Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Malala’s Philosophy


Malala Yousafzai, image via Pinterest

Earlier this week, Malala Yousafzai was awarded as a co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. An activist for girls education, at only seventeen she is the youngest recipient of the award. After being shot while returning home from school in Pakistan two years ago, Malala has become a global icon who fights for children’s rights. She was quoted in an article in the Globe and Mail this weekend at a conference after finding out that she had received the award. Malala said that she believed that “[children] have the right to live a happy life.”

Malala’s statement can be taken apart as an argument with two premises and the following conclusion:

Premise 1: Not all children have the right to a happy life

Premise 2: All children deserve equal rights and opportunities

Premise 3: No children should be mistreated

Conclusion: Therefore, all children should be given the opportunity to have the basic needs to live a healthy and happy life, without being harmed.

By evaluating this argument, now the soundness of Malala’s statement can be determined.

  • Premise 1: Is factually correct, as it is known that children in parts of the developing world suffer from poverty, hunger, and no right to education, leading to an unhappy life.
  • Premise 2: Is an opinion that is practiced in the majority of the developed world, although is not globally practiced.
  • Premise 3: Again, something that is enforced and practiced in the developed world, but not globally.

Although Malala’s argument is valid, there is an issue with the content, making it not a sound argument. Children will not live happy lives when premise 2 and 3 are not practiced worldwide. This argument is sound in countries such as Canada and the United States where children at least have basic rights. However, even in countries where there are children’s rights, there are children mistreated and abused. This argument is not applicable to every child, although every child does deserve the right to a happy life. Logically, if premise 2 and 3 were practiced, her argument would be sound, however they are not.

The origin of Malala’s statement goes back to the age of the Enlightenment, when views on children’s rights began to change. Opposition to child workers during the Industrial Revolution grew, when children as young as six worked in factories or coal mines with long hours and little pay. Social reformers began to campaign against these practices. Even in modern day, campaigns are held to end practices similar to the ones in the 1800’s during the industrial revolution.




4 Responses to Malala’s Philosophy

  1. sassidy says:

    The length of this post is appropriate and makes for clearer understanding. It also has a nice layout! As for content, I would suggest going on the English-class route and ending with some sort of concluding “so what”. It doesn’t affect the quality of what you’re writing in this case, but it’s satisfying for readers to see a closing statement illustrating the point of the article.

  2. ktay says:

    I really liked your explanation of the background and the origin of the argument. Your explanation of the logic was strong and clearly explained, which I appreciated a lot. One suggestion I have is for you to explain further why and how this argument affects society, so that we can more clearly see its significance. Overall, it was a very well written and insightful post.

  3. bryanjack says:

    Hi Kelsey,

    The note you end on, with the reform of children’s rights and treatment originating in the Enlightenment, is an interesting thread throughout philosophy. In addition to the human rights revolution, systems of government, economics, religion and science underwent a series of changes in the period which make it difficult to say which was the first. Four hundred years later, in examples like Malala, we are still living out the ripple effects of these various revolutions; the traditions of Renaissance Europe cast a tall shadow, to be sure.

    Something to consider with regards to the argument as you’ve framed it is the logic which allows – even all this time after the onset of ‘Enlightenment’ – the slow march of justice for so many of the planet’s inhabitants. If we have known what we know about human dignity and the emancipation of women for so long, what structural conditions create the conditions for such global injustices to persist? Are there inherent limitations to the worldview created by the Enlightenment which could be problematic to broader human justice?

    These are complex questions which I don’t expect the human species will resolve anytime soon… so no pressure, whatsoever! But a place to start the discussion could be in an investigation of the inverse logic at play in the reality that doesn’t live up to our ideal. If the argument against Malala’s has any traction – and it would seem to across large swaths of the globe – it is worth exploring the premises and understandings which underpin it, if only to better confront them. “For every hundred [people],” says a Chinese proverb, “hacking away at the branches of a diseased tree, only one will stoop to inspect the roots.”

    Great post – leads into some very interesting questions to ponder further into the course!

    Mr. J


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