On Human Rights

On Human Rights

3.58 (31 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

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 the foundations of human rights.

First, On Human Rights traces the idea of a natural right from its origin in the late Middle Ages, when the rights were seen as deriving from natural laws, through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the original theological background was progressively dropped and 'natural law' emptied of most of its original meaning. By the end of the Enlightenment, the term 'human rights' (droits de l'homme) appeared, marking the purge of the theological background. But the
Enlightenment, in putting nothing in its place, left us with an unsatisfactory, incomplete idea of a human right.

Griffin shows how the language of human rights has become debased. There are scarcely any accepted criteria, either in the academic or the public sphere, for correct use of the term. He 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 rights - 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.

We can't do without the idea of human rights, and we need to get clear about it. 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

  • Paperback | 360 pages
  • 157 x 232 x 27mm | 490g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0199573107
  • 9780199573103
  • 117,445

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Table of contents

PART I: AN ACCOUNT OF HUMAN RIGHTS; PART II: HIGHEST LEVEL HUMAN RIGHTS; PART III: APPLICATIONS
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Review quote

an impressive effort, which especially focuses on human rights as a moral concept ... [a] thought-provoking work * Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights * This book is a masterpiece... it will be studied for a long time to come * Brad Hooker, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies * 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 *
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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

31 ratings
3.58 out of 5 stars
5 29% (9)
4 26% (8)
3 23% (7)
2 19% (6)
1 3% (1)
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