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Francis Hutcheson and the Origin of Animal Rights

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 45, Number 2, April 2007
pp. 243-265 | 10.1353/hph.2007.0032


"Animal right" is an important political and philosophical concept that has its roots in the work of Francis Hutcheson. Developing ideas derived from his natural-law predecessors, Hutcheson stressed the category of acquired or adventitious right to explain how animals might gain rights through becoming members of a community guided by a moral sense. This theoretical innovation had consequences not just for animals, but for making sense of how all of the formerly rightless might gain rights. Examining Hutcheson's development of an important, if problematic, concept allows us to think of rights not through the natural right tradition of Locke, but rather in connection with Bentham—as granted to those who become useful to the community and grounded in feeling and utility, not reason or language.

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