One theory of natural rights was developed from the theory of natural law during the Enlightenment in opposition to the divine right of kings, and provided a moral justification for liberalism. With the growth of the idea of individualism, especially in the 17th cent., natural law doctrines were modified to stress the fact that individuals, because they are natural beings, have rights that cannot be violated by anyone or by any society. Human Rights Law and Practice Page 59
Perhaps the most famous formulation of this doctrine is found in the writings of John Locke. Locke (1632-1704) assumed that humans were by nature rational and good, and that they carried into political society the same rights they had enjoyed in earlier stages of society, foremost among them being freedom of worship, the right to a voice in their own government, and the right of property children and their teacher The concept of a natural right can be contrasted with the concept of a legal right: A natural right is one that is claimed to exist even when it is not enforced by the government or society as a whole, while a legal right is a right specifically created by the government or society, for the benefit of its members. The existence, validity and content of human rights continue to be the subject of debate in philosophy and political science. The concept of human rights itself continues to be a contested notion. For example, international human rights standards and legislation have come into criticism for being too Western and for focusing too much on civil and political rights and not enough on economic and social rights. Although human rights are now legally defined in international law and in the domestic laws of many states, human rights are not the same as legal entitlements. What may be a legal right in one country may have no legal basis in another. However, for many people the doctrine of Human Rights Law and Practice Page 60
human rights goes beyond law and forms a fundamental moral basis for regulating the contemporary social order. For them, they are democratic ideals. We all need and are entitled to rights. They ensure that we survive and develop, and they help protect us from physical or psychological abuse. Rights are also about having the opportunity to be involved in matters that affect us. Rights ensure that everybody is treated equally and fairly. To advocate human rights is to demand that the human dignity of all people be respected and protected. But with rights come responsibilities, and we must all respect the human rights of other people, and not just demand that they respect ours. The idea of human rights derived from the philosophical idea of natural rights ; some recognize no difference between the two and regard both as labels for the same thing while others choose to keep the terms separate to eliminate association with some features traditionally associated with natural rights.
- Spring '08
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