Kant vs. Regan: Who Has Inherent Rights, and Why? Essay

1989 Words Jan 17th, 2014 8 Pages
The difference between “right” and “wrong” is rarely plainly clear. Dozens of wars have been fought over the centuries that have been driven by differing moral beliefs. These rights, and actions motivated by them, are justified by a society’s collective morals, which begs the question- who decides what the collective belief of an entire society is? Some seem relatively clear—the right to life, the right to work—while others are significantly cloudier— how does my right to own property and freely express myself affect my neighbor’s right to have a safe, peaceful place to live? As the layers of these moral problems are uncovered we delve deeper into what rights are, and just as importantly, who has them and why? Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s …show more content…
In order to further clarify the somewhat hazy difference between Kant and Regan’s stances, we must look back at Kantism as a whole and how Kant decides upon what gives value to a human life. Overall, Kantians agree that all humans have no value but rather are “receptacles of value.” It is not that we are humans that gives us any value or worth, but rather that we have desires, specifically a desire to experience and maximize pleasure in the absence of pain. Moral value then, in Kant’s mind, comes from action based off of action based on the desire to maximize the happiness of humans being treated as ends rather than means to an end. Regan disagrees with this, saying that subjects of lives universally possess inherent value and that this value is completely independent of the circumstances of any particular life. By being the subject of a life we are automatically worth something and that something is the same regardless of race, religion, gender, intelligence, or any other distinguishable human trait. This universal human value cannot be lessened without violating a person’s rights. It is almost as if to set the foundation of rights moral philosophers establish that every person’s first and foremost right is the ability to even have rights in the first place because of this inherent value. Because those in Kant’s school…

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