Between Utility and Rights

H. L. A. Hart

in Essays in Jurisprudence and Philosophy

Published in print November 1983 | ISBN: 9780198253884
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681431 | DOI:
Between Utility and Rights

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This chapter examines a theory of rights on the relatively uncontroversial concepts of the distinctness of individual persons or their claim to equal respect. Two examples, both American, are taken respectively from the Conservative Right and the Liberal Left; and while the former builds a theory of rights on the moral importance of the separateness or distinctness of humans which utilitarianism is said to ignore, the latter seeks to erect such a theory on their moral entitlement to equal concern and respect which, it is said, unreconstructed utilitarianism implicitly denies. The basis of the libertarian, strongly anti-utilitarian political theory developed by Robert Nozick in his influential book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia is presented. Professor Ronald Dworkin's theory at first sight seems to be, like Nozick's, implacably opposed to any form of utilitarianism; so much so that the concept of a right which aims to vindicate is expressly described by him as ‘an anti-utilitarian concept’. The chapter concludes that neither Nozick's nor Dworkin's attempt to derive rights from the seemingly uncontroversial ideas of the separateness of persons or from their entitlement to equal concern and respect succeeds.

Keywords: theory of rights; utilitarianism; Robert Nozick; Ronald Dworkin; individual persons; equal respect

Chapter.  10177 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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