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Natural and legal rights

Natural and legal rights

Natural and legal rights are two types of rights: legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system, while natural rights are those not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable.

The theory of natural law is closely related to the theory of natural rights. During the Age of Enlightenment, natural law theory challenged the divine right of kings, and became an alternative justification for the establishment of a social contract, positive law, and government — and thus legal rights — in the form of classical republicanism.[dubiousdiscuss][original research?][clarification needed] Conversely, the concept of natural rights is used by some anarchists to challenge the legitimacy of all such establishments.[1][2]

The idea of human rights is also closely related to that of natural rights: some acknowledge no difference between the two, regarding them as synonymous, while others choose to keep the terms separate to eliminate association with some features traditionally associated with natural rights.[3] Natural rights, in particular, are considered beyond the authority of any government or international body to dismiss. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an important legal instrument enshrining one conception of natural rights into international soft law. Natural rights were traditionally viewed as exclusively negative rights,[4] whereas human rights also comprise positive rights.[5] Even on a natural rights conception of human rights, the two terms may not be synonymous.

The proposition that animals have natural rights is one that has gained the interest of philosophers and legal scholars in the 20th century.[6]

The legal philosophy known as Declarationism seeks to incorporate the natural rights philosophy of the United States Declaration of Independence into the body of American case law on a level with the United States Constitution.

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History[edit]

The idea that certain rights are natural or inalienable also has a history dating back at least to the Stoics of late Antiquity and Catholic law of the early Middle Ages, and descending through the Protestant Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment to today.

The existence of natural rights has been asserted by different individuals on different premises, such as a priori philosophical reasoning or religious principles. For example, Immanuel Kant claimed to derive natural rights through reason alone. The Declaration of Independence, meanwhile, is based upon the “self-evident” truth that “all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.[7]

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 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 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.”[8] John Locke emphasized “life, liberty and property” as primary. However, despite Locke’s influential defense of the right of revolution, Thomas Jefferson substituted “pursuit of happiness” in place of “property” in the United States Declaration of Independence.

Ancient[edit]

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 Zoroastrian religion taught Iranians that citizens have an inalienable right to enlightened leadership and that the duty of subjects is not simply to obey wise kings but also to rise up against those who are wicked. Leaders are seen as representative of God on earth, but they deserve allegiance only as long as they have farr, a kind of divine blessing that they must earn by moral behavior.

The Stoics held that no one was a slave by nature; slavery was an external condition juxtaposed to the internal freedom of the soul (sui juris). Seneca the Younger wrote:

It is a mistake to imagine that slavery pervades a man’s whole being; the better part of him is exempt from it: the body indeed is subjected and in the power of a master, but the mind is independent, and indeed is so free and wild, that it cannot be restrained even by this prison of the body, wherein it is confined.[9]

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 and Seneca…. We think that this cannot be better exemplified than with regard to

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