Hittinger, Russell (A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory [selected chapters]), McInerney, Ralph (“The Principles of Natural Law”)


Instructions on how to prepare and write assignments will be provided early in September.

Assignments must be submitted in print and electronically. The submission is not complete until the instructor has received the assignment in both formats.

Assignments are due on the dates specified in the course outline. One mark will be deducted from the assigned numerical grade for each calendar day late. The late penalty may be waived at the instructor’s discretion. It is the student’s responsibility to approach the instructor and explain the extenuating circumstances that warrant a waiver of the late penalty.

Students must keep for their records a printed copy of each of their assignments. In the event an assignment is misplaced, he or she will be required to submit this copy to the instructor.


A student who fails to write an exam must approach the instructor and explain why he or she was not present at the exam. Depending upon the instructor’s discretion, a make-up exam may be granted. If that is not possible, the term grade may be re-weighed. If documentation is required for either medical or non-medical academic accommodation, then such documentation must be submitted by the student directly to the appropriate Faculty Dean’s Office. It will be the Dean’s Office that will determine if accommodation is warranted.

No electronic devices will be allowed during examinations unless approved in advance by Student Services at the University or King’s.


Please see:


“Unless you have either the requisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you will be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.” Senate Policy


“Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea, or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt both by using quotation marks where appropriate and by proper referencing such as footnotes or citations. Plagiarism is a major academic offence.” Please refer to Scholastic Discipline under the Senate Policy on Academic rights and Responsibilities at

“All required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of plagiarism. All papers submitted will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and (link to website:”