If “perfectionism” in ethics refers to those normative theories that treat the fulfillment or realization of human nature as central to an account of both goodness and moral obligation, in what sense is “human flourishing” a perfectionist notion? How much of what we take “human flourishing” to signify is the result of our understanding of human nature? Is the content of this concept simply read off an examination of our nature? Is there no place for diversity and individuality? Is the (...) belief that the content of such a normative concept can be determined by an appeal to human nature merely the result of epistemological naiveté? What is the exact character of the connection between human flourishing and human nature? These questions are the ultimate concern of this essay, but to appreciate the answers that will be offered it is necessary to understand what is meant by “human flourishing.” “Human flourishing” is a relatively recent term in ethics. It seems to have developed in the last two decades because the traditional translation of the Greek term eudaimonia as “happiness” failed to communicate clearly that eudaimonia was an objective good, not merely a subjective good. (shrink)
In this essay, I consider whether the alleged demise of metaphysical realism does actually provide a better way for defending the cognitive status of ethical judgments. I argue that the rejection of a realist ontology and epistemology does not help to establish the claim that ethical knowledge is possible. More specifically, I argue that Hilary Putnam's argument does not succeed in making a case for ethical knowledge. In fact, his account of the procedures by which our valuations are warranted—the criteria (...) of idealized inquiry—ultimately begs the question in a number of crucial ways. Moreover, it prejudices the moral and political discussion in certain ideological respects. Finally, though Putnam has apparently modified to some extent his approach to the issue of realism in recent years, I will point out that these modifications are not fundamental and do not help to advance the case for ethical knowledge. I note also that Martha C. Nussbaum's appeal to Putnam’s argument actually works against her attempt to make a case for an Aristotelian conception of human flourishing. Ultimately, I conclude that metaphysical realism is vital for ethical knowledge. (shrink)
This essay asks whether what is good for someone is distinct from her self-perfection, and whether it makes sense to understand either her good or her self-perfection in terms of the other. The essay adopts a traditional naturalistic understanding of perfection. It argues, however, that the conception of human nature that underlies the perfectionist view must be more individualistic than it is often taken to be. It goes on to distinguish individuative from generic features of human nature; because the account (...) includes both types of characteristics, the concluding vision of human nature, and hence human perfection, is deeply individualized. What is good for an individual is linked to the exercise of her nature rather than to desires individuals simply happen to have. (shrink)
Necessary Existence breaks ground on one of the deepest questions anyone ever asks: why is there anything? Pruss and Rasmussen present an original defence of the hypothesis that there is a necessarily existing being capable of providing an ultimate foundation for the existence of all things.
How can we establish a political/legal order that in principle does not require the human flourishing of any person or group to be given structured preference over that of any other? Addressing this question as the central problem of political philosophy,_ Norms of Liberty_ offers a new conceptual foundation for political liberalism that takes protecting liberty, understood in terms of individual negative rights, as the primary aim of the political/legal order. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for construing individual rights (...) as metanormative principles, directly tied to politics, that are used to establish the political/ legal conditions under which full moral conduct can take place. These they distinguish from normative principles, used to provide guidance for moral conduct within the ambit of normative ethics. This crucial distinction allows them to develop liberalism as a metanormative theory, not a guide for moral conduct. The moral universe need not be minimized or morality grounded in sentiment or contracts to support liberalism, they show. Rather, liberalism can be supported, and many of its internal tensions avoided, with an ethical framework of Aristotelian inspiration—one that understands human flourishing to be an objective, inclusive, individualized, agent-relative, social, and self-directed activity. (shrink)
In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith's sympathy with Rousseau's concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend ...
The correspondence theory of truth is a precise and innovative account of how the truth of a proposition depends upon that proposition's connection to a piece of reality. Joshua Rasmussen refines and defends the correspondence theory of truth, proposing new accounts of facts, propositions, and the correspondence between them. With these theories in hand, he then offers original solutions to the toughest objections facing correspondence theorists. Addressing the Problem of Funny Facts, Liar Paradoxes, and traditional epistemological questions concerning how (...) our minds can access reality, he challenges recent objections, and defends what has traditionally been the most popular theory of truth. Written with clarity, precision, and sensitivity to a range of philosophical backgrounds, his book will appeal to advanced students and scholars seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between truth and reality. (shrink)
I develop a new theory of times. I show how to analyze times as tenselessly describable “abstract” entities. Some philosophers make use of ersatz times, which are abstract entities such as maximal states of affairs that bear earlier than and later than relations to one another. Although these times are normally thought to exemplify A-properties that cannot be expressed in a purely tenseless language, I explain how a tenseless theory can accommodate abstract times. I do this by defending Rasmussen’s (...) tenseless presentism against a recent objection, and getting on the table a new theory of time that combines eternalism with a B-series of genuine, abstract times. The result is a new way to think about a familiar category: time. (shrink)
Larry L. Rasmussen offers a dramatic new way of thinking about human society, ethics, and the health of our planet. Rejecting the modern ethical assumption that morality applies to human society alone, Earth-honoring Faith argues that we must derive a system of ethics and morality that accounts for the wellbeing of all creation on Earth.
In the past decade the work of Jurgen Habermas has sparked off a series of lively debates over modernity and post-modernity, the nature of language, the interplay of law and politics and the dilemmas of morality. Significantly, these debates unfold in the context of his particular reading of the modern philosophical tradition from the German enlightment to the present period. In this original interpretation, David Rasmussen provides both guide and critique to the later Habermas encountered in the context of (...) the best of the critical literature that has emerged in recent years. Reading Habermas argues that Habermas' concept of modernity provides the context for the theory of language as well as his approaches to law and ethics. This book, as its title implies, offers a reading. It explores philosophical options chosen in the light of other, rejected readings. It is a distinctive, readable contribution to the current controversy surrounding the most recent developments in critical theory. (shrink)
Adam Smith is popularly regarded as the ideological forefather of laissez-faire capitalism, while Rousseau is seen as the passionate advocate of the life of virtue in small, harmonious communities and as a sharp critic of the ills of commercial society. But, in fact, Smith had many of the same worries about commercial society that Rousseau did and was strongly influenced by his critique. In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith’s sympathy with (...) Rousseau’s concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend commercial society against these charges. These arguments, Rasmussen emphasizes, were pragmatic in nature, not ideological: it was Smith’s view that, all things considered, commercial society offered more benefits than the alternatives. Just because of this pragmatic orientation, Smith’s approach can be useful to us in assessing the pros and cons of commercial society today and thus contributes to a debate that is too much dominated by both dogmatic critics and doctrinaire champions of our modern commercial society. (shrink)
Universalism vs. Communitarianism focuses on the question, raised by recent work in normative philosophy, of whether ethical norms are best derived and justified on the basis of universal or communitarian standards. It is unique in representing both Continental and American points of view and both the older and a younger generation of scholars. The essays introduce the key issues involved in universalism vs. communitarianism and take up ethics in historical perspective, practical reason and ethical responsibility, justification, application and history, and (...) communitarian alternatives. Based on a special issue of the Journal Philosophy and Social Criticism, the book includes two additional essays by Chantal Mouffe and by Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus. David Rasmussen is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and editor of Philosophy and Social Criticism. Contents: introduction, David, Rasmussen. Universalisms: Procedural, Contextualist, and Prudential, Alessandro Ferrara. Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism: Toward a Critical Theory of Social Justice, Gerald Doppelt. The Liberal/Communitarian Controversy and Communicative Ethics, Kenneth Baynes. Discourse Ethics and Civil Society, Jean Cohen. Equality, Political Order and Ethics: Hobbes and the Systematics of Democratic Rationality, Rolf Zimmermann. Atomism and Ethical Life: On Hegel's Critique of the French Revolution, Axel Honneth. The Gadamer-Habermas Debate Revisited: The Question of Ethics, Michael Kelly. What Is and What Is Not Practical Reason? Agnes Heller. Adorno, Heidegger, and Postmodernity, Hauke Brunkhorst. Impartial Application of Moral and Legal Norms: A Contribution to Discourse Ethics, Klaus Günther. An Ethics, Politics, and History, Jürgen Habermas in an interview conducted by Jean-Marc Ferry. Rawls: Political Philosophy without Politics, Chantal Mouffe. What Is Morality: A Phenomenological Account of the Development of Ethical Expertise, Hubert L Dreyfus, Stuart E. Dreyfus. Universalism and Communitarianism: A Bibliography, Michael Zilles. (shrink)
Autonomy is a vital concept in much of modern theory, defining the Subject as capable of self-governance. Democratic theory relies on the concept of autonomy to provide justification for participatory government and the normative goal of democratic governance, which is to protect the ability of the individual to self-govern. Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, _The Autonomous Animal _analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen begins by (...) considering the academic terrain of autonomy, then focusing on specific examples of political behavior that allow her to interrogate these theories. She demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body. She points up how the war on drugs rests on the perception that drug addicts are the antithesis of autonomy and thus must be regulated for their own good. Showing that the animal rights movement may challenge the distinction between human and animal, Rasmussen also examines the place of the endurance athlete in fitness culture, where self-management of the body is the exemplar of autonomous subjectivity. (shrink)
Fifteen distinguished contributors free present up-to-date arguments for the libertarian alternative. Part One introduces libertarianism and outlines some approaches by which it might be justified. Part Two addresses how a society that embraces libertarian principles might deal with various social problems, especially those that seem to require government intervention. Part Three responds to criticisms of libertarianism from other political perspectives and presents a libertarian critique of those viewpoints. Contributors: N. Scott Arnold; James E. Chesher; Mike Gemmell; John Hospers; Gregory R. (...) Johnson; Loren E. Lomasky; Tibor R. Machan; Eric Mack; Jan Narveson; Douglas B. Rasmussen; Daniel Shapiro; Aeon Skoble; Mark Thornton; Douglas J. Den Uyl; Steven Yates. (shrink)
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN argue that Rand's defense of abortion on demand is inconsistent with her own fundamental metaphysical, epistemological, and moral principles, namely that everything that exists has a determinate identity, that the concept of man refers to all of man's characteristics, not just his essential characteristics, and that there is no gap between what an organism truly is and what it ought to be.
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.
Gregory R. Johnson and David Rasmussen defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.
In response to Robert Hartford's criticisms of his Spring 2006 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies essay, "Regarding Choice and the Foundations of Morality," Rasmussen argues against "the official" interpretation of Rand's ethics as resting on a basic "choice to live." Drawing from his work with Douglas Den Uyl, Rasmussen argues that Rand's metaethics is best understood in "biocentric," neo-Aristotelian terms: that human choice does not set the context in which it operates and that "man's life qua man" is (...) the natural end of human life. (shrink)
Douglas B. Rasmussen examines, in this revised and extended version of his 1990 address to the Ayn Rand Society, whether Rand's ethics are best interpreted as dependent on a "pre-moral" choice. He argues that such an interpretation undercuts Rand's claim to provide a rational foundation for ethics. He suggests an alternative, neo-Aristotelian interpretation of Rand's ethics, which treats "man's survival qua man" as the telos of human choice and takes the obligation to achieve this ultimate end as the result (...) of its being the good for human beings. (shrink)
Book notice Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9588-3 Authors Nicolas Rasmussen, School of History and Philosophy, University of NSW, Sydney, 2052 Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
This is a study of the political theory of the Enlightenment, focusing on four leading eighteenth-century thinkers: David Hume, Adam Smith, Montesquieu and Voltaire. Dennis C. Rasmussen calls attention to the particular strand of the Enlightenment these thinkers represent, which he terms the 'pragmatic Enlightenment'. He defends this strand of Enlightenment thought against both the Enlightenment's critics and some of the more idealistic Enlightenment figures who tend to have more followers today, such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Jeremy (...) Bentham. Professor Rasmussen argues that Hume, Smith, Montesquieu and Voltaire exemplify an especially attractive type of liberalism, one that is more realistic, moderate, flexible, and contextually sensitive than most other branches of this tradition. (shrink)
I develop new paths to the existence of a concrete necessary being. These paths assume a metaphysical framework in which there are abstract states of affairs that can obtain or fail to obtain. One path begins with the following causal principle: necessarily, any contingent concrete object possibly has a cause. I mark out steps from that principle to a more complex causal principle and from there to the existence of a concrete necessary being. I offer a couple alternative causal principles (...) and paths, too. The paths marked out rely on relatively modest causal principles and avoid many obstacles that traditional cosmological arguments face. (shrink)
In a 1993 paper, I argued that empirical treatments of the epistemologyused by scientists in experimental work are too abstract in practice tocounter relativist efforts to explain the outcome of scientificcontroversies by reference to sociological forces. This was because, atthe rarefied level at which the methodology of scientists is treated byphilosophers, multiple mutually inconsistent instantiations of theprinciples described by philosophers are employed by contestingscientists. These multiple construals change within a scientificcommunity over short time frames, and these different versions ofscientific methodology (...) can determine the outcome of a controversy. Iillustrated with a comparatively detailed analysis of the methodologyused by biologists debating the existence of an entity called thebacterial mesosome between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s. This 1993piece has drawn several critiques in the philosophical literature. Inthis present piece I respond to these critiques and argue that they failto address the core argument of the original paper, and I reflectfurther on the methodologies of philosophers of science pursuingempirical or `naturalistic' epistemology. (shrink)
An important question raised in the Molinist debate is, ‘Given God's access to counterfactual knowledge, could God create a world in which free creatures always refrain from evil?’ An affirmative answer suggests that God cannot possess counterfactual knowledge since such knowledge would allow God to create seemingly more desirable worlds than the actual world. However, Alvin Plantinga has argued that it is at least possible that every possible person is transworld depraved – meaning that each person would perform some wrong (...) actions if any world in which that person is morally free were actualized. I argue that, given an infinite number of possible persons, the probability that everyone is transworld depraved is exceedingly low. In addition, I investigate whether there are enough possible persons vis-à-vis the number of moral choices per person so that God could create worlds like the actual world, except lacking in moral evil. (shrink)
It has become commonplace in introductions to Indian philosophy to construe Plato’s discussion of forms (εἶδος/ἰδέα) and the treatment in Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika of universals ( sāmānya/jāti ) as addressing the same philosophical issue, albeit in somewhat different ways. While such a comparison of the similarities and differences has interest and value as an initial reconnaissance of what each says about common properties, an examination of the roles that universals play in the rest of their philosophical enquiries vitiates this commonplace. (...) This paper draws upon the primary texts to identify the following metaphysical, epistemological, semantic and soteriological roles that universals play in the philosophy of Plato and of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika: Metaphysical: causal of the existence of x Metaphysical: constitutive of the identity/essence of x Epistemological: cognitively causal (i.e. of the cognition of one over many) Epistemological: epistemically causal (i.e. of knowledge of x) Semantic: necessary condition of speech and reason Epistemological: vindicatory of induction (Nyāya only) Metaphysical: explanatory of causation (Nyāya only) Soteriological: cathartic contemplation (Plato only) These roles provide us with motivations or reasons to believe that universals exist. As we examine these motivations, we find pressures mounting against our assimilating Platonic forms and the universals of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika in the discourse about common properties. It is especially when we appreciate the utterly different contribution that universals make in securing our highest welfare that we realize how Plato and the two sister schools are not so much talking somewhat differently about the same thing, but talking somewhat similarly about different things. This better understanding of this difference in these philosophies opens a route for our better understanding of their unique contributions in the ongoing dialogue of philosophy. (shrink)
_The Handbook of Critical Theory_ brings together for the first time a detailed examination of the state of critical theory today. The fifteen essays provide analyses of the various orientations which critical theory has taken both historically and systematically in recent years, expositions of the new perspectives which have begun to shape the field, and reflections upon the direction of critical theory.
The paper argues that Paul Ricoeur's The Philosophy of the Will retained a certain fidelity to phenomenology's early emphasis on subjectivity. When Ricoeur turned to the philosophy of language, he found a way to retain a certain emphasis on subjectivity and individuality that would make his work distinctive among other approaches to the philosophy of language. Hence, the title, Preserving the Eidetic Moment, intends to characterize Ricoeur's distinctive contribution to philosophy. The paper goes on to show how Ricoeur's approach can (...) contribute to Critical Theory, particularly in relationship to its theory of interlocution. (shrink)