Chapter

Constraining Rights and the Value of Status

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195144023.003.0011

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 Constraining Rights and the Value of Status

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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. Having considered alternative grounds for a constraint in Ch. 9, Ch. 10 fleshes out a victim‐focussed, agent‐neutral, rights‐based view founded in a strengthened PPH right (constraint), which protects against minimizing violations of the right by violating the right; consideration is given to whether and in what sense minimizing violations of PPH rights by violating them would be both strictly irrational and also exhibit lack of concern for the right. Rejecting this as a route to founding the constraint (on grounds that strict irrationality would arise only if there were already a constraint (or an absolute right not to be killed)), a constraint is generated by focusing on a concern that is at the heart of the PPH and applying it to the pursuit of any goal (utility or minimization of rights violations), the chapter considers how the permissibility of minimization would alter every person's status, and examines the distinction between eliminating a right, violating it, and infringing it, focussing on the significance of negative residues of, and compensation for, rights violations. An exploration is made of whether the structure of deontological and consequentialist theories can be brought closer together via the agent‐neutral value of an inviolable status (of a certain sort), though a distinction is made between the irrationality argument against minimizing the violation of constraints, and support for a concept of the person as strongly inviolable. It is also considered whether creatures who are inviolable are therefore more important entities whose existence makes the world a better place and whether belief in a constraint affects both how good the world is and the effect of acts done in accord with or in opposition to the constraint; further examination is made of the futility of permitting minimization of rights violations by violating rights (‘futilitarianism’) by contrasting the role of utility vs rights per se in motivating minimizing.

Keywords: agent‐neutral views; consequentialism; constraints on killing; deontology; inviolable status; minimization of rights violations; Permissible Harm; Principle of Permissible Harm; restrictions on killing; rights elimination; rights infringement; rights violations; rights; rights‐based views; status; value of status; victim‐focussed views

Chapter.  18055 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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