Elbow Room for Rights

Eric Mack

in Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, Volume 1

Published in print June 2015 | ISBN: 9780199669530
Published online August 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191749377 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy

Elbow Room for Rights

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  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Moral Philosophy


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If individuals possess robust rights over their own persons and legitimately acquired possessions does any action on the part of another person that has any physical effect on the right-holder or her property to which the right-holder has not consented violate those rights? If so, it seems that almost every ordinary exercise of one’s rights—e.g., starting one’s car up in one’s own driveway, emitting some smoke while grilling in one’s own backyard—violate the rights of one’s neighbors. To avoid this conclusion must the libertarian theorist shift to a less robust understanding of rights? This chapter argues against the need for such a general attenuation of rights. Any sensible delineation of rights must leave moral elbow room for the exercise of those rights. So, a sensible delineation of rights will not construe the minor physical intrusions under consideration as moral boundary-crossings.

Keywords: liability rules; libertarianism; Lockean theory; Robert Nozick; property rules; rights; David Sobel

Chapter.  12855 words. 

Subjects: Social and Political Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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