PHIL. 410A:  DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR WEEK #1 AND #2 ON BERLIN AND THOMSON

WITH PAPER TOPIC #1 AND PAPER DEADLINES

 

            I.  DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ON BERLIN.  Answer the following questions based on Berlin's views as explained in his essay, "Two Concepts of Liberty" would commit him to answering them.  Be prepared to cite the passages in Berlin on which you base your answers.

            1.  What is negative liberty?

            2.  What is positive liberty?

            3.  What, if any, is the relation betweeen:  (a) negative liberty and democracy; (b) positive liberty and democracy?

            4.  What is value pluralism?  According to Berlin, what is the philosophical justification for the importance of negative liberty?  [Hint:  According to Berlin, what is the relation between value pluralism and the philosophical justification for the importance of negative liberty?]  Do you agree?  Critically evaluate Berlin's position.

 

            II.  BACKGROUND ON THOMSON'S ACCOUNT:  Thomson distinguishes four basic kinds of rights:  claims, privileges, powers, and immunities.  We begin our reading with her discussion of claims, which will be the most important of the four.  The other three are:  (1) Privileges.  To have a privilege of doing X = not being under an obligation not to do X (privilege = moral permission).  (2) Powers.  To have a power is to be able to alter rights (e.g., the legal ability to transfer my property to my heirs with a will is the legal power to give them a right to it).  (3) Immunities.  An immunity is the lack of a power.  (You have a legal immunity against me, because I cannot alter your property rights (without your consent).  Immunities are the least important category for our purposes.  Finally, a cluster right is a combination of two or more of the four basic kinds of rights.

 

            DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ON THOMSON.  Answer the following questions about Thomson's account of rights.  (When you do the reading, make a note of the pages where Thomson discusses them, so that you can easily refer to them in class and when you write your paper or prepare for an exam.)

 

            1.  Explain the following terms as Thomson uses them:  

            (a) Claim

            (b) Behavioral constraint

            (c) Moral residue

            (d) Infringe/violate a claim/right

            (e) prima facie claim/right.

            (f) advantage

            (g) First Property vs. Second Property

            (h) belief-mediated and non-belief-mediated distress

            (i) natural claims (rights) vs. social claims (rights)

 

            2.  What is (T1)?  Why does (T1) capture the idea that all claims are absolute?  Does Thomson believe that claims are absolute?  Explain.

 

            3.  According to Thomson, are all claims enforceable?

 

            4.  What is (T3)?  Why would it greatly simplify the theory of claims if (T3) were true?  Use the example of Alfred and Burt to explain why it is not true.

 

            5.  What is the State of Nature?  Does Thomson agree with Hobbes about claims in the State of Nature?

 

            6.  What is trespass?  Why does Thomson think we have a natural claim against trespass?  Why isn’t it enough to suppose that we have a right not to be harmed by others?

 

            7.  What is the Requirement-of-Fault Thesis for Claim Infringement?  Why does Thomson think that Day’s End shows it is false?  Do you agree?  Explain.  What is the objective sense of "ought" and its cognates?  Why does Thomson believe that Day’s End is evidence that we use “ought” in an objective sense? 

 

            8. What is the Harm Thesis?  Does Thomson accept it?  To answer this question, you need to explain which kinds of harms Thomson includes and which she excludes from the Harm Thesis.

            9. What is the Risk Thesis?  Does Thomson accept it?  Explain.

 

            10.  What is the Distress Thesis?  What kinds of distress does it not cover?  Explain.

 

            11.  What is the Limits Thesis?  What are the three kinds of natural claims that it includes.  What other kinds of claims are there, according to Thomson?

 

            12.  According to Thomson, is there a natural claim against coercion?  Explain.

 

            13.  According to Thomson, is there a natural power to punish those who violate our rights?  What natural powers do we have to protect our rights?

 

            14.  What is the Tradeoff Idea?  What is the TRANSPLANT example?  What is the MAFIA example?  What do they illustrate about natural claims? 

 

            15.  Expain why Thomson thinks no one has a natural claim to be saved.