Rights externalism

Rights externalism is the thesis that a subject's status as a rightholder is secured not on account of it having a certain nature, but on account of it being afforded a certain sort of social recognition. I believe that rights externalism has been given short shrift, largely because a certain objection is widely taken to be a compelling reason for rejecting it. This objection goes roughly as follows. Both in theory and in practice we commonly appeal to the fact that subjects possess certain nonconventional rights (independently of whether these rights have been socially recognized) to criticize immoral social practices, arrangements, and institutions. But if being a rightholder is directly determined by whether subjects have been afforded a certain sort of social recognition, then we cannot appeal to the fact that subjects possess certain nonconventional rights for critical purposes in some instances, namely, in those instances where the relevant social recognition has not been extended. Although this objection is taken by some rights internalists to justify favoring rights internalism over rights externalism, I argue that it does not
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2004.tb00369.x
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