|Actions, philosophy: Actions are conscious or unconscious human actions as opposed to physical events. The action can take place against the will of the agent, but only if the opposed will is not strong enough to prevent the execution entirely._____________Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments. |
Stanley Benn on Actions - Dictionary of Arguments
Gaus I 110
Actions/Benn/Gaus: What Feinberg called the ‘presumption in favour of liberty’ has been defended by Benn in terms of a principle of non-interference based on respect for persons.
A) Benn (1988)(1) tells the story of Alan the pebble splitter, who is happily splitting pebbles on a public beach, when Betty comes along and demands that he justify himself to her. Benn agrees with Feinberg; he has no burden to justify himself to her. >Mill/Feinberg.
B) Now suppose she seeks to stop him, and he demands justification from her. Benn insists that a ‘tu quoque reply from her that he, on his side, had not offered her a justification for splitting pebbles, would not meet the case, for Alan’s pebble splitting had done nothing to interfere with Betty’s actions’(1988(1): 87). There is, argues Benn, a basic asymmetry between you acting and you interfering with the actions of another. Alan does not have to justify his pebble splitting to Betty: he is under no standing requirement to show Betty that he has good reasons for what he is doing. On the other hand, it is required of Betty that she justify to Alan interfering with his actions, or stopping him for what he is doing. Benn argues that Betty’s recognition of Alan’s right to act is required if she is to respect his person: ‘One may believe the other’s project quite worthless in itself. Its claim to respect rests not on its being valuable and worthy of one’s concern … but simply in its being a person’s project’ (1988(1): 107). Because one claims a right to non-interference for oneself, respect for others requires that one grants it to others.
Rights/Benn: Thus Benn is advancing a liberal theory of the right that does not presuppose a liberal conception of the good or valuable life: even pebble splitters have a claim to non-interference. A similar sort of argument was advanced by Alan Gewirth in his important and recently neglected book Reason and Morality (1981)(2). >Rights/Gewirth.
1. Benn, Stanley I. (1988) A Theory of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2.Gewirth, Alan (1981) Reason and Morality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Gaus, Gerald F. 2004. „The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms.“ In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications._____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004