Sunday, January 11, 2015

[PHI 2200] Do we have an obligation to resist oppression?

According to Carol Hay, we can say what makes sexual harassment morally wrong by appealing to Kant's ethical theory, in particular, to what Kant says about our duty to respect the dignity of others and our own, given that we are rational beings. As Hay writes:
Because we have an obligation to prevent harms to our rational nature, and because oppression can harm our capacity to act rationally, we have an obligation to resist our own oppression. Despite what Kant himself might've thought, we know that women's rational capacities are no different from men's. Thus we can use Kantianism to explain why women are just as deserving of respect as men and why this respect is incompatible with sexist oppression.
Her argument can be reconstructed as follows:
  1. We have an obligation to resist attempts to hinder our capacity to act rationally.
  2. Sexual harassment (sexist oppression) is an attempt to hinder women's capacity to act rationally.
  3. Therefore, women have an obligation to resist sexist oppression.
Do you think that Hay's argument can be extended to other forms of oppression as well?

For example, could one argue from Hay's premises that the poor have an obligation to resist economic oppression?

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