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Hobbes's Theory of Rights: A Modern Interest Theory

Curran, Eleanor (2002) Hobbes's Theory of Rights: A Modern Interest Theory. Journal of Ethics, 6 (1). pp. 63-86. ISSN 1382-4554. (doi:10.1023/A:1015875902334) (KAR id:533)


The received view in Thomas Hobbes scholarship is that the individual rights described by Hobbes in his political writings and specifically in Leviathan are simple freedoms or liberty rights, that is, rights that are not correlated with duties or obligations on the part of others. In other words, it is usually argued that there are no claim rights for individuals in Hobbes's political theory. This paper argues, against that view, that Hobbes does describe claim rights, that they come into being when individuals conform to the second law of nature and that they are genuine moral claim rights, that is, rights that are the ground of the obligations of others to forebear from interfering with their exercise. This argument is defended against both Jean Hampton's and Howard Warrender's interpretations of rights in Hobbes's theory. The paper concludes that the theory of rights underlying Hobbes's writing is not taken from Natural Law but is probably closer to a modern interest theory of rights.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1023/A:1015875902334
Additional information: The original publication is available at
Uncontrolled keywords: claim rights, individual rights, liberty rights, rights, Thomas Hobbes, transferred rights
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: C.A.R. Kennedy
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2007 18:19 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Curran, Eleanor.

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