Book Chapter

Human Rights as Individualistically Justified: A Defence



Cruft R (2015) Human Rights as Individualistically Justified: A Defence. In: Brooks T (ed.) Current Controversies in Political Philosophy. Current Controversies in Philosophy. London: Routledge, pp. 45-62.

In this chapter, I assume that human rights animate and underlie human rights practice, rather than being defined or created by it. If this is correct, then what exactly are human rights so conceived? Some take them to be moral rights protecting particular substantive values distinctive of our humanity, such as agency or human needs or basic human interests. Others take them to be moral rights with a distinctive political function, such as rights whose violation legitimates external intervention within a sovereign state. In this essay, I develop an alternative suggestion: human rights are distinctive because they are individualistically justified. That is, a given human being's human rights are - unlike her other moral rights - grounded primarily by what they do for her independently of whether they serve others. I propose this as at least a necessary condition for something's being a human right in the relevant pre-conventional sense, and I defend the view against criticisms. I see my account as an improvement on and replacement for claims that some particular value (e.g. agency) is ‘the' substantive human value that human rights protect.

human rights; individualism

Title of seriesCurrent Controversies in Philosophy
Publication date31/07/2015
Publisher URL…ok/9780415517539
Place of publicationLondon

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Professor Rowan Cruft

Professor Rowan Cruft

Professor, Philosophy