Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle Reading App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Frequently Bought Together
Prof. Smith does a wonderful job of giving a proper academic presentation of the Objectivist case for individual rights. She first presents a detailed moral teleological argument for why individuals should have rights. She then proceeds to argue against both deontological and consequentialist justifications for rights and makes the case that her teleological justification is the only proper one which has none of the weaknesses of the other attempts at justifying rights. Finally she takes on so-called "positive freedoms" or "welfare rights" and shows how recognizing such rights negates actual freedoms and thus that such positive rights are not proper rights and freedoms at all. This book would be beneficially used in any political science or moral/political philosophy course.
Was this review helpful to you?
Tara Smith is a professor of philosophy and a follower of the ideas of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand (called "Objectivism"). Prof. Smith offers a strong defense of individual rights based on an Objectivist conception of reason and human nature. (Curiously, while Rand is mentioned in the footnotes, she is never mentioned in the body of the text.) There are a number of merits to this book. Prof. Smith is a clear writer who sets forth her arguments forcefully in jargon-free language. Unlike much Objectivist writing, she interacts with other traditions in a non-vituperative manner. Rather than give Rand all the credit, she indicates where she is indebted to others. Finally, she responds to potential arguments and counterexamples to her theory. Compare, for example, her section on "the ethics of emergencies" with Rand's article of the same name. Rand's article quickly descends into a screed against "altruism."
Prof. Smith argues that rights find their justification in man's need to advance his own life. Without rights, I can't exercise my reason and therefore can't live. Prof. Smith's argument, although fairly persuasive, runs into some obvious problems. Most importantly is the question of why one person should respect the rights of others. If, as Prof. Smith argues, rights have an egoistic foundation, then why should I respect someone else's rights? In fairness, to Prof. Smith, she realizes that this is a question that needs to be addressed, but I don't find her answer completely satisfactory. Finally, is the only justification for rights their role in advancing life? If I knew that I was going to die next week, would it be okay for me to cheat and steal? Prof.Read more ›
The crucial question facing any theory of political"rights" is: why should _I_ respect _yours_? And despite a tremendous effort, I'm afraid Tara Smith hasn't yet answered this question.
I'm happy to see her declare that the deontology-vs.-consequentialism dichotomy is a false one, and I even agree with her that the right approach is "teleological" (though for somewhat different reasons from hers). But unfortunately her own "teleological" approach fails to tell us just why one person is _morally_ obliged not to violate the rights of another.
Her essential claim is that rights violations are _never_ in accordance with the "telos" of rights, which has to do with the securing and promotion of life. But there are two objections which Smith never adequately addresses:
(1) The transition from "my rights promote my telos" to "_respecting_ my rights promotes _your_ telos" is never made clear, either by Rand or by Smith; each passes without acknowledgement from one claim to the other.
(2) And by "respecting my rights" I mean respecting them _as_ rights. I'm not persuaded that Smith has given an adequate foundation for rights _as_ rights.
For her foundation, ultimately, is that my respect for _your_ rights promotes my _own_ life. But are your rights not morally binding against me even if I have decided to kill myself? (Even if I am in the very _act_ of killing myself? If I'm driving at ninety miles an hour toward a bridge abutment, am I not in some way obliged to avoid mowing down the little girl who wanders out in front of my car?) If so, then my obligation to respect your rights is founded, at least in part, on something other than my own "choice to live."
Smith, like Rand before her, is at least in the ballpark. But I continue to think that the "Objectivist ethic" needs to be re-thought from the ground up -- a task that Smith has not yet performed.
"Scott Ryan", my favorite Amazon (and other places) Rand critic writes:
If I'm driving at ninety miles an hour toward a bridge abutment, am I not in some way obliged to avoid mowing down the little girl who wanders out in front of my car? If so, then my obligation to respect your rights is founded, at least in part, on something other than my own "choice to live."
Is our case for ethics based on this scenario? Further, do you have a right to end your own life? Third, in what *context* does a discussion about what rights (if any) anyone (if anyone) holds? Fourth, how does the concept 'rights' exist *between* individuals?
Tara Smith has written a solid book that I highly enjoyed. If one grants Smith some epistemological room -- she presents a great case for individual rights. Ultimately -- and I think the other reviewers here would agree -- Smith's account of rights and how they exist between individuals is based on Rand's epistemology. So, if its the case that Rand's epistemology is bogus -- than this account of rights, although interesting -- will fail to persaude.