Rights are sometimes included within the foundational questions that governments and politics have been designed to deal with. Often the development of those socio-political institutions have shaped a dialectical relationship with rights. Other distinctions between rights draw more on historical association or family resemblance than on exact philosophical distinctions.
Critics have pointed to the lack of settlement between the proponents as proof for the claim that the thought of pure rights is merely a political software. This marked an necessary departure from medieval pure legislation theories which gave precedence to obligations over rights. The idea of inalienable rights was criticized by Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke as groundless. Bentham and Burke claimed that rights arise from the actions of presidency, or evolve from tradition, and that neither of these can provide something inalienable. (See Bentham’s “Critique of the Doctrine of Inalienable, Natural Rights”, and Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France). Presaging the shift in thinking in the nineteenth century, Bentham famously dismissed the concept of natural rights as “nonsense on stilts”. By way of contrast to the views of Burke and Bentham, Patriot scholar and justice James Wilson criticized Burke’s view as “tyranny”.
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