Chapter

DID THE STOICS INVENT HUMAN RIGHTS?

RICHARD BETT

in Virtue and Happiness

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199646043
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191743368 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646043.003.0009

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

DID THE STOICS INVENT HUMAN RIGHTS?

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Numerous scholars have stated or implied that the Stoics are the first to develop a doctrine of what may reasonably be called human rights. Others, while not going so far, have claimed that Stoicism at least opens the way to such a doctrine. This chapter casts some doubt on such assertions. While it is true that there is a strand in their thinking that is encouraging to the notion of human rights, there are other strands that point in a very different direction, and that could not be abandoned without abandoning Stoicism itself. The Stoic ideas that do seem congenial to notions of human rights center around the notion of natural law. The other, more problematic side to the story has to do with the special status of one type of human being, the sage, whose virtue or wisdom ranks incomparably higher than any achievements of the rest of us.

Keywords: Stoicism; human rights; natural law; sage; virtue

Chapter.  9583 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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