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20 K.L.J. 1 (2009)

handle is hein.journals/kingsclj20 and id is 1 raw text is: (2009) 20 KLJ 1-20

The Foundational Role of the Principle
of Instrumental Reason in Gewirth's Argument
for the Principle of Generic Consistency:
A Response to Andrew Chitty
Deryck Beyleveld* and Gerhard Bos**
In a recent article in this journal, Andrew Chitty1 assesses Alan Gewirth's argument for the
dialectical necessity of the Principle of Generic Consistency (PGC)2 as the foundation of
what he calls'the Sheffield School of Legal Idealism'3 While Chitty considers the Sheffield
School's line of argumentation to be original and important, and while he considers some
standard objections to Gewirth's argument to be inadequate, he maintains that Gewirth's
argument fails. However, he considers that the Sheffield School can still make a good case
for using the PGC as the normative standard for institutional moral critique of the law
on the basis of a number of assumptions that many share about the law even though
these are insufficient to ground Legal Idealism unconditionally.
Most of this response will be devoted to examining Chitty's reasons for rejecting
Gewirth's claim that the PGC is dialectically necessary for all agents. At first sight, Chitty
seems to accept that I (any agent) am rationally compelled to judge that I have rights to
freedom and well-being (the generic rights) (which he refers to as the conclusion to 'the
Professor of Law and Bioethics, Durham Law School, Durham University and Professor of Moral Philosophy
and Applied Ethics, University of Utrecht.
PhD student in Practical Philosophy, University of Utrecht.
1 A Chitty, 'Protagonist and Subject in Gewirth's Argument for Human Rights' (2008) 19 King's Law Journal
2 Which requires all agents to respect the generic rights of all agents; generic rights are rights to generic
conditions of agency, lack of which interferes with an agent's ability to act at all or with general chances of
success regardless of the purposes being pursued. See, seminally, A Gewirth, Reason and Morality (Chicago
University Press, Chicago 1978).
3 The most comprehensive statement of the Sheffield School's position is to be found in D Beyleveld and R
Brownsword, Law as a Moral Judgment (Sweet & Maxwell, London 1986; reprinted Sheffield Academic Press,
Sheffield 1996).

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