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Natural Rights and the Right to Choose Hardcover – September 2, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0521812184 ISBN-10: 0521812186 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521812186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521812184
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...Arkes's personal experiences add relevance and vitality..."
-Amy L. Peikoff, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ethics

"Part legal and intellectual history, part political philosophy, part polemic, part memoir--[Mr. Arkes's book] succeeds brilliantly in tracing the effects of the decision to reject natural rights."
-The Wall Street Journal

"With wit and energy and coruscating intelligence, Hadley Arkes has written the most persuasive argument I have yet read for a return to natural law and the first principles of the American founding."
-James Bowman, Resident Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

"This book is shattering, for Arkes shows how our generation, while talking itself into a `right to choose' has talked itself out of the logic of `natural rights.' If he is correct, our so-called `rights' now have no meaning. Even the `right to choose' has no moral defense. Warning: This book may change your life."
-Michael Novak, George Frederick Jewett Chair, The American Enterprise Institute

"Natural Rights and the Right to Choose is the story of how relentless elaboration of a spurious right has jeopardized the foundations of all rights. Hadley Arkes makes the case, as only he can, with rigor, grace, and passion. This is a philosophical page-turner where the shocker is not who-done-it but what was done in the name of law."
-Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

"Arkes admirably merges his experiences in public policy with his philosophical defense of natural rights. For that reason, I especially recommend Arke's book for courses in philosophy of law and social/political philosophy, but it would also be a unique addition to a biomedical ethics course or to any ethics course specifically dealing with the issue of abortion."
-Emily Crookston

"In a most charming and beguiling way, Hadley Arkes brings us face-to-face with our culture's mindless celebration of moral suicide. Arkes is a modern Socrates, drawing half-buried truths and recognitions from his interlocutors, his readers. He shows how our obsession with rights to the exclusion of their corresponding duties has extended the frontiers of degradation, not freedom. Natural Rights and the Right to Choose is not simply another meditation on abortion: It is a profound and lucid inquiry into the moral tenor of our culture. No thinking person will encounter this spiritual tocsin unchanged."
-Roger Kimball, The New Criterion

"Hadley Arkes is one of the keenest observers of law and culture in America. I read--no, devour--his writings. Thank God for him."
-Charles W. Colson, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Washington D.C.

"While the highly charged issue of abortion helps focus Arkes's position, his ideas have far-ranging consequences for human rights. To read Arkes is to experience a rebirth of hope for humankind. Essential."

"Arkes's book contains a fascinating examination of the legislative effort, over the past dozen years, to respond to the appalling decision in Roe and Doe."
-The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Book Description

The American political class has talked itself out of the doctrines of "natural rights" that formed the main teaching of the American Founders. In the name of "privacy", vast new liberties have been claimed, all of them bound up in some way with the notion of sexual freedom. Hadley Arkes argues that the "right to choose an abortion" overturned the liberal jurisprudence of the New Deal, so that if there is a right to abortion, it has been detached from the logic of natural rights and stripped of moral substance.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Stong on April 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Hadley Arkes has written a book that goes to the root of every political debate: what man is determines what "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" means, not just for American citizens, but indeed for all people everywhere.
In today's world people clamor for rights all the time without thinking about what a "right" is or where rights come from. Hadley shows that such forgetfulness (or outright ignorance) is a crucial mistake. It's as if builders lost the blueprints to a structure's foundations, taking it for granted that no matter where they erected pillars or beams, there would be some underlying foundation to support the weight and tie everything together.
The temptation to eventually consider rights a matter of majority might and politics simply "war by other means" only grows stronger within this ignorance of intelligible (i.e. universally knowable) foundations.
Thus a right to own firearms, marry whomever you please, use natural resources however you see fit, and get rid of inconvenient offspring will increasingly appear to be "victories" of pressure group tactics, open to ulterior change rather than anything objectively good and lasting...
Hadley makes the point of temporarily shifting the reader's attention from what people want, to what people are. Only if you know what human beings are can you distinguish between "wants" ("choices") that correspond to human needs, as opposed to "whims" ("choices") that may be neutral or harmful to those that desire it or others in society.
In other words, this book is a tour de force in the metaphysical underpinning of the American experiment.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Climacus on July 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but 'Natural Rights and the Right to Choose' deserves it.

I read this book during my undergraduate studies in a class that was overwhelmingly pro-abortion. Academic resources to counter the kinds of arguments we had been having in class were very rare at my secular/liberal Canadian university. Thankfully, this book by Hadley Arkes was on the reading list, and it helped to substantially challenge my thinking. As a mainstream evangelical I had never considered looking at natural law theory, and I'm immensely grateful that I finally did.

Part legal/political history, part excercise in natural law theory, 'Natural Rights' excels at both by retelling the story of the legal battles over abortion in the US, examing the presuppositions, fallacies, and arguments of the debate, and by explaining the natural law case against abortion. If you are a Christian, or a pro-lifer looking to deepen your knowledge about the abortion debate, and looking to deepen your knowledge of natural law theory, this book should be at the top of your list.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J Resler on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I simply want to echo the other reviewers and submit that this is as clear, concise, and forceful a book on the subject as has been written. A must read for Natural Rights advocates and those that want to learn.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Leonard E. Kaplan on August 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Arkes is obviously a brilliant man with very deeply held opinions and feelings. The book is well written and logically presented. While I take issue with some of his premises, I doubt that anyone could express his position better than he has. Truth be told, he not only gave me food for thought, some of that food tasted pretty good.
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