Well, I want to apologize for this post being late. I’m afraid that its been a hectic week, and I didn’t get much sleep last night. You’d think that would actually leave me more time to write this, but I was so busy with other things that I completely forgot about it. However, I do have a very practical question for you today: how do human responsibilities interact with one another? Many of the enlightenment philosophers based their conception of ethics in some form of universal human rights (a concept very rarely mentioned prior to the enlightenment), but their conceptions of universal human rights are very rarely defended and generally have no rational grounding. A given philosopher (for instance, John Mill) would simply assume that all humans had a given set of rights that it was morally wrong to violate, and work off of that assumption without ever providing a metaphysical basis for those human rights. So, this raises the question of where these rights come from and what actually counts as a human right. Who says that all human beings have a right to life? Freedom? Education? Property? Internet Access? Etc? At the moment, the authority that most people point to is the UN declaration of Human Rights, but this simply raises the question of who gave the UN the authority to determine human rights and why anyone should actually listen to them, especially since many nations regularly violate one or more of the UN’s stated rights, and because some of them become fairly questionable (especially farther down the list).
Given this, we should ask about human responsibilities, and whether a declaration of human rights imposes certain responsibilities onto various parties (for instance, can I claim a ‘right to have cheesecake’ and thus impose on someone else a duty to provide me with cheesecake), or whether a declared human right is only legitimate if there is a clear and objective responsibility for another party to provide for that right (for instance, the right to life is based in the claim that it is morally wrong to arbitrarily kill another human being, not the other way around). However, this also raises the problem of where such responsibilities come from, how we can determine real responsibilities vs. claimed responsibilities that are not real, whether and how far we can enforce such responsibilities, and how we should handle mutually exclusive responsibilities.
This last point brings us back to my question for today: how do human responsibilities interact with one another. So, I want to present you with a problem: there is an individual who owes a fairly large sum of money to a relative, and is in the process of paying them back. However, this individual has recently had cause to move (which is expensive), and has also had several unexpected expenses on top of that (car problems, stolen items that must be replaced, etc). Further, because of the move this individual’s daily work has been interrupted and thus less money than normal is available. Further, normal bills have accrued, and the individual has had to pay two month’s rent as well as a security deposit for a new apartment. So, given all of this, how should this individual handle their mounting responsibilities? There is simply not enough money to cover everything. If the rent/security deposit is not paid, then the individual becomes homeless. If the car problems are not fixed, then the individual risks racking up further expenses in damage and fines. If the individual does not move, then he/she is stuck in a worsening (possibly dangerous, though danger has not yet manifested) living situation, and yet the individual’s relative does expect and is owed a payment for the month. How does this individual begin to prioritize these responsibilities and needs?
As always, write me a 1000 word story that presents and defense your response to the question.