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human rights must be maintained as a ‘fundamental component of the common good’. Such rights are ‘subject to or limited to each other and by other aspects of the common good’ – these ‘aspects’can be linked to issues concerning public morality, public health or public order. Finnis believes in some absolute human rights i.e. the right not to have a life taken directly as a means to further end; the right not to be deprived or to be required to deprive oneself from pro-creative activity. Finnis turns to an explicit treatment of rights but then observes that his whole book has been about human rights, which he takes to be synonymous with natural rights – “The modern grammar of rights provides a way of expressing virtually all the requirements of practical reasonableness,” the latter phrase, as discussed above, being equivalent for Finnis to the tradition of natural law.Finnis beliefs on human rights enable him to give an alternative expression of the version of natural law he has developed in conjunction with other modern day philosophers such as Grisez and Hohfeld. In answer to the philosophical question as to what it is to have a right Finnis identifies two theories, the benefit theory and the choice theory. The choice theory arises because it regards the benefit theory as seeing rights simply as the reflex of rules which impose duties. H.L.A. Hart taught that possession of a right was to have control over other people’s freedom or, what amounts to the same thing, control over other people’s duties. (duties being limits on freedom, meaning moral freedom or what a person is morally permitted to do). He emphasised this criticising a different answer to the question – what does it mean to have a right? – that having a right consists in being the beneficiary of someone else’s duties. Hart argued that there are some examples where a person is the beneficiary of a duty but does not have a right. He further came to see that the choice theory was inadequate, writing that “the core of the notion of rights is neither individual choice nor individual benefit but basic or fundamental individual needs”. Finnis also sees this as identical with his own notion of basic aspects of human flourishing.


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