Why it is Disrespectful to Violate Rights: Contractualism and the Kind-Desire Theory

Philosophical Studies 175 (1):97-116 (2018)
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Abstract

The most prominent theories of rights, the Will Theory and the Interest Theory, notoriously fail to accommodate all and only rights-attributions that make sense to ordinary speakers. The Kind-Desire Theory, Leif Wenar’s recent contribution to the field, appears to fare better in this respect than any of its predecessors. The theory states that we attribute a right to an individual if she has a kind-based desire that a certain enforceable duty be fulfilled. A kind-based desire is a reason to want something which one has simply in virtue of being a member of a certain kind. Rowan Cruft objects that this theory creates a puzzle about the relation between rights and respect. In particular, if rights are not grounded in aspects of the particular individuals whose rights they are, how can we sustain the intuitive notion that to violate a right is to disrespect the right-holder? I present a contractualist account of respect which reconciles the Kind-Desire Theory with the intuition that rights-violations are disrespectful. On this account, respect for a person is a matter of acknowledging her legitimate authority to make demands on the will and conduct of others. And I argue that kind-based desires authorize a person to make demands even if they do not correspond to that person’s well-being or other non-relational features.

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Janis David Schaab
Utrecht University

Citations of this work

Rights.Leif Wenar - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

The metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mary J. Gregor.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
What is the point of equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.

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