THE RIGHTS APPROACH

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Transcript THE RIGHTS APPROACH

THE RIGHTS APPROACH
Jill Stiemsma
M, 8:30
Ethical Theories Presentation
April 21, 2008
IMMANUEL KANT
1724-1804
THEORY OF RIGHT ACTION
“Each human has
dignity and is worthy
of respect. Human
dignity gives rise to
fundamental moral
rights.”
TWO BASIC RIGHTS
 Right
to protection of human
freedoms – each of us,
therefore, has an obligation not
to interfere with others’ rights
(e.g., the right to free speech)
TWO BASIC RIGHTS
 Right
to a minimal level of
well-being (e.g., the right to
sufficient calories)
 Imposes on others the duty to
sustain that level of well-being
As such, each of us has
protections (rights) and each
of us has a commensurate
responsibility to others. It’s
not just about “me”.
Consider drinking and driving.
BASIC PRINCIPLE OF
MORAL ACTION:
CATEGORICAL
IMPERATIVE
CATEGORICAL
IMPERATIVE
“ACT ONLY ACCORDING TO
THAT MAXIM WHEREBY YOU
CAN AT THE SAME TIME
WILL THAT IT BECOME
A UNIVERSAL LAW.”
WHAT IN THE WORLD
DOES THAT MEAN???
The rule you propose for yourself
when deciding what to do must be
consistent with the rule that
everyone else should follow.
FOR EXAMPLE…
Should I lie to get myself out of an
embarrassing situation?
Kant: No. Because if others
therefore could also lie in the same
situation, the general expectation
for truthfulness could never be
maintained.
CATEGORICAL
IMPERATIVE
WE CANNOT MAKE
EXCEPTIONS FOR
OURSELVES…
WHAT’S GOOD FOR
THE GOOSE IS
GOOD FOR
THE GANDER,
SO TO SPEAK
PERFORM TWO TESTS
1.
Generalize the principle to others:
“If someone else acted this way in this
situation, would it be all right?”
Perform Test 2 only if Test 1 makes
sense.
2.
Ask: “Would you choose to live in a
world where everyone acted this way?”
If not, do not act on the maxim.
USING TEST 1:
Maxim: I may make a false promise…
Generalized: Anyone may make a false
promise…
This is self-contradictory because:
If anyone may make a …
Result: I may not act on that maxim.
The maxim fails Test One.
EXAMPLE TWO
USING TESTS ONE AND TWO



Maxim: I may refuse to help another…
Generalized: Anyone may refuse to
help…
Can it be conceived? Yes.
Could you will it to be universal law?
No
Result: You cannot act on the "Bad
Samaritan" maxim.
ONE MORE EXAMPLE
“I don’t have time to write my
own paper. I will copy from a
friend who wrote on this topic
last semester.”
TEST 1
Generalize the principle to others:
“If someone else acted this way in
this situation, would it be all
right?”
Perform Test 2 ONLY if Test 1
makes sense. Let’s assume it does.
TEST 2
ASK:
“Would you choose to live in a world
where everyone acted this way?”
If not, do not act on the maxim.
In short, if you wouldn’t
want to live in a world
where everyone acted
that way,the action
would be deemed neither
“moral” nor ”ethical”
GOOD WILL
According to
Kant,
only one thing
is inherently
good, and that
is good will.
One employs good will ONLY if
s/he acts with RESPECT for
MORAL LAW. That is, a
“good action” is not the same
thing as a morally right
action. Even if one does the
morally right thing, s/he does
not deserve credit unless s/he
acts from good will (heart).
IN SHORT, ONE’S ACTION
IS ONLY GOOD IF IT IS
GOOD “WITHOUT
QUALIFICATION”.
MORAL WORTH DEPENDS ON
OUR MOTIVATION.
We Differ from Animals…
Because we can act rationally
 Because we can make moral choices
 Because we can treat people like
ends vs. means
 Because we can follow rules, reach
conclusions, generalize and make
free choices

IN SHORT, ONE’S ACTION
IS ONLY GOOD IF IT IS
GOOD “WITHOUT
QUALIFICATION”.
MORAL WORTH DEPENDS ON
OUR MOTIVATION.
THE CRITICISMS
of
KANTIAN THEORY
Criticisms
Kant’s approach
gives little aid
for complex
situations
FOR EXAMPLE…
Let’s say your work group consists of
two productive students and two
slackers. Your grade depends upon
submitting a well reasoned, well
edited project which will not
happen unless you pick up the
slack.
Let’s apply Test 1 and Test 2.
WHAT TO DO…


Test 1: Generalize to others –
“If someone else acted this way in
this situation, would it be all
right?”
“If others picked up the slack for
lazy students, would that be all
right?”
WHAT TO DO…

Test 2: ASK
“Would you choose to live in a world
where everyone acted this way?”
CAN TESTS 1 AND 2
TRULY ADDRESS MORE
COMPLICATED DILEMMAS?
CRITICISMS
 Kant
dismisses emotions such as
pity and compassion as
irrelevant to morality
 How does one separate such
emotions from morality?
 Is there anything wrong with
compassion and pity?
CRITICISM
 Kant’s
approach doesn’t take
the consequences of actions
seriously enough
 What if a well-intentioned
babysitter dries your cat in the
microwave: Would you say,
“That’s okay; you meant well”?
ANOTHER CONTRIBUTOR
John Rawls:
“Justice as
Fairness”:
Focuses on the
structure of
society
Can society be set up around fair
principles of cooperation that
citizens would accept?
RAWLS


Each person should have equal right
to the most extensive system of
equal basic liberties
Social and economic inequalities are
to be arranged so that it benefits
both parties fairly and equally
(e.g., New Zealand school funding)
Once society has been set up
around a fair set of rules,
then people should have the
chance to freely “play the
game”: Get jobs, get
educations, earn income,
establish businesses, etc.
-- and succeed or fail
on their own terms.
ADVANTAGES
 Protects
from exploitation
 Prohibits favoritism
 Justifies “right action”
 Promotes happiness
 Prevents harm
APPLICATION OF
RIGHTS THEORY
GLOBAL
WARMING
RIGHT TO PROTECTION
OF HUMAN FREEDOMS
Which human rights are
threatened by global warming?
Access to…
 Adequate food
 Reasonable weather
 Clean water
 Freedom from disease
EXTREME WEATHER
Droughts,
floods, other
extreme
weather =
Catastrophic
loss of life
INTERRUPTION OF FOOD
PRODUCTION
INCREASING UNSANITARY
CONDITIONS
Those with the fewest resources
can expect the greatest crises
Remember: From a
Rights Approach, we
should all expect a
minimal level of wellbeing. Hence, this
approach would suggest
we should alter behavior
NOW to preserve future
right to survival.
In fact, we have a DUTY
to protect the well-being
of future generations. We
have an obligation NOT to
interfere with their rights.
QUESTIONS
1.
2.
3.
How could you see yourself
using the Rights Approach in
your own life?
How useful are Kant’s “tests”?
Should “rights” be the primary
consideration when making
ethical decisions? Why/why
not?
The End
Remember:
Kant loves you