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Lecture

PHIL 2103 Lecture.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 2103
Professor
Ken Ferguson
Semester
Winter

Description
PHIL 2103 The minimally decent life approach to HR: HR are rights to those things that human beings need in order to live minimally decent lives, lives that are worthy of human dignity and respect. A need for basic needs If this approach is correct, it would distinguish HR from moral rights that are not HR. We 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 HR. Some 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 approach By 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 nature. For 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 HR Human 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 Idea: Human Rights are moral rights of individuals that are in some way associated with the existence of states, part of morality for states. Before states existed in human history, the only type of morality was interpersonal morality dont 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 Rights: Human rights are basic moral guarantees We possess human rights simply in virtue of being human Human Rights attach to particular individuals Human Rights are high priority Compliance with Human Rights are mandatory Usually held to be universal Exist independently of law Nickels further explores Human Rights in Stanford Encyclopedia: Human Rights are political norms dealing with how people should be treated by governments and institutions Exist as moral and/or legal rights They are numerous (several dozen) rather than few They are minimal moral standards They are international norms They are high priority norms They require robust justifications They are rights, but not necessarily in a strict sense Social contract theory: Many of these philosophers approached issues about political morality using social contract theory. Main components of social contract theory. Contract 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 individuals. The 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 HR: The 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 UDHR. Also, the kinds of rights that rational people would agree to in the social contract are rights which, morally, should fit into the constitution. Contract theory can also make good sense of the function of HR. Suppose we are in the state of nature. Would there be any point to HR there? Would there be any work for the concept of a HR to do? Some HR, example: the right to participate in the government dont make sense in the state of nature. Others have no real point in the state of nature. What is the point of the right to free speech or religion, etc... Whos going to stop us in the state of nature? Even the HR to life would have no real function. After all, we already have ordinary morality which condemns killing. What would introduce the concept of a HR to life in this context as to ordinary morality? HOWEVER, if we think of HR as part of a distinctive political morality, a morality that applies specifically to the behaviour of states and their relationship to individuals, then HR immediately... James Vincent on the structure of a right (5 elements): A right-holder has a claim to some substance, which he or she might assert, or demand, or enjoy, or enforce, against some individual or group, citing in support of his or her claim some particular ground. 1) The subject of a right: An individual is usually the subject of a right, though it can also be a group, tribe, family, company or even the globe itself. 2) The object of a right: is what it is a right to. This can be positive or negative. 3) Exercising a right: The activity which connects a subject to an object. 4) The bearer of the correlative duty: Rights are held against someone or something. The attribution of a right is meaningless without the possibility of a correlative duty resting somewhere. 5) Justification of a right: A right might at the least be conceived as what you can get away with by lodging a claim to it in the mind of the public and hoping that no one will come up with an objection to it. It also suggests social acceptance of the rights as of great importance. Rawls minimalist account of human rights: They are international meant to apply to states in the sense that sanctions or even military force can be used against states that violate them They are minimal standards in that only acts that cause great harm constitute HR violations So, genocide, torture, slavery, arbitrary arrest or detention violates Human Rights, but there is no Human Right to free speech, or assembly or democracy, or to economic subsistence Human Rights are limited to Articles 3-18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights How adequate or plausible is Rawls minimalist account of human rights? NOT VERY! Does not agree with the way the term human right is used: the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, and the like, are paradigm examples of Human Rights. Why would we not be entitled to these liberties simply in virtue of being human? Arent benevolent dictatorships violating at least one Human Right, namely the right to democracy? On Rawls theory, Human Rights cannot be used as a means of promoting progress and development of various kinds among societies around the world How plausible is the basic needs or minimally decent life approach to what human rights are? On this approach, HR are rights to those things that human beings need in order to live minimally decent lives, lives that are worthy of human dignity and respect. OBJECTIONS: Somewhat vague what counts as a decent minimum. Is it the same for all people? Some things we have a Human Right to are not necessary to a minimally decent life, ie. 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 Do all Human Right violations fall below minimal standards? What about cases of violating Human Rights nicely? (Benevolent dictatorships) Are there acts that fall below the decent minimum but which are not violations of Human Rights? The main example here would be ordinary crime. Why only Human Rights to a minimally decent life? Why shouldnt we be entitled to some things even though they are not necessary to the decent minimum? The minimally decent life approach to Human Rights makes it true by definition that there is Human Right to economic and social goods such as a minimum level of subsistence, health care, and so on. Now, we may well have Human Rights to such things. But surely this is not something that should be
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