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7 - International Human Rights Law: Concepts and Grounds of Human Rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2020

David Lefkowitz
Affiliation:
University of Richmond
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Summary

This chapter investigates the conceptual question “what is a human right?” and the normative question “in virtue of what considerations does A enjoy a human right to X?” by examining the recent debate between two schools of legal and political philosophers. Orthodox theorists argue that human rights are a moral right possessed by all human being simply in virtue of their humanity. In contrast, political-practice theorists argue that human rights are constitutive elements of an ongoing attempt to reconceive state sovereignty and the international political order to which it is integral. This political undertaking, which includes the creation, application, and enforcement of international human rights law, provides the proper object of a philosophy of human rights. The bulk of this chapter is devoted to a critical examination of attempts by political-practice theorists to demonstrate the limited relevance of orthodox accounts of human rights to morally justifying international human rights practice (again, including international human rights law). It concludes with a brief consideration of the role that appeals to objective moral principles should play within that practice.

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Chapter
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Philosophy and International Law
A Critical Introduction
, pp. 129 - 156
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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