Diversas fuentes culturales explican los orígenes del marcado individualismo imperante en nuestras sociedades actuales. Posiblemente, una de las manifestaciones más aclamadas de este individualismo sea la primacía de la autonomía individual, elemento clave en la articulación y fundamentación de las posiciones jurídicas subjetivas presentes en la práctica totalidad de los ordenamientos jurídicos contemporáneos, y como resultado de la expansión de la cultura occidental. Sin embargo, en ocasiones, el peso otorgado a la autonomía se antoja desproporcionado, especialmente cuando conduce a la (...) inobservancia, ya sea total o parcial, del bien común o alguna de sus manifestaciones, presupuesto de toda relación social y exigencia del principio de justicia. Junto a la autonomía, en tanto que elemento necesario para el florecimiento individual, la búsqueda del bien común debe asimismo servir a la configuración de los diversos instrumentos de decisión política y jurídica que regulan la vida en común, lo que requiere el justo equilibrio de los intereses en juego, tal y como aconseja el principio de proporcionalidad. El paradigma de las enfermedades contagiosas proporciona un claro ejemplo de lo anterior, pues la protección de la salud pública, entendida como una manifestación del bien común, no solo justifica, sino que incluso exige la restricción de ciertas posiciones jurídicas subjetivas que sirven a la especificación de la autonomía individual de sus titulares. (shrink)
In this article, I explore the relationship between the supersession thesis and the rights of future people. In particular, I show that changes in circumstances might supersede future people’s rights. I argue that appropriating resources that belong to future people does not necessarily result in a duty to return the resources in full. I explore how these findings are relevant for climate change justice. Assuming future generations of developing countries originally had a right to use a certain amount of the (...) carbon budget, changing circumstances could result in rights-supersession. Consequently, members of future generations of industrialized countries may be allowed to use part of the share of the carbon budget belonging to developing countries. (shrink)
The various features of bioethics center around a person’s right to decide what happens to her body and what she may do with it. This is true for patients and medical professionals. Our intuitions concerning rights in bioethics are similar to our intuitions concerning rights in other areas. Consider, for example, rights concerning movement, privacy, religion, sex, speech, and thought. Intuitively, these rights are consistent with one another, trump other moral considerations, and can be lost. If people were to own (...) themselves, this would provide a unified explanation of what justifies other rights, what particular rights people have, why these particular rights are consistent with one another, and why these particular rights have certain features, such as trumping utility. Here I explore whether people own themselves. (shrink)
This article introduces a new formulation of the interest theory of rights. The focus is on ‘Bentham’s test’, which was devised by Matthew Kramer to limit the expansiveness of the interest theory. According to the test, a party holds a right correlative to a duty only if that party stands to undergo a development that is typically detrimental if the duty is breached. The article shows how the entire interest theory can be reformulated in terms of the test. The article (...) then focuses on a further strength of the interest theory, brought to the fore by the new formulation. In any Western legal system, the tortious maltreatment of a child or a mentally disabled individual results in a compensatory duty. The interest theory can account for such duties in a simple and elegant way. The will theory, on the other hand, struggles to explain such compensatory duties unless it abandons some of its main tenets. (shrink)
The most prominent theories of rights, the Will Theory and the Interest Theory, notoriously fail to accommodate all and only rights-attributions that make sense to ordinary speakers. The Kind-Desire Theory, Leif Wenar’s recent contribution to the field, appears to fare better in this respect than any of its predecessors. The theory states that we attribute a right to an individual if she has a kind-based desire that a certain enforceable duty be fulfilled. A kind-based desire is a reason to want (...) something which one has simply in virtue of being a member of a certain kind. Rowan Cruft objects that this theory creates a puzzle about the relation between rights and respect. In particular, if rights are not grounded in aspects of the particular individuals whose rights they are, how can we sustain the intuitive notion that to violate a right is to disrespect the right-holder? I present a contractualist account of respect which reconciles the Kind-Desire Theory with the intuition that rights-violations are disrespectful. On this account, respect for a person is a matter of acknowledging her legitimate authority to make demands on the will and conduct of others. And I argue that kind-based desires authorize a person to make demands even if they do not correspond to that person’s well-being or other non-relational features. (shrink)
The principle of noncombatant immunity prohibits warring parties from intentionally targeting noncombatants. I explicate the moral version of this view and its criticisms by reductive individualists; they argue that certain civilians on the unjust side are morally liable to be lethally targeted to forestall substantial contributions to that war. I then argue that reductivists are mistaken in thinking that causally contributing to an unjust war is a necessary condition for moral liability. Certain noncontributing civilians—notably, war-profiteers—can be morally liable to be (...) lethally targeted. Thus, the principle of noncombatant immunity is mistaken as a moral (though not necessarily as a legal) doctrine, not just because some civilians contribute substantially, but because some unjustly enriched civilians culpably fail to discharge their restitutionary duties to those whose victimization made the unjust enrichment possible. Consequently, the moral criterion for lethal liability in war is even broader than reductive individualists have argued. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend the following thesis: The Problem of Symmetrical Attackers does not falsify forfeiture theory. The theory asserts that except in the case where violence is necessary to avoid a catastrophe, only those who forfeit their rights are liable for defensive violence. The problem focuses on the following sort of case. Symmetrical Attacker Case Al and Bob are doppelgangers. They both mistakenly but justifiably think that the other is about to attack him. They both respond with violence (...) that is necessary and that they think is necessary to prevent the attack. The problem is that one person forfeit his right if and only if the second does not and that it appears to be impossible for both or neither to forfeit. I argue that the forfeiture theory is not falsified by this problem because the problem is equally damaging to every plausible theory of permissible defensive violence. (shrink)
Confronting persistent and widening inequality in educational opportunity, advocates have regarded the right to education as a linchpin for reform. In the forty years since the Supreme Court relegated that right to the domain of state constitutional law, its power has surged and faded in litigation challenging state school finance systems. Like so many of the students it is meant to protect, however, the right to education has generally underachieved, in part because those wielding it have not always appreciated its (...) distinctive forms and function. Deconstructed, the right to education held by children has been formulated doctrinally as both a claim-right, imposing affirmative duties on the state to act, and an immunity, disabling certain state action. These two strands—oft-manifested as the claim-right to educational “adequacy” and an immunity entailing “equality” of educational opportunity—once considered irreconcilable, are actually interlocked by the right’s core historical function to protect children’s liberty and equality interests. And yet the right to education is ill equipped to fulfill its protection function. Education clauses in state constitutions do not fix the standards for mutually enforcing equality and adequacy. This encumbers already-reluctant courts in addressing educational disparities and emboldens legislative resistance when they do. Appreciating that the right to education has a protection function entailing equality and liberty interests nevertheless suggests that the right can be adjudicated in a way that unifies the demands and guarantees of substantive due process and equal protection. That union holds the potential to ameliorate the enforcement standards thereby reconstituting the right to education as a mainstay of reform. (shrink)
The status quo on parental licensing in most Western jurisdictions is that licensing is required in the case of adoption but not in the case of assisted or unassisted biological reproduction. To have a child via adoption, one must fulfill licensing requirements, which, beyond the usual home study, can include mandatory participation in parenting classes. One is exempt from these requirements, however, if one has a child via biological reproduction, including assisted reproduction involving donor gametes or a contract pregnancy. In (...) an earlier paper, we challenged this system of parental licensing by showing that arguments in favour of it do not succeed. One argument we failed to consider, however, is that prospective biological parents have a right to reproduce that protects them against the sort of state interference that is involved in parental licensing. According to this argument, because prospective adoptive parents do not exercise a similar right when attempting to become parents, they are not similarly protected. In this paper, we argue that this reproductive rights argument, like other arguments in favour of the status quo on parental licensing, is flawed. We also question whether people in fact have a right to reproduce, and in doing so distinguish this right from others that we think are legitimate, including a right to become a parent and a right to bodily autonomy. (shrink)
Extremely harsh treatment (for example, unanesthetized tooth, branding with a hot iron, violent shaking, repeated beatings, and car-battery shocks to the genitalia) is often considered unjust. On different accounts, extremely harsh treatment fails to respect persons because it infringes on an absolute right, fails to respect a person’s dignity, constitutes cruel or inhumane treatment, violates rules that rational persons would choose under fair and equal choosing conditions, or results in a person losing his agency to another. Others respond that in (...) some cases extremely harsh treatment is just because some individuals forfeit their moral rights against extremely harsh treatment or because it is the fair way to distribute a danger that was created by the person to be so treated. In this paper, I develop an argument that is designed to sidestep these criticisms. (shrink)
One of the primary views on our supposed obligation towards our descendants in the context of environmental problems invokes the idea of the rights of future generations. A growing number of authors also hold that the descendants of those victimized by historical injustices, including colonialism and slavery, have the right to demand financial reparations for the sufferings of their distant ancestors. However, these claims of intergenerational rights face theoretical difficulties, notably the non-identity problem. To circumvent this problem in a relationship (...) between present and future generations, some rights theorists replace future individual rights with such collective rights. Others advance the threshold conception of harm in discussing intergenerational relationships in general. Despite the significant implications these revisionist views might have, few efforts have been made to scrutinize their solidity. To plug such a gap in the literature, this paper examines to what extent the collective understanding of intergenerational rights is pertinent. I also explore the virtues and drawbacks of the threshold interpretation of harm. The paper concludes by suggesting that the motivation behind these and other versions of the rights theory suffers from the ambiguity of a traditional dichotomy between perfect and imperfect duties. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that it is morally permissible and should be legally permissible for state and private professional schools to discriminate against women. By professional schools, I mean law, medical, and business schools. More specifically, I argue that such schools may discount womens applications to the degree that they are likely to produce less than male counterparts. The argument differs with regard to state and private institutions because of the greater moral elbowroom that private institutions have. The argument (...) for state professional schools depends on the purpose of state professional programs. If the purpose of these programs is to provide professional services to citizens, and I argue that it is, then the state professional schools are permitted to do such discounting. My argument also supports the stronger claim that state schools have an obligation to do so, but I will focus on the weaker claim. Given their wider choice of goals, private schools are also permitted to discount womens applications, but they are not obligated to do so. In this paper, then, I provide an argument for the moral permissibility of such discounting. (shrink)
David Braybrooke argues that meeting people’s needs ought to be the primary goal of social policy. But he then faces the problem of how to deal with the fact that our most pressing needs, needs to be kept alive with resource-draining medical technology, threaten to exhaust our resources for meeting all other needs. I consider several solutions to this problem, eventually suggesting that the need to be kept alive is no different in kind from needs to fulfill various projects, and (...) that needs may have a structure similar to rights, with people’s legitimate needs serving as constraints on each other’s entitlements to resources. This affords a set of axioms constraining possible needs. Further, if, as Braybrooke thinks, needs are created by communities approving projects, so that the means to prosecute the projects then come to count as needs, then communities are obliged to approve only projects that are co-feasible given the world’s finite resources. The result is that it can be legitimate not to funnel resources towards endless life-prolongation projects. (shrink)
Interrogational torture is torture that is done in order to gain information. It is wrong if it either wrongs the person being interrogated or is a free-floating wrong. In the relevant cases, interrogational torture need not wrong the person being interrogated. This is because in many cases it doesn’t, and is known not to, infringe on the tortured person’s moral rights. It is not clear whether interrogational torture is a free-floating wrong since we lack confidence in judging whether it violates (...) a consequentialist duty. Even if interrogational torture is morally permissible, it doesn’t follow that it is the best policy for a country to adopt. (shrink)
This paper argues for a policy of assassination. Foreign leaders causing unjust wars forfeit their rights against being killed. Killing them also satisfies the conditions on defensive violence that accompany forfeiture (consider, for example, imminence, necessity, and proportionality). Assassination sometimes maximizes the good. In some cases, then, assassination is right and good. A separate issue is whether it is good policy. To the extent that traditional just war theory disallows assassination, it should be revised or rejected.
Alan Wertheimer’s book, Consent to Sexual Relations, is an important investigation of consent to sex. The book contains many interesting and insightful arguments and does a nice job of distinguishing the considerations that are relevant to moral and legal consent. The book is both broad and narrow. It is broad in that it discusses a broad array of interesting issues, including the psychology of rapists, the types of psychological harm that rape victims suffer, the moral status and nature of consent, (...) and the conditions that make consent invalid. The book is also narrow in that it focuses on issues surrounding consent to sexual relations, rather than the broader issue of rape and other sex crimes. Wertheimer’s analysis has some defects. The first defect relates to his claim that sex to which the participants have validly consented is not immune to moral evaluation. The second defect involves Wertheimer’s model of morally valid consent. Wertheimer adopts an interest model of morally valid consent to sex whereby valid consent is the conclusion of moral argumentation about whether it’s in someone’s interest to hold that she (or the relevant class of persons) has validly consented in that type of situation. (shrink)
In Grutter, preferential treatment was held to be Constitutional on the basis of the contribution of “diverse” students to the education of their classmates. An implicit assumption in this argument, at least given how schools such as Michigan have interpreted it, is that the contribution involves making it more likely that the other students adopt the beliefs (or perspective) of the minorities. Three beliefs seem relevant here: justice is concerned with equality, racial and ethnic minorities are currently treated unequally, and (...) the state has a mandate to combat this type of injustice. I argued that the first two beliefs are likely false and that in any case they are already well represented on campuses. If my arguments succeed, then this narrow experiential diversity argument is incapable of establishing the moral permissibility, let alone Constitutionality, of these programs. A broader consequentialist argument may avoid this objection but only at the extent of introducing Constitutionally irrelevant considerations. (shrink)
The slavery contract is not a rights violation since the right not to be enslaved and the right not to give out a benefit are waivable and the conjunction of their voluntary waiver is not itself a rights violation. The case for the contract being pejoratively exploitative is not clear. Hence given the general presumption in favor of liberty of contract, such a transaction ought to be permitted. The contract is also not invalid on the grounds that the wrongdoer’s consent (...) to it necessarily reflects involuntariness or irrationality or on the grounds that it is logically impossible for the wrongdoer to satisfy the contract. Allowing such contracts may not have desirable consequences, but for the liberal this by itself is not a sufficient reason against allowing them. One case where the slavery contract might be relevant is where a victim’s agent or the state agrees to waive its claim to harsh punishment in return for the offender agreeing to be enslaved. (shrink)
A private property right is a collection of particular rights that relate to the control of an object. The ground for such moral rights rests on the value of project pursuit. It does so because the individual ownership of particular objects is intimately related to the formation and application of a coherent set of projects that are the major parts of a self-shaped life. Problems arise in explaining how unowned property is appropriated. Unilateral acts with regard to an object, e.g., (...) mixing in one’s labor into it, probably don’t ground particular rights to private property. Nor do bilateral contracts since a stable pre-institutional contract with regard to appropriation is not likely to form. However, a conventional method of appropriation can allow for such appropriation while at the same time preserving the pre-institutional nature of such rights. This theory can also account for a person’s property rights in her own body. However, the value of project formation requires that persons have at least some private property that is to serve as the object of their projects. These positive rights to property undermine the libertarian claim that all non-commitment-based rights are negative. However, a further empirical argument is needed in order to justify protecting these positive moral rights to private property by positive legal rights. (shrink)
A person deserves a punishment if and only if he did a culpable wrongdoing and in virtue of this it is other-things-being intrinsically good that he receive punishment and if he were to receive that punishment then it would be through a non-deviant causal chain that includes the culpable wrongdoing. The wrongdoing may be institutional or pre-institutional depending on whether the moral right that the wrongdoer trespasses upon is dependent on a political institution’s goal. Desert in general, and punitive desert (...) in particular, has a ground for which the agent is blameworthy or praiseworthy and it does not itself general a duty on anyone’s behalf. Both features make desert a different type of moral entity than a moral right. In addition, the two stand in a different relation to autonomy: rights protect a sphere in which autonomy may be exercises whereas desert, including punitive desert, provides a guide to the exercise of autonomy. They thus have different connections to one of the most important value-creating features of a person. This difference between desert and moral rights indicates the need for a separate analysis of each in the context of punishment. (shrink)
U.S. citizens have a right to exclude potential immigrants. This right rests in part on the threat immigration poses to change the character of the institutions to which the current citizens have consented and in part on the threat immigrants pose to the citizens' rights to collective property. This right is probably not opposed by a human right to immigrate since such a right cannot be supported by arguments from equality, fairness, legitimate state authority, or libertarianism.
In "Kant on Freedom and the Appropriate Punishment," the author begins by noting that in The Metaphysics of Morals , Kant asserts that a wrongdoer should be given a punishment that is similar to his wrongdoing. He then makes two interpretive claims with regard to this assertion.First, he claims that the best way to understand this assertion in the context of other things Kant says is that the state is obligated to punish a wrongdoer in a way that imposes on (...) the wrongdoer an amount of suffering equal to what he caused and through an action that is similar in type to the wrongdoer's offense. The argument in support of this claim occurs in section II and rests on two more specific interpretive claims about Kant's theory: that state punishment should resemble the wrongdoer's acts and should involve the same level of suffering as was involved in the original wrongdoing and that punishment in accordance with these constraints is an obligatory duty.Second, the author claims that on Kant's theory this principle of appropriate punishment is justified because it restores equality in the distribution of freedom for members of the state. The argument in support of this claim occurs in section III. The argument rests in part on Kant's justification of the state and coercion in terms of the value of equalized freedom. By applying this same justification to Kant's principle of appropriate punishment, the author claims to be able to account for the principle as well as to relate the principle to Kant's political theory. Der vorliegende Beitrag beginnt mit der Feststellung, daß Kant in der Metaphysik der Sitten geltend macht, ein Übeltäter solle eine Bestrafung erleiden, die mit seiner Tat vergleichbar ist. Im Hinblick auf diese Forderung Kants werden zwei Thesen aufgestellt.Erstens wird behauptet, die genannte Forderung sei vor dem Hintergrund sonstiger Äußerungen Kants am besten dahingehend zu verstehen, daß der Staat verpflichtet sei, einen Übeltäter in einer Weise zu bestrafen, die diesem ein Maß von Leid zufügt, das dem von ihm selbst verursachten gleichkommt. Geschehen müsse dies durch eine Handlung, die in ihrer Art dem vom Übeltäter begangenen Verbrechen entspricht. Die Begründung dieser These erfolgt in Abschnitt II und stützt sich wiederum auf zwei mehr in die Einzelheiten gehende Thesen zu Kants Theorie: Staatliche Bestrafung sollte den Handlungen des Übeltäters ähneln und Leid in einer Größenordnung mit sich bringen, wie es auch die ursprüngliche Tat zur Folge hatte. Bestrafung in Übereinstimmung mit diesen Bedingungen ist eine Pflicht.Zweitens wird die Auffassung vertreten, dieses Prinzip angemessenen Strafens sei im Rahmen der Theorie Kants gerechtfertigt, weil es für die Mitglieder des Staates die Gleicheit in bezug auf die Verteilung der Freiheit wiederherstelle. Die Begründung dieser These findet sich in Abschnitt III und beruht zum Teil auf Kants Rechtfertigung von Staat und Zwang durch den Verweis auf den Wert gleichmäßig verteilter Freiheit. Die Übernahme eben dieser Rechtfertigung auch für Kants Theorie angemessenen Strafens soll sowohl dazu dienen, das Prinzip selbst zu begründen, als auch dazu, es in Kants politische Theorie einzuordnen. (shrink)
The debate between the 'Will Theory' and the 'Interest Theory' of rights is actually a debate over stipulative definitions. I argue how this could have happened, and suggest how we might proceed building a theory of rights.