Prerogatives and Restrictions

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume II: Rights, Duties, and Status

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780195144024
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199870998 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Prerogatives and Restrictions

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The first three chapters of Part III of the book (Chs 8–10) examine the question of whether it is morally permissible to treat people in ways ruled out by the Principle of Permissible Harm (PPH; this was introduced in Ch. 7 and provides an account of certain restrictions/constraints on killing) only for the sake of minimizing violations of the PPH itself, or whether there is a constraint on doing this. Ch. 8 first examines the arguments Samuel Scheffler presents against both restrictions and constraints, and his defence of prerogatives not to maximize good or minimize harm (his Hybrid Theory); since Scheffler's views on prerogatives are in some ways related to those of Bernard Williams, the latter's views on integrity are also considered. The criticism made of Scheffler in Sect. I of this chapter is concerned with his view of the supposed gulf between prerogatives and restrictions, and consideration is given to whether too great an emphasis on an active/passive distinction does not underlie his strong opposition to restrictions and whether (by a transitivity argument) he is committed to no restrictions even in pursuing personal non‐optimal projects. Possible similarities between prerogatives and restrictions (or constraints) are considered, but the focus is on crucial differences with respect to minimizing the violation of prerogatives and restrictions, these differences giving rise to what are called the Value and Selection Problems; solutions to the Selection Problem based on asymmetries in victims and differentiation between agents are considered. Sect. II of the chapter re‐examines the foundations of a prerogative (not to maximize good or to minimize harm) that Scheffler located in the personal point of view (PPV); rejecting the sufficiency of Scheffler's account, the chapter focuses on freedom of choice over entitlements in creatures who are ends‐in‐themselves, discussing briefly the idea of reasons generated from the PPV in such creatures; finally, an examination is made of the arguments Shelly Kagan has constructed for and against prerogatives, including the Negative and Positive Arguments, and the Argument from Vividness.

Keywords: Argument from Vividness; asymmetries in victims; constraints on killing; constraints; differentiation between agents; entitlements; freedom of choice; Hybrid Theory; integrity; Shelly Kagan; killing some to save others; maximizing good; minimizing harm; minimizing the violation of prerogatives; minimizing the violation of restrictions; Negative and Positive Arguments; permissible harm; prerogatives; Principle of Permissible Harm; restrictions on killing; restrictions; Samuel Scheffler; Value Problem; Selection Problem; Bernard Williams

Chapter.  16486 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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