Any theory must, as a bare starting point, identify its units, whether entity, action, or attribute. It must identify their essential nature. And it must comprehensively identify their range, the fundamental types of units in its domain. It thereby sets the stage for extension and application, by others, to the full set of units specified by the theory.
Rand's attempt: "A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)"
According to Rand, the genus of "right" is "moral principle." According to her this makes a "right" an attribute of man, specifically, a kind of principle, which is an attribute of man's mind, one that we put there. So what she is saying here is that rights exist -- only in our heads. This is off to a bad start for Rand's theory. Further, what do principles do? They identify fundamental truths about something else. What is the something else? That would seem to be the important place to find the true genus. But Rand doesn't bother looking there.
Further, where does she ever identify the range? The best she does is say that right to life is the fundamental right and others flow from it. What others? Where is the solid theoretical foundation to build on? Nowhere. She does mention a grab-bag of rights in various places, but nowhere does she identify the range and scope.
Rand has no theory. Which is part of why I wrote "For Individual Rights": http://www.amazon.co...78694389&sr=8-1 .
Edit: I created unnecessary confusion in this thread by not emphasizing the difference between a formal theory and as an informal theory. I hold that that informal theories are a dime a dozen, Rand had no formal theory she had an informal theory, and that her informal theory is rich with important and deep insights. We can appreciate these insights in spite of her lack of systematic approach, but we must also recognize the value of a systematic approach.
Edited by sjw, 29 September 2010 - 12:35 PM.