THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN RIGHTS: THE CONTEMPORARY DEBATE

Academic Year 2021/2022 - 2° Year

Course Structure

The course presupposes active participation. Students are required to select at least one text from the reading list and present it to their colleagues. Classes will be run as seminars: it is expected that students read the material before class and participate in the discussion of the material presented. In addition to in-class presentations, students are required to write a 10-15 page final paper on a topic relevant to the course, and to take a final oral exam.


Required Prerequisites

Good knowledge of the English language


Attendance of Lessons

Mandatory (students can skip max 25% of class)


Detailed Course Content

Although discussions about international issues often make reference to the notion of Human Rights – the war in Syria and the ensuing migration of refugees, the killing of demonstrators in Myanmar, the shortage of anti-covid vaccines for poor countries are obvious examples – the philosophical foundations of these rights, their claim to cross-cultural universality, their ability to be a sort of secularized religion of mankind are controversial. This class aims to introduce students to the philosophical debate on the foundational issue and to stimulate independent yet informed thinking.


Textbook Information

1) Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M., “The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. An Overview”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.1-23.

2) Raz, Joseph, “Human Rights Without Foundations”, The Philosophy of International Law (henceforth PIL), OUP, 2010: 321-337.

3) Buchanan, A. "Why International Legal Human Rights? “The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. An Overview”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.244-262.

4) Waldron, J., "Is Dignity the Foundation of Human Rights?" in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.117-137.

5) Simmons, J. "Human Rights, Natural Rights, Human Dignity" in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.138-152.

6) Cristiano, Thomas “Self-Determination and the Human Right to Democracy” in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.459-480.

7) Peter, Fabienne, “A Human Rights to Democracy?”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.481-491.

8) Buchanan, Allen, “The Egalitarianism of Human Rights”, Ethics, Vol. 120, No. 4 (July 2010), pp. 679-710.

9) Li, Xiarong “Asian Values and the Universality of Human Rights” PHR, p.397-408

10) An-Nai’im, Abdullahi A., “Human Rights in the Muslim World”, PHR, p.315-334

11) Held, Virginia Care and Human Rights? in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.624-641

12) Mendus, Susan Care and Human Rights. A Reply to Virginia Held, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.642-652

13) “The Responsibility to Protect”, available on line (http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf). In particular p. 1-28.

14) “The Responsibility to Protect”, available on line (http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf). In particular p. 29-55.



Course Planning

 SubjectsReferences to Textbooks
1each paper listed as mandatory reading in the syllabus 
2IntroductionCruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M., “The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. An Overview”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.1-23 
3Human Rights without foundations?Raz, Joseph, “Human Rights Without Foundations”, (Besson, S. Tasioulas J. eds) The Philosophy of International Law (henceforth PIL), OUP, 2010: 321-337 
4International human Rights Vs Human RightsBuchanan, A. "Why International Legal Human Rights? “The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. An Overview”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.244-262 
5Human Dignity and Human RightsWaldron, J., "Is Dignity the Foundation of Human Rights?" in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.117-137. 
6Natural Rights and Human RightsSimmons, J. "Human Rights, Natural Rights, Human Dignity" in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.138-152. 
7Democracy, Equality and Human Rights: Critiques and InterpretationsCristiano, Thomas “Self-Determination and the Human Right to Democracy” in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.459-480. 
8Democracy, Equality and Human Rights: Critiques and InterpretationsPeter, Fabienne, “A Human Rights to Democracy?”, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.481-491. 
9Democracy, Equality and Human Rights: Critiques and InterpretationsBuchanan, Allen, “The Egalitarianism of Human Rights”, Ethics, Vol. 120, No. 4 (July 2010), pp. 679-710. 
10Universalism, Pluralism, Multiculturalism: the Asian and the Islamic ChallengesLi, Xiarong “Asian Values and the Universality of Human Rights” In: P. Hayden (ed.) The Philosophy of Human Rights (Henceforth PHR), Paragon House 2001: p.397-408 
11Universalism, Pluralism, Multiculturalism: the Asian and the Islamic ChallengesAn-Nai’im, Abdullahi A., “Human Rights in the Muslim World”, PHR, p.315-334 
12The Feminist Critique: Are Human Rights Patriarchal? Held, Virginia Care and Human Rights? in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.624-641 
13The Feminist Critique: Are Human Rights Patriarchal? Mendus, Susan Care and Human Rights. A Reply to Virginia Held, in Cruft R., Liao S. M., and Renzo M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: 2015, p.642-652 
14Right to Intervention and Responsibility to ProtectThe Responsibility to Protect”, available on line (http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/ICISS%20Report.pdf). In particular p. 1-55 
15Right to Intervention and Responsibility to ProtectBellamy, Alex “Responsibility to Protect or Trojan Horse? The Crisis in Darfur and Humanitarian Intervention after Iraq” (Ethics & International Affairs, 19(2), 31-54. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00499.x) 
16Right to Intervention and Responsibility to ProtectPetra Perisic, “Implications of the Conflicts in Libya and Syria for the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine” 67(5) Zbornik PFZ 783 (2017) 

LEARNING ASSESSMENT

Learning Assessment methods

Assessment will take place by looking at four aspects of students’ performance: 1) Participation in class, 2) Presentation, 3) Final paper, 4) Final exam

Grade Weights:

Participation in class: 25%

Presentation: 25%

Final paper: 25%

Final exam: 25%


Examples of frequently Questions and / or Exercises

1) what is Christiano's argument for the existenc eof a human right to democracy?

2) how would you differentiate the instrumentalist, orthodox, political approach to the foundation of human rights

3) how is the questino of the foundation different from that of the nature of human rights?

4) Are yo convinced by Woldron's account of dignity as an organizing concept for human rights?

5) what is teh egalitarianism of human rigts on which Allen Buchanan insists?

6) Should human rights be protected through the use of force, at leats in some cases? what is your assessment of the R2P doctrine?