The Moral Specification of Rights: A Restricted Account

Law and Philosophy 33 (2):175-206 (2014)
Abstract
I begin this paper by summarizing and critiquing the debate between two views: Moral Specificationism about rights and Moral Generalism about rights. I then show how the conceptual framework that Wesley Hohfeld uses to describe legal rights can also clarify the discussion of moral rights, in general, and of moral specification, in particular. Drawing upon Hohfeld’s framework, I argue for the Restricted Account of the moral specification of rights, which stakes out a middle-ground between the view that all justified exceptions are built into the description of rights and the view that no exceptions are built in. According to the Restricted Account, if and only if the justification for an exception is the same as the justification for rights within the broader ethical theory, then the exception is specified in the right. The Restricted Account is compatible with a wide variety of theories of the function of rights
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DOI 10.1007/s10982-013-9183-4
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