- Hardcover: 464 pages
- Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press; 1st edition (September 6, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0271027002
- ISBN-13: 978-0271027005
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,565,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics 1st Edition
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“Norms of Liberty is one of the most important works on liberalism in recent years. The fact that individuals have different views of the good life poses a fundamental dilemma for modern political philosophy. Liberals frequently adopt a stance of moral neutrality, suggestive of relativism, subjectivism, or skepticism, while their opponents advocate a substantive moral view at the expense of individual freedom. Rasmussen and Den Uyl present a brilliant solution by distinguishing between normative principles guiding individual moral conduct and metanormative principles that concern legislation. They argue compellingly that neo-Aristotelian perfectionist ethics can support liberal non-perfectionist politics.”
—Fred D. Miller Jr., Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University
“This is a fine piece of work in several dimensions. First, it is among the most comprehensive surveys of modern liberalism of which I am aware. Virtually every major contributor to thought on liberalism, for and against, from the 17th century forward is discussed in illuminating and intelligent ways. Second, the authors have a well-developed point of view about the liberal tradition, what it is and what it is not, how they think it can best be articulated and defended. There is no doubt that it is a major, significant contribution to the political philosophy of the liberal tradition. Here is a work that both synthesizes a wide range of the literature, offers original views of the subject, and provokes renewed discussion of just what the character of liberal thought is.”
—Timothy Fuller, Colorado College
“Liberalism, classical and modern, has been under extensive scrutiny by contemporary and earlier political philosophers. One of its most troublesome issues has been how the morality that ought to guide a great variety of individual conduct and the principles of politics of a just community are properly connected.
The authors of Norms of Liberty embark upon nothing less challenging than to answer this question and subject their answer to the most excruciating test they can devise including addressing virtually all the challengers of liberalism who have ever put pen to paper. . . . Here, in summary, is the great strength of this work: it spells out in extensive detail, and with all the nuances needed, just how a defensible, sensible, true morality and the politics of a fully free society are connected so that every major topic is adequately addressed in terms that fit the most reasonable, up-to-date understanding of the nature of human beings within the context of their proper, suitable communities. . . . In my view, Rasmussen and Den Uyl have produced a work of political philosophy that no one who wishes to discuss liberalism can afford to bypass.”
—Tibor R. Machan, Philosophy of the Social Sciences
“Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl’s Norms of Liberty provides a seminal contribution to liberal political thought that will be of significant interest to Thomists as well as other classically trained Aristotelians and natural law theorists. The book’s argument, although occasionally repetitive, is characterized by uncommon rigor and clarity.”
—Gavin T. Colvert, The Thomist
“This book offers compelling arguments that liberalism in its pursuit of prosperity needn’t abandon itself to moral poverty. In its attempt to provide a new argument for the goodness of liberalism, Norms of Liberty summarizes and replies systematically and at length to criticisms of liberalism. It should be of interest to anyone who would like to see a novel defense both of liberty and virtue put forth in a clear and honest way.”
—Travis Cook, Review of Metaphysics
“[A] work of political philosophy that no one who wishes to discuss liberalism can afford to bypass.”
—Tibor R. Machan, Philosophy of the Social Sciences
“[A] seminal contribution to liberal political thought that will be of significant interest to Thomists as well as other classically trained Aristotelians and natural law theorists.”
—Gavin T. Colvert, The Thomist
“The book gives a very interesting and well-articulated defense of liberalism.”
—Ronald Tinnevelt, Political Studies Review
“In sum, Norms of Liberty is a significant addition to the philosophical literature of liberty, and it will surely be an influential work for years to come.”
—Shawn E. Klein, Independent Review
“It is a work of classic stature that everyone interested in political philosophy needs to study.”
—David Gordon, Mises Review
“In other words, facing the problems associated with actual and potential ‘clashes of civilizations’ (in a descriptive sense) Norms of Liberty is a book of utmost importance and actuality.”
—CNE Liberty Library
“Norms of Liberty considers at length challenges to liberalism posed by communitarians and conservative natural law theorists, and devotes an entire chapter to a Summa Theologica–like series of specific objections and responses. . . . This is an important book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in liberty or contemporary political philosophy.”
—Elaine Sternberg, Economic Affairs
“In a dense, thoughtful, and serious work, the authors attempt to address what many regard as the fundamental problem in liberalism: Liberal political order seems necessarily accompanied by atomistic and hedonistic moral philosophy. . . . This defense of liberalism rests upon what can be regarded as a radical claim: Liberalism does not necessarily undermine human moral development; rather, authentic moral development depends upon liberalism. To unpack all that the authors have delivered would take more than a short review. Their work is certainly worthy of more developed analyses.”
—Michael Coulter, Journal of Morality and Markets
“The book is well written, drawing on a wide range of contemporary literature. Its controversial claims will be of keen interest to graduate students and scholars, and accessible to advanced undergraduates.”
—J. D. Moon, Choice
About the Author
Douglas B. Rasmussen is Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University in New York City.
Douglas J. Den Uyl is Vice President of Educational Programs at Liberty Fund in Indianapolis.
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Top customer reviews
Rasmussen and Den Uyl begin by defining liberalism’s problem as: “What are the principles by which to establish a political and legal order whose structure will allow for the possibility that different individuals might be able to flourish and realize virtue in very different ways?”
They provide a solid background on the nature of liberalism and the natural rights tradition. The book then moves on to an initial discussion of individual rights with a very important discussion of the natural right to private property.
Two of my favorite chapters cover “Individualistic Perfectionism”. This is the part of the book where they discuss human flourishing or self-perfection. They provide an account of a perfectionist ethics that has 6 interrelated features:
They point out that “flourishing is a continuous process of living well”. One of the most powerful parts of this discussion for me is their detailed discussion that flourishing must be directed by each individual and be applied in the context of their unique individual circumstances. While ethics can provide the general abstract principles, these principles need to be applied in the context of each individual’s life – therefore, they see practical wisdom as the central integrating virtue of their ethics. Here is a key quote:
“Indeed, practical reason properly used, which is the virtue of practical wisdom, is the intelligent management of one’s life so that all the necessary goods and virtues are coherently achieved, maintained, and enjoyed in a manner that is appropriate for the individual human being.”
The bridge between their perfectionist ethics and politics is individual rights. These are the “meta-normative” principles that allow individuals to flourish in the context of society. Chapter 11 gives their detailed argument for individual rights in the context of the material they have provided earlier in the book. This is a very powerful chapter and one I have already returned to several times.
Throughout the book, the authors also engage with their critics. This helped me to deepen my understanding of the material provided. There is also a lot of good material throughout the book on Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Self-Ownership that deepened my understanding of these key ideas.
I highly recommend “Norms Of Liberty” to all those who want to deepen their understanding of human flourishing, individual rights and establishing the social context within which each individual can strive to achieve their self-perfection. I believe that they have answered “liberalism’s challenge” in a thoughtful and compelling way!
P.S. – For those who want a more detailed discussion of non-perfectionist politics and the importance of dealing with the problems of knowledge, interest and power in a political context, I highly recommend Randy Barnett’s "The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law".
"This is a fine piece of work in several dimensions. First, it is among the most comprehensive surveys of modern liberalism of which I am aware. Virtually every major contributor to thought on liberalism, for and against, from the 17th century forward is discussed in illuminating and intelligent ways. Second, the authors have a well-developed point of view about the liberal tradition, what it is and what it is not, how they think it can best be articulated and defended. There is no doubt that it is a major, significant contribution to the political philosophy of the liberal tradition. Here is a work that both synthesizes a wide range of the literature, offers original views of the subject, and provokes renewed discussion of just what the character of liberal thought is." -Timothy Fuller, Colorado College