Final Exam Review

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  • Topic: Human rights, Rights, Economic, social and cultural rights
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Final Exam Review SheetPhilosophy 110, Fall Term 2006

The final exam will take place Thursday, December 21st, in the usual classroom from 4:30-7pm. It will consist of around 15 true/false or multiple choice questions, and a dozen or so short answer questions. The exam will be comprehensive – that is, it will cover material from the entire semester. The emphasis will be on material we have studied since the last exam—probably one-half to two-thirds of the final exam will cover this new material. But note that that still means one-third to one-half of the exam will cover material from the previous two exams.

The following are important concepts, positions, objections, arguments, etc., that we have covered since the last exam. Review these, and take a look at the previous two exam reviews as well.

1. Orend on Human Rights

Chapter 1: Orend’s general definition of a right, and his definition of a human right in particular; some key distinctions: evaluative/normative/prescriptive claims vs. descriptive/factual claims, absolute vs. non-absolute rights, moral vs. legal rights, positive vs. negative rights, general vs. special rights, a right vs. the object of a right.

Chapter 2: The idea of necessary vs. sufficient conditions; various candidates for the answer to the question “What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for possessing human rights?”: biological humanity, metaphysical humanity, rational agency, emotional responsiveness, contractarian reciprocity, having vital interests in a minimally good life; pros and cons of these candidate answers; Orend’s definition of what it means to have a vital interest in some object; vital interests as comprising the “Foundational Five” (personal security, material subsistence, elemental equality, personal freedom, recognition as a member of the human community).

Chapter 3: The idea of an “overlapping consensus” of various strategies for justifying human rights; possible strategies for justifying human rights: moral convention (Michael Walzer’s idea of a universal “thin” moral code), personal prudence, John Rawls’s “veil of ignorance” approach, appeals to human dignity, consequentialism (a family of moral theories of which utilitarianism is the main type), vital needs and the duty not to grievously harm others (what I called the Principle of Non-Maleficence); the pros and cons of these various strategies for justifying human rights.

Chapter 4: “First generation” rights (civil and political rights) vs. “second generation” rights (social and economic rights); the debate between choice theorists vs benefit theorists; Orend’s unified theory (ultimate principles justifying human rights → first-level specification of human rights objections → second-level specification of human rights objects); Orend’s endorsement of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a good example of a second-level specification of human rights objects, with a few exceptions (e.g. he rejects the right to paid holidays on the grounds that these are not so essential as to qualify as a vital human need, he worries the right to “fair pay” is too vague to be useful, and he is alarmed by Article 29’s claim that human rights can be limited in certain conditions).

Chapter 5: The question of who bears the duties correlative with human rights, individuals or institutions; Orend’s “integrative account” (both institutions and individuals bear the duties); institutions and individuals as having these duties first and foremost toward fellow citizens but as also having some duties toward non-citizens (because the effects of actions can cross borders + borders don’t change the fact that people are of equal worth); the traditional distinction between positive and negative duties (and the corresponding distinction between positive and negative rights); a common claim until the 1970s was that civil/political rights are negative rights and social/economic rights are positive...
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