The paper concerns the moral status of persons for the purposes of rights-holding and duty-bearing. Developing from Gewirth’s argument to the Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC) and Beyleveld et al.’s Principle of Precautionary Reasoning, I argue in favour of a capacity-based assessment of the task competencies required for choice-rights and certain duties (within the Hohfeldian analytic). Unlike other, traditional, theories of rights, I claim that precautionary reasoning as to agentic status holds the base justification for rights-holding. If this is the basis for generic legal rights, then the contingent argument must be used to explain communities of rights.
Much in the same way as two ‘normal’ adult agents may not have equal rights to be an aeroplane pilot, not all adults hold the same task competencies in relation to the exercise of the generic rights to freedom derived from the PGC. In this paper, I set out to consider the rights held by children, persons suffering from mental illness and generic ‘full’ agents. In mapping the developing ‘portfolio’ of rights and duties that a person carries during their life we might better understand the legal relations of those who do not ostensibly fulfil the criteria of ‘full’ agent.
|Keywords||Gewirth, Mental Health, Beyleveld, Rights, Duties, Principle of Generic Consistency, Principle of Precautionary Reasoning, Task Competency, Capacity, Practical Reason |