Why is Burke[WJT1]  Opposed to Universal Human Rights?


"Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants.  Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom."(p. 92)  People have rights to the advantages of civil society[WJT2] .  There are no other rights.


Why does Burke oppose guarantees of additional rights?


(1) Rights "cannot be settled upon any abstract rule."(p. 92)  Government is "an experimental science, not to be taught a priori" (p. 92[WJT3] )   [Recall the Proof Paradigm.]


(2) Advocates of rights admit of no compromise.  Good government requires lots of compromises[WJT4] .


(3) Rights are too simplistic.  Good governments are complex[WJT5] .








Burke vs. Mill


What is the test for a good government?

"the solid test of long experience and an increasing public strength and national prosperity"(p. 90)


"Law itself is only beneficence acting by a rule."(p. 90) 


What kind of view is this?  [Hint:  What kind of consequentialist is Burke?]


If Mill and Burke are both rule or social practice consequentialists, why do they disagree on rights?

Why does Burke oppose individual rights, including democratic rights?


Is Burke a paternalist[WJT6] ?










To his credit, Burke opposed the British colonial rule in Ireland and India, because of the huge amount of suffering it caused.  Burke also supported the American Revolution.


Why did the French Revolution degenerate into a Reign of Terror?  Recall what Burke says about the state nature:  "Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. . . .  That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it."


Would Locke agree?


Unfortunately, Rousseau, the father of the French Revolution did agree. 


Rousseau's fatal blindspot about individual rights:  Rousseau advocated the elimination of all individual rights in favor of a social identity as part of the General Will.  With no legally recognized individual rights against the government, individuals could not legally resist the Reign of Terror.






Why Does Marx[WJT7]  Not Endorse

Individual Human Rights?


Marx's criticism of rights to religious freedom (the political emancipation of religious man) is representative of his criticism of all human rights theories.  "The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation." (p. 127) 


Marx's challenge:  Political emancipation is not human emancipation[WJT8] .


What is political emancipation?  Typically, it is a right to non-interference in some realm (e.g, non-interference in the practice of one's religion).


Marx's claim:  "The state can be a free state without man being a free man[WJT9] ".(p. 128) 


Why do free states not produce free men?  The egoism of civil society in politically free states produces people who are alienated, people in their "uncivilized, unsocial form," people "corrupted by the whole organization of . . . society[WJT10] ".(p. 129) 



Marx's Objections To The Four Basic Rights Of Man


(1) Rights to liberty are the rights of "an isolated  monad, withdrawn into himself".(p. 131)  They are not based on human association, but on human separation[WJT11] . 


(2) Property rights are rights to self-interest[WJT12] .


(3) Rights to equality are understood as rights to equal liberty[WJT13] . 


(4) Rights to security are the assurance of egoism[WJT14] .


Marx's alternative:  Human emancipation as emancipation from one's individualistic, egoistic identity.  True emancipation involves becoming a non-egoistic member of a non-egoistic community[WJT15] .  


Not religious freedom, but freedom from religion; not freedom to own property, but freedom from property; not freedom to engage in business, but freedom from business[WJT16] .






Marx's solution:  A revolution more radical than a mere political revolution that aims at political emancipation.  A social revolution to achieve human emancipation, to transform egoistic man into communal man[WJT17] , a species-being[WJT18] , not an isolated monad[WJT19] .


What is a species being?


Why is Marx's political theory paternalistic?


In the 20th century, Marxists typically argued that political emancipation (understood as “bourgeois” civil and political rights) is of no use to people who are starving.  How would Sen reply to this criticism of political emancipation?


What happened when twentieth century Marxist regimes eliminated individual rights in the name of the people as a whole?  In Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il's North Korea, absolute dictatorship and a reign of terror, even more severe than in the French Revolution.





        What is the History of the Development of Human Rights a History of?


The Proof Paradigm:  Self-Evident Moral Principles and Deductions from Them


The Moral Discovery Paradigm:  A Largely Bottom-Up, Fallible Process of Improving Our Moral Principles


Richard Rorty's Humean Answer (following David Hume):  No Self-Evident Truths, No Process of Discovery, Because Moral Judgment is Based on Sentiment not Reason (where Reason is understood as the faculty for determining truth and falsehood[WJT20] ). 


What does Rorty mean by the claim that human rights foundationalism is outmoded[WJT21] ? 


Moral development as "manipulating" feelings[WJT22] .

Moral education as a "progress of sentiments[WJT23] ".








Truth vs. Sentiment

Rationality vs. Sympathy


Moral Realism:  Some moral statements are true. 


Humean Moral Anti-Realism:  No moral statements are true, because they are expressions of sentiment. 


Note that the issue is a metaphysical one.  The moral realist need not think that moral truths are infallible. 


If moral reasoning is largely bottom-up, from particular moral judgments, then the question becomes whether there are some particular moral judgments that are true from any point of view, not whether there are any that we are infallible about.  Think again of the judgment that the Western European treatment of the American natives was morally wrong.















Provides information to be used to satisfy one's desires.

Provides motivation for action.

Produces purely descriptive judgments, which are true or false.

Produces normative and evaluative judgments, which are neither true or false





An alternative to the Humean view:  No strict division between reason and emotions.  The emotions are part of reason and help us to discern important social truths (Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought). 










Two roles for rationality to play in the theory of human rights[WJT24] :  (1) the ground of human rights = the characteristic possessed by another being in virtue of which we judge that certain rights should be guaranteed to that being; (2) the source of human rights judgments = the characteristic(s) in us that enable us to make judgments concerning who should be guaranteed rights and what rights they should be guaranteed.


        Rorty believes that the sentiment of sympathy[WJT25]  is the source of human rights judgments. 


        What about their ground?  For Rorty, there is no ground[WJT26] .  Instead, sympathy guides human rights judgments in the sense that our sympathies determine the scope of human rights judgments[WJT27] .  There is no objective basis for distinguishing how far human rights should extend.


        These two different views of human rights judgments lead to different ways of understanding moral progress.








        Rorty's Moral Anti-Realist View:  The Development of Human Rights is a "Progress of Sentiments." 


Talbott's Moral Realist Proposal:  Progress in Moral Discovery, Because There are Objective Moral Truths.

        Discovery involves Bottom-Up, not Top-Down, Reasoning.  Particular moral judgments involve sentiments, but they are not merely expressions of sentiment.  They are attempts to articulate strictly universal moral truths.  Progress depends on getting closer to the truth.


Puzzle:  How can there be moral progress if there is no moral truth?  Do our sympathies define progress?  The Example of the Cockroach Beings[WJT28] .









The Two Senses of "Top-Down" and "Bottom-Up"


(1) Reasoning: 

In Top-Down reasoning, moral judgments about particular cases are derived from moral principles.

In Bottom-Up Moral Reasoning, moral principles are justified by their ability to explain moral judgments about particular cases.


(2) Social Process of Moral Change: 

Top-Down:  Moral change comes from those in authority. 

        Bottom-Up:  Moral change comes from below, from ordinary citizens, who challenge the authorities.


        The human capacity for moral judgment about particular cases has been the driving force for revolutionary changes in human history, changes that are ongoing.  These changes are largely bottom-up, in both senses of the term. 









Human Rights as a Discovery?


        If human rights are a discovery, what is the main discovery?  That paternalistic justifications for oppression are mistaken.  All human beings—indeed, all beings with the relevant cognitive, emotional, and behavioral capacities—should have rights to develop their own judgment about what is good for them and to use it. 




















History of the Bottom-Up Development of a Right against Paternalistic Interference


Expanding the class of right-holders (note that all of these changes crucially depended on bottom-up social movements):


(1) Rights of male, property-owners[WJT29] .

(2) Elimination of slavery and extending rights to non-white males[WJT30] . 

(3) Women's rights[WJT31] .  (Note that the U.S. did not ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and has never ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.)

(4) End of colonialism and extending rights to indigenous peoples[WJT32] .

(5) Rights to gender and sexual expression[WJT33] . 

(6) Rights of the disabled[WJT34] .










Expanding Rights (Note that all of these developments have occurred in spite of the fact that they contradicted previously accepted religious and/or governmental authorities’ paternalistic justifications for opposing them):


        (1) Rights to religious freedom.  The most important right against paternalism. 

        (2) Rights to freedom of expression, association, and the press. 

        (3) Sen-Nussbaum:  rights to development of the central human capabilities.  These are the capabilities that enable a person to make her own judgments of what is good for her.  This would include rights to education and to non-discrimination.















Extending the scope of rights against paternalism: 

        (1) Development of Constitutional rights to birth control and private sexual activity between consenting adults.  (Update on adoption rights in Florida[BT35] .) 

        (2) A right to refuse medical treatment and to terminate life support[BT36] .

        (3) A right to assisted suicide in some circumstances?  (Example of Dr. Kevorkian as an example of a bottom-up social movement[BT37] .)

        (4) Liberty rights in Lawrence v. Texas.  Will they extend to same sex marriage[BT38] ?

















Metaphysical Immodesty Again:  Objectively Universal Particular Moral Judgments?


        The example of the Extra-Terrestrial colonizers of earth[WJT39] .


The End of History?


There is no goal or end of history.  There is no guarantee that history will lead to expanded respect for human rights.  What is surprising is that so much progress has been made and continues to be made.  The process of discovery is Bottom-Up in an epistemic and a social sense.  You are a part of the process. 


What drives the process?  The discovery of our moral blindspots.


What moral blindspots of ours will our descendants be shocked by?







 [WJT2]90, 94

 [WJT3]also, "metaphysically true" on p. 94.

 [WJT4]computing principle 94

 [WJT5]also "obscure and almost latent causes 93

 [WJT6]Read 89, also 90.

Burke and Mill are both indirect consequentialists.  What is the main difference between them?







 [WJT13]same as (1) 132







 [WJT20]START WITH 255; then


 [WJT22]READ 247, 248; THEN RORTY'S VERSION OF MY STORY 250; deprived not of truth, but of security and sympathy 253

 [WJT23]Hume and Baier 253-254.

 [WJT24]Draw a picture of two people with the ground drawing forth the judgment from the source.

 [WJT25]i.e., empathy

 [WJT26]245 bottom

 [WJT27]248 "feel for each other"

 [WJT28]Talbott 169-170 (Kafka, Metamorphosis);

 [WJT29]paternalism of Burke, "will vs. interest".

 [WJT30]Eastland 559;

 [WJT31]Wollstonecraft's criticism of Rousseau; women are fit for menial labor and born without dignity, Goodwin 264.

 [WJT32]"white man's burden"

 [WJT33]unnatural and disgusting

 [WJT34]one we did not talk about.

 [BT35]2010 Florida Court of Appeals decision overturning Florida law banning gay adoption.  No change at federal level.

 [BT36]In re Quinlan (1976, NJ Supreme Court); Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dep’t. of Health (1990).

 [BT37]Also Washington v. Blucksberg and Vacco v. Quill (both 1997).

 [BT38] [BT38]Lofton v. Kearny (2004 [BT38]).  11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  State court of appeals is now reviewing the constitutionality of the law.