Republicanism, rights and democratic Athens
Carter, D. (2013) Republicanism, rights and democratic Athens. Polis, 30 (1). pp. 73-91. ISSN 2051-2996
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Cartledge and Edge (2010) argue that the modern republican tradition offers a useful framework for understanding the Athenian concept of freedom; and that within this framework the Athenians protected their freedoms without reference to any concept of rights. This paper agrees with both of these conclusions but identifies and corrects three assumptions behind Cartledge and Edge’s argument: that the only purpose of rights is to protect individual freedoms against the state; that rights have no place at all in the republican tradition; and that the ancient Greeks did not understand rights. In fact the Athenians did have an understanding of rights but they did not use rights to protect freedoms. The reason for this is that the protected freedom is a very modern and particularly sophisticated application of the concept of rights.
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