Collective rights and the value of groups

Inquiry 41 (1):21 – 43 (1998)
Two kinds of intrinsically valuable entities are distinguished - those that are ends-in- themselves (and therefore sacred) and those that are intrinsically good. It is suggested that it is the individual rather than the group that is sacred in the primary sense. To be sacred or an end-in-itself implies that the sacred entity must not be replaced by a potential entity even if more good can be promoted by doing so. It is suggested that only entities that have an irreducible consciousness should be candidates for the sacred in the primary sense. If so, it would follow that groups are not sacred in the primary sense unless perhaps one regards them as unitary beings. It is argued that though groups have rights that are not reducible to the rights of individuals, this is consistent with the view that the ultimate justification of these rights is provided by an appeal to the interests of the relevant individuals; groups can be derivatively sacred. Activities of collectives can sometimes be intrinsically good, and such considerations, too, would be relevant to deciding upon which collectives should be retained and which modified or replaced.
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