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Lost in Moral Space: On the Infringing/Violating Distinction and its Place in the Theory of Rights


John Oberdiek


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Law - Camden

July 2004

Law and Philosophy, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2004

Abstract:     
The infringing/violating distinction, first drawn by Judith Jarvis Thomson, is central to much contemporary rights theory. According to Thomson, conduct that is in some sense opposed to a right infringes it, while conduct that is also wrong violates the right. This distinction finds a home what I call, borrowing Robert Nozick's parlance, a "moral space" conception of rights, for the infringing/violating distinction presupposes that, as Nozick puts it, "a line (or hyper-plane) circumscribes an area in moral space around an individual." In this paper, I argue against the moral space conception of rights, and more specifically, against incorporating the infringing/violating distinction into a theory of rights. There are other compelling ways to think about rights and it is my goal to stimulate their exploration.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

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Date posted: May 18, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Oberdiek, John, Lost in Moral Space: On the Infringing/Violating Distinction and its Place in the Theory of Rights (July 2004). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2004. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1403332

Contact Information

John Oberdiek (Contact Author)
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - School of Law - Camden ( email )
217 N. 5th Street
Camden, NJ 08102-1203
United States
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