Rights in the Western Tradition
John Witte Jr.
Emory University School of Law
“Rights,” in Erwin Fahlbusch, ed., The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids/Cambridge/ Leiden/Boston: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and Brill, 2005), vol. 4, 701-709
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 05-21
This Article provides a brief analysis of the main stages of Western theories of rights and liberties: (1) classic Roman views of objective and subjective rights and liberties; (2) medieval Catholic views of rights and liberties rooted in natural law and corporate charters; (3) early modern Protestant views of rights and liberties rooted in biblical commands and natural orders; (4) modern Enlightenments views grounded in human nature and social contracts, and reflected in constitutional texts and cases; and (5) the proliferation and diversification of universal rights talk in the aftermath of World War II.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
Keywords: Rights, western tradition, liberties, natural law, human nature, universal rights
Date posted: July 6, 2005 ; Last revised: November 13, 2014