Conceptualizing Human Rights Remarks on the ‘Genus’ and Distinguishing Features of Human Rights
Keywords:theory of rights, Hohfeld, jural relations, claim-rights, moral rights, concept of human rights, universality, political conceptions of human rights, naturalist conceptions of human rights
The paper examines the conceptual issues of human rights using the framework of the genus proximum – differentia specifica definitional technique. My aim is not to come up with a definition for human rights, but rather to identify their genus that can, as a starting point, serve the purposes of constructing a more elaborate theory. As an unsurprising, but not at all obvious suggestion, it is argued that the closest conceptual category to human rights is the category of rights, understood in a wide but still Hohfeldian sense of the word. Subsequently, the paper examines five potential ‘distinguishing features’ that can, either separately or in combination with each other, set apart human rights from other rights.
Aristotle, Topics. Books I and VIII with excerpts from related texts. Trans. Smith, R. (1997) Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Beitz, C. (2009) The idea of human rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cruft, R. (2004) ‘Rights: beyond interest theory and will theory?’, Law and Philosophy, 23 (4), pp. 347-397.
Cruft, R. (2006) ‘Why aren’t duties rights?’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 56 (223), pp. 175-192.
Cruft, R. (2012) ‘Human rights as rights’, in Ernst, G. and Heilinger, J. (eds.) The Philosophy of Human Rights. Contemporary Controversies. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 129-158.
Cruft, R., Liao M.S. and Renzo, M. (2015) ‘The philosophical foundations of human rights. An overview’, in Cruft, R., Liao M.S. and Renzo, M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-41.
Eleftheriadis, P. (2008) Legal rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Frydrych, D. (2018) ‘The theories of rights debate’, Jurisprudence, 9 (3), pp. 566-588.
Gewirth, A. (1984) ‘The epistemology of human rights’, Social Philosophy and Policy, 1 (2), pp. 1-24.
Griffin, J. (2008) On human rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hart, H.L.A. (1982) ‘Legal rights’, in Hart, H.L.A. Essays on Bentham. Studies in Jurisprudence and Political Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 162-193.
Hohfeld, W.N. (1913) ‘Some fundamental legal conceptions as applied in judicial reasoning’, Yale Law Journal, 23 (1), pp. 16-59.
Hurley, P. J. (2006) A concise introduction to logic. 9th edition, Thomson Wadsworth.
Ignatieff, M. (2001) ‘Human rights as idolatry’, in Gutmann, A. (ed.) Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 53-98.
Kahn, E. (2021) ‘Beyond claim-rights: social structure, collectivization, and human rights’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 52 (2), pp. 162-184.
Kramer, M. H. (1998) ‘Rights without trimmings’, in Kramer, M. H., Simmonds, N. E. and Steiner, H. A Debate Over Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 7-111.
Kramer, M. H. and Steiner, H. (2007) ‘Theories of rights: is there a third way?’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 27 (2), pp. 281–310.
Maliks, R. and Karlsson Schaffer, J. (2017) ‘Expanding the debate on moral and political approaches to the philosophy of human rights’, in Maliks, R. and Karlsson Schaffer, J. (eds.) Moral and Political Conceptions of Human Rights. Implications for Theory and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-12.
Miller, D. (2012) ‘Grounding human rights’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 15 (4), pp. 407-427.
Preda, A. (2015) ‘Rights: concept and justification’, Ratio Juris, 28 (3), pp. 408-415.
Ratnapala, S. (2009) Jurisprudence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rawls, J. (1999) The law of peoples with ‘The idea of public reason revisited’. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Raz, J. (2010) ‘Human rights without foundations’, in Besson, S. and Tasioulas, J. (eds.) The Philosophy of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 321-337.
Rosdorff, L.W. (1974) The framework of legal evolution. Boston: Springer US.
Tadros, V. (2015) ‘Rights and security for human rights sceptics’, in Cruft, R., Liao M.S. and Renzo, M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 442-458.
Tasioulas, J. (2012) ‘On the nature of human rights’, in Ernst, G. and Heilinger, J. (eds.) The Philosophy of Human Rights. Contemporary Controversies. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 17-59.
Tasioulas, J. (2015) ‘On the foundations of human rights’, in Cruft, R., Liao M.S. and Renzo, M. (eds.) Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 45-70.
Thomson, J. J. (1990) The realm of rights. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Wellman, C. (2011) The moral dimensions of human rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wenar, L. (2005) ‘The nature of rights’, Philosophy &Public Affairs, 33 (3), pp. 223-252.
Wiles, E. (2006) ‘Aspirational principles or enforceable rights? The future for socio-economic rights in national law’, American University International Law Review, 22 (1), pp. 35-64.
Zanghellini, A. (2017) ‘Raz on rights: human rights, fundamental rights, and balancing’, Ratio Juris, 30 (1), pp. 25-40.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Antal Szerletics
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.