- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0271027010
- ISBN-13: 978-0271027012
- 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: #1,976,197 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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"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." --The Independent Review
"Rasmussen and Den Uyl have produced a work of political philosophy that no one who wishes to discuss liberalism can afford to bypass."
--Philosophy of the Social Sciences
"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 gives a very interesting and well articulated defence of liberalism."
--Political Studies Review
"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."
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.
Top customer reviews
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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