Book 3 Ethics and Justice: Study Tools

Chapter 2 – Principles of Justice

Vocabulary (click on the word for the definition)


alienable – transferable to another’s ownership

Baron de Montesquieu

Baron de Montesquieu – An 18th century French political thinker who believed that one person’s liberties cannot harm or threaten the safety of other persons. He wrote: “The political liberty of the subject is a tranquility of mind arising from the opinion each person has of his safety. In order to have this liberty, it is requisite that the government be so constituted as one man need not be afraid of another….” In other words, the right tto liberty has to include a sense that we are free from being threatened by others.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence – the public act by which the Second Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776, declared the Colonies to be free and independent of England. It is this document, and not the Constitution of the United States of America, which contains the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

extrinsic rights

extrinsic rights – sometimes called “positive rights” or “alienable rights” because they can be taken away; they can be “alienated from you” or “separated from you.”

Francisco Suarez

Francisco Suarez – A 15th century Spanish Jesuit priest who argued against the common European practice of abusing individuals in the name of promoting the common good. In 1612, he published an essay entitled De Legibus, in which he wrote that there is “…a kind of moral power which every man has, either over his own property or with respect to that which is due to him.”


hierarchy – objective priority

human rights

human rights – also called “natural rights.” A moral power derived from your intrinsic dignity as a human being, which is part of your very nature and which demands that others respect what is naturally owed to you.


inalienable – cannot be separated from you; cannot be taken away

more fundamental

more fundamental – something that is “more fundamental” is necessary for the very existence of whatever is less fundamental than itself.


nature – who you are at your very core. Human nature is a combination of a physical body and a rational soul, which is capable of free will, love, and self-sacrifice.

positive rights

positive rights – also called “extrinsic rights” or “alienable rights.” Rights that are given to you by others, such as a king, a vote of the people, or a parent. Their purpose is to help further the common good, build a democratic society, or add to natural rights. Unlike inalienable rights, positive rights can be taken away from you.

right to life

right to life – the duty others owe you not to take your life

right to liberty

right to liberty – the duty others owe you not to own you or control all your actions

right to property

right to property – the duty others owe you not to take property that you have justly earned or that has been legitimately given to you.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson – The author of the Declaration of Independence


tyranny – an illegitimate government which ignores inalienable rights, ignores the hierarchy of rights, and stays in power by using deception and causing fear.

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