Cultures around the world have regarded self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal of human striving and as the fundamental test of the goodness of a human life. The ideal has also been criticized, however, as egotistical or as so value-neutral that it fails to distinguish between, for example, self-fulfilled sinners and self-fulfilled saints. Alan Gewirth presents here a systematic and highly original study of self-fulfillment that seeks to overcome these and other arguments and to justify the high place that the ideal (...) has been accorded. He does so by developing an ethical theory that ultimately grounds the value of self-fulfillment in the idea of the dignity of human beings.Gewirth begins by distinguishing two models of self- fulfillment--aspiration-fulfillment and capacity-fulfillment--and shows how each of these contributes to the intrinsic value of human life. He then distinguishes between three types of morality--universalist, particularist, and personalist--and shows how each contributes to the values embodied in self-fulfillment. Building on these ideas, he develops a Odialectical' conception of reason that shows how human rights are central to self-fulfillment. Gewirth also argues that self-fulfillment has a social as well as an individual dimension: that the nature of society and the obstacles that disadvantaged groups face affect strongly the character of the self-fulfillment that persons can achieve.Bold in scope and rigorous in execution, Self-Fulfillment is a powerful new contribution to moral, social, and political philosophy. (shrink)
Human rights are rights which all persons equally have simply insofar as they are human. But are there any such rights? How, if at all, do we know that there are? It is with this question of knowledge, and the related question of existence, that I want to deal in this paper. 1. CONCEPTUAL QUESTIONS The attempt to answer each of these questions, however, at once raises further, more directly conceptual questions. In what sense may human rights be said to (...) exist? What does it mean to say that there are such rights or that persons have them? This question, in turn, raises a question about the nature of human rights. What is the meaning of the expression “human rights”? Within the limits of the present paper I cannot hope to deal adequately with the controversial issues raised by these conceptual questions. But we may make at least a relevant beginning by noting that, in terms of Hohfeld's famous classification of four different kinds of rights, the human rights are primarily claim-rights, in that they entail correlative duties of other persons or groups to act or to refrain from acting in ways required for the right-holders' having that to which they have rights. It will help our understanding of this and other aspects of human rights if we note that the full structure of a claim-right is given by the following formula: A has a right to X against B by virtue of Y. There are five main elements here: first, the Subject of the right, the person or persons who have the right; second, the Nature of the right; third, the Object of the right, what it is a right to; fourth, the Respondent of the right, the person or persons who have the correlative duty; fifth, the Justifying Basis or Ground of the right. (shrink)
As its title suggests, the subject of this book is the nature of self-fulfillment, which the author defines as “carrying to fruition one’s deepest desires or one’s worthiest capacities”. It treats this subject as a specifically ethical one. The motivation behind it lies in the author’s conviction that all other norms and ideals have value only insofar as they serve to advance this one.
Cultural pluralism is both a fact and a norm. It is a fact that our world, and indeed our society, are marked by a large diversity of cultures delineated in terms of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, ideology, and other partly interpenetrating variables. This fact raises the normative question of whether, or to what extent, such diversities should be recognized or even encouraged in policies concerning government, law, education, employment, the family, immigration, and other important areas of social concern.
Rationality and reasonableness are often sharply distinguished from one another and are even held to be in conflict. On this construal, rationality consists in means-end calculation of the most efficient means to one's ends (which are usually taken to be self-interested), while reasonableness consists in equitableness whereby one respects the rights of other persons as well as oneself. To deal with this conflict, it is noted that both rationality and reasonableness are based on reason, which is analyzed as the power (...) of attaining truth, and especially necessary truth. It is then shown that, by the rationality involved in reason, the moral principle of reasonableness, the Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC), has a stringently rational justification in that to deny or violate it is to incur self-contradiction. Objections are considered bearing on relevance and motivation. It is concluded that, where reasonableness and egoistic rationality conflict, the former is rationally superior. (shrink)
It is first shown that, contrary to Maclntyre, human rights are not 'fictions'. I then summarize my own argument for human rights, and reply to Maclntyre's objections. Turning to his own positive doctrine, I indicate that it is confronted with 'the problem of moral indeterminacy', in that it allows or provides for outcomes which are mutually opposed to one another so far as concerns their moral status. I then take up Maclntyre's triadic account of the virtues and show that each (...) phase - practice, narrative order of a single life, and moral tradition - is morally indeterminate, as are also his accounts of the morality of law and the virtue of justice. My conclusion is that moral virtues must be based on human rights if the virtues are to have morally justified contents. (shrink)
Two criticisms of my argument in "reason and morality" were presented by christopher mcmahon (in "gewirth's justification of morality," "philosophical studies", September 1986). I reply to each criticism, Showing that mcmahon has misconstrued my use of 'ought' as action-Guiding and my universalization of the agent's rights-Judgment, As well as my concept of prudential rights. A general defect is that he has not understood how central to my argument is the agent's conative and rational standpoint.
Descartes's general rule that “whatever is clearly and distinctly perceived is true” has traditionally been criticized on two closely related grounds. As Leibniz, for example, puts it, clearness and distinctness are of no value as criteria of truth unless we have criteria of clearness and distinctness; but Descartes gives none. And consequently, the standards of judgment which the rule in fact evokes are purely subjective and psychological. There must hence be set up analytic, logical “marks” by means of which it (...) can infallibly and without arbitrariness be recognized whether any ideas or propositions are or are not clear and distinct. (shrink)
As one of the most important ethicists to emerge since the Second World War, Alan Gewirth continues to influence philosophical debates concerning morality. In this ground-breaking book, Gewirth's neo-Kantianism, and the communitarian problems discussed, form a dialogue on the foundation of moral theory. Themes of agent-centered constraints, the formal structure of theories, and the relationship between freedom and duty are examined along with such new perspectives as feminism, the Stoics, and Sartre. Gewirth offers a picture of the philosopher's theory and (...) its applications, providing a richer, more complete critical assessement than any which has occurred to date. (shrink)
Civil disobedience raises difficult problems for most of us because we are neither absolute legalists nor absolute individualistic moralists. As it is usually denned, civil disobedience consists in violating some law on the ground that it or some other law or social policy is morally wrong, and the manner of this violation is public, nonviolent, and accepting of the legally prescribed penalty for disobedience. According to the absolute legalist, civil disobedience is never justified, because he holds that every law, no (...) matter how bad or wrong it may be, ought to be obeyed. According to the absolute individualistic moralist, on the other hand, civil disobedience is always justified, because such a moralist gives absolute priority to the demands of the individual's conscience, so that when anyone's conscience tells him some law or policy is morally wrong, that ought to settle the issue of obedience for the person in question. (shrink)
Rationality and reasonableness are often sharply distinguished from one another and are even held to be in conflict. On this construal, rationality consists in means-end calculation of the most efficient means to one's ends, while reasonableness consists in equitableness whereby one respects the rights of other persons as well as oneself. To deal with this conflict, it is noted that both rationality and reasonableness are based on reason, which is analyzed as the power of attaining truth, and especially necessary truth. (...) It is then shown that, by the rationality involved in reason, the moral principle of reasonableness, the Principle of Generic Consistency, has a stringently rational justification in that to deny or violate it is to incur self-contradiction. Objections are considered bearing on relevance and motivation. It is concluded that, where reasonableness and egoistic rationality conflict, the former is rationally superior. (shrink)
How can anyone be opposed to private philanthropy? Such philanthropy consists in persons freely giving of their wealth or other goods to benefit individuals and groups they consider worthy of support. As private persons, they act apart from – although not, of course, in contravention of – the political apparatus of the state. In acting in this beneficent way, the philanthropists are indeed, as their name etymologically implies, lovers of humanity; and their efforts are also justified as exercises of their (...) right to freedom, including the free use of the resources they own, which they have presumably acquired by their own free efforts or by the efforts of other persons who have freely transferred these resources to them. Thus, private philanthropy combines two of the highest values of individual and social morality: personal freedom and interpersonal beneficence. I. Moral Problems of Private Philanthropy Many questions about moral, and especially human, rights arise from private philanthropy as thus briefly characterized. These questions may be divided into three sets, which focus respectively on the agents of philanthropy, on the recipients of philanthropy, and on the objects for which philanthropic awards are given. First, regarding the agents: Do they have a right to all the wealth they possess? Have they accumulated this wealth in a way that has respected the moral rights of other persons? If the answer is negative, even in part, then in what morally valid sense is all the wealth in question theirs to give away, even if they use it for philanthropic purposes: Do they have a right to give it away as they choose? (shrink)