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On Human Rights

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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 investigatio 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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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 investigatio 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.

30 review for On Human Rights

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    A scholastic, hence useless text from yet another academic paper pusher. Griffin has many words and tries to evade the issue at hand at every page. X. But what can limit X? The usual academic of talking about what something is not arriving at a magical point where most of the text is about something else. And liberty? That is what the king and state to decide. Of course, the regular marxist dogma regurgitated. Of course the rich should pay for the poor. And everything should be broken into even A scholastic, hence useless text from yet another academic paper pusher. Griffin has many words and tries to evade the issue at hand at every page. X. But what can limit X? The usual academic of talking about what something is not arriving at a magical point where most of the text is about something else. And liberty? That is what the king and state to decide. Of course, the regular marxist dogma regurgitated. Of course the rich should pay for the poor. And everything should be broken into even enough pieces. A messy christian text, so messy Griffin won't even admit it as christian apologetics.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bay Long

    A painful read. Griffin is always much less charitable to others' views than to his own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Raelene

    Vaguely remember this being hard to read, but to be fair it was my last semester, senior year, study abroad in Dublin so that might explain a lot.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    [from TLS 23 April 2010, in review of Amartya Sen's Idea of Justice]

  5. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Koch

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kane

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sapere Aude 77

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Harrington

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Mangan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura Meli

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fatima Babih

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Day

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rob Wilson

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Davis

  16. 5 out of 5

    Johannes

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Deegan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary Moloney

  19. 4 out of 5

    Frankie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rani Subassandran

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lee Griffiths

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Wall

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Arbor

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jonah

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rose

  26. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Chung

  27. 4 out of 5

    Logan Chestnut

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marc Adam

  29. 4 out of 5

    K

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Eastwood

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