The noun-concept right should be carefully distinguished from the adjective "right," which is the antonym of "wrong" and a synonym for "good" in the sense of "moral." The noun "right" belongs to the domain of political theory, while the adjective pertains directly to ethics. Although the two meanings are related, they differ in two important ways:
- The adjective "right" pertains to what is moral for the individual to whom the adjective pertains; the noun "right," in contrast, denotes a moral principle governing the behavior of others in society (including governments) with respect to the possessor of the right. For instance, when we state that "X has a right [noun] to preach communism," we mean that others ought not to interfere forcibly if X chooses to advocate such views. On the other hand, if we were to claim that "X is right [adjective] to preach communism," we would grant moral sanction to X's irrational behavior. To confuse these two meanings is to fall prey to Form 2 of the Fallacy of Political Reductionism (pp. 3.12:26-7).
- The adjective "right" denotes a positive moral sanction, whereas the noun implies a negative moral sanction on certain actions of others. For example, by stating that "X is right [adjective]" to take a certain action, we uphold the morality of that action. By declaring that "X has a right [noun]" to take the action, we acknowledge that any coercive interference by other individuals or governments would violate an ethical principle.