The rights recognition thesis : defending and extending Green

In Maria Dimova-Cookson & W. J. Mander (eds.), T.H. Green: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Political Philosophy. Oxford University Press (2006)
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Abstract

In his Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, T. H. Green characterizes a right as ‘a power claimed and recognized as contributory to a common good’ (LPPO §99). Scholars such as Rex Martin have noted that Green’s characterization of a right has multiple elements: it includes social recognition and the common good,1 as well as the idea of a power. More formally, it seems that Green wants to say that R is a right if and only if R is (i) a power that is (ii) recognized by some others or by society as (iii) contributing to a common good. Much of the scholarship on Green has been devoted to explicating and defending this third feature, which grounds rights on Green’s core idea of a common good.2 In this chapter I shall stress claim (ii) —the recognition thesis —though we shall see that pursuing claim (ii) will enlighten us as to why Green links the recognition thesis to the common good claim, (iii). And claim (i), I shall argue, reinforces the plausibility of the recognition thesis. So..

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Gerald Gaus
Last affiliation: University of Arizona

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