Philosophers Explain Gorsuch’s Philosophy


Judge for the Tenth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University, having written a thesis for his D. Phil under the supervision of John Finnis, known for his defense of “natural law” theory. 

What does Gorsuch’s philosophical background tell us about the kind of Supreme Court judge he would be? Two philosophers have recently taken up that question: J. Paul Kelleher (University of Wisconsin, Madison) at Voxand Gerald Dworkin (UC Davis) at New Rambler Review.

In “Neil Gorsuch’s ‘natural law’ philosophy is a long way from Justice Scalia’s originalism,” Professor Kelleher distinguishes between varieties of natural law theory, explains which Gorsuch endorses, and its implications for his judging. Kelleher argues that Gorsuch’s legal approach makes his “views about morality fair game during his confirmation hearings,” and suggests some questions for senators to ask him.

In “No Exit,” Professor Dworkin takes a close look at The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, the book version of Gorsuch’s thesis. Dworkin cautions that “while Gorsuch was clearly influenced by Finnis, in no way should it be inferred that his use of modes of reasoning that are similar produces conclusions that are similar.” Dworkin investigates Gorsuch’s defense and use of his “inviolability-of-life” principle, taking a critical look at Gorsuch’s thoughts about its implications.

(If you come across other work by philosophers on Gorsuch, please provide a link in the comments.)

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