The Ockham Society (Week 2, TT18)

Ockham Society

"A puzzle about killing"

Who has a right not to be killed? It seems that a plausible account of this right should be able to accommodate two claims. 1) The egalitarian intuition: All sentient human beings have a right not to be killed. 2) The hierarchical intuition: If animal non-persons have a right to not to be killed, it is not as strong as that of human persons. These intuitions are in tension. The hierarchical intuition suggests an emphasis on advanced psychological capacities, whilst the egalitarian intuition pushes us towards an account of the right not to be killed with less demanding conditions. It seems extant views have not been able to account for both.

My paper attempts to resolve the puzzle and account for both judgements. Roughly, I argue that to have a right not to be killed, one must be sentient and either possess the capacity for desires about one's experiences, or the capacity to care about one's experiences, or both. The view is gradualist, in that the right admits of various strengths, depending on the extent to which these capacities are possessed. The view has undemanding conditions, allowing us to accommodate the egalitarian intuition. And its gradualist nature helps us explain the hierarchical intuition. However, this gradualism also raises worries about how to explain our commitment to basic human equality.

"The communicative constraint on civili disobedience"

Civil disobedience is often understood as having a crucial communicative aspect, which constrains the forms it may take. I consider an argument for the communicative constraint, provided by Kimberley Brownlee. Potential disobedients realise that they might be mistaken, and therefore select constrained acts that show that they bear this in mind. The connection between the realisation and constraint is, however, mysterious. I discuss, and reject, two attempts to establish it. Such realisation may not amount to much.


Chair: Lewis Wang

Ockham Society Convenor: Charlotte Figueroa | Ockham Society Webpage