Abstracts from Volume XIX, Number 2 (July 2006)

Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 
Abstracts from Vol. XIX, no. 2 (July 2006) 
Special Issue: Global Ethics 
Guest editor: Charles Jones

“The Inadequacy of our Traditional Conception of the Duties Imposed by Human Rights”

Author: Elizabeth Ashford 
3 Forest Hills 
BS32 4DN 

I argue that our traditional conception of the duties imposed by human rights is unable to acknowledge the nature of many contemporary human rights violations. The traditional conception is based on a broadly deontological view according to which human rights impose primarily negative and perfect duties, and these duties are held to be specific prohibitions on certain kinds of actions (duties not to kill, assault and so on). I argue that given this conception of the nature of the duties imposed by human rights, not only claims to aid, but in addition, claims against many of the most serious and prevalent contemporary active harms will not count as genuine human rights claims. These harms increasingly result from extremely complex causal chains involving the behaviour of a huge number of agents, few or none of whom can be singled out as responsible for a serious harm to any specific victim. Institutional structures can have just as central a role to play in specifying and allocating responsibility for fulfilling many of the negative duties imposed by human rights as the positive duties. These structures can therefore be equally important in the realisation of both kinds of rights. Before the necessary institutional reforms have taken place, both kinds of rights are equally genuine, and ground the imperative of justice to reform existing social institutions. 

“Incommensurability of Values Thesis and its Failure as a Criticism of Utilitarianism”

Author: Boaz Ben-Amitai 
Churchill College 
Cambridge CB3 0DS 

The incommensurability of values thesis is widely regarded as an effective and highly detrimental line of criticism against utilitarianism. The article begins by providing some general background about the development of the incommensurability thesis, as used both in mathematics, in the philosophy of science, and, most importantly, in moral and political philosophy. It then moves on to clarify the alleged importance of the incommensurability of values argument as an objection to utilitarianism and to distinguish two different meanings of that argument (labelled incomparability1 and incomparability2). The main part of the article provides an analysis of these two alternative meanings. Incomparability1 (the claim that a particular scale is either not applicable, or irrelevant, or arbitrary), though perfectly valid, is shown to be misguided as a criticism of utilitarianism. Incomparability2 (the claim that some options cannot be translated into or associated with particular locations on the relevant scale in a way that would generate positive value relations) is shown not to pose any real difficulty to utilitarianism by demonstrating that incomparability of that kind is, as a matter of fact, indistinguishable from the notion of rough equality and that, accordingly, indifference towards the choice between the incomparable2 competing options is justified. 

Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. XIX, no. 2 (July 2006) 
“Basic Liberties and Global Justice“ 
Author: Gillian Brock 
Philosophy Department 
University of Auckland 
Room 507, International Fisher Building 
18 Waterloo Quadrant 
Auckland, 1000 

My primary goals in this article are to show: first, that we can identify and justify which basic freedoms are important ones to protect in the global context; second, that we can monitor whether we are making progress with respect to whether more or fewer people are enjoying the important freedoms; third, that we can identify some key institutions that play a central role in fortifying those freedoms; fourth, that we can help build or fortify local capacity with respect to protecting basic freedoms; fifth, that external support and building international institutions can play an important role in securing local capacity to protect basic liberties. The emphasis is on trying to construct local capacity to protect basic freedoms. However external support has a key role to play. I argue that protecting press freedom and building institutions of international justice play crucial roles in securing local capacity to protect basic liberties. We have obligations to support those institutions that would facilitate progress with respect to protection of basic liberties. So, for instance, we have a range of responsibilities to support press freedom in all countries, along with international efforts to bring to justice violators of basic liberties. 

“Cosmopolitan Justice, Rights, and Global Climate Change” 
Author: Simon Caney 
Department of Political Science and International Studies 
University of Birmingham Edgbaston Birmingham 
B15 2TT 

The paper has the following structure. In Section I, I introduce some important methodological preliminaries by asking: How should one reason about global environmental justice in general and global climate change in particular? Section II introduces the key normative argument; it argues that global climate change damages some fundamental human interests and results in a state of affairs in which the rights of many are unprotected: as such it is unjust. Section III addresses the complexities that arise from the fact that some of the ill effects of global climate change will fall on the members of future generations. Section IV shows that some prevailing approaches are unable to deal satisfactorily with the challenges posed by global climate change. If the argument of this paper is correct, it follows that those who contribute to global climate change through high emissions are guilty of human rights violations and they should be condemned as such.

“The One Who Is More Violent Prevails' – Law and Violence from a Talmudic Legal Perspective

Author: Joseph David 
Israel Democracy Institute
POB 4702, 
Jerusalem, 91046 

How are we to distinguish between law and violence? On what grounds is the former legitimized while the latter is condemned? This modern question sheds light on the essential concepts of law and order and their social value. My task in this paper is to trace the roots of this question in the Jewish jurisprudential tradition by focusing on a unique norm, established sometime during the 5th to the 6th century, in which violence become a legitimized norm when a case could not be determined by means of official legal procedure. This survey shows that while ancient sources legitimized this norm of extra-legal violence, medieval thinkers redefined it and neutralized it, reduced it to an economic procedure or even explicated interesting stances regarding the honor and stability of legal institutions.

“Dignity and Membership, Equality and Egalitarianism: Economic Rights and Section 15”

Author: Christopher Essert 
31 Borden St. 
Toronto ON M5S 2M8 CANADA

In this paper, I attempt to clarify the ideas of equality underlying section 15 claims for benefits such as welfare and health care; I use the name ‘economic rights claims’ for these types of claims. I adopt Joseph Raz’s division of equality claims into rhetorical egalitarian claims, which are based in a failure to equally respect a universal claim (and typically take a form such as, ‘All Fs have a right to G’), and strict egalitarian claims, which are based on an actually existing unequal distribution of resources (and take the form, ‘All Fs who do not have G have a right to G if some Fs have G’). I show how the dignity-based approach to equality stemming from Law v. Canada is an example of a rhetorical egalitarian claim. With this groundwork set, I turn my attention to the economic rights claims. I survey three reasons for thinking that an unequal distribution of some benefit might, even absent any failure to respect or recognize the dignity of those at the losing end, be thought of as wrong or unjust. The first two reasons – an appeal to an idea of sufficiency, and the fear that some stigma might be associated with the inequality – I reject in favour of the third, which is that in a situation in which all the participants have some equal claim to a benefit, a fair procedure will result in their benefiting equally. Following John Rawls, I suggest that our society, as a cooperative venture for mutual advantage, creates in its members at least a prima facie equal claim to share in the society’s benefits. The economic rights claims, then, are claims that this prima facie equal claim has not been respected. But the benefits being claimed for, as benefits created by the society, are not benefits automatically due to everyone just in virtue of their humanity, instead they are due to the worst-off once the best off have come to be able to benefit from them. Thus they take a strict egalitarian form – once some members of our society benefit in a certain way, then the equality of all members as contributors to the cooperative venture for mutual advantage implies that the other members of our society gain a claim to that benefit. The fact that these economic rights claims are strict egalitarian claims means they cannot be grounded in arguments about dignity, as dignity-based claims are rhetorical egalitarian claims for benefits due to all in virtue of their universal human dignity. I conclude by returning to Law to highlight a passage which I believe provides a grounding for a recognition of economic rights in line with my argument; I also make some brief comments on the need for a stricter division of labour between section 15 and section 1 in the context of economic rights claims and on the effect of this argument on Canadian federal law more generally.

“Equality of Opportunity Globalized?”

Author: Darrel Moellendorf 
Department. of Philosophy 
San Diego State University 
5500 Campanile Dr. 
San Diego, CA 92182-8142

The principle of global equality of opportunity is an important part of the commitment to global egalitarianism. In this paper I discuss how a principle of global equality of opportunity follows from a commitment to equal respect for the autonomy of all persons, and defend the principle against some of the criticism that it has received. The particular criticisms that I address contend that a moral view based upon dignity and respect cannot take properties of persons—such as their citizenship—as morally arbitrary, that any justification of what counts as equal opportunity sets must be based upon national cultural understandings, that a positive account of equality of opportunity cannot adequately handle the fact of value pluralism across the globe, and that the principle of equality of opportunity is incompatible with national self-determination. In the course of defending the principle of equality of opportunity from these criticisms, I make revisions to my previously published defense of the principle.

“Three Human Rights Agendas”

Author: David Reidy 
Department of Philosophy 
801 McClung Tower 
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996 

In this paper I distinguish between three conceptions of human rights and thus three human rights agendas. Each is compatible with the others, but distinguishing each from the others has important theoretical and practical advantages. The first conception concerns those human rights tied to natural duties binding all persons to one another independent of and prior to any institutional context and the violation of which would “shock the conscience” of any morally competent person. The second concerns the institutional conditions necessary and sufficient for particularist legal and political obligations to take on prima facie moral force so that the members of different polities face one another in an asymmetric moral relationship, with each side having a rightful claim to political self-determination. The third concerns those human rights arising exclusively as a matter of positive international law out of the voluntary undertakings of legitimate polities within the international order. Each of these different conceptions is tied to a different human rights agenda. The second is tied to the struggle to realize recognitional norms of legitimacy within the international order. The third is tied to the ongoing effort to incorporate into positive international law through voluntary initiative an ever expanding moral consensus between legitimate polities. The first is tied to the emerging practice of humanitarian intervention and system of international criminal liability. Thus, while all human rights share certain features – they’re universal, and so on – human rights differ in important ways. Attending to these differences would likely improve both the theory and practice of human rights.

"Ronald Dworkin and the External Sceptic"

Author: Dale Smith 
Faculty of Law 
Monash University 
Wellington Road 
Clayton Victoria 3800 

Ronald Dworkin has repeatedly claimed that the debate between moral objectivists and anti-objectivists (which I shall call “the meta-ethical debate”) has no implications for legal practice or theory. He has offered two main arguments to support this claim. The first is that while assertions about the truth or falsity of moral objectivism may be intelligible, they are irrelevant to legal practice and theory. The second is more radical, namely, that no assertion can be given an intelligible meta-ethical reading. In this article, I contend that neither argument is sound. The first argument overlooks the variety of ways in which the meta-ethical debate could impact upon legal practice or theory. It also rests upon an uncharitable interpretation of that debate. As for the second argument, Dworkin is correct in claiming that statements seemingly about the truth or falsity of moral objectivism can instead be interpreted as moral statements, but he is wrong to claim that this is the only intelligible reading they can be given.

‘The Boundaries of Justice and the Justice of Boundaries: Defending Global Egalitarianism’

Author: Kok-Chor Tan 
Department of Philosophy 
433 Logan Hall 
University of Pennsylvania 
Philadelphia PA 19104 

Two classes of arguments are often deployed by the anti-global egalitarians against attempts to universalize the demands of distributive equality. One are arguments attempting to show that global egalitarians have misconstrued the reasons for why equality matters domestically, and hence have wrongly extended these reasons to the global arena. These arguments hold that the boundary of distributive justice is effectively coextensive with the boundaries of state. The other are arguments that attempt to show that membership in political societies generates special duties among members that may outweigh the demands of global egalitarianism. These arguments appeal to the ethical significance of state boundaries and membership. In my defense of global egalitarianism, I reject both the attempts to limit the boundary of justice and the attempts to give state boundaries special moral significance and priority. In particular, I will argue that the boundary of justice cannot coincide with the boundaries of states when the justice of the boundaries is at issue.

“Contractualism and Global Justice: The Iteration Proviso”

Author: Richard Vernon 
Department of Political Science 
University of Western Ontario 
London, Ontario N6A 3K7 CANADA

While Rawls himself put contractualism to work at the national level, his more cosmopolitan followers have argued that the full requirements of international justice can be reached only by way of a global contractualist argument. Both positions neglect a resource from within the contractualist tradition, The need for iteration of the nation-level contract gives rise to strong and reasonably definite moral requirements. A good-faith adoption of the contractual argument entails, first, a duty to assist those whose potential recourse to just arrangements is blocked by tyranny or political collapse. Second, understood as a net risk-reducing project, a nation-level contract entails a duty not to impede the iterated risk-reduction projects of other national soceties. Envisaging the duty in this contractualist way avoids problems that beset both "natural duty" and "interactionist" approaches to international justice. The non-impedance requirement bears especially on international economic arrangements. The institutional representation of those affected by such arrangements would connect this abstract requirement with practical conclusions.