James Mill's Conception Of Rights

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4.1. James Mill’s Idea of Rights James Mill clarified the Utilitarian approach to the subject of rights in his writing, Jurisprudence, which he wrote for the Supplement to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. According to him, the rights rank above the duties. He opined that “science distinguished by the name of Jurisprudence, is the protection of rights”. However, James Mill’s conception of rights was in contrast to that of the Benthamite conception of rights. For him, there cannot be any existence of pre-legal rights as they are only metaphysical. Therefore, he spoke only of legal rights. Mill writes that rights are artificially developed and created by the will of the people. It has existed as a result of the will of the society or that of those…show more content…
At a same time, he also recognizes individual rights to important interests and liberties. He has formulated three distinct conceptions of rights . According to the first conception, rights function as an important kind of secondary principle which is to be used in moral reasoning. On another, rights protect certain interests and liberties that qualify as preeminent good that is they are higher in importance than other goods. This is in relation with the utilitarian assumption that any object should be assessed by the value of its consequences for the general happiness. His third conception of right understands them as claimed that it is especially useful for the society to enforce. Therefore to understand Mill’s theory of duty and of right, it is important to understand direct and indirect…show more content…
According to one conception of Mill, rights are rules that insulate an individual’s interests or liberties from certain kinds of interference. Here, Mill considers rights as secondary principle. Secondary principles are generally the reliable guide to doing what will maximize happiness. However he does not regard secondary principle as rules of thumb. He thinks that rights are the objects of secondary principles that modulates the deliberation and reasoning of human. Another distinct conception of rights by Mill is, ‘rights as protection of preeminent goods’. Best conception reposes on his assumption about happiness and the role of individual rights to basic interests and liberties in securing happiness. Mill thinks that an account of human happiness should be reflective of the kinds of being that they are or what is valuable about human nature. According to this conception the rights to basic interests and liberties are necessary conditions to the exercise of deliberative capacities, which are preeminent or incomparable requirement in human happiness. Rights are especially important and the only things as important are other rights. When rights conflict it should be resolved by diagnosing which resolution would maximize utility. According to this conception it can not only be permissible but also obligatory to violate a right but this can be done only in cases of conflicting right.
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