Inaugural Lecture: Jakob Elster: "A Consequentialism of Rights?"

- A short introduction and welcome by director Inga Bostad to our new Associate Professor Jakob Elster

- Inaugural lecture 45 minutes

- Questions and discussion 20 - 30 minutes

- Reception

In his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia from 1974, Robert Nozick posed a famous challenge for defenders of rights: If we think that right-violations are highly undesirable, should we not adopt as a goal for political action that we minimize the number of violations of rights occurring in the world (or in a given country), even when minimizing the total number of violations might require us to violate rights ourselves?
A large number of philosophers have followed Nozick in rejecting this approach, which Nozick calls “a utilitarianism of rights”, but which in today’s vocabulary would be more properly called “a consequentialism of rights”.

In this talk, I will take a fresh look at the prospects for a consequentialism of rights, what might be said in favor of such an approach, and of the place it might have in a theory of human rights.  Even if we should conclude that a consequentialism of rights must be rejected, investigating the reasons why it must be rejected can shed a useful light on philosophical theories of human rights.

Published June 30, 2016 12:04 PM - Last modified Jan. 30, 2017 3:57 PM