Standard Article


  1. Rex Martin

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee228

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Martin, R. 2013. Rights. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


This essay begins with a brief history of rights, focused mainly on important natural rights theorists and documents of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the criticism of natural rights (occurring at the time of the French Revolution and after), and the revival of interest in human rights at the end of World War II. The essay then focuses on the contemporary idea of rights, and pays special attention to human rights and constitutional rights. A three-part analysis of rights is undertaken by looking at (1) views of the constituent elements of rights, (2) the function(s) of rights, and (3) the grounding of rights. The essay concludes with a short synoptic account of the character and value of rights.


  • legal and political;
  • rights