The principle of humanity


The fundamental question to which liberalism, conservatism and other such things give answers or should give answers, and arguments for the answers, is sometimes called the question of justice. It is the question not of what laws there are, but of what laws there ought to be, how societies ought to be. Better, it is the question of who ought to have what. An answer needs first to decide on a prior question. Of what ought who to have what shares or amounts? My answers are given in this paper. The first, to the prior question, has to do with our great desires, and the wretchedness or other distress of having them unfulfilled. Other answers have to do with bad answers to the main question, and then the right one. Morality has a majesty. Despite ourselves, and yet to ourselves, it stands over the rest of our existence, in particular over our self-interest in its various forms. To my mind it is the Principle of Humanity above all that has that majesty. There is a little more about it in another another piece What Equality Comes to -- The Principle of Humanity and in effect in what comes before it, What Equality is Not . There is rather more, of a different kind, in a later book Humanity, Terrorism and Terrorist War: Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7... .published in the U.S. under the title Right and Wrong, and Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7.. .



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Ted Honderich
University College London

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