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Title: Challenging the orthodox view of human rights
Author: Hussey, Stephen Henry
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 4160
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The concept of human rights holds a distinctive significance in political practice, yet philosophers remain divided over the nature of these rights. The Orthodox View defines human rights as moral rights possessed by all individuals simply in virtue of their humanity. Proponents of this view claim that the contemporary idea of human rights is a continuation of the natural rights project of the eighteenth century and shares many of its basic philosophical assumptions. This thesis argues that the Orthodox View is no longer an appropriate characterisation of the concept of human rights we find in current domestic and international practice. It also rejects recent alternatives offered by supporters of the Political View, who define human rights by particular functions they serve, specifically their role(s) in acting as benchmarks for the legitimacy of states or triggers of international concern. I propose instead a new 'Political Justification View' of human rights, which states that human rights are demands which challenge unjustifiable political-institutional orders, which are the concern of all people, and which protect the equal standing of individuals in political decisions that affect the collective or individual good. This view better captures the diversity of practices that employ the term 'human rights', whilst also explaining its innovative power as a moral language that enables individuals to challenge the official institutional order under whose authority they live. Finally, I argue that within this broader view of human rights there are two distinct moral concepts which pertain to different parts of human rights practice: Domestic Human Rights and International Legitimacy Rights. Separating these two concepts is helpful in resolving long-standing debates about whether human rights are properly thought of as minimalist moral concerns of legitimacy or broader social goals to be achieved through political institutions.
Supervisor: Stears, Marc ; Tomalty, Jesse Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; Department of Politics and International Relations
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human rights--Philosophy ; Human rights--Political aspects ; Decision making--Political aspects ; Political science--Philosophy