Three human rights violations and rank them using utilitarian theory

The nature of human rights is complicated even beyond the controversy over their source or who may hold them. A critical debate continues over what is meant by human rights.

Three human rights violations and rank them using utilitarian theory

Such attributes are necessary in order for human rights to protect all humans at all times. A prime motivation for rights in general is to ensure that no-one is subject to unbridled calculations of utility, so that a minority do not suffer so that a greater number enjoy some benefit.

If anything is to stand in the way of governments or societies sacrificing individual or minority interests in favour of the collective, it is the bulwark of human rights. Similarly, human rights are argued to be universal and apply across political, religious, and cultural divides.

After all, so much of our political debate is built upon these suppositions that we take their reach for granted. However, these qualities of human rights may not stand up under the light of probing scrutiny.

Human rights are particularly vulnerable to challenges from both utilitarianism and cultural relativism. These challenges relate to the nature of human rights, the choice of benefits that are said to be a matter of human rights, as well as the delivery of these benefits.

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Further problems emerge when one moves from the abstract right of an individual, to trying to assess the specific benefits any one individual is entitled to in relation to all others trying to exercise the same particular right, but the situation becomes even more complex when the issue involves balancing competing rights or balancing the good of individuals against the good of their community.

At one level rights are those claims which protect individuals from being subjected to calculations of pure utility. The most basic utilitarian critique of human rights lies in the assertion that resources are scarce in any society, and especially limited in some. This scarcity inevitably leads to utilitarian calculations to allocate those resources in a way that will maximize the greatest good.

In the end, it is argued, all the benefits listed as human rights, even life itself, are subject to the promotion of the greatest good within a society.

This critique is not necessarily normative, in the sense that this should be the case, but may also stem from the observation that this is how societies do and will function. The utilitarian critique raises the question whether human rights are either absolute or inalienable.

The ultimate authority to make the most important choices with respect to exercising that right cannot rest with someone else - either the state, another individual, or some entity - but must be able to be reclaimed and exercised by the individual whose right is at stake.

By absolute, I mean that the right in question cannot be totally denied. Analysis becomes problematic since most rights are arguably entitlements to benefits that are exercised by increments. Thus, it becomes impossible to assert that all human rights are absolute.

Nevertheless, one can suggest that at least one right is absolute, or at least should be if human rights are to have any substantive meaning taken collectively.

The right to life is one such example, for no other human right can be relevant if life can be taken from an individual; the possession or enjoyment of all other human rights hinge on an individual being alive. Various examples illustrate the utilitarian foundation we eventually land against, but perhaps the most basic right, that to life, raises dilemmas for human rights theory if it cannot be shown to be absolute.

A starting assumption for a right to life that is absolute lies in arguing that innocent lives must be protected if human life has any value to be protected through human rights. Indeed, Alan Gewirth has argued that there must be at least one absolute right: Gewirth portrays his argument with the example of an innocent mother held hostage by terrorists, who tell her son that they will detonate a nuclear explosion in a city if he does not kill his mother.

According to Gewirth, the mother still has her right to life which the son must not violate. The principle of intervening action means that the terrorists would be solely responsible for any deaths from their threatened explosion, since the son cannot be completely certain that the terrorists would carry out their threat.

For Gewirth, his example of an absolute right stands the test.

Three human rights violations and rank them using utilitarian theory

Utilitarian calculations on taking or sparing lives seem unavoidable in other situations. There is the classic case of a runaway trolley that can only be steered on two paths, one of which will run over one person and the other will run over five others.


In that instance, the trolley driver would aim for the single individual. But this case is a highly unsatisfactory example, since the driver has no choice but to kill someone and would try to spare as many lives as possible.

Or, should the police allow the gunman to continue shooting while they manoeuvre to a vantage point where they can shoot the gunman without harm to the hostage?

In this instance, the principle of intervening action invoked by Gewirth would mean that the police are not responsible for the deaths caused by the gunman.

Their direct duty is not to kill an innocent person themselves. They have a choice to kill the gunman and the hostage, or to wait and kill just the gunman.

The police may even have the choice to simply wait until the gunman runs out of bullets and then tackle him without killing anyone themselves. Because they have the choice, they should not shoot the hostage just to stop the gunman killing others. However, many people simply would not agree with this approach.

It may well be tragic, but justified nevertheless, for the police to shoot the hostage and gunman immediately rather than letting even more people be killed by the gunman.

In this scenario, a utilitarian calculation to save several lives would outweigh the one innocent life.If you answered yes, you were probably using a form of moral reasoning called "utilitarianism." Stripped down to its essentials, utilitarianism is a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over.

Singer, a prolific, widely read thinker, mostly applies a utilitarian perspective to controversial moral issues (for example, euthanasia, the treatment of non-human animals, and global poverty) rather than discussing utilitarian moral theory.

Compare the three violations, and rank them using utilitarian theory as discussed. Be sure to explain how you arrived at these rankings (e.g., The greatest number of people would benefit if Violation “A” were resolved, because, etc.).

Each person, regardless of position in society, has basic human rights, such as freedom, safety, privacy, and adequate standard of living, health care, and education.

Three human rights violations and rank them using utilitarian theory

SWers recognize the global interconnections of oppression and are knowledgeable about theories of justice and strategies to promote human and civil rights. The following are three instances of human rights violations in public and non-governmental organization followed by the comparison and ranking of the violations based on the Utilitarian theory.

a) The sacking of a section of striking teachers in Zimbabwe despite their protection under the industrial action Act in the country.

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Utilitarian Essays and Research Papers - Even in a world only a minority of whose inhabitants live under liberal democratic regimes, the hope is, certain standards accepted in the liberal democracies will gain universal recognition and respect. These include liberty of persons as opposed to enslavement, freedom from cruelty, freedom from arbitrary execution, from arbitrary imprisonment, and from arbitrary deprivation of property or livelihood, freedom of religion, and freedom of inquiry and expression.
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But if this is true, only act utilitarianism is a genuine utilitarian theory. For to say that the rules must be kept is to say that they must be kept regardless of whether breaking them would increase the general happiness, and that doesn't sound like utilitarianism.

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