Ripstein Government Framework
The value criterion is...acting on behalf of all citizens.
Here are some of the best justifications for a Ripstein government framework.
I value Morality.
View the framework debate as a question of which ethical theory is better justified, rather than whether one is absolutely true. This is a better philosophical methodology.
Ross writes: Jacob Ross. Rejecting Ethical Deflationism. Ethics. 2006. DD
Before considering the question of what ethical theories are worthy of acceptance and what ethical theories should be rejected, I must ﬁrst deﬁne what I mean by ‘acceptance’ and by an ‘ethical theory’. The term ‘acceptance’ is used in many ways by philosophers, but I will use it to refer to an attitude taken toward a theory or proposition in the course of practical reasoning or in the guidance of action. By “to accept a theory,” in relation to a given decision problem, I mean[s] “to guide one’s decision on the [its] basis[.] of this theory.” More precisely, to accept a theory is to aim to choose whatever option this theory would recommend, or in other words, to aim to choose the option that one would regard as best on the assumption that this theory is true. For example, to accept utilitarianism is to aim to act in such a way as to produce as much total welfare as possible, to accept Kantianism is to aim to act only on maxims that one could will as universal laws, and to accept the Mosaic Code is to aim to perform only actions that conform to its Ten Commandments. In general, one will choose the option that a theory recommends if one reasons on the supposition that this theory is true. For example, if, in the course of making a given decision, one deliberates on the supposition that utilitarianism is the correct[,] ethical theory, then one will choose[s] an option that maximiz[ing] expected total welfare[.], whereas if one supposes that the Mosaic Code is the correct ethical theory, then one will choose an action the conforms to its Ten Commandments. Thus, we may say that [O]ne accepts a theory if one deliberates on the supposition that this theory is true or if one adopts it as a premise in practical reasoning. Similarly, we may say that one rejects a theory if one deliberates on the assumption that it is false or adopts its negation as a premise in practical reasoning. It is possible to believe a proposition or theory to a greater or lesser degree, and degrees of belief or credence may be represented on a scale from zero to one, inclusive. And the same is true of acceptance. For [W]hile some have insisted that [say] acceptance is an all-or-nothing[,] phenomenon, if one understands accepting a proposition or theory as [means] employing it as a premise in practical reasoning, then acceptance, like belief, can admit of degrees. For in practical reasoning we can treat a proposition or theory as having any probability between zero and one[.], inclusive. We may refer to this quantity as one’s “degree of acceptance” in the proposition or theory in question. Thus, in solving a given practical problem, it is possible to take a number of alternative theories into consideration by assigning a nonzero probability to each, or in other words, by partially accepting each. I might, for example, aim to choose the option that would be optimal if there was a .5 chance that utilitarianism is true and a .5 chance that Kantianism is true. If I did this, I would have a degree of acceptance of .5 in each of these theories. For any such set of alternative theories, we may refer to one’s respective degrees of acceptance in these theories as an “acceptance distribution.” In what follows, I will be concerned primarily with the acceptance and rejection of ethical or evaluative theories, that is, of theories that can be employed in determining which of one’s options one has most reason to choose or, more generally, in determining what relations of comparative choiceworthiness obtain among one’s options. In the ﬁrst instance, I will be concerned with theories about what one has most reason to choose, all things considered, rather than with theories that evaluate options in terms of one particular kind of consideration, such as moral or prudential considerations. However, everything I will say applies equally to the acceptance and rejection of moral theories in contexts in which only moral considerations are relevant. For in such contexts, the action that is morally best is the action that one has most reason to choose, all things considered. And similarly, what I will say applies equally to the acceptance of prudential theories in contexts in which only prudential considerations are relevant. Further, the notion of acceptance that I have deﬁned, as well as the principles of acceptance and rejection that I will later propose, all apply as much to descriptive theories, or to theories of the world, as to evaluative theories. For descriptive theories, like evaluative theories, can play a role in guiding our decisions, and so we can accept theories of either kind as a basis for practical guidance. For example, in the course of making various choices, such as choosing among designs for a bridge or choosing among trajectories for a lunar voyage, one might accept Newton’s theory of gravity. If one does so, and if one is otherwise wellinformed, then one will choose the option that would be optimal if Newton’s theory is true. And it might be rational to proceed in this manner even if one believes that Newton’s theory of gravity is false. This may be rational so long as one expects that the option that would be optimal according to Newton’s theory would be nearly optimal according to the theory of gravity that one regards as true, say, the general theory of relativity. In this case, the reason it is rational to accept Newton’s theory of gravity, rather than Einstein’s, is that the former is a much simpler theory and would thus be much easier to use as a basis for assessing one’s options. Thus, while one might choose a slightly better option on the basis of Einstein’s theory, this beneﬁt would be outweighed by the far greater cognitive costs of employing this theory in reasoning. But there is another class of cases in which it can be rational for one to accept a theory that one does not believe or, more generally, for one’s degrees of acceptance to differ from one’s degrees of belief. These are cases in which one’s credence is divided among a large number of theories, so that attempting to reason probabilistically on the basis of all these theories would be inordinately difﬁcult. It is this sort of case that I will be concerned with in what follows. Cases of this kind abound. In deciding whether to send the trolley to the left or to the right, there may well be a large number of descriptive factors about which I am uncertain and that I regard as relevant to my decision, such as the number of people on each track, the probability that each person could escape an oncoming trolley, the effect of each person’s death on her loved ones, and so on. Likewise, in deciding whether to spend the afternoon at the beach or at the gym, I might regard a number of factors as relevant, including the weather, the number of people at each location, the availability of parking at each location, and so on, and I might be uncertain about each of these factors. If, in making these decisions, I reasoned probabilistically, taking into account all of the possibilities for each of these factors, then it is likely that both the gym and the beach would already be closed, or that the people I might save would already have been run over by the trolley, long before I could reach a decision. Uncertainty concerning what ethical theory is correct leads to similar difﬁculties. For in general, the more we reﬂect on questions of ethical theory, the greater is the number of ethical theories among which our credence is divided. What initially appears to be a single ethical theory often turns out to be speciﬁable in a number of ways, each of which has some plausibility. And when a problem arises for an initial formulation of a theory, it is often possible to solve this problem by modifying the theory in any of several ways, revealing once more a multiplicity of theories, each having some degree of plausibility. It would be impractical, however, to try to take each of these theories into consideration in making each decision. Suppose, for example, that when faced with the options of going to the gym and going to the beach, or when faced with the options of sending a trolley to the left or sending it to the right, I attempted to carry out a complex probabilistic calculation, taking into account the values assigned to my options by each and every version of egoism, consequentialism, Kantianism, virtue ethics, and so on, that I ﬁnd even remotely plausible. If I did this, then once again it is unlikely that I would be able to make either decision in time. Thus, our credence is often divided among a large number of descriptive or evaluative theories. And in such cases, because the decision problem we are actually faced with is inordinately complicated, we must employ some sort of heuristic in order to render our problem tractable. There are many conceivable heuristics that we might employ, but what we often do in practice is to ignore, or exclude from consideration, many of the alternative theories or hypotheses that we regard as having some degree of plausibility. Thus, in deciding between the beach and the gym, I might take into account only the possibilities of sun and of rain and exclude from consideration the possibility of an unanticipated solar eclipse, even though I have a nonzero degree of credence in this possibility. Similarly, in deciding between sending the trolley to the left and sending it to the right, I might take into account only the ethical theories of Kant and of Mill and exclude from consideration Schopenhauer’s ethical theory, even though I am not certain that the latter is false. Very often, we bypass probabilistic reasoning altogether by reasoning on the basis of a single theory or set of assumptions, even though there are alternative theories or sets of assumptions in which we have credence. For example, in deciding whether to go to the beach or to the gym, rather than assigning probabilities to each possibility for each relevant factor, I may simply reason on the basis of certain assumptions, for example, that it will be sunny, that the beach will be more crowded than the gym, and that parking will be scarce in either location. Similarly, in deciding where to send the trolley, rather than assigning probabilities to various alternative sets of normative assumptions that I ﬁnd plausible, I may simply suppose one such set of assumptions. That is, I may suppose that a certain set of considerations are relevant—say, the number and the age of the people on either track—and that these considerations are to be weighted in a certain manner, even though I acknowledge the plausibility of many alternative conceptions of what considerations are relevant and of how they are to be weighted. Thus, so long as the idea of a ‘theory’ is construed sufﬁciently broadly to encompass any of the alternative sets of assumptions, or conceptions of the relevant factors, that we might adopt in practical reasoning, what I have described as [we employ] the heuristic of theory rejection is one that we employ all the time in practical reasoning. For in the course of such reasoning, we almost always reject, or exclude from consideration, many of the alternative descriptive or evaluative conceptions in which we have a nonzero degree of credence. However, we seldom reﬂect on the question of which among these alternative conceptions it is rational to reject. One reason may be that we assume that the answer to this question is obvious. For it may seem obvious that the theories we should reject are those that we regard as least likely to be true. And it may seem equally obvious that if we are to accept a single theory as a basis for guiding our actions, we should accept whichever of the contending theories we regard as most probable. These assumptions often appear to be taken for granted in ethical inquiry. Since the time of Aristotle, many philosophers have insisted that [T]he ultimate aim of ethical inquiry is practical. We want to do the right thing, or to do good, and so we assess alternative ethical theories not simply in order to satisfy a theoretical interest but in order to ﬁnd a theory by which to guide our lives. In addition, it is often assumed that the way to assess ethical theories is to consider the epistemic reasons for and against them and thus to determine which one is most likely to be true. Thus, it is assumed that if we ﬁgure out which ethical theory is most likely to be true, we will thereby ascertain by which ethical theory we should guide our actions. These assumptions, however, do not stand up to scrutiny. Reﬂecting on the case we considered earlier involving Newton’s and Einstein’s theories of gravity, it is clear that, at least in relation to some kinds of theories, we must qualify the view that we should always accept whatever theory we regard as most probable. In the sections that follow, I will argue that this view must be not merely qualiﬁed in special cases but must be entirely abandoned. I will show that if the question we are asking is what theory we should accept as a guide to action, there are certain factors that have hitherto been overlooked but that are no less relevant to this question than the probabilities of the contending theories. Thus, I will argue that we must change the way we approach the problem of theory acceptance, both in ethics and in other domains.
Thus, frame the framework debate as the best-justified guide to action. This philosophical methodology also excludes skep triggers or defense on a standard as a reason to presume because those don’t prove one theory is better justified than another, rather they just show my framework isn’t 100% correct.
Next, obligations of institutions like a government must come from their constitutive aims—i.e. their inherent purpose. Otherwise, we can always ask why do we care, and never be able to generate normative obligations for the state.
Surgener writes: Kirk Surgener, Neo-Kantian Constitutivism and Metaethics. http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/3298/1/Surgener12PhD.pdf 2011. DD
Constitutivism tries to ground the claims about agency Korsgaard uses in her argument for the categorical imperative by arguing that they are constitutive standards for being an agent at all. The idea is that the „teleological organisation‟ of something supports normative judgements about it. Korsgaard deploys the example of building a house. A house has a certain function – it is for providing stable shelter. In order for a house to provide shelter it has to meet certain standards – the walls must be solid, the roof must be above rather than under the walls etc. These standards provide guidance for the activity of house-building. If you are not at least trying to put the roof on top of the walls, and build walls that stand up, it‟s not the case that you are just building a house badly; you are not building a house at all. From this we get the idea of a constitutive principle of an activity. You cannot build a house without building walls that support a roof., in the same way that you are not walking unless you are putting one foot in front of another. If, unless you are performing an activity in line with these constitutive principles you are not performing that activity at all, how is it possible to perform an activity badly? Korsgaard argues that you must at least be guided by the constitutive principles in question – they must be what you take to be directing your activity. At a certain point, however, [I]f you fall away from the constitutive principles[,] in question badly enough we will say that you are[n’t] no longer performing the [same] activity[.] at all. A shoddy builder is one who builds a house that doesn‟t stand up for very long. A child who throws a load of bricks together in such a way that they are not even trying to create a structure that stands up is not house-building. (This is a summary of Korsgaard‟s (2009), ch. Constitutive principles, Korsgaard claims, are able to meet sceptical challenges quite easily. Suppose you are building a house, and someone asks you “well, why are you putting up walls strong enough to support that roof, why don’t you just build the walls out of twigs?”, then you have a reasonable [your] response to them [is]: because if I did that then I wouldn’t be building a house at all. The idea is that [I]f you have reason to be engag[e]ing in an activity, then you must be guided by the constitutive principles that constitute that activity[.] or you won’t be doing that activity at all. This view has traces in her earlier (2003) where she argues that what constructivism tells us is the way to solve a problem when we acknowledge that it is a problem we share. For example, the problem of distributive justice is one of how we distribute goods fairly. What Rawls‟s principles tell us, Korsgaard claims, is which principles a system of distribution must embody to be a system of distribution at all.
To determine the constitutive aim of the state, we must look at people’s condition in the state of nature and what conditions allow for the government to arise.
Pre-government, people have a constitutive right to agency, as all human action requires choice.
Korsgaard 1 writes: Christine M. Korsgaard. “Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency: A Kantian Response to Parfit.” In Personal Identity, ed. Raymond Martin and John Barresi. Blackwell: Malden, 2003.
The considerations I have adduced so far apply to unification at any given moment, or in the context of any given decision. Now let us see whether we can extend them to unity over time. We might start by pointing out that the body which makes you one agent now persists over time, but that is insufficient by itself. The body could still be a series of agents, each unified pragmatically at any given moment. More telling considerations come from the character of the things that human agents actually choose. First of all, as Parfit's critics often point out, most of the things we do that matter to us take up time. Some of the things we do are intelligible only in the context of projects that extend over long periods. This is especially true of the pursuit of our ultimate ends. In choosing our careers, and pursuing our friendships and family lives, we both presuppose and construct a continuity of identity and of agency. On a more mundane level, the habitual actions we perform for the sake of our health presuppose ongoing identity. It is also true that we think of our activities and pursuits as interconnected in various ways: we think that we are carrying out plans of life. In order to carry out a rational plan of life, you need to be one continuing person. You normally think you lead one continuing life because you are one person, but according to this argument the truth is the reverse. You are one continuing person because you have one life to lead. You may think of it this way: suppose that a succession of rational agents do occupy my body. I, the one who exists now, need the cooperation of the others, and they need mine, if together we are going to have any kind of a life. The unity of our life is forced upon us, although not deeply, by our shared embodiment, together with our desire to carry on long-term plans and relationships. But actually this is somewhat misleading. To ask why the present self should cooperate with the future ones is to assume that the present self has reasons with which it already identifies, and which are independent of those of later selves. Perhaps it is natural to think of the present self as necessarily concerned with present satisfaction. But it is mistaken. In order to make deliberative choices, your present self must identify with something from which you will derive your reasons, but not necessarily with something present. The sort of thing you identify yourself with may carry you automatically into the future; and I have been suggesting that this will very likely be the case. Indeed, the choice of any action, no matter how trivial, takes you some way into the future. And to the extent that you regulate your choices by identifying yourself as the one who is implementing something like a particular plan of life, you need to identify with your future in order to be what you are even now. When the person is viewed as an agent, no clear content can be given to the idea of a merely present self.^
This also means my framework comes first because it defines what it means to take an action and be a human agent. Since morality guides action, we need an accurate conception of what that action is.
Next, indepedence, or freedom from others’ control, is an innate right of humanity.
Ripstein 1 writes: Arthur Ripstein. Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy. Harvard University Press. 2009. DD
Kant conceives of equal freedom differently. It is not a matter of people having equal amounts of some benefit, however it is to be measured, but of the respective independence of persons from each other. Such independence cannot be defined, let alone secured, if it depends on the particular purposes that different people happen to have. One person cannot be independent of the effects of choices made by other people, except by limiting the freedom of those people. Instead, a [A] system of equal freedom is one in which each person is free to use his or her own powers, individually or cooperatively, to set his or her own purposes, and no one is allowed to compel others to use their powers in a way designed to advance or accommodate any other person’s purposes. You are independent if you are the one who decides what ends you will use your means to pursue, as opposed to having someone else decide for you. At the level of innate right, your right to freedom protects your purposiveness—your capacity to choose the ends you will use your means to pursue—against the choices of others, but not against either your own poor choices or the inadequacy of your means to your aspirations. You remain independent if nobody else gets to tell you what purposes to pursue with your means; each of us is independent if neither of us gets to tell the other what purposes to pursue. This right to [I]ndependence is not a special case of a more general interest in being able to set and pursue your purposes. Instead, it is a distinctive aspect of your status as a person in relation to other persons, entitled to set your own purposes, and not required to act as an instrument for the pursuit of anyone else’s purposes. You are sovereign as against others not because you get to decide about the things that matter to you most, but because nobody else gets to tell you what purposes to pursue; you would be their subject if they did. Thus Kant’s conception of the right to independence rests on neither of what is referred to in recent literature as “interest theory” or “will theory” of rights.9 Underlying the other differences between these accounts is a shared conception of rights as institutional instruments that constrain the conduct of others in order to protect things that matter apart from them. Kant’s account identifies a right with the restriction on the conduct of others “under universal law,” that is, consistent with everyone having the same restrictions. Each person’s entitlement to be independent of the choice of others constrains the conduct of others because of the importance of that independence, rather than in the service of something else, such as an interest in leading a successful, worthwhile, or fully autonomous life. Those things can be specified without reference to the conduct of others, and constraining the conduct of others is, at most, a useful way of securing them. If rights are understood in this instrumental way, they are always at least potentially conditional on their ability to secure the underlying values that they are supposed to protect. The Kantian right to independence, by contrast, is always an entitlement within a system of reciprocal limits on freedom, and so can only be violated by the conduct of others, and its only point is to prohibit that conduct. The protection of independence and the prohibition of one person deciding what purposes another will pursue stand in a relation of equivalence, rather than one of means to an end. As a result, the constraint a system of equal freedom places on conduct is unconditional. An unconditional constraint does not preclude the possibility of hindering the action of a person, or even of using lethal force to do so, because the unconditional right is not a right to a certain state of affairs, such as the agent staying alive. Instead, it is a right to act independently of the choice of others, consistent with the entitlement of others to do the same. The principle of mutual restriction under law applies unconditionally, because it is not a way of achieving some other end. Your sovereignty, which Kant also characterizes as your quality of being your “own master (sui juris),” has as its starting point [starts with] your right to your own person, which Kant characterizes as [is] innate. As innate, this right contrasts with any further acquired rights you might have, because innate right does not require any affirmative act to establish it; as a right, it is a constraint on the conduct of others, rather than a way of protecting some nonrelational aspect of you. It is a precondition of any acquired rights because those capable of acquiring them through their actions already have the moral capacity to act in ways that have consequences for rights, that is, for [and] the conduct of others. That any system of rights presupposes some basic moral capacities that do not depend on antecedent acts on the part of the person exercising them does not yet say what the rights in question are, or how many such rights there might be.
Since independence is a necessary aim of each person, they need to rationally respect each other in order to ensure others respect their independence, too. Yet, in the state of nature, people have no independence because there’s no central authority to regulate disputes over rights claims. The government is thus created as an arbiter of these rights claims.
Ripstein 2 writes:
The second problem [with the state of nature] concerns the enforcement of rights consistent with the freedom of everyone. Like the argument about property, it is driven by the tension between unilateral choice and freedom under universal law. Where the property argument focuses on the power to put others under new obligations, the assurance argument focuses on the entitlement to enforce existing rights, and does not “require a special act to establish a right.”16 Every right is a title to coerce and a part of a system of rights under universal law. Kant’s argument shows that these aspects of [R]ights can only be reconciled through public assurance. To bring it into focus, put the other two problems aside and imagine that people have somehow acquired property, and that there is no controversy about exactly what belongs to whom. In this situation, [W]ithout public enforcement, people lack the assurance that others will refrain from interfering with their property and, as a result, have no obligation to refrain from interfering with the property of others. The basic thought is that without such a system, nobody has a right to use force (or call on others to do so) to exclude others from his or her property, so nobody has anÂ€enforceable obligation to refrain from interfering with the property of others. Kant introduces the idea of assurance in §8 of Private Right, arguing “I am therefore not under obligation to leave external objects belonging to others untouched unless everyone else provides me assurance that he will behave in accordance with the same principle with regard to what is mine.” Instead, rights to external objects of choice are only consistent in a civil condition, because it is “only a [collective] will putting everyone under obligation, hence only a collective general (common) and powerful will, that can provide everyone this assurance.”17
This means my framework also protects a more fundamental form of freedom than autonomy negatives, since those discuss individuals’ pursuit of subjective preferences, whereas mine explains how the state is formed to protect the whole system that allows for independence and freedom from private coercion to begin with.
Since individuals can’t have independence in the state of nature and a government that acts on behalf of all citizens is the only way to secure this freedom, they have an obligation to form the state. The constitutive aim of the government is thus to act as the collective will of the people by securing rights claims.
Ripstein 3 writes:
These difficulties for innate right in the state of nature—indeterminacy, lack of conclusive defense or nonaggression agreements, and the impossibility of a remedy in cases of completed wrongs—do[n’t] not make innate right provisional in the sense of being unenforceable. They do, however, stand in the way of its being what we might call “conclusively conclusive,” that is, forming an integral part of a consistent system of rights. The fundamental feature of all rights is that they are parts of a system of equal freedom under universal law. In a state of nature, the indeterminacy of innate right and the impossibility of a remedy in cases of its violation mean that innate rights do not form a consistent set, which is just another way of saying that they do not, after all, fall under universal law. Although parallel considerations in the case of interacting nations lead Kant only to the conclusion that nations must bring their disputes before a court, in a civil condition the state must have the further power to bring innate right under universal law. Acquired rights can only be conclusive under universal law, and the universality of that law requires that innate rights also fall under universal law. If each individual were left with the power to [could] do “what seems good[,] and right” with respect to his or her own person, then each person would be entitled to [could] resist with right the state’s omnilateral claim to enforce acquired rights. Instead, the state must claim the power to define the objective standards governing each person’s person[.], as well as the power to resolve disputes about wrongs against persons in accordance with law that has been laid down in advance. Thus although there is no direct argument from the innate right of humanity to the creation of a civil condition—no civil condition could be mandatory if acquired rights were impossible, because nobody would have standing to force another into one—systematic enforcement of acquired rights generates the state’s authorization to make law[.] with respect to innate right. V. Conclusion Kant characterizes the state of nature as a system of private rights without public right. The apparatus of private rights applies to transactions in it, but subject to three defects that make that application merely provisional. Each of the defects reflects difficulties of unilateral action. Objects of choice cannot be acquired without a public authorization of acquisition; private rights cannot be enforced without a public mechanism through which enforcement is authorized by public law; private rights are indeterminate in their application to particulars without a publicly authorized arbiter. Even the innate right of humanity is insecure in [the state of nature] such a condition, both because no remedy is possible in case of a completed wrong against a person[.], and because even the protective right to defend your person against ongoing attack is indeterminate in its application. These problems can only be solved by a[n] form of association capable of making law on behalf of everyone[.], and authorizing both enforcement and adjudication under law.
Governments thus don’t violate their citizens’ autonomy, but rather force them to be free by enabling the necessary conditions for individuals to have rights claims to begin with.
Thus, the standard is Acting on Behalf of All Citizens.
[This framework originally and generously contributed by Harrison DD.]