Scanlon as natural rights theorist

This article examines the character of Scanlon’s contractualism as presented in What We Owe to Each Other . I offer a range of reasons for thinking of Scanlon’s contractualism as a species of natural rights theorizing. I argue that to affirm the principle that actions are wrongful if and only if they are disallowed by principles that people could not reasonably reject is equivalent to affirming a natural right (of an admittedly non-standard sort) against being subject to such reasonably disallowed actions. I argue that Scanlon’s invocation of the value of human life can be seen as an attempted grounding for this principle that is akin to standard natural rights attempts to ground fundamental rights. Lastly, I argue that the invocation of the value of human life does not in fact well support the sort of requirement of justifiability to others that characterizes this contractualist variant on natural rights theorizing; if anything, it better supports the sort of ascriptions of rights characteristic of traditional natural rights theorizing. Key Words: contractualism • natural rights • justifiability to others • wrongfulness.
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DOI 10.1177/1470594X07073004
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