Notre Dame hosts internationally renowned philosopher and scholar

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 12-6-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



The contemporary arguments for liberal immigration laws were challenged by world renowned scholar Professor John Finnis during a lecture at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle Campus recently.

The Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at the University College, Oxford, has taught law at a number of universities including the University of Notre Dame (Indiana) Law School where he has the title of Biolchini Family Professor of Law. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University in 2011.

Professor Finnis lecture addressed the preconditions of philosophy and law and how they formed the basis for immigration theories and policy.

Members of the Western Australian judiciary, legal professionals and academics, Notre Dame staff and students gathered with members of the community for the public lecture titled: Law, Philosophy and Immigration Policy.

Professor Finnis’ lecture also touched on the moral principles which he suggested should be ratified and enforced as part of every legal system and the rationale for ‘trust’ to be used as a platform for building reciprocal relationships with non-native born migrants.

“Trust is an essential precondition for law,” Professor Finnis said.

“The reason for compliance by all is the great benefits made possible by a rule of law – protection of the rights of all who are vulnerable to crime, piracy and invasion; support of the marital enterprise of transmitting life, virtue and culture; and enhanced prosperity.”

Professor Finnis challenged concepts and sentiments from both sides of the immigration debate in Australia which have been extensively raised by authors and other academics in a variety of fields. He called for a more “reasonable and virtuous approach” towards this issue which would allow immigrants to live free from harm in a non-native community.

Following the lecture, Professor Finnis chaired a lively discussion with members of the audience about national and international immigration and social policies.

Topics such as the importance of recognising Australia’s Indigenous people in the Constitution and the growing use of Sharia Law by the Muslim population in the United Kindgom were raised during the discussion.

In her opening address, Vice Chancellor Professor Celia Hammond said she was delighted to welcome Professor Finnis to Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus.

“Professor Finnis has conducted the whole of his professional life in public; in his teachings, in his writings and in his willingness to defend the positions he has explored,” Professor Hammond said.

“For those of us who haven’t been fortunate enough to have been taught by Professor Finnis, we have none the less had the opportunity to read and study his many written works – all of which have demonstrated his incredible intellect and his groundbreaking thinking in law, bioethics and political philosophy.

“He has shown himself to be one of the finest philosophical and legal minds of his generation.”

In addition to Professor Finnis’ Fremantle lecture, he presented a series of public discussions as part of the Ideas on Broadway lecture series on the Sydney Campus. His visit was hosted by the University’s Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society (CFES).

The CFES aims to promote the study of Catholic intellectual and moral tradition via a focus on faith and ethics and their application and integration into Australian social life.

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