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people are harmed, and so the chances of each of us being harmed may well be greater; but the conception of each person that is morally endorsed involves a high degree of inviolability. We may all lead harder lives, but our dignity is greater. We may actually prefer this trade-off. 34

While Kamm may be right that we would prefer this trade-off, I think it is once again obvious that we would desire as slight a trade-off as possible. And this just goes to show the importance of having sanctions in our moral system: not only must we be permitted to perform acts, normally prohibited, against offenders after the fact of their having violated the rights of others (for instance, we should be allowed to imprison them as a means of disciplining them), but we must also permit exceptions to constraints as a means of protecting ourselves from attacks on our inviolability right as they occur. Thus, this 'paradoxical' feature of our contract-based, personhood-respecting moderate morality makes all the more pressing the need for our successful effort to ground principled exceptions to constraints in cases of self-defense. For, if constraints could never be defeated, and inviolability absolute, in the sort of way that it could never be forfeited, imagine what life would be like. We would be totally at the mercy of people who sought to exploit these constraints for their own purposes, seeking to profit from their own violations of constraints, secure in the knowledge that we ourselves remained committed to honoring the same constraints, even at the expense of allowing a greater number of rights violations. While this may be acceptable in some instances -- we do not think morality should require, or even permit, our acting in accord with the terrorist who demands we kill one innocent person, lest he murder two -- nevertheless, we do not think that morality should legislate against our using force and inflicting harm, if necessary, on someone who is himself attempting to violate our rights by harming us. So we must allow that, in some cases at least, violators of inviolable persons thereby relinquish or forfeit their inviolable status; otherwise, the set of constraints will merely serve as one elaborate mechanism to be exploited by, and serve the interests of, violators and free- riders.


Kamm 1992, 383.


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