Dynamic Rights

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Philosophy

Layman's description

My primary objective is to explore an unorthodox view of natural rights: that the content and strength of people’s rights are determined by their (past) actions, rather than by their capacity to act. It is unclear to what extent this dynamic conception of rights can be defended, but it deserves a fair run for its money, in light of the problems its competitors face.

The aim of the project is to explore the thought that a person's rights are dynamic -- based on how he or she has acted in the past, rather than on the capacity for action itself.

The choice between conceptions of rights is fundamental to our understanding of rights, giving the project considerable theoretical significance. But its practical importance is also great, as different theories of rights have different implications for what rights we have. The dynamic conception has consequences not least for the justification of punishment and rights to various benefits, such as health care.

The project faces several challenges.

To find at least a provisional formulation of the dynamic conception that deserves further philosophical scrutiny.

To develop and assess the main argument for the dynamic conception: that it can account for why people who have committed serious crimes lack rights that others have.

To solve significant problems that the dynamic conception faces. Among other things it appears incompatible with the view that all persons are of equal worth. That thesis implies the equal rights of all, which the dynamic conception seems to preclude. Similarly, this conception appears unable to guarantee our right not to suffer torture and suchlike.

To sort out the relationship bewteen the value of actions and the value of agency: if the value of the former presupposes the value of the latter, ought we not to have rights in virtue also of our agency?
Effective start/end date2012/01/012015/12/31