(11-02-2011 01:43 AM)Lije Wrote: I find Kant's emphasis on duty unsettling, mainly because that is what religions subscribe to.
Though the emphasis of both is on 'duty', what they base the definition of 'duty' on couldn't be more different. Perhaps the discomfort with the term 'duty' is because it is commonly understood to be derived from the injunctions of an authority.
However, Kant defines duty in terms of the categorical imperative
, the application of which is an exercise of reason.
Contrast this with the following view of duty, which can be taken as the viewpoint of Hindu orthodoxy (coming as it does from an organization close to the Sangh Parivar and claiming to represent Hindu interests), from the original source here
Quote:In matters of the Self, of dharma and religion, the Vedas are in the forefront as our guide. Next come the dharmasastras. Third is the conduct of the great sages of the past. Fourth is the example of the virtuous people of our own times. Conscience comes last in determining dharma.
So in the Kantian framework, 'duty' is derived from an exercise of reason while in this purported Vedic framework it is a faith-based submission to an arbitrary formulation.
(11-02-2011 01:43 AM)Lije Wrote: I'm looking for a philosophical argument that isn't duty based, but still makes a strong case for human rights. My noob understanding of utilitarian philosophy tells me that it can, but I'd like to know if that is correct.
Kant, like Locke before him, rejects utilitarianism because its emphasis on the benefit of the collective can potentially be at the cost of individual rights, which to him are sacrosanct. For him, any system that treats people as means to an end (social or political) and not as ends in themselves, is unacceptable. This conforms to an everyday notion, namely our intuitive rejection of 'using
From the definition of the categorical imperative,
Quote:The second premise is that conduct is "right" if it treats others as ends in themselves and not as means to an end (the "Second Maxim")
Lectures 1-4 in Harvard's Justice course
have a comprehensive evaluation of utilitarianism and how libertarianism to a degree addresses its limitations.
Do we find anywhere in Indian philosophy the principle that people are ends in themselves? Probably not. The Bhagavad Gita in 3:20
emphasizes that even somebody who has attained the highest individual goal ('Self-realization'), must eventually function as a means of 'lokasangraha' (literally 'keeping the world well-constituted'), commonly interpreted as sustaining the world order. This supports the claim that according to the Bhagavad Gita, even the highest type of human being (in its estimation) is little more than a means of 'world sustenance' and in this collectivistic bias, the Gita falls short of the Kantian standard.
(11-02-2011 01:43 AM)Lije Wrote: I know that the astika philosophies with their emphasis on varna dharma and karma fail in that aspect. What about other Indian philosophies?
I have no references to back this up, but the Buddha while specifying Right Livelihood in the Eightfold Path, forbade sale, trafficking and ownership of human beings and in this sense, declared slavery illegitimate. Perhaps this was the first ever such repudiation of slavery, considering that the ancient Greeks remained a slave-owning civilization and America ('One Nation Under God') had not outlawed slavery till Lincoln.