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A problematic for my thesis?

4 July 2013

I have been giving some further thought to my proposed ‘chattels thesis of rights,’ which, in case you’re a new reader (did anyone who followed the link that Tony Jones tweeted stick around?), is my hypothesis (not yet a theory, really) that certain early modern rights theorists, notably Samuel von Punfendorf, Hugo Grotius, and an as yet undetermined number of thinkers of the School of Salamanca (I am impatiently eager to take my research in that particular direction), conceived of a moral ontology of rights in which rights were objective categories to which individuals could lay claims of ownership.

This possible problematic is nominalism. In essence, the thinkers I am considering ascribing this thesis to were either nominalists in some degree or else influenced by it (and/or its voluntarism). The problem arises from the metaphysical commitments of nominalism, which would seems incompatible with the notion of an objective category of ‘right’ existing prior to and separate from the subjects who make the rights-claims. I am still wrestling with the implications of combining these two positions but it seems to me that one could argue that no such actual category of right is possible if one does not admit of the possibility of actually existing categories outside the arbitrary determinations of God.

If anyone has any thoughts, they would be greatly appreciated.

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