Cohen Hall, room 402
Abstract: The notion of a claim right—with its counterparts “directed duty” or “duty owed to another”—is frequently used in moral discourse, for the purpose of designating a specific and important deontic attribute. I argue that this notion is not fit for this purpose. I show that the concept of a claim right is associated with a family of such attributes (e.g., the powers to demand, waive, and enforce the performance of duties) as well as with the justifications for conferring them on individuals. When engaging in moral argument, we would be better off directly referring to the specific attribute or justification we are interested in, instead of using the notion of a claim right as if it unambiguously referred to that particular attribute or justification. I do not contend, however, that claim-rights talk should be abandoned altogether. In fact, the ambiguity that renders claim-rights talk counterproductive in moral theorising—at least for certain purposes—also makes such talk an effective tool of political advocacy and social empowerment.