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Do Rights Exist by Convention or by Nature?


Do Rights Exist by Convention or by Nature?

Nieswandt, Katharina (2016) Do Rights Exist by Convention or by Nature? Topoi, 35 (1). pp. 313-325. ISSN 0167-7411

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Do Rights Exist ..., HOMEPAGE DRAFT (Feb 2015).pdf

Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11245-015-9311-x


I argue that all rights exist by convention. According to my definition, a right exists by convention just in case its justification appeals to the rules of a socially shared pattern of acting. I show that (i) our usual justifications for rights are circular, that (ii) a right fulfills my criterion if all possible justifications for it are circular, and that (iii) all existing philosophical justifications for rights are circular or fail. We find three non-circular alternatives in the literature, viz. justifications of rights by consequences, by autonomy or by divine commands. I show that all three alternatives fail, and I conclude that all rights exist by convention. This ontological result has a surprising and beneficial consequence. A common argument against conventionalism is that it implies cultural relativism. I finish by showing that the suggested conventionalism is incompatible with cultural relativism.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Philosophy
Item Type:Article
Authors:Nieswandt, Katharina
Journal or Publication:Topoi
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):10.1007/s11245-015-9311-x
ID Code:982121
Deposited On:18 Jan 2017 17:48
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:54
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