Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Brocker I 601
Utilitarianism/Rights/Dworkin: for utilitarianism, maximizing the overall well-being is the central objective. Rights, for example in the form of ownership guarantees, can also benefit the overall welfare. It can never be ruled out that sacrificing fundamental individual interests of individuals or groups could increase the overall benefit.
DworkinVsUtilitarianism: Rights always protect the individual with reference to fundamental and central interests. Dworkin does not mean to say that all rights absolutely apply as well as the prohibition of torture. The fundamental point is again a logical one: rights only play their own normative role if they outdo collective goals in cases of conflict. Otherwise, any justification could be directly related to the objective (1).
DworkinVsUtilitarianism: central objection: Utilitarianism can also take external preferences "impartially" into account such as discrimination against blacks. (2)
Problem: The purely aggregative ((s) summing up) thought of the best possible satisfaction of all possible preferences of all possible people knows no distinction between relevant and irrelevant, acceptable and unacceptable preferences.
PerfectionismVsDworkin: there are many kinds of external preferences that should be exempted from Dworkin's criticism: For example, external preferences such as taking sides with members of disadvantaged groups to which you yourself do not belong. (3)
Brocker I 605
LadwigVsDworkin: Dworkin, when he wrote the essays gathered in Civil Rights taken seriously, still believed he could draft an ethically completely neutral theory of rights and justice (so also Dworkin 1985 (4)). This may explain his strange assumption that the logical distinction between personal and external preferences is sufficient for criticism of utilitarianism, regardless of their content.
DworkinVsDworkin: In later writings (Dworkin 1990b (5); 2011 (6)), however, Dworkin professes an ethical basis of his liberalism. The organizing idea behind his ever-increasing attempts to recognize unity in the world of values is now dignity.


1. Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously, Cambridge, Mass. 1977 (erw. Ausgabe 1978). Dt.: Ronald Dworkin, Bürgerrechte ernstgenommen, Frankfurt/M. 1990, p. 161f.
2. Ibid. p. 382-385
3. Cf. Coleman, Jules L., »The Rights and Wrongs of Taking Rights Seriously«, in: Faculty Scholarship Series, Paper 4204, 1978, p. 916f.
4. Ronald Dworkin, , A Matter of Principle, Oxford 1985.
5. Ronald Dworkin. »Foundations of Liberal Equality«, in: The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, XI, Salt Lake City 1990 (b), 1-191.
6. Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue. The Theory and Practice of Equality, Cambridge, Mass./London 2002.


Bernd Ladwig, „Ronald Dworkin, Bürgerrechte ernstgenommen“ in: Manfred Brocker (Hg.) Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M. 2018


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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.
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.

Dworkin I
Ronald Dworkin
Taking Rights Seriously Cambridge, MA 1978

Brocker I
Manfred Brocker
Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert Frankfurt/M. 2018


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