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Rights are
legal Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
, social, or
ethical Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' The field of ethics, alo ...
principle A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a Legal rule, rule that has to be or usually is to be followed. It can be desirably followed, or it can be an inevitable consequence of something, suc ...
s of
freedom Freedom is understood as either having the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power and resources to fulfill one's purposes unhindered. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving one ...
or
entitlement An entitlement is a provision (accounting), provision made in accordance with a law, legal framework of a society. Typically, entitlements are based on concepts of principle ("rights") which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or en ...
; that is, rights are the fundamental
normative Normative generally means relating to an evaluative standard. Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good, desirable, or permissible, and others as bad, undesirable, or impermissible. A Norm (ph ...
rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people according to some legal system,
social convention A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten law" of custom (for ex ...
, or ethical theory. Rights are of essential importance in such disciplines as
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
and
ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' The field of ethics, alo ...
, especially theories of
justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ...
and
deontology In moral philosophy Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' ...
. Rights are fundamental to any
civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society characterized by the development of a state, social stratification, urbanization Urbanization (or urbanisation) refers to the population shift from Rural area, rural to urban are ...
and the history of social conflicts is often bound up with attempts both to define and to redefine them. According to the ''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'', "rights structure the form of governments, the content of
laws Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
, and the shape of
morality Morality () is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong). Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of co ...
as it is currently perceived".


Definitional issues

One way to get an idea of the multiple understandings and senses of the term is to consider different ways it is used. Many diverse things are claimed as rights: There are likewise diverse possible ways to categorize rights, such as: There has been considerable debate about what this term means within the academic community, particularly within fields such as
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some ...
,
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
,
deontology In moral philosophy Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' ...
,
logic Logic is the study of correct reasoning. It includes both Mathematical logic, formal and informal logic. Formal logic is the science of Validity (logic), deductively valid inferences or of logical truths. It is a formal science investigating h ...
,
political science Political science is the science, scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thought, political behavior, and associated c ...
, and
religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or religious organization, organizations, that generally relates hu ...
.


Natural versus legal

* Natural rights are rights which are "natural" in the sense of "not artificial, not man-made", as in rights deriving from
human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental dispositions and characteristics—including ways of Thought, thinking, feeling, and agency (philosophy), acting—that Homo sapiens, humans are said to have nature (philosophy), naturally. Th ...
or from the edicts of a god. They are universal; that is, they apply to all people, and do not derive from the laws of any specific society. They exist necessarily, inhere in every individual, and cannot be taken away. For example, it has been argued that humans have a natural ''right to life''. These are sometimes called ''moral rights'' or ''inalienable rights''. * Legal rights, in contrast, are based on a society's customs, laws,
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislature, legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, State (polity), state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare Public p ...
s or actions by
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
s. An example of a legal right is the ''right to vote'' of citizens.
Citizenship Citizenship is a "relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection". Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its citizens, and ...
, itself, is often considered as the basis for having legal rights, and has been defined as the "right to have rights". Legal rights are sometimes called ''
civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and political lif ...
'' or ''statutory rights'' and are culturally and politically relative since they depend on a specific societal context to have meaning. Some thinkers see rights in only one sense while others accept that both senses have a measure of validity. There has been considerable philosophical debate about these senses throughout history. For example,
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 ld Style and New Style dates, O.S. 4 February 1747– 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the "fundam ...
believed that legal rights were the essence of rights, and he denied the existence of natural rights; whereas
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Order, OP (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Order, Dominican friar and Catholic priest, priest who was an influential List of Catholic philo ...
held that rights purported by
positive law Positive laws ( la, links=no, ius positum) are human-made laws that oblige or specify an action. Positive law also describes the establishment of specific rights for an individual or group. Etymologically, the name derives from the verb ''to posit ...
but not grounded in
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be Deductive reasoning, deduced and applied independently of positive law ( ...
were not properly rights at all, but only a facade or pretense of rights.


Claim versus liberty

* A claim right is a right which entails that another person has a duty to the right-holder. Somebody else must do or refrain from doing something to or for the ''claim holder'', such as perform a service or supply a product for him or her; that is, he or she has a ''claim'' to that service or product (another term is ''
thing in action Chose (pronounced: , French for "thing") is a term used in common law tradition to refer to rights in property, specifically a combined bundle of rights. A chose describes the enforcement right which a party possesses in an object. The use of ''chos ...
''). In logic, this idea can be expressed as: "Person ''A'' has a claim that person ''B'' do something if and only if ''B'' has a duty to ''A'' to do that something." Every claim-right entails that some other duty-bearer must do some duty for the claim to be satisfied. This duty can be to act or to refrain from acting. For example, many jurisdictions recognize broad claim rights to things like "life, liberty, and property"; these rights impose an obligation upon others ''not'' to assault or restrain a person, or use their property, without the claim-holder's permission. Likewise, in jurisdictions where social welfare services are guaranteed, citizens have legal claim rights to be provided with those services. * A liberty right or ''privilege'', in contrast, is simply a freedom or permission for the right-holder to do something, and there are ''no obligations'' on other parties to do or not do anything. This can be expressed in logic as: "Person ''A'' has a privilege to do something if and only if ''A'' has no duty not to do that something." For example, if a person has a legal liberty right to free speech, that merely means that it is not legally forbidden for them to speak freely: it does ''not'' mean that anyone has to help enable their speech, or to listen to their speech; or even, per se, refrain from stopping them from speaking, though ''other'' rights, such as the claim right to be free from assault, may severely limit what others can do to stop them. Liberty rights and claim rights are the inverse of one another: a person has a liberty right permitting him to do something only if there is no other person who has a claim right forbidding him from doing so. Likewise, if a person has a claim right against someone else, then that other person's liberty is limited. For example, a person has a ''liberty right'' to walk down a sidewalk and can decide freely whether or not to do so, since there is no obligation either to do so or to refrain from doing so. But pedestrians may have an obligation not to walk on certain lands, such as other people's private property, to which those other people have a claim right. So a person's ''liberty right'' of walking extends precisely to the point where another's ''claim right'' limits his or her freedom.


Positive versus negative

In one sense, a right is a permission to do something or an entitlement to a specific service or treatment from others, and these rights have been called ''positive rights''. However, in another sense, rights may allow or require inaction, and these are called ''negative rights''; they permit or require doing nothing. For example, in some countries, e.g. the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
, citizens have the ''positive right'' to vote and they have the ''negative right'' to not vote; people can choose not to vote in a given election without punishment. In other countries, e.g.
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country by ...
, however, citizens have a positive right to vote but they do not have a negative right to not vote, since voting is compulsory. Accordingly: * Positive rights are permissions to do things, or entitlements to be done unto. One example of a positive right is the purported "right to welfare". * Negative rights are permissions not to do things, or entitlements to be left alone. Often the distinction is invoked by libertarians who think of a ''negative right'' as an entitlement to non-interference such as a right against being assaulted. Though similarly named, positive and negative rights should not be confused with ''active rights'' (which encompass "privileges" and "powers") and ''passive rights'' (which encompass "claims" and "immunities").


Individual versus group

The general concept of rights is that they are possessed by individuals in the sense that they are permissions and entitlements to do things which other persons, or which governments or authorities, can not infringe. This is the understanding of people such as the author
Ayn Rand Alice O'Connor (born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum;, . Most sources transliterate her given name as either ''Alisa'' or ''Alissa''. , 1905 – March 6, 1982), better known by her pen name Ayn Rand (), was a Russian-born American writer and p ...
who argued that only individuals have rights, according to her philosophy known as
Objectivism Objectivism is a philosophical system developed by Russian-American Russian Americans ( rus, русские американцы, r=russkiye amerikantsy, p= ˈruskʲɪje ɐmʲɪrʲɪˈkant͡sɨ) are Americans of full or partial Russians, Rus ...
. However, others have argued that there are situations in which a group of persons is thought to have rights, or ''group rights''. Accordingly: * Individual rights are rights held by individual people regardless of their group membership or lack thereof. * Group rights have been argued to exist when a group is seen as more than a mere composite or assembly of separate individuals but an entity in its own right. In other words, it is possible to see a group as a distinct being in and of itself; it is akin to an enlarged individual, a corporate body, which has a distinct will and power of action and can be thought of as having ''rights''. For example, a platoon of soldiers in
combat Combat (French language, French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violence, violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapons) or unarmed (Hand-to-hand combat, not using weapons). Combat is sometim ...
can be thought of as a distinct group, since individual members are willing to risk their lives for the survival of the group, and therefore the group can be conceived as having a "right" which is superior to that of any individual member; for example, a soldier who disobeys an officer can be punished, perhaps even killed, for a breach of obedience. But there is another sense of group rights in which people who are members of a group can be thought of as having specific individual rights because of their membership in a group. In this sense, the set of rights which individuals-as-group-members have is expanded because of their membership in a group. For example, workers who are members of a group such as a
labor union A trade union (labor union in American English), often simply referred to as a union, is an organization of workers intent on "maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment", ch. I such as attaining better wages and Employee ben ...
can be thought of as having expanded individual rights because of their membership in the labor union, such as the rights to specific working conditions or wages. As expected, there is sometimes considerable disagreement about what exactly is meant by the term "group" as well as by the term "group rights". There can be tension between individual and group rights. A classic instance in which group and individual rights clash is conflicts between unions and their members. For example, individual members of a union may wish a wage higher than the union-negotiated wage, but are prevented from making further requests; in a so-called
closed shop A pre-entry closed shop (or simply closed shop) is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times to remain employed. This is different f ...
which has a
union security agreement A union security agreement is a contractual agreement, usually part of a union collective bargaining Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between employers and a group of employees aimed at agreements to regulate working salaries, ...
, only the union has a ''right'' to decide matters for the individual union members such as wage rates. So, do the supposed "individual rights" of the workers prevail about the proper wage? Or do the "group rights" of the union regarding the proper wage prevail? Clearly this is a source of tension. The
Austrian School of Economics The Austrian School is a heterodox In religion, heterodoxy (from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. ...
holds that only individuals think, feel, and act whether or not members of any abstract group. The society should thus according to economists of the school be analyzed starting from the individual. This methodology is called
methodological individualism In the social science Social science is one of the branches of science, devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to th ...
and is used by the economists to justify
individual rights Group rights, also known as collective rights, are rights held by a group ''wikt:qua, qua'' a group rather than individually by its members; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by Individuality, individual people; even if they are grou ...
.


Other senses

Other distinctions between rights draw more on historical association or
family resemblance Family resemblance (german: Familienähnlichkeit, link=no) is a philosophical idea made popular by Ludwig Wittgenstein, with the best known exposition given in his posthumously published book ''Philosophical Investigations'' (1953). It argues tha ...
than on precise philosophical distinctions. These include the distinction between
civil and political rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' political freedom, freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and ...
and
economic, social and cultural rights Economic, social and cultural rights, (ESCR) are Socioeconomics, socio-economic human rights, such as the right to education, right to housing, right to an adequate standard of living, right to health, victims' rights and the right to science an ...
, between which the articles of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
are often divided. Another conception of rights groups them into three generations. These distinctions have much overlap with that between negative and positive rights, as well as between
individual rights Group rights, also known as collective rights, are rights held by a group ''wikt:qua, qua'' a group rather than individually by its members; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by Individuality, individual people; even if they are grou ...
and
group rights Group rights, also known as collective rights, are rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or ...
, but these groupings are not entirely coextensive.


Politics

Rights are often included in the foundational questions that governments and politics have been designed to deal with. Often the development of these socio-political institutions have formed a dialectical relationship with rights. Rights about particular issues, or the rights of particular groups, are often areas of special concern. Often these concerns arise when rights come into conflict with other legal or moral issues, sometimes even other rights. Issues of concern have historically included
labor rights Labor rights or workers' rights are both legal rights and human rights relating to labor relations between workers and employers. These rights are codified in national and international labor and employment law. In general, these rights i ...
,
LGBT rights Rights affecting lesbian, gay, Bisexuality, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people vary greatly by country or jurisdiction—encompassing everything from the legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the Capital punishment for homosexualit ...
,
reproductive rights Reproductive rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to human reproduction, reproduction and reproductive health that vary amongst countries around the world. The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as follows: Reproduct ...
,
disability rights The disability rights movement is a global new social movements, social movement that seeks to secure equal opportunity, equal opportunities and equality before the law, equal rights for all people with disability, disabilities. It is made u ...
,
patient rights A patient's bill of rights is a list of guarantees for those receiving medical care. It may take the form of a law or a non-binding declaration. Typically a patient's bill of rights guarantees patients information, fair treatment, and autonomy ov ...
and prisoners' rights. With increasing
monitoring Monitoring may refer to: Science and technology Biology and healthcare * Monitoring (medicine), the observation of a disease, condition or one or several medical parameters over time * Baby monitoring * Biomonitoring, of toxic chemical compounds, ...
and the information society, information rights, such as the
right to privacy The right to privacy is an element of various legal traditions that intends to restrain governmental and private actions that threaten the privacy of individuals. Over 150 national constitutions mention the right to privacy. On 10 December 1948 ...
are becoming more important. Some examples of groups whose rights are of particular concern include
animals Animals are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia. With few exceptions, animals consume organic material, breathe oxygen, are able to move, can reproduce sexually, and go through an ontogenetic stage i ...
, and amongst
humans Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex Human brain, brain. This has enabled the development of ad ...
, groups such as
children A child (plural, : children) is a human being between the stages of childbirth, birth and puberty, or between the Development of the human body, developmental period of infancy and puberty. The legal definition of ''child'' generally refers ...
and
youth Youth is the time of life when one is young. The word, youth, can also mean the time between childhood and adulthood (Maturity (psychological), maturity), but it can also refer to one's peak, in terms of health or the period of life known as b ...
,
parents A parent is a caregiver of the offspring in their own species. In humans, a parent is the caretaker of a child (where "child" refers to offspring, not necessarily age). A ''biological parent'' is a person whose gamete resulted in a child, a male t ...
(both mothers and
fathers A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental, legal, and social relationship with the child that carries with it certain rights and obligations. An adoptive fathe ...
), and men and
women A woman is an adult female human. Prior to adulthood, a female human is referred to as a girl (a female child or Adolescence, adolescent). The plural ''women'' is sometimes used in certain phrases such as "women's rights" to denote female hum ...
. Accordingly,
politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of res ...
plays an important role in developing or recognizing the above rights, and the discussion about which behaviors are included as "rights" is an ongoing political topic of importance. The concept of rights varies with political orientation. Positive rights such as a "right to medical care" are emphasized more often by left-leaning thinkers, while right-leaning thinkers place more emphasis on negative rights such as the "right to a fair trial". Further, the term ''equality'' which is often bound up with the meaning of "rights" often depends on one's political orientation.
Conservatives Conservatism is a Philosophy of culture, cultural, Social philosophy, social, and political philosophy that seeks to promote and to preserve traditional institutions, practices, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in r ...
and libertarians and advocates of
free markets In economics, a free market is an economic market (economics), system in which the prices of goods and services are determined by supply and demand expressed by sellers and buyers. Such markets, as modeled, operate without the intervention of ...
often identify equality with equality of opportunity, and want equal and fair rules in the process of making things, while agreeing that sometimes these fair rules lead to unequal outcomes. In contrast,
socialists Socialism is a left-wing Economic ideology, economic philosophy and Political movement, movement encompassing a range of economic systems characterized by the dominance of social ownership of the means of production as opposed to Private prop ...
often identify equality with
equality of outcome Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such ...
and see fairness when people have equal amounts of goods and services, and therefore think that people have a right to equal portions of necessities such as
health care Health care or healthcare is the improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, amelioration or cure A cure is a substance or procedure that ends a medical condition, such as a medication, a surgery, surgical operation, ...
or economic assistance or
housing Housing, or more generally, living spaces, refers to the construction and housing authority, assigned usage of houses or buildings individually or collectively, for the purpose of Shelter (building), shelter. Housing ensures that members of so ...
.


Philosophy

In
philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. Some ...
,
meta-ethics In metaphilosophy and ethics, meta-ethics is the study of the nature, scope, and meaning of moral judgment. It is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics (questions of how one ought ...
is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical
properties Property is the ownership of land, resources, improvements or other tangible objects, or intellectual property. Property may also refer to: Mathematics * Property (mathematics) Philosophy and science * Property (philosophy), in philosophy and ...
, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally recognized by
philosophers A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, knowledge, values, mind, and language. Suc ...
, the others being
normative ethics Normative ethics is the study of ethics, ethical behaviour and is the branch of Philosophy, philosophical ethics that investigates the questions that arise regarding how one ought to act, in a Morality, moral sense. Normative ethics is distinct ...
and
applied ethics Applied ethics refers to the practical aspect of moral considerations. It is ethics with respect to real-world actions and their moral considerations in the areas of private and public life, the professions, health, technology, law, and leadersh ...
. While normative ethics addresses such questions as "What should one do?", thus endorsing some ethical evaluations and rejecting others, meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What ''is'' goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations. Rights ethics is an answer to the meta-ethical question of ''what normative ethics is concerned with'' (meta-ethics also includes a group of questions about how ethics comes to be known, true, etc. which is not directly addressed by rights ethics). Rights ethics holds that normative ethics is concerned with rights. Alternative meta-ethical theories are that ethics is concerned with one of the following: * Duties (
deontology In moral philosophy Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of morality, right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'' ...
) * Value (
axiology Axiology (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''axia'': "value, worth"; and , ''wiktionary:-logia, -logia'': "study of") is the Philosophy, philosophical study of value (ethics), value. It includes questions about the nature and classification of values ...
) * Virtue (
virtue ethics Virtue ethics (also aretaic ethics, from Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:ἀρετή, ἀρετή 'arete (moral virtue), aretḗ'' is an approach to ethics that treats the concept of virtue, moral virtue as central. Virtue ethics is usually contr ...
) * Consequences (
consequentialism In ethical philosophy, consequentialism is a class of normative ethics, normative, Teleology, teleological ethical theories that holds that the wikt:consequence, consequences of one's Action (philosophy), conduct are the ultimate basis for judgm ...
, e.g.
utilitarianism In ethical philosophy, utilitarianism is a family of Normative ethics, normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit ...
) Rights ethics has had considerable influence on political and social thinking. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
gives some concrete examples of widely accepted rights.


Criticism

Some philosophers have criticised rights as ontologically dubious entities. For instance, although in favour of the extension of individual legal rights, the
utilitarian In ethical philosophy, utilitarianism is a family of Normative ethics, normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit ...
philosopher
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 ld Style and New Style dates, O.S. 4 February 1747– 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the "fundam ...
opposed the idea of
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be Deductive reasoning, deduced and applied independently of positive law ( ...
and
natural rights Some philosophers distinguish two types of rights, natural rights and legal rights. * Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are ''universal'', ''fundamental right ...
, calling them "nonsense upon stilts". Further, one can question the ability of rights to actually bring about justice for all.


History

The specific enumeration of rights has differed greatly in different periods of history. In many cases, the system of rights promulgated by one group has come into sharp and bitter conflict with that of other groups. In the political sphere, a place in which rights have historically been an important issue, constitutional provisions of various states sometimes address the question of who has what legal rights. Historically, many notions of rights were
authoritarian Authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political ''status quo'', and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic votin ...
and
hierarchical A hierarchy (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) that are represented as being "above", "below", or "at the same level as" one another. Hierarchy i ...
, with different people granted different rights, and some having more rights than others. For instance, the right of a father to be respected by his son did not indicate a right of the son to receive something in return for that respect; and the
divine right of kings In European Christianity, the divine right of kings, divine right, or God's mandation is a political and religious doctrine of political legitimacy of a monarchy. It stems from a specific Metaphysics, metaphysical framework in which a monarch ...
, which permitted absolute power over subjects, did not leave much possibility for many rights for the subjects themselves. In contrast, modern conceptions of rights have often emphasized
liberty Liberty is the ability to do as one pleases, or a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant (i.e. privilege). It is a synonym for the word freedom. In modern politics, liberty is understood as the state of being free within society fr ...
and equality as among the most important aspects of rights, as was evident in the American and French revolutions. Important documents in the
political history Political history is the narrative and survey of political events, ideas, movements, organs of government, voters, parties and leaders. It is closely related to other fields of history, including diplomatic history, constitutional history, social ...
of rights include: * The
Persian Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
of
ancient Iran The history of Iran is intertwined with the history of a larger region known as Greater Iran, comprising the area from Anatolia in the west to the borders of Ancient India and the Syr Darya in the east, and from the Caucasus and the Eurasian Step ...
established unprecedented principles of human rights in the 6th century BC under
Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁 ), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the History of Iran, first Persian empire.#refachaemenids-EI, Schmitt Achaemenid dynasty ...
. After his conquest of
Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Bāḇel'' * syc, ܒܒܠ ''Bāḇel'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bāvel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babi ...
in 539 BC, the king issued the
Cyrus cylinder The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several pieces, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian language, Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of Persia's Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great.#Kuhrt-200 ...
, discovered in 1879 and seen by some today as the first human rights document. * The
Constitution of Medina The Constitution of Medina (, ''Dustūr al-Madīna''), also known as the Charter of Medina ( ar, صحيفة المدينة, ''Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīnah''; or: , ''Mīthāq al-Madina'' "Covenant of Medina"), is the modern name given to a document be ...
(622 AD; Arabia) instituted a number of rights for the Muslim, Jewish, camp followers and "believers" of Medina. * ''
Magna Carta (Medieval Latin for "Great Charter of Freedoms"), commonly called (also ''Magna Charta''; "Great Charter"), is a royal charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, Berkshire, Windsor, on 15 June 1215. ...
'' (1215;
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separa ...
) required the
King of England The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of government by which a hereditary monarchy, hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state of the United ...
to renounce certain rights and respect certain legal procedures, and to accept that the will of the king could be bound by
law Law is a set of rules that are created and are law enforcement, enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. ...
, after King John promised his barons he would follow the "law of the land". While ''Magna Carta'' was originally a set of rules that the king had to follow, and mainly protected the property of aristocratic landowners, today it is seen as the basis of certain rights for ordinary people, such as the right of due process. * The
Declaration of Arbroath The Declaration of Arbroath ( la, Declaratio Arbroathis; sco, Declaration o Aiberbrothock; gd, Tiomnadh Bhruis) is the name usually given to a letter, dated 6 April 1320 at Arbroath, written by Scottish barons and addressed to Pope John XX ...
(1320;
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...
) established the right of the people to choose a head of state (see
popular sovereignty Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of a State (polity), state and its government are created and sustained by the consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. Popular sovereignty, being a principle, does ...
). * The
Henrician Articles The Henrician Articles or King Henry's Articles (Polish language, Polish: ''Artykuły henrykowskie'', Latin: ''Articuli Henriciani'') were a permanent contract between the "Polish nation" (the szlachta, or nobility, of the Polish–Lithuanian Comm ...
(1573; Poland-Lithuania) or King Henry's Articles were a permanent contract that stated the fundamental principles of governance and constitutional law in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, including the rights of the nobility to elect the king, to meet in parliament whose approval was required to levy taxes and declare war or peace, to religious liberty and the right to rebel in case the king transgressed against the laws of the republic or the rights of the nobility. * The
Bill of Rights A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against Civil and political rights, infringement fr ...
(1689; England) declared that
Englishmen The English people are an ethnic group An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those att ...
, as embodied by
Parliament In modern politics, and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: Representation (politics), representing the Election#Suffrage, electorate, making laws, and overseeing ...
, possess certain civil and political rights; the
Claim of Right The Claim of Right (c. 28) is an Acts of Parliament, Act passed by the Convention of the Estates of Scotland, Convention of the Estates, a sister body to the Parliament of Scotland (or Three Estates), in April 1689. It is one of the key documen ...
(1689; Scotland) was similar but distinct. * The
Virginia Declaration of Rights The Virginia Declaration of Rights was drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent natural and legal rights, rights of men, including the right of revolution, right to reform or abolish "inadequate" government. It influenced a number of later doc ...
(1776) by
George Mason George Mason (October 7, 1792) was an American planter class, planter, politician, Founding Father of the United States, Founding Father, and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, one of the three delegates present who refused ...
declared the inherent natural rights and
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflic ...
. * The
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence, formally The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen States of America, is the pronouncement and founding document adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at Independence Hall, Pennsylv ...
(1776) succinctly defined the rights of man as including, but not limited to, "
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a well-known phrase from the United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence, formally The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen States of America, i ...
" which later influenced " liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France. The phrase can also be found in Chapter III, Article 13 of the 1947
Constitution of Japan The Constitution of Japan (Shinjitai: , Kyūjitai: , Hepburn romanization, Hepburn: ) is the constitution of Japan and the supreme law in the state. Written primarily by American civilian officials working under the Allied occupation of Japa ...
, and in President
Ho Chi Minh (: ; born ; 19 May 1890 – 2 September 1969), commonly known as ('Uncle An uncle is usually defined as a male kinship, relative who is a sibling of a parent or married to a sibling of a parent. Uncles who are consanguineous, relat ...
's 1945 declaration of independence of the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam North Vietnam, officially the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV; vi, Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa), was a socialist state supported by the Soviet Union (USSR) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Southeast Asia that existed f ...
. An alternative phrase "life, liberty and property", is found in the Declaration of Colonial Rights, a resolution of the
First Continental Congress The First Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from 12 of the Thirteen Colonies, 13 British colonies that became the United States. It met from September 5 to October 26, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, afte ...
. Also, Article 3 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
reads, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person". * The
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (french: Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen de 1789, links=no), set by France's National Constituent Assembly (France), National Constituent Assembly in 1789, is a human right ...
(1789; France), one of the fundamental documents of the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic ( ), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises of Overseas France, ...
, defined a set of individual rights and collective rights of the people. * The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1785; United States), written by
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 18 ...
in 1779, was a document that asserted the right of man to form a personal relationship with God free from interference by the state. * The
United States Bill of Rights The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over the ratification of the Constitution and written to address the objections ra ...
(1789–1791; United States), the first ten amendments of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
specified rights of individuals in which government could not interfere, including the rights of free assembly, freedom of religion, trial by jury, and the right to keep and bear arms. * The Constitution of Poland-Lithuania (1791; Poland-Lithuania) was the first constitution in Europe, and second in the world. It built upon previous Polish law documents such as the Henrician Articles, as well as the US
constitution A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who ...
, and it too, specified many rights. * The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
(1948) is an overarching set of standards by which governments, organisations and individuals would measure their behaviour towards each other. The preamble declares that the "...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of
freedom Freedom is understood as either having the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power and resources to fulfill one's purposes unhindered. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving one ...
,
justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ...
and
peace Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence. In a social sense, peace is commonly used to mean a lack of conflict (such as war) and freedom from fear of violence between individuals or groups. ...
in the world..." * The
European Convention on Human Rights The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR; formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by th ...
(1950; Europe) was adopted under the auspices of the
Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold European Convention on Human Rights, human rights, democracy and the Law in Europe, rule of law in Europe. ...
to protect
human right Human rights are Morality, moral principles or Social norm, normsJames Nickel, with assistance from Thomas Pogge, M.B.E. Smith, and Leif Wenar, 13 December 2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyHuman Rights Retrieved 14 August 2014 for ce ...
s and fundamental freedoms. * The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty that commits nations to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom ...
(1966), a follow-up to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
, concerns
civil and political rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' political freedom, freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and ...
. * The
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (GA) on 16 December 1966 through GA. Resolution 2200A (XXI), and came in force from 3 January 197 ...
(1966), another follow-up to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six pr ...
, concerns
economic, social and cultural rights Economic, social and cultural rights, (ESCR) are Socioeconomics, socio-economic human rights, such as the right to education, right to housing, right to an adequate standard of living, right to health, victims' rights and the right to science an ...
. * The
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms The ''Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms'' (french: Charte canadienne des droits et libertés), often simply referred to as the ''Charter'' in Canada, is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada, forming the first part o ...
(1982; Canada) was created to protect the rights of
Canadian Canadians (french: Canadiens) are people identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, many (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of ...
citizens from actions and policies of all levels of government. * The
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR) enshrines certain civil and political rights, political, economic, social and cultural rights, social, and economic rights for European Union (EU) Citizenship of the European Union, ...
(2000) is one of the most recent proposed
legal instrument Legal instrument is a law, legal term of art that is used for any formally executed written document that can be formally attributed to its author, records and formally expresses a legally enforceable act, process, or contractual duty, obligation ...
s concerning human rights.


See also

* Outline of rights *
Animal rights Animal rights is the philosophy according to which many or all Animal consciousness, sentient animals have moral worth that is independent of their Utilitarianism, utility for humans, and that their most basic interests—such as avoiding s ...
* Contractual rights *
Constitutionalism Constitutionalism is "a compound of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law". Political organizations are constitutional ...
* Rule according to higher law *
Deed In common law, a deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, affirms or confirms an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions, seal (emblem), sealed. It is com ...
* Droit * Equal rights (disambiguation), various meanings *
Exclusive rights In Anglo-Saxon law Anglo-Saxon law (Old English ''ǣ'', later ''lagu'' "law"; dōm "decree, judgment") is a body of written rules and customs that were in place during the Anglo-Saxon period in England, before the Norman conquest. This body of ...
*
Freedom Freedom is understood as either having the ability to act or change without constraint or to possess the power and resources to fulfill one's purposes unhindered. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving one ...
*
Freedom of religion Freedom of religion or religious liberty is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It also includes the freedom ...
*
Freedom of speech Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The rights, right to freedom of expression has been ...
*
Freedom of the press Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic News media, media, especially publication, published materials, should be conside ...
*
History of citizenship History of citizenship describes the changing relation between an individual and the state, known as citizenship. Citizenship is generally identified not as an aspect of Eastern civilization but of history of Western civilization, Western civiliza ...
*
Jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and they also seek to achieve a deeper understanding of legal reasoning ...
*
Liberty Liberty is the ability to do as one pleases, or a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant (i.e. privilege). It is a synonym for the word freedom. In modern politics, liberty is understood as the state of being free within society fr ...
* Prerogative *
Social contract In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually, although not always, concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Soci ...
* Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld *
Right to food The right to food, and its variations, is a human right protecting the right of people to feed themselves in dignity, implying that sufficient food is available, that people have the means to access it, and that it adequately meets the individual ...
*
Right to housing The right to housing (occasionally right to shelter) is the economic, social and cultural right to adequate house, housing and shelter (building), shelter. It is recognized in some Economic, social and cultural rights#National constitutions, nati ...
*
Right to property The right to property, or the right to own property (cf. ownership) is often classified as a human right for natural persons regarding their possessions. A general recognition of a right to private property is found more rarely and is typical ...
*
Property rights (economics) Property rights are constructs in economics for determining how a resource or economic good is used and Ownership, owned, which have developed over ancient and modern history, from Abrahamic law to Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human ...
*
Right to water The human right to water and sanitation (HRWS) is a principle stating that clean drinking water Drinking water is water that is used in drinking, drink or food preparation; potable water is water that is safe to be used as drinking water. ...
*
Right to an adequate standard of living The right to an adequate standard of living is a fundamental human rights, human right. It is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was accepted by the United Nations General Assembly, General Assembly of the United Nations on De ...
*
Right to health The right to health is the economic, social and cultural economic, social, and cultural right to a universal minimum standard of health to which all individuals are entitled. The concept of a right to health has been enumerated in international a ...
*
Right to social security The right to social security is recognized as a human right and establishes the right to social security Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet Basic needs ...
Organisations: *
Amnesty International Amnesty International (also referred to as Amnesty or AI) is an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights, with its headquarters in the United Kingdom. The organization says it has more than ten million members and s ...
*
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in New York City, that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The group pressures governments, policy makers, companies, and individual human ri ...
*
United States Commission on Civil Rights The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (CCR) is a bipartisan, independent commission of the United States federal government, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1957 during the Dwight D. Eisenhower, Eisenhower administration, that is charged with ...


References


External links


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
article by Leif Wenar.
International Freedom of Expression Exchange

Comparative Analysis of Human Rights
{{Authority control Concepts in ethics Theories of law Libertarian theory Social concepts Legal doctrines and principles