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PHIL 2103
Ken Ferguson

PHIL 2103 The minimally decent life approach to HRHR are rights to those things that human beings need in order to live minimally decent lives lives that are worthy of human dignity and respectA need for basic needsIf this approach is correct it would distinguish HR from moral rights that are not HRWe may have moral rights to have others not lie to us or not break promises for no good reason etc But if they do such things this will not usually lower our well being below the acceptable minimum So such acts dont violate our HRSome possible objections Somewhat vague what counts as a decent minimum is it the same for all people Some things we have a HR to are not necessary to a minimally decent life eg a right to free speech right to vote right to move anywhere in the country Some things necessary to a decent life may not be things we have a HR to eg Health Care DO all HR violations reduce someones well being below the acceptable minimum What about cases of violating HR nicely Are there acts that fall below the decent minimum but which are not violations of HR being robbed ordinary crimes Why only HR to a minimally decent life Why shouldnt we be entitled to some things even though they are not necessary to the decent minimum someone steals your very nice car you dont really need that nice car but you may need a car but that doesnt mean that it is a human right to own a car HR and Autonomy A Kantian approachBy our very nature human beings are autonomous rational agents This is what separates us from animals and makes us distinctively human Thus not only is it morally wrong to undermine a persons autonomy person hood our qualities such as rationality self consciousness intelligence etc but to do so is in a sense an assault on our very humanity and natureFor this reason we find it appropriate to speak of human rights in situations in which a persons autonomy is threatened or undermined HR as Distinctively Political Norms the social contract account of HRHuman rights are political norms dealing mainly with how people should be treated by their governments and institutions They are not ordinary moral norms applying mainly to interpersonal conduct such as prohibitions of lying and violence As Thomas Pogge puts it to engage human rights conduct must be in some sense official Pogge 200 47 BUT we must be careful here since some rights such as rights against Basic IdeaHuman Rights are moral rights of individuals that are in some way associated with the existence of states part of morality for statesBefore states existed in human history the only type of morality was interpersonal moralitydont lie dont steal be respectful of others etc But the emergence of states raised new moral issues not directly addressed by interpersonal morality This is where HR comes into play James Nickels on Human RightsHuman rights are basic moral guaranteesWe possess human rights simply in virtue of being humanHuman Rights attach to particular individualsHuman Rights are high priorityCompliance with Human Rights are mandatory Usually held to be universalExist independently of lawNickels further explores Human Rights in Stanford EncyclopediaHuman Rights are political norms dealing with how people should be treated by governments and institutionsExist as moral andor legal rights They are numerous several dozen rather than few They are minimal moral standardsThey are international normsThey are high priority normsThey require robust justificationsThey are rights but not necessarily in a strict senseSocial contract theoryMany of these philosophers approached issues about political morality using social contract theory Main components of social contract theoryContract theorists do not claim that there was at some timein the past an actual social social contract The contract is a conceptual device used to elucidate the moralitiy that applies to states and their relationship to individualsThe idea is that any legitimate morally acceptable state must incorporate and protest the rights which rational individuals would insist upon as part of the terms of their joining the state Considerations in support of the contract view of HRThe rights included in the UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights are rights that it would be reasonable to include as part of the social contract So contract theory can make good sense of the status accorded to these rights by the UDHRAlso the kinds of rights that rational people would agree to in the social contract are rights which morally should fit into the constitution
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