The theories of rights debate

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This is the first comprehensive explanation and survey of the Interest–Will theories of rights debate. It elucidates the traditional understanding of it as a dispute over how best to explain A RIGHT and clarifies the theories’ competing criteria for that concept. The article then shows why recent developments are either problematic or simply fail to advance the debate. First, it is erroneous, as some theorists have done, to frame the debate in terms of competing explanations of the direction of ‘directed’ duties. This is because the theories’ respective answers to that issue are themselves dependent upon their respective conceptions of A RIGHT – ones that do not even necessitate the identification of different directions for such duties. Second, all of the new would-be alternative or hybrid theories are merely versions of the Interest theory. Third, recent efforts to cabin off the debate to ‘normative’ theorisation (i.e. to morally or politically evaluative accounts) are misguided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-588
Number of pages23
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • HLA hart
  • Hohfeld
  • Interest theory
  • Joseph Raz
  • Rights
  • Theories of rights
  • Will theory

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