PHIL 410A:† PAPER TOPIC #1 (6-8 pages):† Is There A Natural Right Against Coercion?†
Consider the following hypothetical
situation:† I have launched a satellite
that tracks your location and your actions.†
If you ever go anywhere other than where I tell you to go or do anything
other than what I tell you to do, the satellite will vaporize you.† I told you about the satellite and gave you a
demonstration of how it works.† Ever since
my demonstration, you have been my slave, though unwillingly.† You have given up your education to sell
flowers for me on street corners.† You
have not complained to anyone, because you know what will happen to you if you
do.† (NOTE:† I am not asking whether my satellite violates
your legal rights.† I am asking whether
it violates your natural moral rights, as Thomson explains them.† For the purposes of this paper, consider
whether my satellite would violate your rights in a State of
††††††† (a) Write an introduction and an expository section in which you explain the issue of the paper in a way that will motivate the reader to want to continue reading.† Use the example to get the reader involved.† Then explain Thomson's account of what a right is and what natural rights we have (you do not need to discuss social rights).† This is not the place to critically evaluate her view or to raise objections to it.† Your goal is to explain it as clearly as you can.
††††††† (b) Then you must consider whether the kind of coercion involved in this example violates any of your rights, on her account.† You should consider whether my satellite has harmed you in any way, on Thomson's account of harm.† Suppose that you do feel distress knowing that you will be vaporized if you don't do what I tell you to do, but that the distress is not disabling.† A complete answer to this question will require you to consider whether you have a right that I not cause you a risk of harm, a right that I not cause you emotional distress, or a right that I not threaten you with harm, or a right that I not use threats of harm to coerce you to do what I want you to do.
††††††† (c) Make the strongest argument you can against the answer that Thomson's account gives on this example.† [Hint:† To argue that the satellite does violate your rights, you must argue for more than a simple ought.† Rights are moral molecules.]
††††††† (d) How would Thomson reply to your argument in (c)?†
††††††† (e) What would be the most plausible way of modifying Thomson's account so that it gives a different answer on this example? †Explain.
††††††† (f) Does my satellite violate your natural rights?† (I am asking for your opinion.)† Explain.† (Your grade for this part will be based on your explanation.)† In answering this question and the next, you should consider the moral judgments that would be true in a state of nature.† If you believe no moral judgments would be true (or that Hobbesian libertarianism holds), you should consider the moral judgments of most people in the class.† For example, most people in the class would hold that it would be wrong for me to kill you.† I want you to build up your position out of moral atoms of this kind.
††††††† (g) Suppose you are a stoic person who does not feel distressed by my satellite.† You do what I tell you to do because you do not want to be vaporized, but the thought of being vaporized or of having to do my will is not distressing to you.† In this case, would my satellite violate any of your natural rights?† (I am asking for your opinion.)† Explain.† (Your grade for this part will be based on your explanation.)† If your answer is no, you should explain why stoical people would not have a natural right not to be enslaved in this way.† Also, see part (f) for instructions on how to answer this question if you believe that no moral judgments would be true in a state of nature.†
††††††† BY MIDNIGHT ON TUESDAY OCT. 9 (10 POINTS):† Draft of part (a) of Paper #1 should be uploaded to the PHIL 410 GoPost site.† There is a link on the PHIL 410 Web page.†††††††
††††††† BY MIDNIGHT ON WEDNESDAY OCT. 9:† Vote by email for the best draft of part (a).† Donít vote for your own work.
††††††† DUE BY MIDNIGHT ON MONDAY OCT. 15 (100 POINTS):† Final version of Paper #1 submitted to the PHIL 410 electronic drop box.† There is a link on the PHIL 410 Web page. †Your paper should be submitted in Word format or in HTML or RTF format.† The filename should begin with your last name.† Although your paper should contain answers to parts (a)-(g), it will not really be a paper if it reads like an exam answer to those questions.† Those questions simply provide the framework for a paper that is truly your own.† Be creative.†