“Aristotelian Liberalism”

For those who have not read it, I highly recommend Dr. Geoffrey Allan Plauché’s PhD dissertation, entitled “Aristotelian Liberalism: An Inquiry into the Foundations of a Free and Flourishing Society”.  Within in it, he synthesizes the view of Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl with that of Roderick Long, regarding the basis of rights within a pluralist neo-Aristotelian theory of ethics and flourishing.  To give a brief summary: on the structural level (R&DU’s view), rights are meta-normative principles that protect the right to liberty and thus self-direction, a constitutive element of one’s flourishing; and on the personal level (Long’s view), rights are interpersonal normative principles, and respecting rights is in itself constitutive of flourishing.

To make things interesting from a left-libertarian point-of-view, he also develops a non-statist theory of participatory democracy, building on the work of the New Left.  In the same vein, he defends a “thick” conception of libertarianism; that is, a libertarianism that is concerned with more than just non-aggression.  All-in-all, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in neo-Aristotelian or Randian philosophy, and especially to left-libertarians working within that tradition.

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~ by wombatron on 01/29/2009.

2 Responses to ““Aristotelian Liberalism””

  1. How do you respond to the two most common objections to virtue ethics: 1) the difficulty in establishing the nature of the virtues and 2) the difficulty of moving from the virtues to specific moral advice?

    In other words, the virtue ethics take on things is at the core “be virtuous” but that raises a lot of questions that aren’t often addressed to my satisfaction. It’s similar to the problem faced by the consequentialist in calculating maximum good or by the deontologist in justifying a certain imperative.

    What helped you to finally “get” virtue ethics? One of my fears is that all the Aristotelian talk in the left-libertarian world is based on the fact that it leads to the answer we want to hear (liberty is necessary) but takes too much for granted. I’m sure that’s because I don’t know enough and need to read more.

    I would appreciate your help on this since I’m very intrigued by virtue ethics and it seems like a promising player in the ethical debate.

  2. @Neverfox:

    I would respond to 1) by saying the nature of the virtues is something that is revealed by an analysis of man’s natural end. One can look at the general requirements of flourishing, of being the best person that you can be, and find general principles that, when acted upon, are an integral part of flourishing.

    I would answer 2) by saying that specific moral advice is the role of a person’s practical reason, properly applied, the virtue of practical wisdom. It may seem like a cop-out, but I think that the question really only even makes sense in today’s philosophical climate, where universalization and agent-neutrality are considered to be applicable to ethics, something that I disagree with.

    The thing that helped me finally get virtue ethics was Veatch’s “Rational Man”. I was something of a semi-Objectivist then, and I was stuck in a half-consequentialist, half-virtue ethics interpretation of Rand. Veatch’s discussion of rationality as the prime virtue and practical wisdom as the most important intellectual virtue, and his discussion of man’s natural end, finally helped me see the virtue ethics position.

    As to your concern about how Aristotelianism leads to favorable consequences for LLs, most Aristotelians are still communitarians or conservatives. The Aristotelian tradition that included liberty as an important concern arguably started with Henry Veatch. Ayn Rand, for all of her flaws, added a lot in this area, and the contemporary Aristotelian libertarians (Long, Rasmussen, Den Uyl, Sciabarra, Plauché, etc.) have fleshed it out. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Aristotelianism hasn’t necessarily including a concern for liberty, if that helps with your fear.

    I hope this helps!

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