ALPSA invites everyone to attend the second seminar for 2018 to be held on Wednesday 18 April. We are pleased to welcome Professor Jonathan Crowe to discuss Natural Law for the 21st Century. Once again, refreshments will be provided at the conclusion of the seminar along with the chance for networking and discussion.

Natural law is often presented as if it were (in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes) a ‘brooding omnipresence in the sky’—a set of timeless, unchanging principles imposed on humans from above. The leading contemporary natural law theorist, John Finnis, does little to dispel this perception. Finnis’s account of natural law is based on a set of basic goods that are ‘self-evident’, ‘indemonstrable’ and ‘underived’, along with a collection of principles of practical reasoning that are analogous to mathematical principles and therefore ‘have no history’. (Conveniently, these timeless principles just happen to support Finnis’s highly conservative Catholic worldview.) In this talk, Professor Crowe presents an alternative vision of natural law that draws on insights from contemporary philosophy, psychology and social theory. He argues that natural law is objective and normative, but nonetheless historically extended, socially embodied and dependent on contingent facts about human nature. Principles of natural law do not arise out of nowhere, but reflect the ongoing human quest to work out how best to live flourishing, fulfilling lives given the nature we have and the social environments we inhabit. This view of natural law offers significant explanatory advantages over Finnis’s theory—as well as over leading contemporary versions of legal positivism.

Jonathan Crowe is Professor of Law at Bond University and the President of the Australasian Society of Legal Philosophy ( He has published numerous books and articles exploring the philosophical relationship between law and ethics. A selection of his work can be accessed online at


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