The Rights of Others  

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"Since Jeremy Bentham’s quip that belief in natural rights is “nonsense on stilts” (1843, II, 501), rights claims have been mistaken to refer to certain moral properties or attributes of human beings. The language of “natural rights” perpetrated the naturalistic fallacy in that it conflated a claim about moral grounds – the reasons why we ought to recognize each others’ claims to action or forbearance, resources or services of certain sorts – with a seeming description of the physical and psychological attributes of existing moral entities – that individuals could not but act in pursuit of self-preservation (Hobbes) or the rights of others for the protection of their life, liberty, and property (Locke). Natural rights talk, as found in the writings of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, vacillated between psychological truisms such as “each living being tends to its self-preservation” and moral injunctions of the kind, “seek Peace, and follow it” (Hobbes [1651] 1966, 92). Historically the widespread use of the terms property and propriety to designate rights claims in general served to demarcate a sphere of individual claims and entitlements and gave them an aspect of inviolability (see Tuck 1979).

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The Rights of Others (Cambridge University Press, 2004) is a book by Seyla Benhabib.

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