This book will challenge the orthodox view that children cannot have the same rights as adults because they are particularly vulnerable. It will argue that we should treat adults and children in the same way as the child liberationists claim. However, the basis of that claim is not that children are more competent than we traditionally given them credit for, but rather that adults are far less competent than we give them credit for.
It is commonly assumed that children are more vulnerable. That is why we need to have a special legal regime for children. Children cannot have all the same rights as adults and need especial protect from harms. While in the 1970s "child liberationists" mounted a sustained challenge to this image, arguing that childhood was a form of slavery and that the assumption that children lacked capacity was unsustainable. This movement has significantly fallen out of favour, particularly given increasing awareness of child abuse and the multiple ways that children can be harmed at the hands of adults.
This book will explore the concept of vulnerability, the way it used to undermine the interests of children and our assumptions that adults are not vulnerable in the same way that children are. It will argue that a law based around mutual vulnerability can provide an approach which avoids the need to distinguish adults and children.
This book is an examination of how the law understands human identity and the whole notion of `human being'. On these two notions the law, usually unconsciously, builds the superstructure of `human rights'. It explores how the law understands the concept of a human being, and hence a person who is entitled to human rights. This involves a discussion of the legal treatment of those of so-called "marginal personhood" (e.g. high functioning non-human animals; humans of limited intellectual capacity, and fetuses). It also considers how we understand our identity as people, and hence how we fall into different legal categories: such as gender, religion and so on.The law makes a number of huge assumptions about some fundamental issues of human identity and authenticity - for instance that we can talk meaningfully about the entity that we call `our self'. Until now it has rarely, if ever, identified those assumptions, let alone interrogated them. This failure has led to the law being philosophically dubious and sometimes demonstrably unfit for purpose. Its failure is increasingly hard to cover up. What should happen legally, for instance, when a disease such as dementia eliminates or radically transforms all the characteristics that most people regard as foundational to the `self'? This book seeks to plug these gaps in the literature.
This book examines the controversial and repercussive contention that an objective of the law should be to promote personal morality - to make people ethically better. It surveys a number of domains, including criminal law, tort law, contract law, family law, and medical law (particularly the realm of moral enhancement technologies) asking for each: (a) Does the existing law seek to promote personal morality? (b) If so, what is the account of morality promoted, and what is the substantive content? (c) Does it work? and (d) Is this a legitimate objective?