Return to Nowheresville: A World without Rights Reconsidered

By Matthew McCabe.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1970, Joel Feinberg offered a defense of rights-based moral theory in an essay titled, “The Nature and Value of Rights.” He did this by arguing that a world without rights, one where people are benevolent, compassionate, and sympathetic, would nonetheless be less desirable because such people would not be capable of making moral claims upon one another. In an effort to defend the recently developed virtue-based ethics of care, I will first argue that such people are quite capable of making moral claims upon each other. This will be done by highlighting two prominent features of the theory, empathy and sensitivity to context. I will then suggest a number of ways in which the care-based world is more agreeable than Feinberg’s world with rights. This will be done by appealing to insights from Annette Baier’s “What do Women Want in a Moral Theory?”, and by identifying a number of problematic aspects of rights-based moral theory.

Keywords: Ethics of Care, Virtue Ethics, Moral Rights, Claims, Feinberg

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp.177-184. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 737.081KB).

Dr. Matthew McCabe

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland, USA

Professor McCabe began teaching at Washington College in the fall of 2005. He began teaching philosophy and ethics in higher education in the spring of 1996 and has worked at eight colleges and universities throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania including, the University of Maryland’s College Park and Baltimore County campuses. Over the years he has offered a wide range of graduate and undergraduate courses in theoretical and applied ethics. His research is focused on the continued progress and defense of the ethics of care understood as a formulation of agent-based virtue ethics. Introduced and developed by his mentor at the University of Maryland, Michael Slote, McCabe defended the theory in his dissertation thesis by demonstrating the theory’s ability to be effectively applied and lend substantive insight into issues surrounding the physician-patient relationship. He is currently expanding beyond the field of medicine to explore the insights the virtue ethics of care can offer on the subject of punitive justice. He is also developing a theoretical defense of the theory by confronting specific criticism presented by advocates of rights-based ethical theory.


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