The Influence of Utilitarianism on Natural Rights Doctrines

Utilitas 9 (02):183- (1997)
Abstract
This paper shows that the perceived difference between utilitarianism and natural rights theories in the eighteenth century was much less sharp than that in the twentieth century. This is demonstrated by exploring Josiah Tucker's critique of Locke and his disciples and the way in which the latter responded to it. Tucker's critique of Locke was based on a sharp distinction between a conception of natural rights as individual entitlements and the conception of the public good. The disciples of Locke did not share Tucker's views and his interpretation of Locke. In defending natural rights they appealed less to the notion of moral agency and more to utilitarian ideas. The extent to which the advocates of the rights of man employed utilitarian ideas is obscured by the fact that they never divested themselves of the political advantage of using the words even when their arguments were closer to the principle of utility
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