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date: 04 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter reconstructs the main arguments of Richard Tuck’s Natural Rights Theories in order to examine Tuck’s claim that a philosophical problem can be “solved historically” by investigating what role a concept, such as natural rights, might have played in various systems of thought. I focus especially on Tuck’s thesis that natural rights originated in the notion of dominium in medieval jurisprudence and theology, contesting the view that natural rights were a specifically modern liberal phenomenon. I also consider Tuck’s treatment of Gerson, Grotius, Selden, Hobbes, and Locke to highlight what he regards as the ambiguous “Janus-faced” character of natural rights, represented in two separate legacies—the “conservative” theory and the “radical” theory of rights. In recovering these diverse languages of rights, Tuck underlines their historically contingent character, while also forcing us to alienate ourselves from something that is all too often taken to be immediately familiar.

Keywords: Richard Tuck, natural rights, dominium, Jean Gerson, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke

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