PHIL 338:  Study Questions on Objections and Conclusion

 

1.  Explain and distinguish the following terms (you may use examples): 

top-down vs. bottom-up models of moral reasoning

top-down vs. bottom-up social processes of moral transformation

political emancipation vs. human emancipation (Marx)

moral realist/moral anti-realist

 

2. (a) What is Burke's main objection to human rights advocates?  (b) Explain why Burke's main objection to human rights advocates is an objection to the Proof Paradigm. 

 

3.  (a) Burke and Mill are both social practice consequentialists.  Explain what this means.  (b) If they are both social practice consequentialists, how could they have such different opinions about rights?  Explain.

 

4. Why does Marx not endorse a civil right to freedom of religion?

 

5. (a) What are the four basic rights that Marx discusses (in addition to freedom of religion)?  (b) Why does Marx not endorse any of those four rights?  Discuss each of the four rights individually.

 

6.  (a) What makes Burke's political theory paternalistic? (b) What makes Marx's political theory paternalistic?

 

7.  (a) According to Rorty, what is the history of the development of human rights the history of?  Explain.  (b) If Rorty is correct about that history, explain why it would be a mistake to think of it as a history of objective progress.   (c) In what sense of progress could Rorty claim that there is progress in the history of the development of human rights? 

 

8. (a) What does it mean for a characteristic to ground human rights?  (b) What does it mean for a characteristic to be a source of human rights judgments?  (c) What characteristic does Rorty believe grounds human rights?  Explain.  (d) What characteristic does Rorty believe is the source of human rights judgments?  Explain.  (e) What characteristic does Talbott believe grounds human rights?  Explain.  (f) What characteristic does Talbott believe is the source of human rights judgments?  Explain.

 

9.  (a) Are you a moral realist or moral anti-realist about human rights?  Explain your position in a way that shows that you understand the distinction between moral realism and moral anti-realism.  (b) George thinks that a moral realist must regard some moral statements as absolutely certain and unrevisable.  Use the metaphysics/epistemology distinction to explain George's mistake.  (c) For moral realists:  What are the most persuasive reasons for being a moral anti-realist?  For moral anti-realists:  What are the most persuasive reasons for being a moral realist?  (d) How would you respond to the reasons given in your answer to part (c)? 

 

10.  Talbott has suggested that the historical development of many but not all human rights can be understood as representing a response to paternalism of some kind.  For each right on the following list, say whether its historical development can be understood as a response to some kind of paternalism and explain your answer.

(a) Right to life;

(b) Right not to be enslaved;

(c) Right to freedom of religion;

(d) Right to freedom of expression;

(e) End of colonialism and the rights of indigenous peoples;

(f) Rights against discrimination on the basis of race;

(g) Rights against discrimination on the basis of gender;

(h) Right of adults to engage in voluntary sexual acts in private;

(i) Rights against discrimination on the basis of gender expression;

(j) Right to use contraceptives;

(k) Right to assisted suicide in some circumstances;

 

11.  In this course, we have read and discussed many official human rights documents.  Give an example of a potential new right that is not included in any of the official human rights documents that we have read that you believe should be included in future human rights documents and explain why.  (Your answer cannot be the same as your final project proposal.  Pick a different right.)  If there is no such right, give an example of a potential new right that some people believe should be included in future human rights documents and explain why you disagree. 

 

12.  If the history of the development of human rights is a history of discovering and overcoming moral blindspots, we can expect that two hundred years from now our descendents will be shocked at some things that most of us now take for granted and do not feel to be morally urgent.  For example, two hundred years ago, many advocates of human rights owned slaves and many of them did not advocate equal rights for women.  What practice or state of affairs that most people now take for granted and do not feel to be morally urgent do you expect our descendents to be most shocked by?  Explain.