The Claimability Condition: Rights as Action‐Guiding Standards

Journal of Social Philosophy 51 (2):322-340 (2019)
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Is it justified to hold that an agent S has a (moral) right to P if the duty-bearer is not specified? There is an intense ongoing debate on this question. There are two positions in the literature. On the one hand, O´Neill´s much-discussed account of rights holds that it is justified to say that an agent S has a right to P if and only if the duty-bearer is sufficiently determined – i.e. if and only if it is clear against whom S may claim her right to P (O’Neill 1986, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2016). Call this, the ‘claimability condition’. On the other hand, interest-based theorists argue that it can be justified to say that an agent S has a right to P even if the duty-bearer is not sufficiently determined (Caney 2007; Griffin, 2008; Raz 1988; Tasioulas 2007; see also: Etinson, 2013; Ypi 2010). Who (if anyone) is correct in this fundamental discussion about the very nature of rights? In this paper, I provide an answer to this crucial question. Neither O´Neill nor interest-based theorists provide good reasons to justify their positions. However, I argue, the claimability condition is an existence condition of rights justified on the basis of their action-guiding character. The reason is that if the duty-bearer is not specified, the content of the right (its correlative obligation) does not sufficiently guide what the agent should do because it is indeterminate who is required to act (or refrain from acting).



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Cristián Rettig
Universidad Adolfo Ibañez

References found in this work

World Poverty and Human Rights.Thomas Pogge - 2002 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (1):1-7.
National responsibility and global justice.David Miller - 2008 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 11 (4):383-399.
Principles of Social Justice.David Miller - 2002 - Political Theory 30 (5):754-759.
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Collectives' Duties and Collectivisation Duties.Stephanie Collins - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (2):231-248.

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