Authors
Alejandra Mancilla
University of Oslo
Abstract
Given the grim global statistics of extreme poverty and socioeconomic inequalities, moral and political philosophers have focused on the duties of justice and assistance that arise therefrom. What the needy are morally permitted to do for themselves in this context has been, however, a mostly overlooked question. Reviving a medieval and early modern account of the right of necessity, I propose that a chronically deprived agent has a right to take, use and/or occupy whatever material resources are required to guarantee her self-preservation, or the means necessary to acquire them. There are three individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions: the need is basic, the claimant does not violate other equally important moral interests, and it is a last resort. I present two recommendations to be followed by the claimants, and offer some examples where this principle may be applied today. I reply to the objections that understanding the right of necessity in this way kills its intuitive plausibility, and that it is a remedy worse than the disease. I conclude that, while not the best solution for the problem of global poverty, the exercise of this right should be accepted if we believe in the human right to subsistence.
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Reprint years 2017
DOI 10.1111/japp.12170
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