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Natural rights and legal rights are two types of 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 Fundamental may refer to: * Foundation of reality * Fundamental frequency, as in music or phonetics, often referred to as simply a "fundamental" * Fundamentalism, the belief in, and usually the strict adherence to, the simple or "fundamental" ideas ...
'' and ''inalienable'' (they cannot be repealed by human laws, though one can forfeit their enjoyment through one's actions, such as by violating someone else's rights).
Natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
is the law of natural rights. * Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given
legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and infl ...
(they can be modified, repealed, and restrained by human laws). The concept of
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 ...
is related to the concept of legal rights. Natural law first appeared in
ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC, at a time when the inhabitants of ancient Greece were struggling to repel devastating invasions from the east. Greek philosophy continued throughout the Hellenistic period The Hellenistic ...
, and was referred to by
Roman philosopher Ancient Roman philosophy was heavily influenced by the ancient Greeks and the schools of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work ...
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
. It was subsequently alluded to in the Bible, and then developed in the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
by
Catholic philosopher This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwi ...
s such as
Albert the Great Albertus Magnus (c. 1200 – November 15, 1280), also known as Saint Albert the Great or Albert of Cologne, was a German Catholic The Catholic Church, often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominat ...
and his pupil
Thomas Aquinas Thomas Aquinas (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Order, Dominican friar, Philosophy, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential ...

Thomas Aquinas
. During the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
, the concept of natural laws was used to challenge the
divine right of kings In European Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the M ...
, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
,
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 ...
, and government – and thus legal rights – in the form of
classical republicanism Classical republicanism, also known as civic republicanism or civic humanism, is a form of republicanism Republicanism is a political ideology centered on citizenship in a state (polity), state organized as a republic. Historically, it ranges f ...
. Conversely, the concept of natural rights is used by others to challenge the legitimacy of all such establishments. The idea of human rights derives from theories of natural rights. Those rejecting a distinction between human rights and natural rights view human rights as the successor that is not dependent on
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
,
natural theology Natural theology, once also termed physico-theology, is a type of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity.
, or
Christian theological doctrine
Christian theological doctrine
. Natural rights, in particular, are considered beyond the authority of any government or international body to dismiss. The 1948 United Nations
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 p ...
is an important
legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environ ...
enshrining one conception of natural rights into international
soft lawThe term "soft law" refers to quasi-legal instruments which do not have any legally binding force, or whose binding force is somewhat weaker than the binding force of traditional law, often contrasted with soft law by being referred to as " hard law" ...
. Natural rights were traditionally viewed as exclusively
negative rights Negative and positive 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 owed to people acco ...
, whereas human rights also comprise positive rights. Even on a natural rights conception of human rights, the two terms may not be synonymous.


History

The idea that certain rights are natural or inalienable also has a history dating back at least to the
Stoics Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the ph ...
of
late Antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Inst ...
, through Catholic law of the early
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, and descending through the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity Western Christianity is one of two sub-divisions of Christianity Christianity is an Abra ...
and the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link= ...
to today. The existence of natural rights has been asserted by different individuals on different premises, such as ''
a priori ''A priori'' and ''a posteriori'' ('from the earlier' and 'from the later', respectively) are Latin phrases used in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaph ...
'' philosophical reasoning or religious principles. For example,
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...

Immanuel Kant
claimed to derive natural rights through reason alone. The United States Declaration of Independence, meanwhile, is based upon the "
self-evident In epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reaso ...
" truth that "all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". Likewise, different philosophers and statesmen have designed different lists of what they believe to be natural rights; almost all include the right to life and
liberty Broadly speaking, 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 Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change withou ...

liberty
as the two highest priorities. H. L. A. Hart argued that if there are any rights at all, there must be the right to liberty, for all the others would depend upon this.
T. H. Green Thomas Hill Green (7 April 183626 March 1882), known as T. H. Green, was an English philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, ...
argued that "if there are such things as rights at all, then, there must be a right to life and liberty, or, to put it more properly to free life."
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
emphasized "life, liberty and property" as primary. However, despite Locke's influential defense of the
right of revolution In political philosophy Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government, addressing questions about the nature, scope, and legitimacy of public agents and institutions and the relationships between them. Its topics include politic ...
,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were cr ...

Thomas Jefferson
substituted " pursuit of happiness" in place of "property" in the
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known a ...

United States Declaration of Independence
.


Ancient

Stephen Kinzer, a veteran journalist for ''The New York Times'' and the author of the book ''All The Shah's Men'', writes in the latter that: The 40 Principal Doctrines of the
Epicureans Roman Epicurus bust Epicureanism is a system of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosoph ...
taught that "in order to obtain protection from other men, any means for attaining this end is a natural good" (PD 6). They believed in a contractarian ethics where mortals agree to not harm or be harmed, and the rules that govern their agreements are not absolute (PD 33), but must change with circumstances (PD 37–38). The Epicurean doctrines imply that humans in their natural state enjoy personal sovereignty and that they must consent to the laws that govern them, and that this consent (and the laws) can be revisited periodically when circumstances change. The
Stoics Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophyHellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy Western philosophy refers to the philosophy, philosophical thought and work of the Western world. Historically, the term refers to the ph ...
held that no one was a slave by nature; slavery was an external condition juxtaposed to the internal freedom of the soul (''
sui juris ''Sui iuris'', also spelled as ''sui juris'' ( or ), is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, know ...
'').
Seneca the Younger Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (; AD65), usually known as Seneca, was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', ...
wrote: Of fundamental importance to the development of the idea of natural rights was the emergence of the idea of natural human equality. As the historian A.J. Carlyle notes: "There is no change in political theory so startling in its completeness as the change from the theory of Aristotle to the later philosophical view represented by
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
and Seneca.... We think that this cannot be better exemplified than with regard to the theory of the equality of human nature." Charles H. McIlwain likewise observes that "the idea of the equality of men is the profoundest contribution of the Stoics to political thought" and that "its greatest influence is in the changed conception of law that in part resulted from it." Cicero argues in
De Legibus The ''De Legibus'' (''On the Laws'') is a dialogue written by Marcus Tullius Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 – 7 December 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic Skeptic, who tri ...
that "we are born for Justice, and that right is based, not upon opinions, but upon Nature."


Modern

One of the first Western thinkers to develop the contemporary idea of natural rights was French theologian
Jean Gerson Jean Charlier de Gerson (13 December 1363 – 12 July 1429) was a French scholar, educator, reformer, and poet, Chancellor of the University of ParisThe Chancellor of the University of Paris was originally the chancellor Chancellor ( la, links= ...

Jean Gerson
, whose 1402 treatise ''De Vita Spirituali Animae'' is considered one of the first attempts to develop what would come to be called modern natural rights theory. Centuries later, the Stoic doctrine that the "inner part cannot be delivered into bondage" re-emerged in the
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
doctrine of liberty of conscience.
Martin Luther Martin Luther (; ; 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citiz ...

Martin Luther
wrote: 17th-century English philosopher
John Locke John Locke (; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * ...

John Locke
discussed natural rights in his work, identifying them as being "life, liberty, and estate (property)", and argued that such fundamental rights could not be surrendered in the
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
. Preservation of the natural rights to life, liberty, and property was claimed as justification for the rebellion of the American colonies. As
George Mason George Mason IV (October 7, 1792) was an American planter, politician and delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention The Constitutional Convention (contemporarily known as the Federal Convention, the Philadelphia Convention, or the Gran ...

George Mason
stated in his draft for 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 ...
'', "all men are born equally free," and hold "certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity." Another 17th-century Englishman,
John Lilburne John Lilburne (161429 August 1657), also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Po ...

John Lilburne
(known as ''Freeborn John''), who came into conflict with both the monarchy of
King Charles I of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg, Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen re ...

King Charles I
and the
military dictatorship A military dictatorship is a dictatorship in which the military exerts complete or substantial control over political authority, and the dictator is often a high-ranked military officer. The reverse situation is to have civilian control of the m ...
of
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" e ...

Oliver Cromwell
, argued for level human basic rights he called "''
freeborn "Freeborn" is a term associated with political agitator John Lilburne (1614–1657), a member of the Levellers shot at the command of Oliver Cromwell in Burford. The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War The Eng ...
rights''" which he defined as being rights that every human being is born with, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or by human law. The distinction between alienable and unalienable rights was introduced by Francis Hutcheson. In his ''Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue'' (1725), Hutcheson foreshadowed the Declaration of Independence, stating: “For wherever any Invasion is made upon unalienable Rights, there must arise either a perfect, or external Right to Resistance. ... Unalienable Rights are essential Limitations in all Governments.” Hutcheson, however, placed clear limits on his notion of unalienable rights, declaring that “there can be no Right, or Limitation of Right, inconsistent with, or opposite to the greatest public Good." Hutcheson elaborated on this idea of unalienable rights in his ''A System of Moral Philosophy'' (1755), based on the
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Cit ...
principle of the liberty of conscience. One could not in fact give up the capacity for private judgment (e.g., about religious questions) regardless of any external contracts or oaths to religious or secular authorities so that right is "unalienable." Hutcheson wrote: "Thus no man can really change his sentiments, judgments, and inward affections, at the pleasure of another; nor can it tend to any good to make him profess what is contrary to his heart. The right of private judgment is therefore unalienable." In the
German Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment (also known as the Age of Reason or simply the Enlightenment); ger, Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie , "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, link=n ...
,
Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citi ...
gave a highly developed treatment of this inalienability argument. Like Hutcheson, Hegel based the theory of inalienable rights on the ''de facto'' inalienability of those aspects of personhood that distinguish persons from things. A thing, like a piece of property, can in fact be transferred from one person to another. According to Hegel, the same would not apply to those aspects that make one a person: In discussion of
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
theory, "inalienable rights" were said to be those rights that could not be surrendered by citizens to the sovereign. Such rights were thought to be ''natural rights'', independent of positive law. Some social contract theorists reasoned, however, that in the natural state only the strongest could benefit from their rights. Thus, people form an implicit social contract, ceding their natural rights to the authority to protect the people from abuse, and living henceforth under the legal rights of that authority. Many historical apologies for slavery and illiberal government were based on explicit or implicit voluntary contracts to alienate any "natural rights" to freedom and
self-determination The right of a people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an ...
. The ''de facto'' inalienability arguments of Hutcheson and his predecessors provided the basis for the
anti-slavery movement Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end slavery. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and liberate the enslaved people. The British ...
to argue not simply against involuntary slavery but against any explicit or implied contractual forms of slavery. Any contract that tried to legally alienate such a right would be inherently invalid. Similarly, the argument was used by the
democratic movement A democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ''kratos'' 'rule') is a form of government in which people, the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct demo ...
to argue against any explicit or implied social contracts of subjection (''pactum subjectionis'') by which a people would supposedly alienate their right of self-government to a sovereign as, for example, in ''
Leviathan Leviathan (; , ) is a sea serpent A sea serpent or sea dragon is a type of dragon A dragon is a large, snake, serpentine, legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Beliefs about dragons vary consid ...
'' by
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; sometimes known as Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an , considered to be one of the founders of modern . Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ', in which he expounds an influential form ...
. According to
Ernst Cassirer Ernst Alfred Cassirer (; ; July 28, 1874 – April 13, 1945) was a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of ...

Ernst Cassirer
, These themes converged in the debate about American independence. While Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence, Welsh nonconformist
Richard Price Richard Price (23 February 1723 – 19 April 1791) was a Welsh moral philosopher, Nonconformist minister and mathematician. He was also a political reformer, pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the French a ...

Richard Price
sided with the colonists' claim that
King George III George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 173829 January 1820) was King of Great Britain and of Monarchy of Ireland, Ireland from 25 October 1760 until Acts of Union 1800, the union of the two kingdoms on 1 January 1801, after which he wa ...

King George III
was "attempting to rob them of that liberty to which every member of society and all civil communities have a natural and unalienable title."Price, Richard. ''Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty''. 1776, Part I. Reprinted in: Peach, Bernard, (Ed.) ''Richard Price and the Ethical Foundations of the American Revolution''.
Duke University Duke University is a Private university, private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity, North Carolina, Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, t ...
Press, 1979.
Price again based the argument on the ''de facto'' inalienability of "that principle of spontaneity or self-determination which constitutes us agents or which gives us a command over our actions, rendering them properly ours, and not effects of the operation of any foreign cause." Any social contract or compact allegedly alienating these rights would be non-binding and void, wrote Price: Price raised a furor of opposition so in 1777 he wrote another tract that clarified his position and again restated the ''de facto'' basis for the argument that the "liberty of men as agents is that power of self-determination which all agents, as such, possess." In ''Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism'',
Staughton Lynd Staughton Craig Lynd (born November 22, 1929) is an American conscientious objector A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service Military service is service by an individual or ...
pulled together these themes and related them to the slavery debate: Meanwhile, in America,
Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were cr ...

Thomas Jefferson
"took his division of rights into alienable and unalienable from Hutcheson, who made the distinction popular and important", and in the 1776
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known a ...

United States Declaration of Independence
, famously condensed this to: In the 19th century, the movement to abolish slavery seized this passage as a statement of constitutional principle, although the
U.S. constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first t ...
recognized and protected the institution of slavery. As a lawyer, future
Chief Justice The chief justice is the presiding member of a supreme court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes betwee ...
Salmon P. Chase Salmon Portland Chase (January 13, 1808May 7, 1873) was a U.S. politician and jurist who served as the sixth chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...

Salmon P. Chase
argued before the Supreme Court in the case of , who had been charged with violating the
Fugitive Slave Act Fugitives are often profiled in the media in order to be apprehended, such as in the TV show '' America's Most Wanted''. A fugitive (or runaway) is a person who is fleeing from custody, whether it be from jail, a government arrest An ...
, that: The concept of inalienable rights was criticized by
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">O.S._4_February_1747.html" ;"title="Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.html" ;"title="nowiki/>Old Style and New Style dates">O.S. 4 February 1747">Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates.htm ...

Jeremy Bentham
and
Edmund Burke Edmund Burke (; 12 January NS.html"_;"title="New_Style.html"_;"title="/nowiki>New_Style">NS">New_Style.html"_;"title="/nowiki>New_Style">NS/nowiki>_1729_–_9_July_1797)_was_an_Anglo-Irish_Politician.html" "title="New_Style">NS.html" ;"title ...
as groundless. Bentham and Burke claimed that rights arise from the actions of government, or evolve from tradition, and that neither of these can provide anything ''inalienable''. (See Bentham's "Critique of the Doctrine of Inalienable, Natural Rights", and Burke's ''
Reflections on the Revolution in France ''Reflections on the Revolution in France'' is a political pamphlet written by the Irish statesman Edmund Burke and published in November 1790. It is fundamentally a contrast of the French Revolution to that time with the unwritten Constitution o ...
''). Presaging the shift in thinking in the 19th century, Bentham famously dismissed the idea of natural rights as "nonsense on stilts". By way of contrast to the views of Burke and Bentham, Patriot scholar and justice
James WilsonJames Wilson may refer to: Politicians and government officials Canada *James Wilson (Upper Canada politician) (1770–1847), English-born farmer and political figure in Upper Canada *James Crocket Wilson (1841–1899), Canadian MP from Quebec ...
criticized Burke's view as "tyranny". The signers of the Declaration of Independence deemed it a "self-evident truth" that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". In ''
The Social Contract ''The Social Contract'', originally published as ''On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Right'' (french: Du contrat social; ou Principes du droit politique) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, , ; 28 June 1712 ...
'',
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, , ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as w ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
claims that the existence of inalienable rights is unnecessary for the existence of a constitution or a set of laws and rights. This idea of a
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
that rights and responsibilities are derived from a consensual contract between the government and the peopleis the most widely recognized alternative. One criticism of natural rights theory is that one cannot draw norms from facts. This objection is variously expressed as the is-ought problem, the
naturalistic fallacy In philosophical ethics, the term naturalistic fallacy was introduced by British philosopher G. E. Moore in his 1903 book '' Principia Ethica''. Moore argues it would be fallacious to explain that which is good reductively, in terms of natural p ...
, or the
appeal to nature An appeal to nature is an argument In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc ...
.
G.E. Moore George Edward Moore (4 November 1873 – 24 October 1958) was an English philosopher who, along with Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British polymath A polyma ...
, for example, said that
ethical naturalism Ethical naturalism (also called moral naturalism or naturalistic cognitivistic definism) is the meta-ethical view which claims that: # Ethical sentences express propositions. # Some such propositions are true. # Those propositions are made true ...
falls prey to the naturalistic fallacy. Some defenders of natural rights theory, however, counter that the term "natural" in "natural rights" is contrasted with "artificial" rather than referring to
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter an ...

nature
.
John Finnis John Mitchell Finnis, , (born 28 July 1940) is an Australian legal philosopher, jurist and scholar specializing in jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A s ...
, for example, contends that
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
and natural rights are derived from self-evident principles, not from speculative principles or from facts. There is also debate as to whether all rights are either natural or legal. Fourth president of the United States
James Madison James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited wi ...

James Madison
, while representing Virginia in the House of Representatives, believed that there are rights, such as
trial by jury A jury trial, or trial by jury, is a lawful proceeding in which a jury A jury is a sworn body of people (the jurors) convened to render an impartiality, impartial verdict (a Question of fact, finding of fact on a question) officially submit ...
, that are
social rights Economic, social and cultural rights are socio-economic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern socie ...
, arising neither from
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
nor from
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 ...
(which are the basis of natural and legal rights respectively) but from the
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
from which a government derives its authority.


Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) included a discussion of natural rights in his moral and
political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical or menta ...

political philosophy
. Hobbes' conception of natural rights extended from his conception of man in a "state of nature". Thus he argued that the essential natural (human) right was "to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own Nature; that is to say, of his own Life; and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own judgement, and Reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto." ( ''Leviathan''. 1, XIV) Hobbes sharply distinguished this natural "liberty", from natural "laws", described generally as "a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving his life; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may best be preserved." ( ''Leviathan''. 1, XIV) In his natural state, according to Hobbes, man's life consisted entirely of liberties and not at all of laws – "It followeth, that in such a condition, every man has the right to every thing; even to one another's body. And therefore, as long as this natural Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man... of living out the time, which Nature ordinarily allow men to live." ( ''Leviathan''. 1, XIV) This would lead inevitably to a situation known as the "", in which human beings kill, steal and enslave others to stay alive, and due to their natural lust for "Gain", "Safety" and "Reputation". Hobbes reasoned that this world of chaos created by unlimited rights was highly undesirable, since it would cause human life to be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". As such, if humans wish to live peacefully they must give up most of their natural rights and create moral obligations to establish political and
civil society Civil society can be understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad ...
. This is one of the earliest formulations of the theory of government known as the
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
. Hobbes objected to the attempt to derive rights from "
natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
," arguing that law ("lex") and right ("jus") though often confused, signify opposites, with law referring to obligations, while rights refer to the absence of obligations. Since by our (human) nature, we seek to maximize our well being, rights are prior to law, natural or institutional, and people will not follow the laws of nature without first being subjected to a sovereign power, without which all ideas of are meaningless – "Therefore before the names of Just and Unjust can have place, there must be some coercive Power, to compel men equally to the performance of their Covenants..., to make good that Propriety, which by mutual contract men acquire, in recompense of the universal Right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of the Commonwealth." ( ''Leviathan''''. 1, XV) This marked an important departure from medieval natural law theories which gave precedence to obligations over rights.


John Locke

John Locke (1632–1704) was another prominent Western philosopher who conceptualized rights as natural and inalienable. Like Hobbes, Locke believed in a natural right to life,
liberty Broadly speaking, 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 Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change withou ...

liberty
, and
property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, r ...
. It was once conventional wisdom that Locke greatly influenced the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from Thirteen Colonies, thirteen American colonies of British America in Continental Congress ...
with his writings of natural rights, but this claim has been the subject of protracted dispute in recent decades. For example, the historian Ray Forrest Harvey declared that Jefferson and Locke were at "two opposite poles" in their political philosophy, as evidenced by Jefferson's use in the Declaration of Independence of the phrase "pursuit of happiness" instead of "property." More recently, the eminent legal historian John Phillip Reid has deplored contemporary scholars' "misplaced emphasis on John Locke," arguing that American revolutionary leaders saw Locke as a ''commentator'' on established constitutional principles.
Thomas Pangle Thomas Lee Pangle, (born 1944) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as ...
has defended Locke's influence on the Founding, claiming that historians who argue to the contrary either misrepresent the classical republican alternative to which they say the revolutionary leaders adhered, do not understand Locke, or point to someone else who was decisively influenced by Locke. This position has also been sustained by Michael Zuckert. According to Locke, there are three natural rights: * Life: everyone is entitled to live. * Liberty: everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn't conflict with the first right. * Estate: everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights. In developing his concept of natural rights, Locke was influenced by reports of society among
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
, whom he regarded as natural peoples who lived in a "state of liberty" and perfect freedom, but "not a state of license". It also informed his conception of
social contract In moral A moral (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
. Although he does not blatantly state it, his position implies that even in light of our unique characteristics we shouldn't be treated differently by our neighbors or our rulers. "Locke is arguing that there is no natural characteristic sufficient to distinguish one person from another…of, course there are plenty of natural differences between us" (Haworth 103). What Haworth takes from Locke is that, John Locke was obsessed with supporting equality in society, treating everyone as an equal. He does though highlight our differences with his philosophy showing that we are all unique and important to society. In his philosophy, it's highlighted that the ideal government should also protect everyone, and provide rights and freedom to everyone, because we are all important to society. His ideas then were developed into the movements for freedom from the British creating our government. However, his implied thought of freedom for all is applied most heavily in our culture today. Starting with the civil rights movement, and continuing through women's rights, Locke's call for a fair government can be seen as the influence in these movements. His ideas are typically just seen as the foundation for modern democracy, however, it's not unreasonable to credit Locke with the social activism throughout the history of America. By founding this sense of freedom for all, Locke was laying the groundwork for the equality that occurs today. Despite the apparent misuse of his philosophy in early American democracy. The Civil Rights movement and the suffrage movement both called out the state of American democracy during their challenges to the governments view on equality. To them it was clear that when the designers of democracy said all, they meant all people shall receive those natural rights that John Locke cherished so deeply. "a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another" (Locke II,4). Locke in his papers on natural philosophy clearly states that he wants a government where all are treated equal in freedoms especially. "Locke’s views on toleration were very progressive for the time" (Connolly). Authors such as Jacob Connolly confirm that to them Locke was highly ahead of his time with all this progressive thinking. That is that his thought fits our current state of democracy where we strive to make sure that everyone has a say in the government and everyone has a chance at a good life. Regardless of race, gender, or social standing starting with Locke it was made clear not only that the government should provide rights, but rights to everyone through his social contract. The social contract is an agreement between members of a country to live within a shared system of laws. Specific forms of government are the result of the decisions made by these persons acting in their collective capacity. Government is instituted to make laws that protect the three natural rights. If a government does not properly protect these rights, it can be overthrown.


Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (1731–1809) further elaborated on natural rights in his influential work ''
Rights of Man ''Rights of Man'' (1791), a book by Thomas Paine, including 31 articles, posits that popular political revolution is permissible when a government does not safeguard the natural rights of its people. Using these points as a base it defends the F ...
'' (1791), emphasizing that rights cannot be granted by any charter because this would legally imply they can also be revoked and under such circumstances, they would be reduced to privileges:


American individualist anarchists

While at first American individualist anarchists adhered to natural rights positions, later in this era led by
Benjamin Tucker Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (; April 17, 1854 – June 22, 1939) was an American anarchist Anarchism is a political philosophy and Political movement, movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of h ...

Benjamin Tucker
, some abandoned natural rights positions and converted to
Max Stirner Johann Kaspar Schmidt (25 October 1806 – 26 June 1856), known professionally as Max Stirner, was a German post-Hegelian philosopher, dealing mainly with the Hegelian notion of social alienation and self-consciousness. Stirner is often seen as ...

Max Stirner
's
Egoist anarchism Egoist anarchism or anarcho-egoism, often shortened as simply egoism, is a school of anarchist thought that originated in the philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason ...

Egoist anarchism
. Rejecting the idea of moral rights, Tucker said there were only two rights: "the right of might" and "the right of contract". He also said, after converting to Egoist individualism, "In times past... it was my habit to talk glibly of the right of man to land. It was a bad habit, and I long ago sloughed it off.... Man's only right to land is his might over it."Tucker, Instead of a Book, p. 350 According to
Wendy McElroy Wendy McElroy (born 1951) is a Canadian Individualist feminism, individualist feminist and Anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-capitalist writer. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of ''The Voluntaryist'' magazine in 1982 ...
: Several periodicals were "undoubtedly influenced by ''Libertys presentation of egoism, including ''I'' published by C.L. Swartz, edited by W.E. Gordak and J.W. Lloyd (all associates of ''Liberty''); ''The Ego'' and ''The Egoist'', both of which were edited by Edward H. Fulton. Among the egoist papers that Tucker followed were the German ''
Der Eigene ''Der Eigene'' was the first gay ''Gay'' is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. The term originally meant 'carefree', 'cheerful', or 'bright and showy'. While scant usage referring to mal ...
'', edited by
Adolf Brand Adolf Brand (14 November 1874 – 2 February 1945) was a German writer, egoist anarchist, and pioneering campaigner for the acceptance of male bisexuality Image:Bisexual Pride Flag.svg, A bisexual pride flag Bisexuality is Romance (love) ...

Adolf Brand
, and ''The Eagle'' and ''The Serpent'', issued from London. The latter, the most prominent English-language egoist journal, was published from 1898 to 1900 with the subtitle 'A Journal of Egoistic Philosophy and Sociology. Among those American anarchists who adhered to egoism include
Benjamin Tucker Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (; April 17, 1854 – June 22, 1939) was an American anarchist Anarchism is a political philosophy and Political movement, movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of h ...

Benjamin Tucker
,
John Beverley Robinson John Beverley Robinson (February 21, 1821 – June 19, 1896) was a Canadians, Canadian politician, lawyer and businessman. He was mayor of Toronto and a provincial and federal member of parliament. He was the List of lieutenant governors of Ontar ...
, Steven T. Byington, Hutchins Hapgood, James L. Walker, Victor Yarros and E.H. Fulton.


Contemporary

Many documents now echo the phrase used in the
United States Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known a ...

United States Declaration of Independence
. The preamble to the 1948 United Nations
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 p ...
asserts that rights are inalienable: "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Article 1, § 1 of the California Constitution recognizes inalienable rights, and articulated ''some'' (not all) of those rights as "defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy." However, there is still much dispute over which "rights" are truly natural rights and which are not, and the concept of natural or inalienable rights is still controversial to some. Erich Fromm argued that some powers over human beings could be wielded only by God, and that if there were no God, no human beings could wield these powers. Contemporary political philosophies continuing the classical liberal tradition of natural rights include libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism and Objectivism, and include amongst their canon the works of authors such as Robert Nozick, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. A libertarian view of inalienable rights is laid out in Morris and Linda Tannehill's ''The Market for Liberty'', which claims that a man has a right to ownership over his life and therefore also his property, because he has invested time (i.e. part of his life) in it and thereby made it an extension of his life. However, if he initiates force against and to the detriment of another man, he alienates himself from the right to that part of his life which is required to pay his debt: "Rights are ''not'' inalienable, but only the possessor of a right can alienate himself from that right – no one else can take a man's rights from him." Various definitions of inalienability include non-relinquishability, non-salability, and non-transferability. This concept has been recognized by libertarians as being central to the question of voluntary slavery, which Murray Rothbard dismissed as illegitimate and even self-contradictory. Stephan Kinsella argues that "viewing rights as alienable is perfectly consistent with – indeed, implied by – the libertarian non-aggression principle. Under this principle, only the initiation of force is prohibited; defensive force, defensive, restitutive, or retaliatory force is not." Various philosophers have created different lists of rights they consider to be natural. Proponents of natural rights, in particular Hesselberg and Rothbard, have responded that reason can be applied to separate truly axiomatic rights from supposed rights, stating that any principle that requires itself to be disproved is an axiom. Critics have pointed to the lack of agreement between the proponents as evidence for the claim that the idea of natural rights is merely a political tool. Hugh Gibbons has proposed a descriptive argument based on human biology. His contention is that Human Beings were other-regarding as a matter of necessity, to avoid the costs of conflict. Over time they developed expectations that individuals would act in certain ways which were then prescribed by society (duties of care etc.) and that eventually crystallized into actionable rights.


Catholic Church

The Catholic Church considers natural law a Dogma in the Catholic Church, dogma. The Church considers that: "The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie: 'The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted. The natural law consists, for the Catholic Church, of one supreme and universal principle from which are derived all our natural moral obligations or duties. Thomas Aquinas resumes the various ideas of Catholic moral thinkers about what this principle is: since good is what primarily falls under the apprehension of the practical reason, the supreme principle of moral action must have the good as its central idea, and therefore the supreme principle is that good is to be done and evil avoided.


See also

* Constitutional economics * Constitutionalism * Fundamental rights * Human dignity * Human rights *
Natural law Natural law ( la, ius naturale, ''lex naturalis'') is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature Human nature is a concept that denotes the fundamental disposition A disposition is a quality of character, a habit A habit (or ...
* Positive law * Rule according to higher law * Rule of law * Substantive due process


References


Further reading

* Grotius, Hugo, The Rights Of War And Peace: Three Volume Set, 1625 * Haakonssen, Knud, Grotius, Pufendorf and Modern Natural Law, 1999 * Hutcheson, Francis. ''A System of Moral Philosophy''. 1755, London. * Locke, John. ''Two Treatises of Government''. 1690 (primarily the second treatise) * Lloyd Thomas, D.A. ''Locke on Government''. 1995, Routledge. * Pufendorf, Baron Samuel von, Law of Nature and Nations, 1625 * Siedentop, Larry, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, Belknap Press, 2014. * Tierney, Brian, The Idea of Natural Rights, Eerdmans, 1997. * Tuck, Richard, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origin and Development, 1982 * Waldron, Jeremy [ed.] ''Theories of Rights'' 1984, Oxford University Press.


External links


The U.S. Declaration of Independence and Natural Rights
from Constitutional Rights Foundation
The U.S. Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights
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