PHIL 338A:  Study Questions for Topic #2:  Negative and Positive Rights and Capabilities


1.  Explain or distinguish the following terms.  You may use examples to do so:

Negative Right vs. Positive Right (as we use the terms in this course);

Liberty Right vs. Claim Right;

Moral Right vs. Legal Right;

Basic/Internal/Combined Capabilities (Nussbaum);


2.  (a) How does Joel Feinberg’s imaginary example of Nowheresville help to explain the distinction between a simple duty (simple ought) and a moral claim (entitlement)?  (b) Use that distinction to explain the difference between the two moral senses of “right”. 


3.  In this course, what do we mean when we say that moral rights involve moral enforceability?  In your answer, make sure you explain the difference between moral enforceability and legal enforceability.


4.  Give a clear-cut example of each of the following kinds of right from the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights:  (a) civil right; (b) political right; (c) economic right; (d) social right.  (e) Which categories of the four categories of rights does Cranston believe should not have been included in the Universal Declaration?  Explain why. 


5.  For each of the following kinds of rights, explain the difference between how Cranston thinks we should understand it and how Nussbaum thinks we should understand it:

(a) right to life;

(b) right to bodily health;

(c) right to vote


6.  (a) Cranston makes fun of the idea that a right to holidays with pay would be included on the U.N. Declaration of Universal Human Rights.  Why does he think it should not be included?  (b) What on Nussbaum's list corresponds to the right to holidays with pay?  (c) Why does Nussbaum believe that such a right should be a basic human right?


7.  (a) What is Henry Shue’s definition of a basic right?  (b) In the Shue reading, two rights are identified as basic.  Explain each of them.  (c) Which of the two is often understood negatively?  (d) Which of the two is often understood positively?  (e) Why does he believe that the former is more positive than it is usually thought to be?  (f) Why does he think that the latter is more negative than it is usually thought to be?


8.  How does the work of Amartya Sen on famines tend to cast doubt on the importance of the distinction between “negative” civil and political rights, on the one hand, and a “positive” right to subsistence, on the other?


9.  Use one or more examples to explain why Nussbaum favors guarantees of capabilities over:  (a) a specific level of wealth (or income); (b) a specific level of satisfaction (utility); (c) actual functioning. 


10.  (a) Why does the development of Nussbaum’s list of central human capabilities illustrate bottom-up reasoning about human rights? (b) Identify one item on Nussbaum's list that is not found on any other list of human rights we have considered.  Why does Nussbaum believe it should be on the list?   Do you agree?  Explain.


11.  One important element in the idea of a moral right is the idea of moral enforceability.  For each of the following authors, give their definition of what a right is and identify the element of the definition that involves moral enforceability:

(a) Feinberg

(b) Shue

(c) Nussbaum