Topoi 35 (1):313-325 (2016)

Katharina Nieswandt
Concordia University
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 our usual justifications for rights are circular, that a right fulfills my criterion if all possible justifications for it are circular, and that 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.
Keywords Natural rights  Convention  Practice  Hume’s Circle  GEM Anscombe  WN Hohfeld
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-015-9311-x
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References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Kellogg Lewis - 1969 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Citations of this work BETA

On Anscombe’s Philosophical Method.Ulf Hlobil & Katharina Nieswandt - 2016 - Klēsis Revue Philosophique 35:180-198.

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