An Overview of Joel Feinberg's The Nature and Value of Rights

             In "The Nature and Value of Rights,” Joel Feinberg begins by creating an imaginary town, Nowheresville, in which none of its inhabitants have any rights. They can be as moral, righteous and caring as we feel like imagining, but they have no rights and do not respect the rights of others because they do not exist. However, duties are allowed into our imaginary world. Their duties are not to individuals, though, since this would indicate they have rights, but instead to society, God, and the law. Feinberg then asks whether this is even possible. He states a principle called the "logical correlativity of rights and duties” that insists, "all duties entail other people's rights and all rights entail other people's duties.” He later proves this wrong by explaining that we currently use the word "duty” to describe anything we feel that we must do, not just because we feel we owe it to someone else to perform the action. He explains that the duty in the principle is connected!.

             to the "personal desert.” This is where someone feels that they have earned something. He uses the example that in the real world, it is difficult to get away without giving a tip because of this attitude, but in Nowheresville, a person would only be grateful for such a notion and would not be angry if they did not receive it because they did not "deserve” or earn it. The rest of the article seems to start anew, forgetting about the proposed Nowheresville, and concentrating solely on definitions. He explains the subtleties between "rights against” and "rights to” as well as the difference between making a claim, claiming that, and having a claim.

             This is where I became disappointed with the article. At first, the challenge of imagining Nowheresville and what type of actions and duties were allowed without rights gave way for an excellent article. When Feinberg begins to write about the definitions, though, his article seems to shift towards a piece of work that we are always told to avoid from writing.

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