Article

Human Rights

John-Stewart Gordon

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0239
Human Rights

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There is an enormous range of contemporary and rapidly expanding literature on human rights that pervades almost every area of human life. This entry cannot do justice to all of these areas and would inevitably fail to cover all aspects of the philosophy of human rights. Here, the goal is more modest: offering a primary overview of the thorny literature and many vital human rights issues that can become increasingly complex and muddled. The concept of human rights, however, came to particular prominence in the 20th century after World War II, due to the atrocities (e.g., genocide against the Jews) committed by the Nazis. Since then, the idea of human rights has become profoundly influential in many different fields such as ethics, applied ethics, political philosophy, political sciences, law, international law, medicine, and public health. This has led to the formation of a new area in philosophy called “the philosophy of human rights.” The very idea of human rights, however, is older and can be traced back to early religious ideas and the notion of natural rights in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Generally speaking, human rights are primarily universal moral norms that bind all people in all places at all times independently of any legal recognition. Whether there is a widespread agreement that all human beings have human rights simply because they are human beings is a matter of debate. However, there is currently no common ground with regard to the moral and legal justification or the ontological and epistemological status of human rights. Human rights are primarily universal moral rights and, secondly, international legal rights observed and enforced by nation-states. Despite major caveats concerning the theoretical foundations of human rights, most scholars nonetheless hold the view that there is a vital consensus on the practical importance of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) (cited under Modern Documents), is the most important human rights document and contains at least seven groups of basic rights: security rights, due process rights, liberty rights, political rights, equality rights, social welfare rights, and group rights.

Article.  15046 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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