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Finnis' Principle of Practical Reason

 

Explanations > Thinking > Finnis' Principle of Practical Reason

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

Finnis (1983) described a set of rules for reasoning:

  1. Have a harmonious set of orientations, purposes and commitments. Seek to integrate the objectives and commitments and practices involved in and affected by any particular decision.
  2. Do not leave out of account, or arbitrarily discount or exaggerate any of the basic human goods.
  3. Do not arbitrarily discriminate between people.
  4. Do not attribute to any particular project the overriding and unconditional significance which only a basic human good and a general commitment can claim.
  5. Pursue one's general commitments with creativity and do not abandon them lightly.
  6. Employ efficient means to objectives.
  7. Do not overlook the foreseeable bad consequences of your choices. Seek to identify and take responsibility for predictable consequences of any decision on the full roster of well-being dimensions, even if these are unintended.
  8. Do not deliberately harm any dimension of human well-being.
  9. Foster the common good.

Discussion

In these, Finnis provides a framework for rational and moral decisions. Several underlying factors appear that highlight the importance of:

  • Harmony in achieving happiness.
  • Choosing carefully and not taking arbitrary action.
  • Acting with commitment once choices are made.
  • Seeking to do things well.
  • The importance of helping and not harming others.

Finnis works from a principle of 'Natural Law', where it is assumed that there is natural order of things and that finding these and working with them will produce effective results.

So what?

If you can use these rules in thinking and choosing, you may find that you will make better decisions. Likewise, you could use them in facilitating the decisions of others.

See also

Values

 

Finnis, J. (1983). The Fundamentals of Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

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