Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 November 2022
This introductory chapter identifies the key questions, themes and debates addressed within the Handbook on Natural Law and Human Rights, and provides a conceptual overview of and integrated perspective on its contents. In particular, it argues that there is a perennial relationship between human rights and the phenomenon of natural law, which is revealed when we consider how human rights claims can justify the moral demands made on other agents and on the political community. Without prior moral duties – a natural law – human rights claims are impugned by the ‘individualist fallacy’, whereby the potential value of the right to the claimant is presumed sufficient to impose overriding duties, without due consideration being paid to the constitutive social commitments necessary to make that value a matter of common concern and action. The failure to come to grips with this problem, we argue, has led to certain blindspots in contemporary human rights theory and practice. This chapter draws to a close by identifying the key benefits we see accruing from a natural law theory of human rights.