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Should We Have Rights to Do Wrong?

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This paper holds a controversial question whether people should have rights to do wrongful acts contrary to conscience and morality. Although, there is no consideration that people are moral creatures, the question does not revolve around questioning their depth of morality. Thus, I would try to unlink this question from moral judgements in order to avoid looking to a problem from devout, god-fearing person’s perspective because it could possibly lead to stating that it is ‘wrong to do wrong’.

With reference to main problem of this essay, there is a variety of puzzling aspects that are analyzed and provided by academics who can be divided into ‘confessors of Socrates’ and followers of liberal political theory. Accordingly, we have statements that people cannot have unrighteous outcomes providing rights because rights are the subset of morality and contain moral concerns. In this case, a right to do wrong is inconsistent and contradicts the essence of the right. On the other hand, people might have a right to be doing whatever feels right to them by claiming to be free and obtaining multiple rights which realization cannot be interrupted. Regarding this point of view, I am going to claim that the idea of a right to do wrong is conceptually coherent in term of consistence of morality. Secondly, I will provide arguments explaining why people should be in favor of having a moral right to commit wrongness. Therefore, the aim of this essay is to argue that not only individuals should possess rights to do wrong but it is impossible not to entail them even though the consequences of some rights will be clearly immoral.

So how can there be a moral right to do something that is under moral duty not to do? Before heading to the answers, I will mark that there are some scholars, for instance, William Godwin, who critically express a quandary covering this notion of having right to do wrong by stating that “there cannot be a more absurd proposition than that which affirms the right of doing wrong.” However, I would like to argue that the fact that one’s behavior is wrongful does not necessarily entail that normatively one cannot have a right to perform them. Following the Hohfeld’s distinction of “two senses of rights” this statement contains logical conceptual grounds when the right to do moral wrongness is best perceived as a claim right. In Hofeldian terms claim right to do X constitutes an obligation on other people not to interfere with one doing X. In other words, if one is engaged in doing something unrighteous, due to the claim right this does not allow others to interfere in these kind of actions. Taking examples into consideration, one can be provided concerning free speech. This liberty of free speech mandates that a person has an entitlement to speak freely and from the sense of the claim right other people are obliged not to prevent anyone from using this right. Moreover, even one’s free speech would hold an offensive and insulting language or promotions towards a party, which, if elected, would cause harm to society, still others remain morally prohibited from intervention in speaking freely. ‘Morally’, because interference would violate the right’s essential category of ‘free’. This argumentation through perspective of a claim right allows to logically put a right to do wrong in a moral rights category.

Given that a right to do wrong is conceptually coherent, what would let us presume that people actually should have such right to do wrong? In this case, the key criterion as a reason to hold a right to do wrong – in the matter of self-formation – is the value of personal autonomy. According to J. Raz, autonomy indicates that righteous is the path of life of independent creation. To be more exact it means that many principles, virtues, commitments, connections are only valuable if engaged autonomously. In situations involving self-constituting moral decisions there is a serious difference in value between doing right out of decision and doing right out of intimidation, obligation, or the discouraging effect of expected punishment. Following this, a person should have a right to do wrong, of course without infringing other peoples’ rights, in order to be immune from possible interference which could harm a process of self-building. Subsequently, liberal rights such as a right of free choice, a right to freely express political or religious views and most importantly a right to the liberty of conscience, assure numerous and autonomous identity-forming aspects. In this sense, values, political decisions, public statements, moral character have to be chosen by individual will. Along with this, liberal rights without possibility to do wrong would diminish their value and human beings would not have enough ‘space’ to independently decide ‘who they are’. However, Raz would not agree that autonomous life can entail right to do wrong. In fact, Raz believes that “autonomously choosing the bad makes one’s life worse than a comparable non-autonomous life and autonomy is valuable only if exercised in pursuit of the good”. Only partly agreement with this assertion is compelling since self-developing decisions are frequently burdened, and certain values embodied by moral rights cause immorality. Yet, sense of autonomy truly lies in the argument that having a free will to choose wrongfully is a requirement for having



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