An Introduction to Rights is a readable and accessible introduction to the history, logic, moral implications and political tendencies of the idea of rights. It is organized chronologically and discusses important historical events such as the French and American Revolutions. It treats a range of historical figures, including Grotius, Paley, Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, Burke, Godwin, Douglass, Mill and Hohfeld and relates the concept of rights to contemporary debates such as consequentialism versus contractualism. This thoroughly updated second edition includes a new preface and expands the discussion of the surprising role that slavery has played in the history of rights. It includes new material on egalitarianism, distributive justice and what the demand for equal rights means.
William A. Edmundson is Regents' Professor of Law and of Philosophy at Georgia State University. He is the author of Three Anarchical Fallacies and is co-editor of The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory.
Part I. The First Expansionary Era: 1. The prehistory of rights; 2. The rights of man: the enlightenment; 3. Mischievous nonsense?; 4. The nineteenth century: consolidation and retrenchment; 5. The conceptual neighborhood of rights: Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld; Part II. The Second Expansionary Era: 6. The universal declaration, and a revolt against utilitarianism; 7. The nature of rights: 'choice' theory and 'interest' theory; 8. A right to do wrong? Two conceptions of moral rights; 9. The pressure of consequentialism; 10. What is interference?; 11. The future of rights; 12. Conclusion.