Philippa Foot: Negative and Positive Rights

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  • Topic: Negative and positive rights, Rights
  • Pages : 4 (1465 words )
  • Download(s) : 889
  • Published : November 17, 2005
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Philippa Foot, Emerita Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles, has been studying and writing about the moral implications of killing someone versus letting someone die for many years. She also explains to us the difference between the negative and positive rights of a person and how negative rights and duties are more stringent than positive rights and duties. I shall be looking at this theory and explaining how it applies to certain cases. Before we can discuss these rights and how they apply to these situations, though, we must know what they truly mean. Foot says that rights can be split into two kinds, negative and positive. Negative rights are described as our rights not to be interfered with or not to be harmed. For instance, we have the right not to have our property taken away. Positive rights are our rights to goods and services, such as our right to food and medical care. Corresponding to a person's negative and positive rights are other people's negative and positive duties; we have a negative duty not to harm other people and a positive duty to feed the hungry. Foot also says that we should reject the theory of Consequentialism which is a very simplistic view of what is right and wrong. In fact, that is why many people support it, because of its simplicity. Consequentialism states that all that matters to the rightness or wrongness of actions is the goodness or badness of the consequences. In simpler terms, an action is permissible or “good” if the consequences are better than any alternative available to the person committing the act. Foot, though, says that this theory is wrong because the way that these consequences are brought about is actually what can matter morally and decide whether the act is truly right or wrong. Furthermore, we need to know how Foot’s theory of killing and letting die applies to certain situations and what she would conclude about them. The first situation, where the Judge has to...
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