The Nature and Value of Rights: Joel Feinberg

April 20, 2009 at 12:12 am | Posted in itethic | Leave a comment
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The Nature and Value of Rights: Joel Feinberg

Book Title: Contemporary Moral Problems
Seventh Edition

Author: James E. White

Amazon Link:

Library Reference:


Learning Expectation:

In this essay I expect to learn nature and value of rights. Well I’ve been hearing the word rights since grade school, I studied some concepts about it but I think there’s more than concepts of  rights and I want to learn that from this essay.


In this chapter the author talked about the nature and value of rights. Joel Feinberg a professor of philosophy at the university of Arizona, author of Doing and Deserving, Social Philosophy, the moral limits of criminal law, and lastly Freedom and Fulfillment. Feinberg wants to demonstrate that rights are morally important, by setting imaginations that in a certain place do not have rights as result people cannot make moral claims whenever they are treated unjustly.

According to Feinberg there is this doctrine called “ doctrine of logical correlativity of rights and duties”. This is the doctrine that all duties entail other people’s rights and all rights entail other people’s duty. For Feinberg he questions the first part of the doctrine because the word duty is associated with actions that are due someone else, payments of debts to creditors, the keeping agreements with promises, and more.  But there are many classes of duties, can be legal and non-legal kind, that are not logically correlated with the rights of other persons.  It is assumed that all duties are required actions of people which is logically true but not at all times. It doesn’t mean that a duty is always morally correct, there are some duties that are immoral. I agree with this, not all duties are morally correct there can be duties that are not morally correct, duties that can violate morality of other people. For example in Chinese beliefs that they are meant to be with Chinese people also but this doesn’t apply to all Chinese people this belief is some sort of a duty to their families. For me it is morally incorrect to marry somebody who I don’t love, marriage is for two persons who share same feelings. This is a duty for Chinese families to be done, but morally incorrect for me.

According to Feinberg to have a right is to have a claim against someone whose recognition is valid is called by some governing rules or moral principles. Feinberg means here that a right is like having a claim against someone, claiming that someone did something wrong to you if you’re right has been violated.  In the world that Feinberg created, the nowhereville people do not know how to claim rights either positively or negatively. This is now the problem, people seem to claim rights not in a right way, they should know how to claim it right. I mean how can people claim his/her rights if doesn’t know how will it be done, and what are the grounds of it.
Claim must be valid in a particular cultural, social, or legal context in order to be recognized as a right, or else void.

What I have learned:
In this essay I learned that a right is necessary when dealing with morality, I mean moral progress and human dignity. It’s a must that person knows his/her rights and knows when how and when to claim it as positive or negative right/ right or wrong.

Integrative Questions:
Who is Noel Feinberg?
What is Nowheresville?
How can you differentiate nowheresvill from our real world?
What is the doctrine of logical correlativity?
What is a right?


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