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The Equivalence Thesis and the (In)Significance of Violating Negative Rights

EasyChair Preprint no. 1518

10 pagesDate: September 14, 2019


Death is often placed among the worse things to befall a human. What responsibility one might bear for bringing about death is, as a result, an important ethical question. Indeed the right to life is often regarded as the bedrock upon which all other rights of persons are supported. This right to life is often thought to be a negative right – a right of non-interference – a right, more or less, not to be killed. Additionally, many philosophers defend the Equivalence Thesis, according to which the bare difference between doing and allowing makes no moral difference. In the case of death, the Equivalence Thesis implies that a killing is not by that very fact at all morally worse (or better) than an allowing to die. Both the Equivalence Thesis and the view that the right to life is a negative right are plausible enough individually. In this paper, I argue that their conjunction implies an implausible (and generally unrecognized) third claim. Some doings (killings) will be morally equivalent to some allowings (lettings die) despite the facts that the killing will violate the right to life, the letting die will not, and these facts will be the only differences between the cases. In other words, defenders of these claims seem committed to the claim that violating one’s right to life is morally irrelevant to the wrongness of the actions in question. That is simply implausible.

Keyphrases: Bare Difference, doing or allowing, equivalence thesis, negative rights, rights

BibTeX entry
BibTeX does not have the right entry for preprints. This is a hack for producing the correct reference:
  author = {Travis Rodgers},
  title = {The Equivalence Thesis and the (In)Significance of Violating Negative Rights},
  howpublished = {EasyChair Preprint no. 1518},

  year = {EasyChair, 2019}}
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