natural rights


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natural rights,

political theory that maintains that an individual enters into society with certain basic rights and that no government can deny these rights. The modern idea of natural rights grew out of the ancient and medieval doctrines of natural lawnatural law,
theory that some laws are basic and fundamental to human nature and are discoverable by human reason without reference to specific legislative enactments or judicial decisions.
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, i.e., the belief that people, as creatures of nature and God, should live their lives and organize their society on the basis of rules and precepts laid down by nature or God. With the growth of the idea of individualism, especially in the 17th cent., natural law doctrines were modified to stress the fact that individuals, because they are natural beings, have rights that cannot be violated by anyone or by any society. Perhaps the most famous formulation of this doctrine is found in the writings of John LockeLocke, John
, 1632–1704, English philosopher, founder of British empiricism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to freedom of conscience and right to property, in his faith in science, and in his confidence in the goodness of
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. Locke assumed that humans were by nature rational and good, and that they carried into political society the same rights they had enjoyed in earlier stages of society, foremost among them being freedom of worship, the right to a voice in their own government, and the right of property. Jean Jacques RousseauRousseau, Jean Jacques
, 1712–78, Swiss-French philosopher, author, political theorist, and composer. Life and Works

Rousseau was born at Geneva, the son of a Calvinist watchmaker.
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 attempted to reconcile the natural rights of the individual with the need for social unity and cooperation through the idea of the social contractsocial contract,
agreement or covenant by which men are said to have abandoned the "state of nature" to form the society in which they now live. The theory of such a contract, first formulated by the English philosophers Thomas Hobbes (in the Leviathan,
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. The most important elaboration of the idea of natural rights came in the North American colonies, however, where the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and Thomas PainePaine, Thomas,
1737–1809, Anglo-American political theorist and writer, b. Thetford, Norfolk, England. The son of a working-class Quaker, he became an excise officer and was dismissed from the service after leading (1772) agitation for higher salaries.
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 made of the natural rights theory a powerful justification for revolution. The classic expressions of natural rights are the English Bill of Rights (1689), the American Declaration of Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States (known as the Bill of Rights, 1791), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (1948).

Bibliography

See B. F. Wright, American Interpretation of Natural Law (1931, repr. 1962); L. Strauss, Natural Right and History (1957); O. J. Stone, Human Law and Human Justice (1965); R. Tuck, Natural Rights Theories (1982); L. L. Weinreb, Natural Law and Justice (1987); R. Hittinger, A Critique of the New Natural Law Theory (1988).

References in classic literature ?
The territory, thus free from all exclusive possession, they might have taken by the natural right of occupancy.
Permit me to assert my natural right to escort my child to the equipage which is in waiting for her,' he begged pardon and gave place.
The author examines the presidency of Abraham Lincoln from the perspectives of governmental power, economic policy, natural rights, and the expansion of executive power to show how Lincoln believed in the limitations of presidential power while dedicating his presidency to restraining its scope and range.
State Department has announced that it will create a commission to promote human rights around the world based on "natural law and natural rights," terms that are often used by conservative religious groups in place of "God's law."
"[I]n 1959 I regarded the founders as condemning slavery from the perspective of a prudent form of modern natural rights," Jaffa wrote in an essay near the end of his life.
This essay focuses on three philosophical approaches in support of libertarian conclusions: the natural rights approach, the cooperation-to-mutual-advantage approach, and the indirect utilitarian (or indirect consequentialist) approach.
Defending its actions in the South China Sea, Beijing had claimed "natural rights" to deploy troops and weapons in the Spratlys.
Inalienable Natural Rights and the Freedom of Opinion 280
The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom
Understanding Spooner's arguments against the Constitution hinges upon Americans' understanding of natural rights in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In doing so, it continues a line of inquiry, begun elsewhere, (7) that attempts to distinguish the Founders' natural rights constitutionalism from what I call modern moral autonomy exemptionism.

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