David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Social Philosophy and Policy 1 (02):35- (1984)
A theory of basic moral rights ought to aim at telling us who the beings are that have rights and of what those rights consist. It may, however, seek to achieve that goal via an indirect route. In this paper I shall attempt a strategy of indirection. The first stage of the argument is a consideration of why moral theory can allow any place at all to rights. Acknowledging rights can be inconvenient. An otherwise desirable outcome is blocked if the only ways in which it can be attained involve the violation of rights. Why not jettison rights and thereby render these outcomes achievable? The answer that will be suggested trades on it being a deep fact about human beings that they can and do order their lives by reference to long-term commitments and aspirations. In my terminology, they are project pursuers . If people were rational animals all of whose interests were flickering and evanescent, an ethic entirely resting on maximization of impersonal value would be appropriate. But because projects entail commitments to values not subject to trade-offs, the introduction of rights is plausible. That is the first major stage of the argument. The second builds on it and tries to show that the recognition of rights or their equivalent is morally required, that only an ethic in which basic rights are acknowledged can be properly responsive to persons' status as project pursuers. More particularly, is suggested that rights take the form of constraints imposing minimal forbearance on others such that one has reasonable expectations of being able to pursue one's projects amidst a world of other project pursuers
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