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nonsense upon stilts

Subject: Philosophy

How Bentham described the claim of the French Revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen that there were ‘natural and imprescriptible’ rights. The claim that there were ...

nonsense upon stilts

nonsense upon stilts   Reference library

Ross Harrison

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
70 words

... upon stilts . How Bentham described the claim of the French Revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen that there were ‘natural and imprescriptible’ rights. The claim that there were natural rights was, to him, ‘simple nonsense’; it was the claim that these rights were imprescriptible (that is, unrevisable) which made it into ‘nonsense upon stilts’. Dr Ross Harrison Jeremy Bentham , Anarchical Fallacies (Edinburgh, 1843), article...

nonsense upon stilts

nonsense upon stilts  

Reference type:
Overview Page
Subject:
Philosophy
How Bentham described the claim of the French Revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen that there were ‘natural and imprescriptible’ rights. The claim that there were ...
rights

rights   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Philosophy (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2016
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
430 words

...the term only makes good sense in a metaphysical or theological context in which nature is conceived of as capable of creating moral imperatives. Bentham is notorious for having opposed this, claiming that ‘ natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts’ ( Anarchical Fallacies , Art. ii). Nature, according to Bentham, provides a background against which we may wish that there were such things as rights, but they do not exist until law creates them. However, the term remains firmly at the...

rights

rights   Reference library

Alan Gewirth

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
687 words

...so that the rights could be overridden whenever such maximization required this. On the other hand, the universality of human rights requires that each perso act with due regard for other persons' freedom and well-being as well as her own. Prof. Alan Gewirth See also nonsense upon stilts . Ronald Dworkin , Taking Rights Seriously (Cambridge, Mass., 1977). Alan Gewirth , Reason and Morality (Chicago, Ill., 1978). Wesley N. Hohfeld , Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning (New Haven, Conn., 1964). J. Waldron (ed.), Theories of...

Bentham, Jeremy

Bentham, Jeremy (1748–1832)   Reference library

The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Law, History
Length:
1,431 words
Illustration(s):
1

...he was to become progressively more radical in his political views in later life, he never abandoned the thorough-going utility of his youth which had led him to criticize the much trumpeted Rights of Man of the French Revolution as nonsense: “natural rights are nonsense, natural and imprescriptible rights, nonsense upon stilts.” The bulk of Bentham’s writings, largely unpublished in his lifetime, are now preserved in the library of University College London, an institution that was founded in his lifetime as the University of London and that also houses his...

Bentham, Jeremy

Bentham, Jeremy   Reference library

Ross Harrison

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
3,115 words

...stilts’. Natural rights was one attempted answer to the question of the source of obedience to the state and the conditions for legitimate revolution. Another attempted answer also popular in Bentham's day was the original or social contract. This device, founding obedience on agreement, was used by the leading contemporary defender of British law William Blackstone . Bentham ridicules such a defence in his Fragment on Government . For Bentham, justification of obedience to government depends upon utility, that is upon calculation of whether the ‘probable...

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism   Reference library

Francisco BENZONI

Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2016
Subject:
Science and technology, Social sciences
Length:
2,806 words

...no meaning apart from utility and no existence apart from the law ( 2007 [ 1789 ], 7, 224 ). As he colorfully and famously wrote in a critique of the Declaration of Rights issued during the French Revolution: “ Natural rights is simple nonsense; natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts,” ( 2007 [1789], 227–228 ). A right, according to Bentham, is a “child of law” ( 2007 [1789], 731–733 ); it does not exist “naturally” and is not absolute or inalienable. One version of the powerful and recurring criticism of the...

Phillips Griffiths, Allen

Phillips Griffiths, Allen (1927)   Reference library

The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
2,740 words

...connections), and hence to the relations between reasons and causes. The classic model for explaining actions in terms of belief plus desire, where ‘wanting or desiring is something that is supposed to go on in the soul or psyche’, Phillips Griffiths roundly rejects as ‘nonsense on stilts’ (‘Is Free Will Compatible with Something or Other?’, p. 109; he notes the affinities of this dispute with ‘the traditional voluntarist-intellectualist controversy’, ‘Acting with Reason’, p. 293). All reasons an agent has for action are beliefs; the final or basic reason...

rights

rights   Reference library

The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
3,297 words

...of the notion of nature, Bentham argued that the notion of inalienable natural rights – such as those articulated in the French Déclaration – was dangerous and had ‘anarchical consequences’. For Bentham, ‘[n]atural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, – nonsense upon stilts’ ( Anarchical Fallacies , in Works , ed. Bowring, vol. 2, p. 501). Nevertheless, Bentham recognized that liberty had an important value, and he and his followers defended a theory of (positive) rights, based on the law (i.e. the command...

Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy   Reference library

The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
5,653 words

...Bentham , who wrote Anarchical Fallacies , a short essay (of the early 1790s) that takes apart the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen . It is in that essay that he describes talk of such rights as ‘terrorist language’ and – in a memorable phrase – as ‘nonsense upon stilts’. For Bentham the legal positivist, natural rights talk could only consist of meaningless abstractions and, for Bentham the utilitarian, the only reason for establishing a right in positive law could be ‘the advantage of society’. It is with Bentham that we encounter a...

historians

historians   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Scottish History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2007
Subject:
History, Regional and National History
Length:
6,565 words

...not totally sterile. Fr. Thomas Innes ( 1662–1744 ), a convinced Jacobite based at the Scots college in Paris, demonstrated that the account of Scotland's Dalriadic ( see Dál Riata, kingdom of ) origins, accepted in rival versions by Whigs and Jacobites alike, was nonsense on stilts: it rested on spurious regnal lists concocted in the late medieval period. Although Innes's work was just as ideologically determined as that of his opponents, his contacts with Jean Mabillon and the Maurist Benedictine pioneers of the new diplomatic scholarship enabled...

Human Rights

Human Rights   Reference library

The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Peace

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Social sciences
Length:
9,333 words

...the principles of the two great declarations that followed the American and French revolutions. These declarations of the rights of man were based on the notion of “natural” (or God-given or inalienable) rights, a notion soon to be defunct, denounced by Jeremy Bentham as “nonsense upon stilts,” and attacked by Marx as the rights of “egotistic and bourgeois man.” However, in the nineteenth century slavery was the only violation that incurred general obloquy; it was outlawed first by Britain and then (by the time the Congress of Berlin took place in 1875 ) by...

Utilitarianism and International Ethics

Utilitarianism and International Ethics   Reference library

Gerard Elfstrom

The International Studies Encyclopedia

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2017
Subject:
Social sciences, Politics, Warfare and Defence
Length:
9,947 words

...to The Principles of Morals and Legislation . London: T. Payne and Sons. Bentham, J. (1891) Theory of Legislation , 7th edn. Translated from French by R. Hildreth . London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Bentham, J. (2002) Rights, Representation and Reform: Nonsense on Stilts and Other Writings on the French Revolution . P. Schofield , C. Pease-Watkin , and C. Blamires (eds.) Oxford: The Clarendon Press. Brandt, R.B. (1972) Utilitarianism and the Rules of War. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2), 145–65. Brinton, C. (1967) Enlightenment...

Pacific

Pacific   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to World Exploration

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2007
Subject:
History
Length:
16,406 words
Illustration(s):
4

...partly construed as a chivalric adventure, and when he arrived at New Jerusalem, he ceremoniously knighted his whole company. In his Cosmographie ( 1667 ), Peter Heylyn took occasion to laugh at the romantic nonsense that accompanied the search for Terra Australis Incognita , comparing mariners such as Quiros with Don Quixote : “Here we are upon a new and strange adventure, which no Knight Errant ever undertook before.” Knight errantry became a customary term of abuse among rival voyagers. Woodes Rogers called the narratives of buccaneers such as ...

Russia

Russia   Reference library

Galina V. Inozemtseva, and Elena G. Fedorenko

The International Encyclopedia of Dance

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
Performing arts, Dance, Music
Length:
28,293 words

...the maidens, wearing long white dresses and with garlands in their hair, would bathe in the river. During the bathing festivities (kupalski) , maidens and youths danced around a bonfire and jumped over the flames. Costume parties were also held in the spring. People walked on stilts while representing animals, such as pigs and horses, or they burned scarecrows in the bonfires. These activities, too, led to dancing. The autumn harvest feast called The First Haystack included songs, dances, and games. Having gathered the hay, boys and girls wearing peasant...

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)   Quick reference

Oxford Essential Quotations (6 ed.)

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2018
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
271 words

...Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 English philosopher Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts. Anarchical Fallacies in J. Bowring (ed.) Works vol. 2 (1843) natural rights Natural rights nonsense upon stilts nonsense upon stilts The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation. Bentham claimed to have acquired the ‘sacred truth’ either from Joseph Priestley or Cesare Beccaria (1738–94) The Commonplace Book in J. Bowring (ed.) ...

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)   Reference library

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (8 ed.)

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2014
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
624 words

...of monsters. Anarchical Fallacies in J. Bowring (ed.) Works vol. 2 (1843) right …is the child child of law child of law imaginary rights Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts. Anarchical Fallacies in J. Bowring (ed.) Works vol. 2 (1843) natural rights Natural rights nonsense upon stilts nonsense upon stilts The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation. Bentham claimed to have acquired the ‘sacred truth’ either from Joseph ...

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832)   Reference library

Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2012
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
296 words

...imaginary rights, a bastard brood of monsters. Anarchical Fallacies (1843) Right…is the child of law imaginary rights , a bastard brood bastard brood of monsters Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts. Anarchical Fallacies (1843) natural rights is simple nonsense Natural rights is simple nonsense It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong. Bentham claims to have acquired the ‘sacred truth’ either from Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) or...

Human Rights

Human Rights   Quick reference

Oxford Essential Quotations (6 ed.)

Reference type:
Quotation
Current Version:
2018
Subject:
Quotations
Length:
1,027 words

...Mary Astell 1668 – 1731 English poet and feminist Some Reflections upon Marriage (1706 ed.) preface women are born slaves women are born slaves women are born slaves Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsensenonsense upon stilts. Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 English philosopher Anarchical Fallacies in J. Bowring (ed.) Works vol. 2 (1843) natural rights Natural rights nonsense upon stilts nonsense upon stilts I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man and forgets his...

Law, Natural

Law, Natural   Reference library

Adam MOSSOFF

Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2016
Subject:
History
Length:
2,116 words

...the United States of America. Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Challenges In the nineteenth century, Natural Law philosophy waned with the rise of utilitarianism and related positivist doctrines. Jeremy Bentham ( 1748–1832 ) famously declared that Natural Rights were “nonsense on stilts.” Legal positivism in particular directly challenged the central premise of Natural Law—the necessary connection between moral rules and socio-political rules. For legal positivists, such as John Austin ( 1790–1869 ce ), legal rules can be analyzed and assessed without...

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