Rights and Right Conduct

Rights and Right Conduct

Rights and Right Conduct

Rights and Right Conduct

Excerpt

When philosophers discuss the term 'right', they do so almost entirely in respect of its application as an adjective (the right action); and when they have ventured to speak of its substantival use or uses in which it serves to mark the moral property of an agent (the right a person has ), they have done so with very few exceptions by way of excursion from the main lines of their arguments. The immediate result of this is the unsatisfactory state of the subject of rights in the philosophical literature, for surely the complex features of moral rights in all of their variety cannot be elucidated in a few passing remarks. But there are other and even more serious consequences of this relative neglect of moral rights. Surely we do appeal to the rights which people have in the justification of action and from this it would seem to follow that any account of moral reasons will be at least incomplete unless due account is paid to the rights of persons. Indeed, discussions of right action which neglect rights will tend to err in other respects as well, for in neglecting the substantival uses of 'right', such discussions will ignore some of the complex features of the procedures of moral justification and offer an anaemic and distorted representation of our common moral understanding.

My ultimate objective in this discussion is to invite attention to relatively neglected issues in moral philosophy and by thus opening up the subject of moral philosophy help remove some of the staleness of a subject that derives in no small measure from the narrow compass within which arguments and counter- arguments have been confined. But my immediate objective is to explore some of the so-called foundations of certain familiar moral rights and the manner in which these operate in the moral justification of conduct.

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