Beijing Law Review, 2011, 2, 25-31
doi:10.4236/blr.2011.21004 Published Online March 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
Natural Rights, Morality, and the Law
Drum Peter
The Australian Catholic University, 115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia.
Received January 7th, 2011; revised January 24th, 2011; accepted February 7th, 2011.
It is argued that despite attempts to discount the importance of natural rights for morality, they are fundamental to it;
therefore, so too are natural rights to the legitimacy of the law.
Keywords: Rights, Justice, Law, Reasonablen ess
1. Introduction
The Constitution of the United States proclaims that
everyone has certain inalienable rights, and the 1948
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
articles many of these rights. Since these natural - in-
herent, human - rights are adjudged to be indefeasible,
for positive law - man made law, the law of the land -
to have morally authority and adequacy, it must con-
form to and promote respecting natural rights. But,
there have been and continue to be attacks upon the
significance of these rights for morality, and thence for
legality. The purpose of this paper is show that, to the
contrary, natural rights are basic to morality; and, con-
sequentl y, to the law.
2. Reasonableness and Rights
Argument and evidence both attest to the fact that
“‘man’s good is to live according to reason and his evil to
live outside’” [1]. For, regarding the former, human ex-
cellence consists in persons being rational animals [2].
Therefore, if we are to be good, we must strive to be rea-
sonable. And, regarding the latter, it is a natural expecta-
tion of everyone that they be reasonable. This is why
Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine tried to portray
Hitler as a reasonable human being, and Nazism as a
reasonable philo sophy. Therefore, we need to be just, for
justice “is complete virtue [reasonableness] in its fullest
sense because he who possesses it can exercise virtue
[reasonableness] not only in himself but towards his
neighbour also.” [3] (Not that a person can treat himself
unjustly, but unless we do ourselves justice, we will do
ourselves harm.) [4] Hence, Aristotle reminds us that
“there really is, as everyone to some extent divines, a
natural justice and injustice that is binding on all men,
even those who have no association or covenant with
each other.” [5] For, although temporally and regionally
the natural law has not always been well understood - or
has sometimes been simply ignored - it nevertheless is
the case that “every culture has a concept of murder, dis-
tinguishing this from execution, killing in war, and other
‘justifiable homicides’. The notions of incest and other
regulations upon sexual behaviour, of restitution and re-
ciprocity, of mutual obligations between parents and
children - these and many other moral concepts are alto-
gether universa l .” [6]
Therefore, there are natural rights. For, justice con-
cerns “‘another’s good’” [7] - it is about what belongs to
somebody else. Thus, murder is considered to be an in-
justice because it involves taking anothers life; and
adultery anothers spouse; and theft anothers goods.
Hence, St Augustine asks “What is more yours than
you?” [8] He is rhetorically making the point that an in-
dividual is first and foremost their own person. St Tho-
mas Aquinas expands this idea: “… belonging can have
several meanings. The first is by way of identity, of
which Augustine is speaking … In a second way, some-
thing can belong to another as his possessions or his
slave … A third sense of something’s belonging to
someone is through origin alone …” [9] In other words,
natural rights involve ontological connectedness, so to
have a right to a good is to have a connection to it over
and above anyone else’s. Identity is a straightforward
instance of this; yet, as Aquinas indicates, there are other
connections persons can have to the goods of life. For
instance, farmers have connections to land through their
fencing it and working it, and parents to children as they
are their progeny [10]. This explains why such a thing as
queue-jumping evokes resentment - someone further
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down the line has no business going ahead of those who
are waiting their turn; and also why people get angry
when they are slighted - they think wh at is due to them is
a certain degree of respect [11]. Consequently, Jeremy
Bentham puts the cart before the horse when he says that
a right “is a child of law; from real laws come real rights,
but from imaginary law, from ‘laws of nature’, come
imaginary rights …” [12] On the contrary, rights precede
laws. Sophocles’ Antigone’s statement that “he ‘Creon’
has no right to keep me from my own” [13] attests to this
despite the king’s ruling, she maintains that he r brother
Polynice’s body belongs to her; so according the natural
law, she is permitted to bury it.
Hence, the right to life is a basic right, for life is an
identity value in humans - for us to be is for us to live.
Furthermore, this right naturally generates other rights in
persons; viz. to a fair share of the worldly goods they
require for proper human living. Of course, in the co ntex t
of scarce resources satisfying this right cannot always be
guaranteed - lifeboats fill - however, it does mean that
some cannot take more than they need of the world’s
goods at the expense of the more basic claims of not un-
deserving others. For example, if land is legitimately re-
quired for farming, squatters’ runs can be carved up.
(Naturally, this should not unduly disadvantage those
who were there first, and compensation may be due to
them for their part in opening-up the country.) So, when
Alasdair MacIntyre says that there are no natural rights -
because “every attempt to give good reasons for believ-
ing that there are such rights has failed” [14] - he is mis-
taken. And, even if his claim that “there is no expression
in any ancient or medieval language correctly translated
by our expression of ‘a right’ until near the close of the
middle ages” [15] is correct, that this entails that even if
there were human rights “no one could have known that
there were” [16] is also incorrect. For, the idea of natural
justice has a very long history, and this is about our get-
ting what in the natural order of things is our due. Thus,
“indignation is pain caused by the sight of undeserved
good fortune … ‘for example’ … the newly rich give us
more offence by obtaining office through their riches
than do those whose wealth is of long standing … The
reason is that what the latter have is felt to be really their
own, but what the others have is not; what appears to
have been always what it is regarded as real, and so the
possessions of the newly rich do not seem to be really
their own.” [17]
3. Principles and Rights
Peter Singer writes: “Why is it surprising that I hav e little
to say about the nature of rights? It would only be sur-
prising to one who assumes that my case … is based
upon rights … But this is not my position at all. I have
little to say about rights because rights are not important
to my argument … (With the benefit of hindsight, I regret
that I did allow the concept of a right to intrude into my
work so unnecessarily at this point; it would have
avoided misunderstanding if I had not made this conces-
sion to popular rhetoric. )” [18] Singer maintains that
although rights talk is not uncommon in everyday moral
discussions - a fact which he just dismisses, but which is
significant in itself - rights are unimportant in moral phi-
losophy. This is because he thinks that utility is funda-
mental to ethics, so we should govern our behaviour ac-
cording to the principle of the equal consideration of
interests. [19] (He is echoing the words of the founding
father of the movement, Jeremy Bentham, who states that
rights are “rhetorical nonsense - nonsense upon stilts.”
[20]. So, although Singer does say that “equality is a ba-
sic ethical principle” [21], this should no be confused
with the equa lity o f perso n s in terms of their basic huma n
rights. What he means is that utility requires that we
“give equal weight in our moral deliberations to the like
interests of all those affected by our actions” [22]; where
“interests” means “anything people desire as ‘being’ in
their interests” [23]. Thus, “the principle of equal consid-
eration of interests acts like a pair of scales, weighing
interests impartially. True scales favour the side where
the interest is stronger or where several interests combine
to outweigh a smaller number of similar interests; but
they take no account of whose interests they are weigh-
ing.” [24] Singer is confident that “the principle of equal
consideration of interests shows straightforwardly why
the most blatant forms of racism, like those of the Nazis,
are wrong. For the Nazis were concerned only with the
welfare of members of the ‘Aryan’ race, and the suffer-
ings of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs were of no concern to
them.” [25] But, even if their suffer ings were cons idered,
they still might have ended up being discounted by the
sheer weight of the Aryan numbers. Then, the Nazi pro-
gram could rightfully - and indeed should rightfully -
have gone ahead. This is morally obscene and absurd. For,
even if it is countered that such a scenario is unlikely to
happen, that in principle it is possible condemns the util-
ity theory for discounting the rights of minorities. Fur-
thermore, the theory is also condemned by that which is
being adduced here to allay our fears - namely, the prac-
tical impossibility of evil triumphing by the numbers. For,
this simply confirms the fact that the moral majority well
understand that the currency of ethics is legitimate inter-
ests, not interests that are trivial and wicked. This is
why we understand Elizabeth Anscombe, when she says
that “if someone really thinks … that it is an open ques-
tion ‘in ethics’ whether such an action as procuring the
judicial execution of the innocent should be quite ex-
cluded from consideration … he shows a corrupt mind.”
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[26] And, it is why we know that Alan Donagan is quite
correct, when he says that “a community … and indi-
viduals willing to accept benefits at the price of crimes
committed upon other individuals degrade their human-
ity.” [27] For, there are “many human qualities which are
valued and yet resist utilitarian treatment, such as an un-
accommodating passion for justice; certain sorts of cour-
age; spontaneity; a disposition to resist such things as
useful expe riments on seni l e patients or the use of napalm
on some people to secure (as it is supposed) the happi-
ness of more people …” [28] We ignore these f acts at our
peril, and it is wrong to do so for the sake of a theory.
In this context, R. G. Frey maintains however that the
evidence is that the principle of utility trumps rights. For,
“almost no one thinks that the right to freedom of speech
extends to causing panic among passengers on an aero-
plane, or that the right to privacy extends to precluding
infringements by persons in great difficulty or danger, or
that some general right not to be interfered with extends
so far as to compel others to stand by and watch one die
(e.g., because one holds some metaphysical/religious
view about bodily evil.) The general point, then, that in-
dividual (moral) rights can be overridden by appeals to
utility, is normally conceded.” [29] He says that it is
far-fetched to think of these as conflicts of rights situa-
tions [30], but it is hard to understand why he thinks this.
For, lives are at stake in all of these cases; so, the free-
dom of speech and privacy examples can naturally be
read as instances of fundamental rights taking precedence
over lesser rights. And, in the other case, the dying per-
son seems very confused, so we cannot simply let them
die, unless it is clear they are legitimately asserting the
Frey also states that “if we take morality seriously and
so try to live up to our principles, we shall behave in the
way the right’s proponent wants us to, without his having
to postulate the right’s existence.” [31] But, this argu-
ment seems overly simplistic. For, without more, “respect
for life” as a basic principle of morality might, on the one
hand, prescribe pacifism - that is, moral agents putting up
with anything and everything, even unjust aggressions.
Or, on the other, it might prescribe what we have just
been considering, viz. expediency - morally discounting
the rights of smaller numbers of people to maximise ma-
jority outcomes. Yet, both of these are clearly inconsis-
tent with morality. And, if Frey qualifies his principle to
accommodate this, what would be the basis for his doing
so, if not at least an implicit recognition of the critical
importance of moral rights? He maintains that “what is
wrong with depriving someone of a decent wage is not
that it infringes some alleged right of his to this or that
income but that it ruins his life and the liv es of those who
depend upon him.” [32] Thus, he thinks that a good per-
son will respond to others’ sufferings irrespective of
whether or not they have rights. (Philanthropists, for in-
stance, will avoid harming others and help them, whether
or not this is due to their beneficiaries.) However, this is
an impoverished and pernicious view of things. Firstly,
because wage earners deserve the dignity of being recog-
nised as more than merely recipients of noblesse oblige
handouts. The Elephant Man’s impassioned cry “I am not
an animal - I am a human being!” is a worthiness demand,
not simply the begging plea of someone wanting recogni-
tion. And, secondly, because on this account the particu-
lar virtue of charity - viz., that it is free giving - disap-
pears. For, according to the argument, beneficent agents
are merely doing what they are required to do, not some-
thing supererogatory. Furthermore, if rights considera-
tions are omitted from the moral equation, how can a
moral program of avoiding harm to others and helping
them based simply upon the fact that they are capable of
suffering pain and frustration explain how someone like
Mrs Jellyby in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House - who is
very generous to the natives of Borrioboola-Gha whilst
neglecting her ow n family - goes so hopeles s l y wrong?
In a similar spirit, Raimond Gaita argues that the con-
cept of “inalienable rights” is “more abstract” than other
moral concepts - such as the principle of respect for fel-
low human beings - and is therefore unhelpful [33].
However, it is not at all obvious that all fellow human
beings are worthy of respect; so, unless this no tion can be
underpinned in some way, it too is unhelpful. (Gaita’s
objection to rights being abstract is, to say the least, in-
congruous; for it follows immediately upon his apparent
willingness to accept of morality “its mystery.”) [34]
Gaita also contends that “the concep t of rights is too thin
(in the sense too mean) to invite us into a deepened un-
derstanding of the evil-doer and what he did …A Nazi
forced a rabbi to spit on the Torah scroll.” [35] But,
no-one thinks that the evil done is exhausted by the terri-
ble injustice of it all - the Nazi’s callousness and indif-
ference is terrible too - but this does not mean that a deep
understanding of this horror is in any way possible with-
out considering moral rights. For, Plato maintains that
“doing injustice is really the greatest of evils” [36], and
the outrage one naturally feels when confronted by the
case points in this direction, rather than towards the
moral meanness of rights.
Gaita wishes to agree with Simone Weil, who argues
that claims to rights “evoke a latent war and awaken the
spirit of contention … and so … inhibit any possible im-
pulse of charity on both sides.” [37] However, the former
is by no means true, nor is the latter. (Even the latter were
true, this objection is irrelevant, since all the claimant
wants is rights recognition, not charity.) As the Ameri-
can jurisprudent Joel Feinberg points out, rights claims
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can be asserted “coolly, automatically, with dignity and
calm, or with embarrassment, regret, or even apology.
Indeed they can b e asserted without uttering any word s at
all, as when a person makes a claim to his coat by pre-
senting his check token to the cloak room attendant.” [38]
Gaita notes that Weil says that “if a young girl is forced
into a brothel sh e will not talk about her rights. In such a
situation the word would sound ludicrously inadequate.”
[39] Of course, Weil is quite possibly right - if things
have come to this, alluding to her rights is unlikely to get
her anywhere. But, nor pro bably will anything else. And,
it is surely worth a try, particularly if her rights are pro-
tected by sanctions of law. For, then those forcing her
into prostitution will ha ve to consider what will happen to
them if this is brought to the attention of authorities, and
they are arrested.
Since all of these objections are unconvincing, the case
for the importance of moral rights stands. There really is
such a thing as “anothers good”; therefore, doing injus-
tice is the greatest of evils, because it deprives others of
goods that are theirs. Thus, Aristotle’s verdict, (using
matricide as an example), that there are “some acts, per-
haps, we cannot be forced to do, but ought rather to face
death after the most fearful sufferings …for what we are
forced to do is base …” [40] seems correct. For, however
painful the consequences might be, we should steel our-
selves to endure them. We have no right to take the life of
anyone who is not a threat to us, especially the life of a
4. Moral Dilemmas and Rights
It should be clear by now why utility theorists are natu-
rally averse to rights. For, once these rights are recog-
nised, the gr eatest good for the greatest number turns out
to be nothing other than the order of natural justice. So,
the good cannot be served by, for example, Dudley and
Stephens killing and eating the cabin-boy. On the con-
trary, it requires that do not, even if this means their
deaths. Therefore, Judith Jarvis Thomson’s contention
that in a situation where the Mafia will kill three other
people unless Alfred kills Bert and he refuses to do so , “a
particular just act may not be on balance good for peo-
ple [41] is false. For, why should it be thought that Al-
fred’s refusal to kill an innocent man is not the lesser of
two evils? Although the prospect of three people being
murdered is terrible, it would be much worse if their fu-
tures were secured at the cost of reasonable people them-
selves committing injustices. Thus, “he who violates the
law can never recover by any success, what he has al-
ready lost in departing from virtue.” [42] Again, Thom-
son’s argument that “it is better for us that the people
among whom we live be just than that they not be just. A
moral regime under which I can make you owe people
something simply by threatening not to pay my own
debts to them is a moral regime with a massive free-rider
problem, and thus a regime that would be bad for all of
us” [43] is also flawed, as it just means that the virtues
should be upheld in all cases for rule-utilitarian reasons.
This thesis is morally absurd, because it means that Al-
fred’s murdering Bert is all right in principle. And if it is
known that no one else is likely to be threatened in this
way by such people in future, and the crime is kept a se-
cret, then it is also all right in practice.
However, what now emerges is that there is a school of
thought which supports certain utility-like conclusions
without considering itself to be Utilitarian, namely, the
“Dirty-Hands” academy. Unlike Utilitarians, who see
nothing wrong with riding roughshod over individuals
and minorities to their ends - although, of course, they
would prefer not to have to do this - these philosophers
think that although such things sometimes must be done,
they are nevertheless done as “acts of dirty hands - acts
that are justified, even obligatory, but none the less
wrong and shameful …” [44].
Raimond Gaita makes the case: “In what follows, one
of the ten who might be saved by the shooting of an in-
nocent person calls that shooting evil. I do not think it
follows that he must say … that therefore it must not or
ought not be done. Do I intend his speech as an argument
that the killing wou ld be evil? Only in this manner and to
this degree: it is meant to foreclose one way of talking
about the killing and its relation to the ten, to the effect
that though, of course, it is terrible it is ‘the right th ing to
do’, and so not evil. If he kills one to save ten, even be-
cause he believes that ‘he must’, that ‘he must’ does not
mean that he should not plead for the forgiveness, not
only of the one he kills and those related to him, but of
those he ‘saves’ as well.” [45] But, this just seems like
expediency with a conscience, and the duty to do the
wrong thing a contradiction in terms.
Nevertheless, Dirty-Hands theorists believe that there
are some cases - tragic cases - where whatever we do is
both right and wrong at the same time. That is, they be-
lieve in the possibility of real moral dilemmas. However,
this idea appears to derive from taking the descriptor of a
moral dilemma - that you are “damned if you do, and
damned if you don’t” - too literally. For, as Alasdair
MacIntyre indicates, [46] a moral dilemma is in fact
where more than one option is deemed to be morally
necessary - for instance, it is morally incumbent upon
Sartre’s student both to care for his aged mother and to
fight for France - and the agent simply cannot do both
[47]. Thus, the student is “damned”, but only in the sense
that he cannot accomplish both of these equally pressing
tasks; not, as the school of dirty-hands maintains, morally.
Stocker makes the extraordinary claim that Aristotle
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Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
himself is a member of the dirty-hands group, because
Aristotle says “if a tyrant were to order one to do some-
thing base, having one’s parents and children in his
power, and if one did the action they were to be saved,
but otherwise would be put to death …” [48]. He con-
tends that Aristotle holds that the unspecified action is
base, yet adjudges that it h as to be done anyw ay, thereby
sanctioning dirty-hands [49]. Yet, this is absurd - Aris-
totle proscribes baseness, as noted above. Moreover, Ar-
istotle also says that “not every actio n nor passion admits
a mean; for some have names that already imply badness,
e.g., spite, shamelessness, envy, and in the case of actions
adultery, theft, murder … Therefore: it is not possible,
then, ever to be right with regard to them: one must al-
ways be wrong.” [50] So, if he thinks that under some
circumstances doing something wrong is nevertheless a
moral duty, his silence about it is deafening. A much
more plausible reading of the passage is that the baseness
of the means necessary to achieve the end is of a prima
facie nature. For instance, let the ransom demanded be
cash, and let it be that the amount required can only be
obtained by robbery. This seems base, so the agent has a
real cause to pause. However, considering that lives are
at stake, restitution intended, and that if they have any
decency about them the one’s “stolen” from will under-
stand, what appears to be base at the outset - viz., to be an
act of theft - turns out not to be at all.
The point is that lying, adultery, theft and murder are
definitively wrong only to the ex ten t that th e word s imply
unreasonableness. But, not telling the truth to the secret
police regarding the whereabouts of their intended vic-
tims is not unreasonable, nor is having sex outside of
marriage to save someone’s life, taking someone else’s
vehicle in an emergency, or killing someone who is at-
tacking you. Thus, “taking a thing without the owner’s
knowledge does not always amount to ‘theft’, but only if
it is taken with the intention of keeping it and injuring the
owner.” [51] Therefore, it is only in so far as the names
denote injustices - murder is unjust killing - that these
acts are proscribed, since about such things we must al-
ways be wrong. Hence, Aristotle also says that “as to
adultery, let it be held disgraceful, in general, for any
man or woman to be found in any way unfaithful when
they are married, and called husband and wife.” [52] This
is despite the protestations of certain moral absolutists,
who consider themselves to be neo-Aristotelians. For
example, Germain Grisez states that “even someone cer-
tain he or she was speaking with a person intent on com-
mitting murder would not be acting as love requires if,
judging that person to be beyond repentance, he or she
resorted to lying in an effort to save the po tential victim's
life.” [53] However, such a position fails to appreciate
that circumstances can alter cases to the extent that what
is normally wrong can become right. Consequently,
whether malevolent individuals are capable of repentance
or not is beside the point: they are intent upon commit-
ting crimes, and loving and just agents should try to pre-
vent this in whatever ways they can. (Indeed, lying is in
fact a charitable response to the potential murderer, if it
prevents the person becoming an evil-doer.) For, crimi-
nals cannot claim respect for their wishes, when they will
not respect the wishes of others. Malevolent and incon-
siderate agents - and in their own way this includes gos-
sips - are people who are either intent upon using infor-
mation to bring harm others, or are nevertheless not
unlikely to do so. Therefore, they are unworthy of being
told the truth. (Furthermore, if such people are within
earshot, not sharing information and even misinforming
those who have a genuin e right to it, is not unreasonable.
For, under the circumstances reasonable people should
expect the truth not to be broadcast.)
By parity of reasoning, the rules relating to conjugality,
property and life are also not exceptionless. This is be-
cause no rights are inviolable - they command respect
only in so far as it is reasonable to resp ect them. Thus, it
is ridiculous to think that rights of conjugality and prop-
erty command respect ahead of life itself, and it is equally
absurd to respect in an aggressor the very good which
that person threatens to deprive the victim. The point is,
if the expectation of one party to a marriage is that fidel-
ity will be preserved at all costs, then this person is either
mad or bad, (or some combination thereof), and is con-
sequently unworthy of respect in regard to the expecta-
tion. And the same applies to car owners and to killers.
Thus, “something of the sort happens also with regard to
throwing goods overboard in a storm … on condition of
its securing the safety of himself and his crew any sensi-
ble man does so.” [54] On the other hand, to have ex-
tra-marital sex to make a lover happy, or to rob Peter to
pay Paul, or to kill an innocent and non-threatening per-
son to save others lives, cannot be squared with reason,
since the values at stake in each case are commensur ate,
and the goods in question belong to someone else. So,
these acts are intrinsically wrong, because they are delib-
erate violations of others’ equal rights.
5. Laws and Rights
Therefore, since there are natural rights and doing injus-
tice is the greatest of evils, these rights are first and
foremost what the law of the land should be in place to
uphold. For, “every state is a community of some kind,
and every community is established with a view to some
good …” [55]. But there is no good at all in inju sti ces , so
we need the enactment and enforcement of appropriate
laws to prevent them. This is because “most people obey
necessity rather than argument, and punishments rather
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than the sense of what is noble.” [56] Hence, in Australia,
whatever might be intended by it, the Victorian Police
Force motto “Uphold the Right” [57] reflects the respon-
sibility of the law to natural justice. Thus, in cases before
the courts, whether or not agents took “reasonable care”,
and acted as any “reasonable person” would do, are mat-
ters of determinate significance. Therefore, since “the
rightly-framed law does this enacts the natural law rightly,
and the hastily conceived one less well” [58], we have
processes of judicial review and legal reform. For exam-
ple, anti-abortion laws in many countries have over the
years been relaxed, and continue to be relaxed, in recog-
nition of the rights of women. Naturally, it needs to be
considered if these laws are too permissive, because oth-
ers also have rights. However, women most certainly do
have rights over their bodies and their lives, and there is
no compelling argument against early abortions for over-
riding these rights. This is because the case against per-
mitting these abortions goes something like this: “The
existence of an immortal soul in the human embryo … is
a philosophical problem from which our moral affirma-
tion that a human life begins at fertilization remains in-
dependent for two r easons: 1) supposing a belated anima-
tion, there is still nothing less than a human life, prepar-
ing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received
from parents is completed, 2) on the other hand, it suf-
fices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one
can never prove the contrary) in order that the taking of
life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only
waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.” [59]
But, the reasoning is wrong-headed. For, if the human
conceptus is “first of all alive, then an an imal, and finally
a man” [60], it is erroneous to refer to “a human life” in
the absence of a rational animation, since the definition
of “human” is “rational animal”. So, the initial con ceptus
is th at-which-will-be-a-man. And, it is wrong to conclude
that the presence of mind is “probable” when at best it is
esoterically possible. It is not accepted to be there, for
instance, when someone is brain-dead. Consequently, in
the instance of early abortions, where anti-abortion laws
concerning them have been struck down, the rights of
women have achieved to this extent the rightful recogni-
tion of the law.
6. Conclusions
This paper has shown that there is such a thing as an-
other’s good in the natural order of things, and therefore
that there are natural rights. It has shown that it is a con-
sequence of this that natural justice is fundamental to
morality, and trumps any other moral concerns. It has
also shown that our laws should be framed principally in
terms of these natural rights.
[1] St. T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1a2ae. Vol. 18, p. 5,
quoting Dionysius.
[2] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I, p. 7.
[3] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, IV, V, p. 1.
[4] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, V, p. 9.
[5] Aristotle, Rhetoric, I, p. 13.
[6] C. Kluckhohn, “Ethical Relativity, Sic et Non,” The
Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 52, No. 23, 1955, p. 672.
[7] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, V, p. 1, quoting Plato,
Republic, p. 343c.
[8] In: Joannis Evangelium, Vol. 29, as quoted by St T.
Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1a. Vol. 38, 1 ad 1.
[9] In Joannis Evangelium 29; as quoted by St Thomas
Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1a. 38, 1 ad 1.
[10] This is strangely overlooked by John Kilcullen in his
“Medieval and Modern Concepts of Rights: How Do
They Differ?”, so that he ends up arguing that natural
rights should be recognized just because they are “useful”.
Acta Philosophica Fennica, Vol. 87, 2010, pp. 31-62.
[11] Aristotle, Rhetoric, II, p. 2.
[12] J. Bowring ed., “Anarchical Fallacies,” Works, Vol. 2,
[13] Sophocles, “The Theban Plays,” Harmondsworth, Pen-
guin, 1967, p. 128.
[14] “After Virtue,” Duckworth, London, 1985, p. 69.
[15] “After Virtue,” Duckworth, London, 1985.
[16] “After Virtue,” Duckworth, London, 1985.
[17] Aristotle, Rhetoric, II, p. 9 (emphasis added).
[18] “The Parable of the Fox and the Unliberated Animals,”
Ethics, Vol. 88, No. 2, January 1978, p. 122.
[19] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 19.
[20] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995.
[21] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 18.
[22] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 17.
[23] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethic s,” Cambridge Unive rsity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 12.
[24] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 19.
[25] P. Singer, “Practi cal Ethics, ” Cambridge Univer sity Press,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 22.
[26] G. E. M. Anscombe, “Modern Moral Philosophy”, Ethics
Religion and Politics, Oxford, Blackwell, 1981, p. 40.
[27] A. Dongan, “The Theory of Morality,” Chicago, Chicago
University Press, 1977, p. 183.
[28] B. Williams, “Morality - An Introduction to Ethics,”
Natural Rights, Morality, and the Law
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990, p. 109.
[29] R. G. Frey, “Rights, Killing and Suffering,” Blackwell,
Oxford, 1983, p. 67.
[30] R. G. Frey, “Rights, Killing and Suffering,” Blackwell,
Oxford, 1983, p. 81.
[31] R. G. Frey, “Rights, Killing and Suffering,” Blackwell,
Oxford, 1983, p. 51.
[32] R. G. Frey, “Rights, Killing and Suffering,” Blackwell,
Oxford, 1983, p. 48.
[33] R. Gaita, “Good and Evil:An Absolute Conception,”
MacMillan, London, 1991, p. 4.
[34] R. Gaita, “Good and Evil:An Absolute Conception,”
MacMillan, London, 1991.
[35] R. Gaita, “Good and Evil:An Absolute Conception,”
MacMillan, London, p. 5.
[36] Gorgias, p. 469b.
[37] “Human Personality” as quoted in R. Gaita, “Good and
Evil:An Absolute Conception,” MacMillan, London, p. 7.
[38] J. Feinberg, “Freedom and Fulfilment,” Princeton Univer-
sity Press, USA, 1992, p. 239.
[39] “Human Personality”; as quoted in R. Gaita “Good and
Evil:An Absolute Conception,” MacMillan, London.
[40] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III, p. 1.
[41] J. J. Thomson, “The Right and the Good”, The Journal of
Philosophy, Vol. 94, No. 6, June 1997, p. 276,
[42] Aristotle, Politics, VII, p. 3.
[43] Aristotle, Politics, VII.
[44] M. Stocker, “Plural and Conflicting Values,” OUP, Ox-
ford, 1992, p. 9.
[45] R. Gaita, “Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception,”
MacMillan, London, 1991, p. 69.
[46] R. Gaita, “Good and Evil: An Absolute Conception,”
MacMillan, London, 1991, p. 224.
[47] J. P. Sarte, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” In: W. Kauf-
mann, ed., Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, New
American Library, New York, 1975.
[48] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III, p. 1.
[49] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III, p. 58.
[50] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II, p. 6.
[51] Aristotle, Rhetoric, I, p. 13.
[52] Aristotle, Politics, VII, p. 16.
[53] I. L. Quincy, “Living a Christian Life,” Franciscan Press,
Illinois, 1993, pp. 406-407.
[54] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, III, p. 1.
[55] Aristotle, Politics, VII, p. 2.
[56] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X, p. 9. (Surely “most” is
exaggerated, “many” more accurate.)
[57] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X.
[58] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, V, p. 1.
[59] Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dec-
laration on Procured Abortion, 18 November, 1974, FN.
P. 19.
[60] St T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2a2ae. Vol. 64, p. 1.