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Thinking in three dimensions: theorizing rights as a normative concept
Jurisprudence  (IF),  Pub Date : 2020-07-13, DOI: 10.1080/20403313.2020.1782588
Jean Thomas

ABSTRACT rights is a normative concept. This gives rise to three desiderata for conceptualising rights: first, given the wide variety of contexts in which rights are invoked, an account of rights must be suitably general; second, since deploying the concept of rights involves making normative judgments, the account must explain how the concept is action guiding. At the same time, in light of moral disagreement and value pluralism, an account of rights cannot tell us which rights we have. The account must hence identify the types of normative judgments involved in the deployment of rights and, at the same time, make room for ethical disagreement about the content of specific rights. The article proposes an account of rights that meets these criteria. The model comprises three dimensions: constraint, value, and the right’s relational context. It allows us to understand disagreements about rights as substantive normative ones rather than as conceptual misunderstandings.