“Rights, Practical Deliberation and Action,” Cristián Rettig (Adolfo Ibáñez University)

May 3, 2024, 12:00 pm1:30 pm
Wooten Hall, Room 301 (Kerstetter Room)
Open to Princeton University ID Holders


Event Description

A buffet lunch will be served. The paper be made available for optional pre-read a week in advance (by email and via UCHV's website). Professor Rettig will present the paper for 40 minutes; the presentation will be followed by discussion. 


We live in an age of rights, but there is a deep disagreement on how we should conceptualise these normative standards, even at a very fundamental level. In this paper, I discuss two different ways of understanding rights from the practical perspective. On the one hand, friends of ‘specificationism’ hold that rights are conclusions of practical reasoning whose content is specified on the basis of exception clauses – e.g. S has a right to P unless in circumstances A, B and so forth. On the other hand, friends of ‘generalism’ hold that rights are not conclusive but simply pro-tanto reasons for action (i.e. practical reasons that can be overridden by weightier considerations) whose content is general, like our ordinary assertions of rights – e.g. S has a (pro-tanto) right to P simpliciter. I argue that specificationism is inherently problematic from the practical angle, while generalism needs to avoid the charge that it reduces rights to ordinary moral reasons. I suggest that understanding rights as exclusionary reasons is a promising way to avoid that charge. I defend this possibility from prominent objections. 

Organized by Stephen Macedo, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values.

Department of Politics