On Human Rights

On Human Rights

3.65 (48 ratings by Goodreads)
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What is a human right? How can we tell whether a proposed human right really is one? How do we establish the content of particular human rights, and how do we resolve conflicts between them? These are pressing questions for philosophers, political theorists, jurisprudents, international lawyers, and activists. James Griffin offers answers in his compelling new investigation of human rights.

The term 'natural right', in its modern sense of an entitlement that a person has, first appeared in the late Middle Ages. When during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the theological content of the idea was abandoned in stages, nothing was put in its place. The secularized notion that we were left with at the end of the Enlightenment is still our notion today: a right that we have simply in virtue of being human. During the twentieth century international law has contributed
to settling the question which rights are human rights, but its contribution has its limits.

The notion of a human right that we have inherited suffers from no small indeterminateness of sense. The term has been left with so few criteria for determining when it is used correctly that we often have a plainly inadequate grasp on what is at issue. Griffin takes on the task of showing the way towards a determinate concept of human rights, based on their relation to the human status that we all share. He works from certain paradigm cases, such as freedom of expression and freedom of
worship, to more disputed cases such as welfare right - for instance the idea of a human right to health. His goal is a substantive account of human rights - an account with enough content to tell us whether proposed rights really are rights. Griffin emphasizes the practical as well as theoretical urgency
of this goal: as the United Nations recognized in 1948 with its Universal Declaration, the idea of human rights has considerable power to improve the lot of humanity around the world.

It is our job now - the job of this book - to influence and develop the unsettled discourse of human rights so as to complete the incomplete idea.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 354 pages
  • 163 x 241 x 25mm | 688g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0199238782
  • 9780199238781
  • 1,464,966

Table of contents

Introduction ; PART I: AN ACCOUNT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ; I. Human Rights: The Incomplete Idea ; II. First Steps in An Account of Human Rights ; III. When Human Rights Conflict ; IV. Whose Rights? ; V. My Rights: But Whose Duties? ; VI. The Metaphysics of Human Rights ; VII. The Relativity and Ethnocentricity of Human Rights ; PART II: HIGHEST LEVEL HUMAN RIGHTS ; VIII. Autonomy ; IX. Liberty ; X. Welfare ; PART III: APPLICATIONS ; XI. Discrepanices Between the Best Philosophical Account of Human Rights and the International Law of Human Rights ; XII. A Right to Life, A Right to Death ; XIII. Privacy ; XIV. Do Human Rights Require Democracy? ; XV. Group Rights
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Review quote

Arguably the most significant philosophical meditation on human rights... [since] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights... Not only the most powerful, fully elaborated contemporary philosophical contribution to the topic, but also one that has put in place many of the foundations on which any future work should build. * John Tasioulas, Ethics * This book is a masterpiece... it will be studied for a long time to come * Brad Hooker, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies * James Griffin's new book is a singular contribution to the philosophy of human rights. In it he defends his own well-thought-out account with great subtlety and ingenuity, but the exposition of his account and the discussion of the important issues are so nicely structured and so clear and well-informed that the book could clearly be used as a text in an undergraduate course... At the same time, Griffin's exposition of his view is so subtle and nuanced and the
arguments so careful and cogent that the book is an essential work for specialists in the field... his book shows that philosophers have an important contribution to make to the conceptual and moral issues that are at the heart of much ongoing discourse on the nature and content of human rights. * William J. Talbott, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews * James Griffin...modestly sees his book as an early contribution to a theoretical critique of modern interpretations of rights, but it is more significant than that. Academic, intellectually demanding, clearly written and rigorously thought through...This is not a polemic but an important work of scholarly philosophy, one that may lead to a fundamental reappraisal of something that impinges ever more closely upon us. It is also one of those books that makes philosophy
matter. * Alan Judd, The Spectator * This is one of the most thought-provoking works to be published on the subject in a long time. * The Commonwealth Lawyer * an impressive effort, which especially focuses on human rights as a moral concept ... [a] thought-provoking work * Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights *
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About James Griffin

James Griffin is White's Professor of Moral Philosophy Emeritus at the University of Oxford; Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University; and Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Canberra.
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Rating details

48 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 23% (11)
4 38% (18)
3 23% (11)
2 15% (7)
1 2% (1)
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