Revisiting the Right to Do Wrong

RENEE JORGENSEN BOLINGERA
AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY (2016). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI:10.1080/00048402.2016.1179654

Abstract: Rights to do wrong are not necessary even within the framework of interest-based rights aimed at preserving autonomy (contra Waldron, Enoch, and Herstein). Agents can make morally significant choices and develop their moral character without a right to do wrong, so long as we allow that there can be moral variation within the set of actions that an agent is permitted to perform. Agents can also engage in non-trivial self-constitution in choosing between morally indifferent options, so long as there is adequate non-moral variation among the alternatives. The stubborn intuition that individuals have a right to do wrong in some cases can be explained as stemming from a cautionary principle motivated by the asymmetry between the risk of wrongly interfering and that of refraining from interfering.