Natural and Legal Rights - History - Ancient History

Ancient History

Stephen Kinzer, a veteran journalist for The New York Times and the author of the book All The Shah's Men, writes in the latter that:

The Zoroastrian religion taught Iranians that citizens have an inalienable right to enlightened leadership and that the duty of subjects is not simply to obey wise kings but also to rise up against those who are wicked. Leaders are seen as representative of God on earth, but they deserve allegiance only as long as they have farr, a kind of divine blessing that they must earn by moral behavior.

The Stoics held that no one was a slave by nature; slavery was an external condition juxtaposed to the internal freedom of the soul (sui juris). Seneca the Younger wrote:

It is a mistake to imagine that slavery pervades a man's whole being; the better part of him is exempt from it: the body indeed is subjected and in the power of a master, but the mind is independent, and indeed is so free and wild, that it cannot be restrained even by this prison of the body, wherein it is confined.

Of fundamental importance to the development of the idea of natural rights was the emergence of the idea of natural human equality. As the historian A.J. Carlyle notes: "There is no change in political theory so startling in its completeness as the change from the theory of Aristotle to the later philosophical view represented by Cicero and Seneca.... We think that this cannot be better exemplified than with regard to the theory of the equality of human nature." Charles H. McIlwain likewise observes that "the idea of the equality of men is the profoundest contribution of the Stoics to political thought" and that "its greatest influence is in the changed conception of law that in part resulted from it." Cicero argues in De Legibus that "we are born for Justice, and that right is based, not upon's opinions, but upon Nature."


Read more about this topic:  Natural And Legal Rights, History

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