The Human Right to Subsistence and the Collective Duty to Aid
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If the human right to subsistence is a meaningful right, its very existence should have significance, both from the perspective of persons who hold the right and from the perspective of persons who are obligated to do something about it.1 That is, persons living in severe poverty and deprivation ought to be able to claim the content of the right from someone and the right should give affluent persons some idea about what is demanded of them.2At first glance, the right to subsistence does not seem to do well on either score: it neither seems claimable for the right-holder nor to provide much guidance for the duty-bearer. If we assert that Abe has a right to subsistence and further that he does not have enough money to heat his house for the winter, what follows? Is he is entitled to knock on his neighbour Beth’s door and demand help? Why think that he has a claim against her in particular rather than the Rockefellers further down the street? And, why think that Beth is obliged to aid...
KeywordsMoral Duty Collective Agent Positive Duty Global Poverty Imperfect Duty
I would like to express my gratitude to Tracy Isaacs, Wil Waluchow, Arthur Ripstein, Judith Lichtenberg, Kit Wellman, Alistair McLeod and Stefan Sciaraffa for their very helpful feedback. I presented an earlier version of this paper at the Canadian Philosophy Association Annual Meeting at Brock University in 2014 and received excellent comments from Alistair McLeod.