Humanist and Political Perspectives on Human Rights

Political Theory 39 (4):439-467 (2011)
Abstract
This essay explores the relation between two perspectives on the nature of human rights. According to the "political" or "practical" perspective, human rights are claims that individuals have against certain institutional structures, in particular modern states, in virtue of interests they have in contexts that include them. According to the more traditional "humanist" or "naturalistic" perspective, human rights are pre-institutional claims that individuals have against all other individuals in virtue of interests characteristic of their common humanity. This essay argues that once we identify the two perspectives in their best light, we can see that they are complementary and that in fact we need both to make good normative sense of the contemporary practice of human rights. It explains how humanist and political considerations can and should work in tandem to account for the concept, content, and justification of human rights
Keywords human rights  humanism  political conception of human rights  global justice
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