The Sense and Significance of Rights Talk: A Dialectical View
40 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 10, 2013
What are rights? A skeptic might respond that there are no such things as rights and that therefore the question is misconceived. In return, a different line of questioning might be suggested: if people were to stop imagining that there are such things, would anything other than an illusion – which is in fact a source of chronic confusion and widespread equivocation – thereby be lost?
My aims are to show both that the skeptic’s questioning merits taking seriously and that a constructive answer can be provided to it: we do not have to believe there are such things as rights in order to understand the sense and significance of rights talk. What we do need to do is remain mindful regarding the constraints on what is intelligible and believable in that talk – something that requires some intellectual effort in the face of the theoretical accretions that have come to lend an impression of conceptual solidity to the abstract idea of a right.
Keywords: rights, legal realism
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