Human Rights

Dr Tom Kerns













Discussion Questions for
A Moral Code for a Finite World
by Herschel Elliott and Richard D Lamm


    1. In ¶ 4 the authors ask: “What if such a scenario is unsustainable?”
      1. In your judgment, would you say the scenarios they describe in ¶¶ 1-3 are credible?
      2. Do you think they are sustainable?

    2. What do you think the authors mean by “the commons?”

    3. What do you understand Garrett Hardin to mean by “the tragedy of the commons?”

    4. What do you think the authors mean by “an ethic of the commons?”

    5. How would you sumarize the authors’ message in ¶¶ 9-10?

    6. A teleological ethic is one in which actions are judged right or wrong in so far as they promote or hinder certain ends, such as happiness (for Mill), or love (for Fletcher). What would you say is the end sought by Elliott and Lamm’s ethic of the commons? In other words, they might say that actions are right in so far as they promote ____, and wrong in so far as they promote ____. How would you fill in those blanks for them? Please explain.

    7. Elliott & Lamm say that a human rights ethic should be discarded in favor of the ethic of the commons. In your understanding, what are their reasons for recommending that human rights ethics be discarded?

    8. In their final paragraph, ¶ 32, the authors conclude “As populations increase and environments deteriorate, the moral laws that humans have relied on for so long can no longer solve the most pressing problems of the modern world. Human rights are an inadequate and inappropriate basis on which to distribute scarce resources, and we must propose [a new ethic of the commons (my paraphrase)].”

    9. In your estimation which elements of this conclusion (if any) would you judge to be true and which (if any) would you judge to not be true?