James Mahon
Lehman College (CUNY)
In this review I consider Gorman's arguments for redescrbiing the history of ethics, from Plato to Isaiah Berlin, as the history of theories of human rights, and for the conclusions that human rights are dependent, that they change over time, and that they may conflict with each other. I disagree with his interpretations of Plato, Hobbes, and Kant, as well as the idea that their moral theories can be converted into theories of human rights without loss, and I argue that his various conclusions about human rights depend upon assumptions - such as that ethics is essentially concerned with motivation, that human nature is changing to the extent that human reason is changing, and that moral reality is inconsistent – that many would reject. Along the way I point out various blunders, such as the claim that that the Hobbesian social contract is a "covenant with the sovereign", and the claim that, according to Kant, "If I act wrongly... I may be acceptably treated as a means."
Keywords Rights  Universality  Eternality  Hohfeld  Hobbes  Kant  Plato  Imperfect Duty  Locke  Berlin  Dworkin
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