Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Scanlon begins by addressing the issue that util. has with accomodating rights. He claims that social utility cannot be justification for overriding moral rights, but they do need justification. Further, it is important not to focus on specific individual cases, but on general rules. He does not that this harms the theory itself. Giving an individual claim or liberty rights diminishes the rights of another individual (140). Why is this necessarily negative? Isn't that the point of having a right, so that another cannot infringe on your freedom?

"They must base themselves on a general claim about how importants interests they seek to protect are for any person as compared with the interests served by conflicting claims." (140)
Does this mean that interest of the right holder and others have to be weiged? If this is so, it seems that it would defeat the purpose of that right.
Scanlon further goes on to address the importance of individual autonomy, and that it leads to
rights, liberties and other means to shape their place in society.

I really like the part about justice and equality. Having unequal distribution of wealth gives those in power more ability to control the lives of the less fortunate. Their individual autonomy is therefore in jeopardy. He argues that to minimize this inequality, we should close the gap between the rich and poor, not distribute wealth equally to both ends of the spectrum.

The following is something that I do not understand:
"They differ from the ends promoted in standard utilitarian theories in that their value does not rest on their being good things for particular individuals: fairness and equality do not represent ways in which individuals may be better off." (143)
I understand utilitarianism to be concerned with the greatest good for most. How is fairness and equality not that? Also, util. wants the most good, and fairness and equality bring good..

On page 147, he claims that "rights concern the alleviation of certain major problems". What might these be? I cannot help but to think of genocide in regards to the right to life, or torture. I would like to see what others think about this claim.

(I believe) that he is claiming that there are no absolute rights, and even so, the value of having a right is what is important (149).

Lastly, I understood (and enjoyed) Section IV about LIFE AND DEATH, but I am confused as how it ties to the rest of the article. I would appreciate insight.

1 comment:

  1. What it seems he is doing is trying to show why one ought to accept rule-utilitarianism as a preferred system over straight utility or just rights. On page 149 he is explaining that while an appeal to consequences is still what is happening it is important for people to take into account the advantages of having rights when looking to the consequences. So basically the rights are a good thing to follow but unlike rights theorists they can be violated by more than just an appeal to other rights, however by virtue of being a right they hold extra weight in the calculations of consequences. If I understand it correctly( always hoping) then an act that does not violate a right but has good consequences is morally permissible with no real regard to what is happening. But when an act violates a right to produce good consequences then it may still turn out to not be morally permissible because the actual act has a value on it as well by virtue of going against a right.