Life and Other Basic Rights in Anscombe

In Roger Teichmann (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Elizabeth Anscombe. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 308–323 (2022)
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Following Elizabeth Anscombe, rights exist within practices. A right consists in a bundle of possible and impossible moves within the relevant social 'game', e.g. the practice of private property. What becomes of basic rights on such a social-constructivist conception? Metaphysically, basic rights do not differ from other rights. The right not to be murdered, however, enjoys a transcendental status within Anscombe's moral philosophy, and this construction might extend to other basic rights: Since practical reasoning is directed at the good life, there can be no sound practical inference concluding in murder. Anscombe's argument for this presupposes a particular conception of human dignity, which is quite similar to the dominant conception in contemporary human rights literature.

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Katharina Nieswandt
Concordia University


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