Ronald Dworkin, Reverence for Life, and the Limits of State Power

Utilitas 13 (1):33 (2001)
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Ronald Dworkin claims in Life's Dominion that our tradition of religious toleration shields decisions to abort a pregnancy and to end one's life with the assistance of others because they pivot on judgements about the value of human life that are essentially spiritual. He further maintains that the state may regulate these decisions to ensure that they honour appropriately life's sacred or intrinsic value. This article disputes the first of Dworkin's claims. Tolerating other people's religious practices does not entail acquiescing in conduct that is not religiously motivated but springs instead from normal moral judgements. This article also questions whether governments justifiably may protect entities or processes simply because some citizens deem them intrinsically valuable. If, despite these doubts, one concludes that the state may assume this protective role, I argue that it probably can enact tighter constraints on abortion and assisted suicide than Dworkin thinks permissible



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Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Why Abortion is Immoral.Don Marquis - 1989 - Journal of Philosophy 86 (4):183-202.
Self-Defense.Judith Jarvis Thomson - 1991 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (4):283-310.
The Non-Identity Problem.James Woodward - 1986 - Ethics 96 (4):804-831.

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