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Political Theory

H05(b) - Rights and Duties I

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 305

Chair/Président/Présidente : Mira Bachvarova (University of New Brunswick)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Mira Bachvarova (University of New Brunswick)

'I'm Outta Here': Theorizing the Role of Exit in the Ideal of Non-Domination: Daniel Drugge (Örebro University)
Abstract: Accounts of non-domination have tended to emphasise the role resources and other capacity and voice building mechanisms can play in giving people the power and the institutional means of living lives that are free of domination. Yet the role of exit - of institutionally protected means of withdrawing from relationships - has remained undertheorized in accounts of non-domination. Drawing on public policy examples from the Scandinavian countries, this paper seeks to shed light on the ways in which, and under what conditions, institutionalised means of exit can contribute to realising the ideal of non-domination. It shows that while rights of exit can play an essential role in protecting people from dependence on the arbitrary wills of others, it is only under certain conditions that exit rights can be said to contribute to the realisation of the ideal of non-domination in a broader sense. Understanding the relationship between exit and non-domination, it further argues, gives us a clearer (if more complicated) picture of the relationship between non-domination and sources of power such as monetary resources and voice.


Irregular Liberty: Jacob Levy (McGill University)
Abstract: In this paper I argue that liberty is an irregular value. This is to be contrasted with regular-- in the sense of rule-governed, straight-angled, compossible-- concepts like rights; it is an important feature of a theory of rights that all of the rights be realizable within a single coherent legal system. Libertarian, liberal, and republican theories of liberty all typically treat it as regular, and use regularity as a test in arguments that their understanding of the value is superior. I argue that this is a mistake. This is not an argument about a plurality of concepts of liberty-- negative or positive, for example-- or about a morally valuable core characterized by compossibility surrounded by morally valueless license. Rather I argue that the core concept of negative, individual, political liberty is itself marked by necessary internal irregularity because of the shape of the socialworld and the psychological realities of what it means to be unfree. The relationship of liberty to law, to states, and to associational or group life is genuinely mixed. The Procrustean urge to force liberty into a square shape reflects a theoretical urge to find a way that we can be guaranteed complete (genuine) freedom, that we might know that we are not ruled by wills or forces alien to us. But we are. And recognizing this will dissolve a great deal of the apparent appeal of contractarianism as well as the force of liberal/ libertarian/ republican debates.


Human Rights and Normative Agency: Charles Jones (University of Western Ontario)
Abstract: This paper offers one part of a defence of normative agency as a key foundation of human rights by identifying and replying to the so-called autonomy objection. It begins by asking what human rights are, what are their contents, and on what grounds are we justified (if we are) in affirming them. I propose to consider one influential answer to these questions: the claim that human rights serve to protect the normative agency of individuals. My argument, in short, is that normative agency is (1) a promising idea around which to formulate a justification of human rights, and that (2) such a justification can withstand a critique suggesting that individual autonomy is overrated as a fundamental moral premiss. The paper’s first section sympathetically describes this view, specifically its constituent parts: autonomy, liberty, and welfare. The second and final part of the paper outlines the autonomy objection and explains how best to respond to it. Sarah Conly has made the case “against autonomy” by arguing that we overvalue it: in many cases individuals are better off when “we interfere with their ability to direct their lives according to their own reasoning.” My reply to Conly includes several steps, including (i) distinguishing different senses of ‘autonomy’ that might be in question, and (ii) recognizing that the point of Conly’s case for paternalism is, in part, to leave room for autonomy of the sort that properly grounds human rights.

727.Jones.pdf


Why There Can Be No Right To Property: Peter Lindsay (Georgia State University)
Abstract: Many canonical arguments on ownership defend a moral right to own. I argue in this paper that if we look at what such a right would involve, we see that it is not conceptually possible. My path to this conclusion is as follows: I begin with a look at two of the better known canonical arguments: those offered by John Locke and Immanuel Kant. I demonstrate that both theories are fatally undetermined, meaning that both defend a right to own at such a high level of abstraction as to offer no actual concrete guidance with respect to workable laws of property. I then show why this has to be the case: first, any proposed right, even as an abstract concept, is not really a right to ownership at all, but rather a vague claim in defense of more basic rights – rights to things like life, liberty, survival or expression. This observation in turn gives rise to what is, in essence, an empirical question: what forms of ownership would, given local and contingent circumstances, best serve this more basic right? At this point my central argument – that no right of ownership could exist – has been confirmed, for I have demonstrated that no right could effectively anticipate the local and contingent needs of all human societies.