Over recent decades human rights have moved center stage within the theory and practice of international law and politics. This development has drawn the attention of philosophers, lawyers, political scientists, anthropologists, activists, politicians and diplomats, and others eager to understand or shape international law and politics. Whether as cause or effect (perhaps a bit of both) of this attention, there can be little doubt any longer that, as a feature of international law and politics, human rights are here to stay. So, too, then are the many questions, theoretical and practical, they raise.
As a theoretical matter, the most general questions to be raised about human rights concern their nature, function, justification and content. There is considerable overlap in and interaction between these questions, of course. How one thinks about the nature or function of human rights will shape how one thinks about their justification and content, for example. But it is nevertheless illuminating to consider the questions separately, at least initially.