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The Realist Turn


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Table of Contents

Chapter One

            Whence Natural Rights?

                   1. What’s Wrong with Natural Rights?

                   2. Problems with the Non-Aggression Principle?

                   3. Why the Reluctance to Appeal to Natural Rights?

Chapter Two

          How to Understand and Justify Individual Rights: A Synopsis

                        1. Rights as a Moral Concept

                                    Liberty as a Moral Notion

                                    Understanding the Role of Rights

                                    Individualistic Perfectionism

                                    Why We Have Rights

                                    A Realist Basis for Rejection of Equinormativity

                        2. The Primacy of Rights in Political Philosophy

                                    The Virtue of Justice and Metanorms

                                    Three Senses of Justice

                                    Social Justice and Natural Endowments

                        3. Conclusion

Chapter Three

          On Principle

                      1. Rights, Principles, and Practicality

                                    Understanding the Context for Side-Constraints

                                    The Range of Applicability of Individual Rights

                                    On Being Practical

                                    Ideals and Principles

                                    Conflicting Principles

                      2. Natural Rights as Principles

                      3. Conclusion

Chapter Four 

          Objections to Natural Rights and Replies

                        1. Some Preliminary Objections

                                    Natural Rights do not Precede their Implementation

                                    Natural Rights are Over-Individualized

                                    Natural Rights are Basically a Matter of Power

                                    Natural Rights are neither Primary nor sufficiently Obligatory

                        2. A Basic Metaethical Objection

                                    Natural Rights and the “Naturalistic Fallacy”

                                                The Alleged Naturalistic Fallacy

                                                Deeper Ontological and Epistemological Issues

                                    Natural Rights are Grounded in Controversial Metaphysics

                        3. Impracticality Objections

                                    The Irrelevance of Natural Rights

                                    Natural Rights Fail to Guide

                                    The Absoluteness of Natural Rights

                                    The Impotency of Natural Rights

                        4. Natural Rights and the “Human Nature Problem”

                                    The Failure of Inclusivity in Natural Rights

                                    The Problematic Concept of Human Nature


Chapter Five


                        1. MacIntyre, Rights, and Tradition

                        2. Natural Rights and Metaphysical Realism

Chapter Six

          On the Rejection of Metaphysical Realism for Ethical Knowledge

                        1. Essentialism without Realism

                        2. Finding Facts in a World of Values

                                    Metaphysical Realism and Conceptual Relativity

                                    Conceptual Relativity and Getting it Right

                                    Idealized Rational Acceptability and the Democratization of Inquiry

                        3. Questioning Idealized Inquiry

                                    Whose freedom? Which Way of Expressing Human Intelligence?

                                    Ayn Rand and Universalizability: Asking Questions You Were Always                                          Afraid to Ask

                                    The Human Capabilities Approach: Legislating for Human Flourishing

                                    Questioning the Criteria of Idealized Inquiry

                        4. Conclusion

Chapter Seven

          On the Alleged Demise of Metaphysical Realism

                        1. Constructivism, Metaphysical Realism, and Aquinas’s Distinction

                        2. Replying to some Basic Objections to Epistemological Realism

                                    On Imposing a Conceptual Scheme on the World

                                    The Problem of Hooking on to the World

                                    A Neo-Aristotelian-Thomistic View of Concepts and Cognition

                                    The Myth of the Framework

                                    Defining the Nature of Something

                                    On Being Fallible and Limited

                        3. Putnam, Metaphysical Realism, and Conceptual Relativism

Chapter Eight

            The Importance of the Realist Turn

                   1. Ideal and Non-Ideal Theory

                   2. Facing a New Direction and/or Recovering an Old One

About the Author

Douglas B. Rasmussen is Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University, NYC, USA.


Douglas J. Den Uyl is Vice-President of Educational Programs at Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, USA.


“The Realist Turn provides a necessary philosophical compass to reorient liberalism.” (Nayeli L. Riano, Law & Liberty, lawliberty.org, January 26, 2021)

“Rasmussen and Den Uyl’s carefully worked out views deserve a wide audience.” (David Gordon, The Philosophical Quarterly, December 2, 2020)

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