The mythology of human rights

Ratio Juris 21 (3):312-347 (2008)
Abstract. A special legal status is accorded to human rights within Western liberal democracies: They enjoy a priority over other human goods and are not subjected to the majoritarian principle. The underlying assumption—the idea that there are some human values that deserve special protection—implies the need for both a normative and a conceptual justification. This paper claims that neither can be provided. The normative justification is needed to support the priority of human rights over other human goods and to rank and balance conflicting human rights, but it can't be provided because of the fact of pervasive value pluralism, the fact that human values are many, incompatible and incommensurable. The conceptual justification is needed to avoid arbitrariness in the interpretation of human rights at the adjudication stage. Such a justification is impossible, however, as the concept of human rights, and the concepts used to justify them and to solve their conflicts are "essentially contested concepts." The paper concludes that, provided that the interpretation of human rights presupposes value judgements and political choices, the special legal status accorded to human rights is not justified.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9337.2008.00393.x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,422
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Ronald M. Dworkin (1988). Law's Empire. Harvard University Press.
Ronald Dworkin (1981). What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources. Philosophy and Public Affairs 10 (4):283 - 345.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

52 ( #93,819 of 1,924,895 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #308,473 of 1,924,895 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.