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A rights-based perspective on permissible harm

Burri, Susanne (2015) A rights-based perspective on permissible harm. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis takes up a rights-based perspective to discuss a number of issues related to the problem of permissible harm. It appeals to a person’s capacity to shape her life in accordance with her own ideas of the good to explain why (i) her death can be bad for her, and why (ii) each of us should have primary say over what may be done to her. The thesis begins with an investigation of the badness of death for the person who dies. If death is bad for us, this helps explain the wrongness of killing. The thesis defends the deprivation account—i.e. the idea that death is bad for us when and because it deprives us of good life—against two Epicurean challenges. It adds that death is also bad when and because it thwarts our agency. Next, the thesis deals with the logic of our moral rights to non-interference. It proposes a conception of rights according to which the stringency of our rights derives from and is justified by the rational aspect of our human nature. It argues that this conception of moral rights solves the paradox of deontology. While our rights to non-interference are stringent, they are not absolute. The thesis considers two possible exceptions to the general rule that it is impermissible to harm an innocent person against her consent. First, using an actual case from WWII, it investigates the circumstances under which a government may expose some parts of its population to an increased risk of harm in order to decrease the risk to others. Second, it considers the permissibility of self-defence against an innocent threat. It argues that the potential victim of an innocent threat has a justice-based reason to treat her own interests as on a par with those of the threat.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Susanne Burri
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Voorhoeve, Alex

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