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Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origin of Rights

Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origin of Rights

Book Description

Where do our rights come from? Does “natural law” really exist outside of what is written in constitutions and legal statutes? If so, why are rights not the same everywhere and in all eras? On the other hand, if rights are nothing more than the product of human law, why should we ever allow them to override the popular will?
In Rights from Wrongs, written in his familiar clear and articulate style, renowned professor and legal scholar Alan Dershowitz puts forward a wholly new and compelling answer to this age-old dilemma: Rights, he argues, do not come from God, nature, logic, or law alone. They arise out of particular human experiences with injustice.

Rights from Wrongs is the first book to propose a theory of rights that emerges not from a theory of perfect justice but from its opposite: from the bottom up, from trial and error, and from our collective experience of injustice. Human rights come from human wrongs.


“[Dershowitz’s] underlying theory is one that can be neutrally applied by people residing at all positions within the political spectrum…. Perhaps if his views were understood by more people, there would be … a toning down of the political rhetoric.”
Tampa Tribune

“Persistently thoughtful…. A crash course in legal theory that’s cheaper and faster than law school. And more intriguingly lucid.”
Boston Globe



Introduction: Where Do Rights Come From?

The Sources of Rights

  1. What Are Rights?
  2. Is God the Source of Rights?
  3. Is Nature the Source of Rights?
  4. Are There Other “External” Sources of Rights?
  5. Do Constitutional Democracies REally Need an External Theory of Rights?
  6. Do We Need to Invent an External Source of Rights–
    Even If It Does Not Really Exist?
  7. Is Natural Law a Helpful or Harmful Fiction?
  8. What, Then, Is the Source of Rights?

Some Challenges to Experience as the Source of Rights

  1. Is There Always a Right Answer?
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