Libertarianism and Potential Agents : A Libertarian View of the Moral Rights of Foetuses and Children

by Andersson, Anna-Karin

Abstract (Summary)
This essay advances a libertarian theory of moral rights, which responds effectively to some serious objections that have been raised against libertarianism. I show how libertarianism can explain children’s rights to certain physical integrity and aid. I defend strong moral rights of human, pre-natal organisms, infants and children against all agents to certain non-interference with their physical integrity. I also argue that parents’ moral obligation to aid their offspring follows from a moral principle that prohibits agents to actively harm rights-bearers. Since this is the core principle of all versions of libertarianism, we gain simplicity and coherence. In chapter two, I explain my theory’s similarities and differences to a libertarian theory of moral rights advanced by Robert Nozick in his 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. I explain the structure and coherence of negative moral rights as advanced by Nozick. Then, I discuss what these negative rights are rights to, and the criteria for being a rights-bearer. In chapter three, I formulate a clear distinction between active and passive behaviour, and discuss the moral importance of foreseeing consequences of one’s active interventions. In chapter four, I claim that some pre-natal human organisms, human infants, and children, are rights-bearers. I formulate a morally relevant characterization of potentiality, and argue that possession of such potentiality is sufficient to have negative rights against all agents. In chapter five, I discuss whether potential moral subjects, in addition, have positive moral rights against all agents to means sufficient to develop into actual moral subjects. I argue that this suggestion brings some difficulties when applied to rights-conflicts. In chapter six, I argue that potential moral subjects’ rights to means necessary to develop into actual moral subjects can be defended in terms of merely negative rights. By adopting the view advanced in this chapter, we get a simple, coherent theory. It avoids the difficulties in the view advanced in chapter five, while keeping its intuitively plausible features. In chapter seven, I discuss whether the entitlement theory is contradictory and morally repugnant. I argue that my version of the entitlement theory is not.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; History and philosophy subjects; Philosophy subjects; Practical philosophy; abortion; active/passive; intention/foresight; libertarianism; negative rights; positive rights; potential agents; praktisk filosofi; Practical Philosophy


Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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