Increasingly our society relies upon government regulatory agencies to protect its people, its institutions and its environment from the negative impacts of new technologies. These agencies are saddled with the task of deciding among strongly conflicting viewpoints represented by a wide range of interest groups and “value communities” within the society. When regulatory decisions are made some interests and values are protected while others are curtailed.
In Taking Rights Seriously, Ronald Dworkin defends the thesis that some, at least, of the rights people have, and in particular the most fundamental rights such as free speech and religious freedom, are “rights against the state”. By this he means that they identify modes of action that individuals ought to be permitted to carry out, and interference with which ought to be banned, even if a majority in the society prefer that the actions be prohibited or prefer some other (...) condition achievement of which would require prohibiting them. (shrink)
In Patterns of Moral Complexity, Charles Larmore describes three related ways in which moral and political theory are more complex than is often allowed. He objects to three parallel simplifications: that moral decision making largely consists in the application of rules to particular situations; that the ideals by which we are guided in our personal lives should also do service as political ideals, a simplification which he calls “expressivism”; and that there is but a single source of moral value. Against (...) these simplifications he argues in a sort of Aristotelian way for the centrality of judgment in moral reasoning; for the liberal principle that the state should not strive to express our highest personal ideal; and for the, I suppose eclectic, view that partiality, deontological reasons, and consequentialist reasons all have a place in moral reasoning and that therefore the moral person may well be caught in conflicts that present him or her with tragic choices. These are the three “patterns of moral complexity” that the title of the book refers to. (shrink)