The Interest Theory of Rights and Rights Attached to Roles

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Karri Heikkinen


In this essay, I defend the interest theory of rights against the argument that because some agents hold rights grounded in a special role or office, rather than their own interests, the theory is false. I begin by explaining the interest theory and the argument from rights attached to roles against it. I then explore responses to this objection by Kramer and Raz, ultimately rejecting them and proposing a simpler solution of my own. My response stipulates that in cases where people seem to have rights grounded in a special role, it is actually the state or the society that holds those rights. Given that the interest theory can allow collective entities to have rights, this response manages to retain the full explanatory power of the original theory, without introducing additional theoretical conditions for agents holding rights. Based on this, I argue that the argument from rights attached to roles is not sufficient to refute the interest theory.

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