The Value of Security
Prof Michael Selgelid (Monash University), Michael Selgelid

October 12, 2012, 3:15pm - 4:15pm
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

Philosophy Department Library (Room 916, Bldg. 11, Menzies West)
55 Wellington Rd
Clayton 3800


Justin Oakley
Monash University

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Note: Work in Progress Talk

Abstract: It is commonly thought that infectious diseases pose potential conflicts between security and basic human rights and liberties.  Such conflicts may occur both in the context of naturally occurring infectious diseases and the context of biological weapons.  This apparent conflict in values raises questions about the value of security:  Why and/or how is security valuable, if at all? And how should (the value of) security be weighed against other values?  On the one hand, the value of security may be merely promotional.  On this account, the value of security may be closely related to instrumental values.  While instrumental values are valued because they bring about things taken to be intrinsically valued, security may be valued for the maintenance of intrinsic values once they are in place.  On such an account, security is valued because it involves protection of what we really care about.  On an alternate plausible account, security might be valued for its own sake.  If two lives contain equal amounts of (other) things considered to be valuable for their own sake, but one life is highly vulnerable (i.e., insecure) while the other is not, then it would not be unreasonable/irrational to think the latter life is of higher quality.  Similar conclusions might be drawn when comparing more and less vulnerable societies or worlds (which are equally good in other respects).  If security is valuable for its own sake, however, it should not be considered just another intrinsic value—because it comes at a different level.  Rather than security merely being an additional intrinsic value, that is, security would be something wanted with respect to more ordinary intrinsic values.  On a pluralistic account we might say that there are a plurality of potentially conflicting (ordinary) intrinsic goods—e.g., utility and liberty (with respect to the good of society)—and a plurality of potentially conflicting legitimate aims regarding them—i.e., maximization, fair distribution, and security/protection.  If this is correct, then the value conflicts associated with infectious disease securitization might not simply involve conflict between security and liberty after all.  To the contrary, they may partly involve conflict between the maximization of liberty, on the one hand, and the security/protection of liberty on the other—and/or they may involve conflict between the maximization of liberty, on the one hand, and the security/protection of utility, on the other.  Whether security should be considered to be merely promotional or valuable for its own sake, reflection on the value of security sheds light upon the anatomy of values.

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