In Defense of Moral Rights

Joel Feinberg

in Problems at the Roots of Law

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195155266
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833177 | DOI:
In Defense of Moral Rights

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This essay examines the relation between law and morality with respect to a particular concept – a right. In opposition to the view defended by Jeremy Bentham and, more recently, Raymond Frey and L. W. Sumner that only institutionally conferred rights are real rights, the argument here is that moral rights are common parts of the conceptual apparatus of most, if not all, people when they make moral and political judgments. The point is not simply that many of these rights are ones people feel ought to be legal rights (their appropriateness as legislation is an additional feature); rather, the point is that people recoil at the violation of these rights as moral rights. This defense of moral rights, which invokes moral principles to establish truth claims about rights that have nothing necessarily to do with human institutions, is not guilty of reinterpreting those noninstitutional principles as if they were special institutional rules.

Keywords: Jeremy Bentham; institutions; law; legal right; moral principle; moral right; L. W. Sumner

Chapter.  9869 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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