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Assess the claim that there are no such things as natural rights.

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Introduction

?Assess the claim that there are no such things as natural rights.? The idea that rights are ?natural? is contested. For some our rights are natural and therefore ?pre-society?, however even this can be argued through the different perspectives of where these natural rights come from. For example, from our essentialist core human features, or God. Yet, it can also be seen that rights are not natural at all; they are imposed on us by society where they are created and therefore rights are ?post-society?. Firstly, there is the argument that our rights as human beings evolve out of the core features that make us what we are. These properties of human beings, for example the capacity to reason or feel emotion, mean that we can all be seen as of equal meaning and therefore should be granted rights so that we can exercise our abilities. Locke argues that in the state of nature we have the right to life, liberty and property and that governments are created in order to protect these rights. ...read more.

Middle

Yet, it is evident that there is corruption and a lack of respect for human rights across the world, and so it can be argued that human rights do exist naturally, but they are simply not respected by all; like many aspects of the world, such as the environment are not respected by all of humanity. However there are arguments against the idea of natural rights. Firstly, there is the problem that if we base our rights on human nature then there is the conflict between different views on human nature and the features that are most defining. This would therefore lead to conflicts regarding which rights are most important and what our rights as human beings should be. Furthermore there is the gap between fact and value. Just because all human beings may want or desire happiness, or because we have the capacity to reason or feel emotion does not entail that happiness is desirable or that we should act rationally. Therefore because we may have essentialist features that define us as human beings, it does not follow that we should have rights based upon these. ...read more.

Conclusion

For example, we have a right to life because we fear death, and we want to prosper and progress, not because we have to live. Therefore, our rights only make sense within a social framework that enables them to actually be beneficial to us. If we as humans had not evolved in the way in which we have, then we would not have a need for the rights which we use; therefore it can be said that they are not natural because pre-society, they are not needed nor do they make sense. In conclusion, it can be seen that although there are arguments for natural rights, and it is evident that there are common features of humanity, that there is issue with justifying that rights are pre-society as there is no empirical evidence. It can be seen that the rights we have that are grounded in law are influenced by our essentialist features, but this does not mean that they are natural. Furthermore, we have rights because we want them as they help to improve our quality of life, but they are not necessary to our survival and therefore can they really be natural? ...read more.

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