Seneca on human rights in De beneficiis 3

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The paper discusses Seneca’s phrase ‘human rights’ (ius humanum) in On Benefits 3 and relates the passage to recent debates about human rights in Stoicism and ancient philosophy. I argue that the Latin phrase refers either to rights or to a law conferring rights. The difference between the passage and a common expectation for human rights lies in the kind of relation between right and duty. In Seneca’s passage the right does not in itself have a correlative duty on the part of other people, and yet it does, if exercised through benefactions, create a duty in others. By contrast, the relation between right and duty is usually expected to be unconditional.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Early online date21 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Seneca
  • Human rights
  • Society
  • Benefits


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