Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jon F. Garthoff

Committee Members

Adam S. Cureton, Allen R. Dunn, David A. Reidy


My thesis defends a natural law understanding of Marx against the view that Marxist social science theory is a value-free project incompatible with justice and morality. This defense has two aspects. The first aspect regards the substantive contents of Marx’s notion of justice. The second aspect regards the methodology of social science. My arguments of both of the above two aspects are grounded in the natural law tradition, especially in the light of John Finnis’s natural law theory of law.In terms of the methodology of social science, Finnis endorses a the method of first person ideal-type description in descripting legal phenomenon. Such a method distinguishes the focal cases of law from the marginal cases of law according to whether they embody or deviate from the ideal-type of law. The ideal-type of law, on the one hand, is defined by a set of first principles of natural law, which refer to a list of seven basic goods and nine requirements of the practical reasonableness. On the other hand, the description of legal phenomenon presumes that the human beings are practical agents who not only aim at the good, but have a self-understanding of themselves as practical agents as such.In terms of the substantive aspect, Finnis identifies the rational foundation of law with the nature of human beings as persons in community. As persons in community, all individuals’ well-being is inherently dependent on the thriving of the community; yet the thriving of the community is also dependent on free development of personality of all individuals. Persons and the community are two essential and integrated parts of the common good, which itself is a constituent part of the well-being of an individual. Law and justice are understood by Finnis as the requirements of the common good in specific social and historical conditions. My work aims to show that both the Finnisian methodology of social science and his natural law understanding of justice is shared by Marx. Eventually, a liberal egalitarian theory of justice can be plausibly established.

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