Natural Rights and Human Rights
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While the idea of moral rights can be extended beyond the human race, historically it is the moral rights possessed by human beings that have preoccupied philosophers. Of those rights, the most celebrated and significant, particularly for political philosophers, have been natural rights and human rights. Those two sorts of right are closely related. Historically the idea of human rights descended from that of natural rights. Indeed some theorists recognise no difference between them; they regard ‘natural’ and ‘human’ as merely different labels for the same kind of right. Others are less happy with that simple conflation and, while acknowledging the historical link between the two sorts of right, want to free human rights from some of the features traditionally associated with natural rights. In examining these rights, I will treat them as distinguishable even though they possess some common features.
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