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What Good is Truth?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2015

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Extract

In the course of evolving an extensive theory of natural law, John Finnis declares that certain goods are self-evident. Among these basic values, the good of knowledge lends itself to a special argument—an argument directed against people who assail the ranking of knowledge as a good. Finnis maintains that anyone who seriously denies the goodness of truth or knowledge must contradict herself flagrantly in the act of putting forth her position. Skeptics therefore exclude themselves from participating genuinely in a debate over truth’s value. Although their self-disqualification never tout seul establishes the goodness of knowledge, it “should persuade the sceptic[s] to cut short idle doubting” (NLNR at 75; see also “Scepticism” at 267). Or so Finnis believes.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 1992

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References

I wish to thank Richard Bronaugh for his extremely helpful advice, almost all of which I have heeded.

1. The two main texts that advance this argument are Finnis, JohnScepticism, Self-Refutation, and the Good of Truth” in Hacker, P. & Raz, J. eds, Law, Morality, and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) at 246–67Google Scholar [hereinafter cited as “Scepticism”]; and Finnis, John Natural Law and Natural Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980),Google Scholar c. III [hereinafter cited as NLNR]. Finnis does not add to this particular strand of argument in Fundamentals of Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983) [hereinafter cited as FE], I should remark here that I felt it strongly advisable to write a critique of Finnis after I read Costas Douzinas and Ronnie Warrington, Postmodern Jurisprudence (London: Routledge, 1991). I feared that the ineptitude of the chapter on Finnis by Douzinas and Warrington might give undue credibility to Finnis’s own stance.

2. As Shakespeare, has Autolycus say: “Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance” (The Winter’s Tale, 4. iv. 712–13).Google Scholar

3. I here develop a point made well though tersely in Nigel Simmonds, Central Issues in Jurisprudence(London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1986) at 66.

4. The bracketed words are Finnis’s, here and elsewhere. (1) omitted.

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