Encyclopedia of Global Justice

2011 Edition
| Editors: Deen K. Chatterjee

Legal Rights

  • David Boersema
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9160-5_313

Legal rights are empowerments or immunities that are recognized within a given legal system. Rights, broadly speaking, are a means of protecting and enhancing the well-being of moral agents and, possibly, moral patients (that is, entities, such as animals, that cannot act in moral ways but can be acted upon in moral ways by moral agents). Although some people argue that rights are inherent properties pertaining to moral agents, most rights theorists identify rights as a social relation and as a means of regulating the behavior of social agents.

In the early 1900s, the legal theorist, Wesley Hohfeld, enunciated four elements of rights, or, four types of ways that we use the notion of rights. The first way is what he called a liberty. Liberties, for Hohfeld, were statements of how one may behave, in the sense of some action that one has no duty to do or not to do; such action is permitted, but not required. A second way, said Hohfeld, that we use the notion of rights is about how others...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Boersema
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPacific UniversityForest GroveUSA