Natural Rights: Definition, Theory & Examples

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  • 0:00 First Look at Natural Rights
  • 0:35 Natural Rights Defined
  • 1:20 Natural Rights Theory
  • 2:07 Examples of Natural Rights
  • 2:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brianna Whiting
In this lesson we will look at natural rights. We will learn the definition and the theory that surround these rights. As the lesson progresses, examples will be given, followed by a summary and a quiz.

First Look at Natural Rights

Almost every person realizes that they have rights. However, in today's world, it sometimes becomes difficult to understand what those rights are. What are we able to do? What are we entitled to? Well, in this lesson, our main focus is on those natural rights, which are based on the idea that every person has basic rights that the government cannot deny. Natural rights are basic rights that include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sound familiar? If you have ever read the American Declaration of Independence, they should.

Natural Rights Defined

The idea of a natural right is based on a political theory that every person has basic rights that the government cannot deny, now matter where they live. It is important to point out that the word 'natural' can take on a few different meanings depending on the context. 'Natural' can mean being independent from society or, from a theological perspective, based on the obligations God has given man, such as the right to life based on the commandment 'thou shalt not kill.' No matter from what context the word 'natural' is derived, no government or society can deny these rights, especially if that denial is based on any discriminatory factors such as age, gender, race, or nationality.

Natural Rights Theory

So where did the theory of natural rights come from? Well, back in ancient times there was a doctrine known as the Doctrines of Natural Law. These doctrines held that because people are creatures of God and nature, they should be able to live their lives based on the rule of God or nature. As time went on, a man by the name of John Locke helped to modify these doctrines of natural law, based on his belief that everyone was naturally good and rational. Because he believed that the government was obligated to serve the people, and protect their natural rights, he strived for a government that really represented the people and their interests. This lead to the modern concept of natural rights -- not only do we have these rights, but no person or society can violate or take those rights from us.

Examples of Natural Rights

Some of the most important portrayals of natural rights comes straight from our history books. Over time, there have been many important examples of natural rights being enshrined in law. These include:

-The English Bill of Rights

-The American Declaration of Independence

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