Culture & Literature
Philosophy Now

Philosophy Now February/March 2017

Philosophy Now is a magazine for everyone interested in ideas. It isn't afraid to tackle all the major questions of life, the universe and everything. It tries to corrupt innocent citizens by convincing them that philosophy can be exciting, worthwhile and comprehensible, and also to provide some light and enjoyable reading matter for those already ensnared by the muse, such as philosophy students and academics. It contains articles on all aspects of philosophy, plus book reviews, film reviews, news, cartoons, and the occasional short story.

United Kingdom
Anja Publications Ltd
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$9.20(Incl. tax)
$33.75(Incl. tax)
6 Issues

in this issue

4 min.
human rights &wrongs

For over forty years the human rights organisation Amnesty International has coordinated a vast worldwide network of volunteers called the Urgent Action Network. If they hear of anybody anywhere in the world who has been arrested for the peaceful expression of their political views and who they consider to be in imminent danger of execution or torture, they immediately alert members of the network, who respond en masse with swift, courteous letters and emails to the responsible officials urging that the detainee be released or at least that their rights in custody be fully respected. I was a member of this network many years ago. If you’ve ever tried to get a response from me to an urgent email you’ll realise that I probably wasn’t the ideal person for this,…

4 min.

Derek Parfit (1942-2017) The philosopher Derek Parfit died on New Year’s Day, aged 74. Parfit is best known for using imaginative thought experiments in his 1984 book Reasons and Persons to show problems with the concept of personal identity. One thought experiment looks at what might happen if you were to step into a teletransporter. In this device, your body is first scanned atom-by-atom and then completely destroyed. But the information is transmitted somewhere else, say to a corresponding teleportation device on Mars, where you are exactly recreated using local materials. Some people might see this simply as a way of travelling at vast speeds; the person on Mars who is just like you, is so because they are you. Not so, says Parfit. To explain he asks us to imagine…

9 min.
is there a human right to internet access?

A few months ago there was a spate of headlines announcing that the UN had made internet access a human right. It turns out that this claim was rather misleading. What the UN did was pass a resolution emphasizing the importance of internet access for the fulfillment of many human rights. The resolution called for states to take measures to work towards universal access to the internet, and it condoned heavy restrictions on access to content on the internet as a violation of human rights (see article19.org/data/files/Internet_Statement_Adopted. pdf). However, it does not follow from this that there is now a human right to internet access. Something can enable the fulfillment of human rights without itself being a human right. For example, having shoes enables a number of human rights, such…

11 min.
hens, ducks, & human rights in china

China has long been a soft target for Western human rights activists. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, between 1966 and 1976, was attacked at the time and is still demonized today for the innumerable violations of fundamental human rights that then occurred. In 1989 the Western media reported how the pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square was allegedly crushed by tanks of the Chinese army, with great but unknown human costs. And Western political leaders rarely miss an opportunity to raise human right concerns with Chinese counterparts during rounds of diplomatic talks. But as illustrated by the 2016 meeting between President Obama and President Xi Jinping during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, these talks continually fail to generate consensus on the question of human rights, despite productive agreements being reached on many…

9 min.
the absolute in-practice human right against torture

At one time international recognition of a right against torture was considered one of the best, if not the singularly best, triumphs of the human rights regime. However, since the US implemented its enhanced interrogation program in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the consensus of a human right against torture seems to be in tatters. The new President of the United States and his choice for National Security Advisor have both endorsed interrogational torture, and a majority of Americans support using interrogational torture on suspected terrorists (Chris Kahn, Reuters, 30 March 2016; see reuters.com/article/us-usa-electiontorture-idUSKCN0WW0Y3). What was once unquestionably taboo is now largely a matter of partisan politics. Apparently robust signs of widespread support for the legal prohibition of torture, such as the UN Convention Against Torture and…

12 min.
what are human rights?

Human rights are, of course, rights of a certain kind, and rights are specific kinds of moral, political or legal claims. Consider the following cases. Suppose I lose my wallet and won’t be able to get home unless I come up with $5.00 for the train. I might ask a colleague for a loan, pointing out that, were he to agree, he would display the virtues of generosity and kindness, and would also promote utility, since his $5.00 would create more happiness in my hand than sitting unused in his wallet for the night. However, I cannot insist he help me, even if I am right about what virtue and utility recommend. He has no duty to make the loan. Suppose alternatively that discovering the absence of my wallet reminds me…