Beyond Sectarianism? On David Miller’s Theory of Human Rights

Res Publica 19 (3):275-283 (2013)

Kieran Oberman
University of Edinburgh
In his most recent book, National Responsibility and Global Justice, David Miller presents an account of human rights grounded on the idea of basic human needs. Miller argues that his account can overcome what he regards as a central problem for human rights theory: the need to provide a ‘non-sectarian’ justification for human rights, one that does not rely on reasons that people from non-liberal societies should find objectionable. The list of human rights that Miller’s account generates is, however, minimal when compared to those found in human rights documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This article argues that contrary to what Miller claims, his account is ‘sectarian’, since it relies on reasons that some non-liberals should find objectionable given their divergent values. It goes on to question whether ‘sectarianism’, as Miller defines it, is, in any case, a problem for human rights theory. The article concludes that Miller provides us with no reason to abandon commitment to a more extensive list of human rights
Keywords David Miller  Human rights  Sectarianism  Liberalism
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-012-9211-5
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References found in this work BETA

The Law of Peoples.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
The Law of Peoples.John Rawls - 2001 - Philosophical Quarterly 51 (203):246-253.
National Responsibility and Global Justice.David Miller - 2008 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 11 (4):383-399.
On Human Rights.James Griffin - 2008 - Oxford University Press.

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