Paper accepted at Contemporary Aristotelian Studies Conference, June 3rd 2011

by Barry M-C on April 19, 2011

Excited that a second paper proposal has been accepted for a major academic conference; this time my paper proposal (below) was for the Contemporary Aristotelian Studies Conference, June 3rd 2011, at London Metropolitan University. 

My paper is entitled: “Lon L. Fuller’s Procedural Natural Law and Douglas Rasmussen’s & Douglas Den Uyl’s Norms of Liberty”.

 This is the abstract for my paper:

In their most important work to date, Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics (2005), neo-Aristotelian philosophers Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl argue that whilst human flourishing is objective, it is fundamentally agent-centred and thus highly individualised in nature.  Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue that because there is a plurality of conceptions of the good life, any attempt to define human flourishing based upon a certain bundle of goods or activities simply privileges one vision of the good over another; instead, we must look at the basic condition required for human flourishing to be pursued at all: self-directedness.  Individual rights are therefore seen as “meta-normative principles”: they provide the political and legal framework protecting the self-directedness necessary for human flourishing.

My paper explores further Rasmussen’s and Den Uyl’s conception of “rights as meta-normative principles” in the grounding of the legal and political order of liberalism.  Specifically, their conception of how human flourishing requires an extended social order – of institutions, customs, laws, rights – is elaborated on.  In doing so, I suggest that their conception of “rights as meta-normative principles” finds support in the writings of the eminent legal philosopher, Lon L. Fuller and his articulation of a “procedural natural law theory”.

Fuller’s legal naturalism is a natural law theory stripped of much of the substantive visions of the good life usually associated with the natural rights.  For Fuller, writing in The Morality of Law (1964), his procedural natural law is “like the natural laws of carpentry, or at least those laws respected by a carpenter who wants the house he builds to remain standing and serve the purpose of those who live in it.”

 In his proposal for “eunomics” – what he calls the “study of good and workable social arrangements” – Fuller, explicitly sets out his stall that there is such thing as human nature, that there are certain natural ends, that man and the institutions of the social order are not endlessly protean in much the same way that Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for.  A closer study of Lon Fuller’s procedural natural law thinking will, I believe, further reinforce the arguments of Rasmussen and Den Uyl in Norms of Liberty that perfectionism and human flourishing requires the protection of rights as “meta-normative principles”.

For more about the conference, and details on how to register:

Ryan May 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Dear Mr. Cullinane,

I enjoy your writings very much.

Could you be so kind as to explain simply what a ‘metanormative’ principle is?

As a Natural. Law/Natural Rights proponent; I am very interested in the concept but I am in the dark as to its precise meaning.

I take it in the context of Rasmussen and Den Uyl’s corpus to be an ethical framework (political, legal) derived from man’s nature; that creates a sufficient ‘moral space’ or ‘sphere of personal authority’, for innumerable forms (types, kinds) of human flourishing, to be pursued by the individual, in a self- directed (agent-relative, individualized) manner.

I believe I may be entirely out in the proverbial ‘wilderness’ here but I am deeply passionate about the subject matter of natural rights and I am attempting to delve deeply into these murky waters.

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