The extension of liberalism beyond domestic boundaries : three problem cases
Author(s)Brown, Rachel (Rachel M.), 1970-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.
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Liberalism, in any of its forms, places a strong emphasis on the individual-it prioritizes equal rights and liberties, and measures are taken to assure for all citizens the opportunity to make full use of their freedoms and entitlements. Many conceptions of human rights are objected to on the grounds that they are based on liberal premises, and insufficiently sensitive to the fact of reasonable cultural pluralism. Using as a foil recent work in this area by John Rawls, I argue in chapter one for a justificatory basis of human rights that advances values-in particular values of minimal democracy including the right to political participation-that may have emerged historically alongside liberalism but that we ought not consider specifically liberal. My account diverges form Rawls' at this point: he does not believe that such values can be defended from premises that are not specifically liberal. Since a group is, after all, a collection of individuals, liberalism appears to be committed, unsatisfactorily, to a permissive right to secede in the sense that, other things being equal, groups ought always to be permitted to secede voluntarily. I show in my second chapter that liberalism is not committed to this permissive view. Though liberalism implies that no one has a duty to refrain from secession, it does not support the stronger thesis that states must permit groups to secede if they wish. My treatment of secession argues for a more general framework in which those liberties whose protection is of basic importance to liberalism are distinguished from those whose protection is not so guaranteed. Derek Parfit has put forth a general difficulty regarding our obligations to future generations, to which I respond in chapter three. Parfit claims, plausibly, that we may suppose a major public policy decision to have sufficiently broad ramifications that in about two hundred years there would be nobody alive who would have been alive had some different policy been selected. But then the choice of such a policy would not make those people worse off, since they would not otherwise have been born. This would remain so even in the case of policies that cause the lives of future generations to be of a very low quality. Parfit's "Non-Identity Problem" challenges us to provide plausible moral reasons against pursuit of such public policies. I argue that the only adequate response to this problem comes from a liberal focus on the rights of future generations, and the moral status that this confers on them. Taking such seriously, many public polices can be shown to be objectionable despite the fact that they may not harm the interests of those affected by them.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, 1999.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 160-161).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistics and Philosophy.