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Definition of Rights In the aspect of Moral Philosophy


In the moral debate in today’s society understanding the “right” plays an important role. Often times we hear or read about the rights of human rights and its implementation. In the discussion of abortion provocatus, which in some countries with a great run, the mother’s rights are often contrasted with the rights of unborn fetuses. In the ethical discussion in the medical field is often called the rights of patients. In an exchange of ideas about the ethical and ecological problems of the environment we can often hear about the rights of future generations. In the ethical debate about whether scientific experimentation is often referred to the rights of research subjects, even to the rights of animals used for research. In international forums repeatedly emphasized that each nation has the right to determine their own destiny. And there must be added other examples.

Given the importance of moral rights in the debate today, we might wonder why this theme is rarely discussed in the context of moral philosophy. Not many books about public ethics theme describes this “right” explicitly. Outside the general ethics, in the framework of philosophy and political philosophy of law, for example, the discussion about “rights” can often be found. And it is worth talking about in there. Therefore, can not be denied, that the rights related to the human position in the state and people as subjects of law. But in addition, the rights are closely related to a man as moral beings and that’s the reason why it needs to be studied also in the context of general ethics.There are special relationship between the rights and duty, because of it the duty will be also discussed.

Recently, more and more visible tendency to highlight the rights in the context of general ethics. So, in this case we follow the trend already visible. However, even though their rights must be considered important as a topic for public ethics, but there are also a limited space. Enthusiasm for this theme should not be so large that the rights granted excessive position. From the outset, we need to realize that ethics can not be equated with just the rights matter.

Nature of rights and Its types

The “right” has a complicated history. It is impossible to trace here all the ins and outs of this understanding developments in the history of Western thought. There will be only given some general notes. In ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle, for example, have not talked about the rights in the strict sense. Even the Greek language has no word to indicate the “right”. Latin language has a word ius-iuris (who later used for the right), but the ancient Romans thought it only shows the word law in the objective meaning: Overall the laws, rules, and institutions that regulate people’s lives for the sake of general (law in the sense of law, not a right). Sometimes the meaning of the term ius have the “person’s right”, but merely indicates the thing (a piece of land, inheritance and so on). In the end of Middle Ages it is began to develop ius in a subjective meaning, not the object owned by someone, but of which is owned by someone, namely the ability for someone to master something or do something at will (right, not a law). But at that time the law in the subjective meaning (right) is still understood as a reflection of the law in an objective meaning: for example, property rights as a reflection of the owned land. In the late 17 th century and in the 18th century arose the notion of “rights” in the modern sense: characteristics associated with a free man, regardless of any ties with the objective law. We can accept the British philosopher, HLA Hart, when he asserted that the rights in the modern sense could only occur after recognition of freedom and autonomy of every human being. Apparently, in the dignity of human consciousness as being an independent and autonomous creature is an absolute condition that allows recognition of their rights. This connection is the key to solving the riddle that the theme of the right have to wait so long until it appears in modern thought.

The Rights Itself

picture of human rights

Is it a right? Can be said, the right is a claim made by a person or one group against another or against society. People who have a right may sue (and not just expect or advocate) that other people will meet and respect that right. But if it is said so, there must be added something very important: the right is a legitimate claim or claims that can be justified. Because, directly said the claim is not enough. Apparently, there are cited claim that can not be justified. A mugger could have claimed the property of passengers in the train. But we all would agree that the claim was not valid. Instead, the train conductor could require that passengers pay the ticket. That’s claim can be justified and therefore should be fulfilled by the concerned.


Bertens, Keis, 2002. Etika. Jakarta: PT. Gramedia Pustaka Utama

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