I think when Dworkin is noting that his theory isn't "fantastic" he means that it isn't "out there" or off base. I think he's referencing (I'm assuming Hart) using the term about his work with that connotation. Its funny how catty philosophers can get.
I think this article is fairly straight forward (which probably means I misunderstood some stuff). Rights are necessary in order to prevent utility from collapsing under itself. Any meaningful utilitarian principle has an egalitarian base; to allow some preferences to be enacted would allow them to deny the equal worth of others. This would, then, undermine the concept of utility, which we are supposing is the basis for the original decisionmaking process.
I have two big questions that came to mind as I read this section. First, I wonder what sort of method one would use to compare the different theories of rights. I had this same issue in moral epistemology. It seems like appealing to the ideas of truth and falsity will leave us without an answer. Do we prefer particular systems based on the benefits that acceptance of theory gives us? Explanatory power? How should I decide which way of understanding rights is most beneficial? If all these smart folks disagree, I wonder where this leaves me. This also happens in other disciplines such as science, of course; is the disagreement over things like conceptions of rights the same kind of disagreement that occurs in other fields?
Second, I echo Mike's concern (sort of) and wonder both A. Whether his theory encompasses the entire role that we might wish rights to play and B. What sorts of rights would be "covered" under his theory. So the Nazi couldn't deny equal say to the interests of Jews, and Sarah can't have her preferences counted twice. What are other concrete examples?
I'm not sure how to articulate this (so I'll wait til tomorrow to really try) but is it possible that the sort of equality that utility is founded on is conceptually different than the kind he claims would be violated? I'm also not sure I understand what would and wouldn't be a violation of an area an individual should have a trump over, which I suppose is just a reiteration of question number two above.
14 hours ago