Is Cannibalism Immoral?
• There is no good argument against the moral permissibility of cannibalism
• There is nothing wrong with making an assumption
• Given that his action was immoral, does it follow that it was morally permissible
for society to stop him?
What is liberty?
• A liberty is a right to do something with out interference
• We also commonly call liberties “rights” and “freedoms”
• If a person has a right or liberty to do something, they are permitted to do that
• In the U.S. these liberties generally include freedom of expression, freedom of
Immoral but not illegal
• Sometimes people should have the liberty to do things, even though those actions
• For example, it is probably immoral to vote for a congressperson who wants to
bring back slavery
o But that does not mean that society is allowed to deny people the right to
vote for that congressperson
o Similarly, it is probably immoral to not give to charity, but it also wouldn’t
be right for society to force us to
• But then why is it ok for society to stop people from being cannibals, like in
When is a society allowed to restrict a person’s liberties?
• The Harm Principle o John Stuart Mill, “The only purpose for which power can be right fully
exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to
prevent harm to others”
Mill believed in utilitarianism, like Singer
Wrote On Liberty and Utilitarianism
o The government may infringe a person’s liberties but only in order to
prevent them form harming others
o But if there is no danger of us doing harm to others, then the government
may not interfere with my life
o Thus people have liberty of conscience, thought and feeling; of “doing as
we like, subject to the consequences as may follow; and of the freedom to
gather and unite, because these affect only ourselves, and not necessarily
o No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free
Why would you want something like the harm principle?
• Primarily, Mill thinks that life goes better when people are allowed to make their