october, 2018

17oct4:00 pm6:00 pmAlice Pinheiro Walla: 'What is a Right?'


Event Details

It is my pleasure to invite you to a Hart Seminar featuring Professor Alice Pinheiro Walla: ‘What is a Right?’ This is an optional pre-read seminar, and the reading will be circulated to registered attendees one week prior to the event.

Abstract: The rights discourse is a common feature in public discourse. But is everything we call a right also one? This paper aims to clarify what I take to be a misconception in the contemporary rights discourse: the view that rights can be derived from ethical obligations. I argue that rights give rise to corresponding obligations, but that ethical requirements do not give rise to corresponding rights. This is not to deny that ethical obligations can be quite stringent and urgent, and that failing to discharge them may constitute a serious moral violation. This stringent feature of ethical obligations may lead us to assume that they must be attached to a corresponding right. Based on Kant’s theory of rights in his later work Metaphysical First Principles of the Doctrine of Right, I offer an account of what constitutes a right in the state of nature, as opposed to other moral considerations, and argue that rights’ ability to impose a duty on others is central for understanding the notion of a right. I explain how Kant attempted to account for the possibility of rights imposing an obligation on others in the Doctrine of Right.

Alice Pinheiro Walla is a Junior Professor of Political Philosophy (Global Justice) at the Department of Philosophy, University of Bayreuth, Germany. Previously, I was Assistant Professor in Moral and Political Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Her research combines Kant scholarship with the analytic tradition in philosophy and focuses on the structure of and justificatory basis for rights and duties.

Professor Walla’s seminar is part of our Hart Seminar Series, which features a diverse group of leading scholars working at the intersection of law and philosophy. Hart Publishing contributes generous support to make the seminar series possible.


(Wednesday) 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB) Fifth Floor, Guildford, GU2 7XH

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