Request Inspection Copy

If you are an Academic or Teacher and wish to consider this book as a prescribed textbook for your course, you may be eligible for a complimentary inspection copy. Please complete this form, including information about your position, campus and course, before adding to cart.

* Required Fields

To complete your Inspection Copy Request you will need to click the Checkout button in the right margin and complete the checkout formalities. You can include Inspection Copies and purchased items in the same shopping cart, see our Inspection Copy terms for further information.

Any Questions? Please email our text Support Team on


Email this to a friend

* ALL required Fields

Order Inspection Copy

An inspection copy has been added to your shopping cart

Justice: Rights and Wrongs

by Nicholas Wolterstorff Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 416 pages
AU$69.00 NZ$73.04
Product Status: Available in Approx 5 days
add to your cart
Wide-ranging and ambitious, Justice combines moral philosophy and Christian ethics to develop an important theory of rights and of justice as grounded in rights. Nicholas Wolterstorff discusses what it is to have a right, and he locates rights in the respect due the worth of the rights-holder. After contending that socially-conferred rights require the existence of natural rights, he argues that no secular account of natural human rights is successful; he offers instead a theistic account. Wolterstorff prefaces his systematic account of justice as grounded in rights with an exploration of the common claim that rights-talk is inherently individualistic and possessive. He demonstrates that the idea of natural rights originated neither in the Enlightenment nor in the individualistic philosophy of the late Middle Ages, but was already employed by the canon lawyers of the twelfth century. He traces our intuitions about rights and justice back even further, to Hebrew and Christian scriptures. After extensively discussing justice in the Old Testament and the New, he goes on to show why ancient Greek and Roman philosophy could not serve as a framework for a theory of rights. Connecting rights and wrongs to God's relationship with humankind, Justice not only offers a rich and compelling philosophical account of justice, but also makes an important contribution to overcoming the present-day divide between religious discourse and human rights.

Preface vii

Introduction 1

PART I The Archeology of Rights 19

CHAPTER ONE: Two Conceptions of Justice 21

CHAPTER TWO: A Contest of Narratives 44

CHAPTER THREE: Justice in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible 65

CHAPTER FOUR: On De-justicizing the New Testament 96

CHAPTER FIVE: Justice in the New Testament Gospels 109

PART II Fusion of Narrative with Theory: The Goods to Which We Have Rights 133

CHAPTER SIX: Locating That to Which We Have Rights 135

CHAPTER SEVEN: Why Eudaimonism Cannot Serve as Framework for a Theory of Rights 149

CHAPTER EIGHT: Augustine's Break with Eudaimonism 180

CHAPTER NINE: The Incursion of the Moral Vision of Scripture into Late Antiquity 207

CHAPTER TEN: Characterizing Life- and History-Goods 227

PART III Theory: Having a Right to a Good 239

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Accounting for Rights 241

CHAPTER TWELVE: Rights Not Grounded in Duties 264

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Rights Grounded in Respect for Worth 285

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Nature and Grounding of Natural Human Rights 311

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Is a Secular Grounding of Human Rights Possible? 323

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: A Theistic Grounding of Human Rights 342

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Applications and Implications 362

EPILOGUE: Concluding Reflections 385

General Index 395

Index of Scriptural References 399

his book is a formidable achievement, intellectually rigorous yet emotionally engaged, and combining meticulous conceptual analysis with a rich historical grasp of the roots of our moral culture. Its arguments offer a serious challenge to the complacency of contemporary secularism, implying as they do that our culture of rights could only have come into existence supported by a metaphysical framework that exhibits each human being, whatever their flaws and defects, as loved redemptively by God. -- John Cottingham, Times Literary Supplement Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice: Rights and Wrongs is a magisterial book. In it . . . Wolterstorff has gotten justice right. This, in case the thrust of my terse comment wasn't plain enough, is a very high praise. -- Miroslav Volf, Books and Culture For all of us who aspire to, or even just admire, the perhaps not so outrageous vocation of Christian scholarship, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice is an inspiration. -- Richard W. Garnett, First Things Wolterstorff draws on a wide range of philosophical/theological/ethical material. He does a magnificent job of developing a sustained argument for the thesis that the only solid foundation for grounding human rights is biblical theism. -- F. G. Kirkpatrick, Choice In Justice: Rights and Wrongs, Nicholas Wolterstorff reaches far back into biblical tradition and Greek philosophy to trace a distinctive vision of justice based on the worth that God confers on each person. For Wolterstorff, respect for human worth entails respect for human rights; this marks an important turn away from the tendency in recent theology to dismiss talk about rights as an Enlightenment innovation that is alien to Christian ethics. -- Robin Lovin, Christian Century Justice is a seminal contribution to Christian ethics and useful riposte to those modern Gibbons to sneer at the idea that Christians have anything useful to say about the things that matter. -- Nick Spencer, Third Way Magazine Justice: Rights and Wrongs is magisterial in scope, incisive and inventive in its argument. Wolterstorff stakes out a novel position in contemporary debates with an undeniable analytical rigor. . . . Wolterstorff's philosophical arguments . . . stand on their own two feet and genuinely break new ground in the field. Indeed, this text merits and should attract a very wide readership. -- Stephen Lake, Philosophy in Review Wolterstorff has made . . . a tremendous contribution . . . to our philosophical acuity and theological discernment on these matters. . . . ender him his due for an erudite and sophisticated account of why rights are not wrong. -- John D. Carlson, Journal of Politics and Religion
Nicholas Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many books include