Social and Political Philosophy: Contemporary Perspectives

By James P. Sterba | Go to book overview

NOTES
1
In recent years James P. Sterba has argued, however, that nearly all supposedly different theories of justice have basic elements from which only his welfare statist conception would follow. I will address some of Sterba’s points later in this paper.
2
In the main I am convinced that a natural law method for identifying principles of right and justice is correct. See Tibor R. Machan, “Law, Justice and Natural Rights,” Western Ontario Law Review, vol. 14 (1975) pp. 119-30; “Essentialism sans Inner Natures,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences, vol. 10 (1980) pp. 195-200; “A Reconsideration of Natural Rights Theory,” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 19 (1982) pp. 61-72; “Another Look at Naturalist Ethics and Politics,” Cogito, vol. 3 (1985) pp. 75-114; “Metaphysics, Epistemology and Natural Law Theory,” American Journal of Jurisprudence, vol. 31 (1986) pp. 65-77; and “Towards a Theory of Natural Individual Human Rights,” New Scholasticism, vol. 61, no. 1 (winter 1987) pp. 33-78. See also Tibor R. Machan, Individuals and Their Rights (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Co., 1989), where I consider several of the central methodological issues of normative political
3
See for example Christopher Stone, Should Trees Have Standing?, 25th edn (Dobbs Ferry NY: Oceana Publications, 1996).
4
See Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights (Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 1984).
5
For example, they contend, among other things, that animals have interests or a certain type of consciousness and because of this they must not be used against their will. See, however, Tibor R. Machan, “Rights, Liberation and Interests: Is there a Sound Case for Animal Rights or Liberation?” (forthcoming). See also Tibor R. Machan, “Do Animals have Rights?”, Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 5 (April 1991) pp. 163-73.
6
The exceptions are libertarians who are pure positivists and have no account of rights. It should also be noted that normative libertarians would first establish that such rights exist and deserve respect. Then they would go on, as a matter of their political science, to show why such rights ought to be protected and how—some defending an anarchist, others a limited government approach. See John T. Sanders and Jan Narveson (eds) For and Against the State (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 1996).
7
Among philosophers who share crucial elements of this view we can list Socrates, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Wittgeinstein, and, of course, Ayn Rand, who has spawned perhaps the most philosophically potent arguments for libertarian justice. (To be sure, Rand did not call herself a libertarian but, more fundamentally, an objectivist. Yet the conclusions she reached in the sphere of politics are libertarian ones.)
8
For how much in law and public policy is prompted by these and related (mis)conceptions of justice, see Thomas Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice (New York: The Free Press, 1999). But see also Amartya Sen and Martha Craven Nussbaum (eds) The Quality of Life: Studies in Development Economics (London: Oxford University Press, 1993) where justice as fairness or equality is championed by the contributors and editors. Interestingly, many overlook the fact that John Rawls, in his A Theory of Justice (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), while endorsing justice as fairness, also supports certain basic rights as primary over distributive justice. And he allows, also, that unfairness is acceptable when it results in overall betterment. Some libertarians even invoke Rawls because they claim the free market system, for example, produces just that result.

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