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Australasian Journal of Philosophy , Volume 86 (4): 685-687 – Dec 1, 2008


© 2008 Informa plc
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Rights Ivison, Duncan, Rights , Stocksfield: Acumen, 2008, pp. xiii + 288, 14.99 (paper). The book presents contemporary normative political theories proposed by Rawls, Habermas and many others, and provides illuminating discussions of them. A number of chapters cover earlier writers, among them Locke, Kant and Hegel. It is rich in content, as even the bibliography suggests: it lists about 250 books and 200 other writings. Externalities first. Many of the 223 endnotes are substantive. Finding them wastes readers' time because of the scandalous and inexcusable absence of cross-references in the running-heads. Otherwise, the editing is not too bad, but there are flaws, especially in the last chapter. Textual lapses, the detection of which is what friends are for (why did none of them spot 'under his sui iuris '?), makes one wonder whether the gratitude to all thirty-five persons acknowledged by the author is fully deserved. Ivison calls his approach naturalistic, in the sense that 'rights are best understood as a social practice '. The practice is said to consist in 'claiming and recognizing rights' [18f]. Leaving aside the apparent circularity, describing rights as a 'social practice' sounds like a category mistake. A practice, like voting, is
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