DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2014
WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:30 p.m.
Alistair Macleod (Queens’ University)
Title: “Justifying Human Rights: Meeting Legitimate Challenges”
An important clue to some of the major strands there have to be in persuasive arguments for the existence, content, and scope of human rights can be gleaned from three major challenges to the claim that there really is a human right, in given circumstances, to some particular X .
The first challenge takes the form of questioning the assumption that the X to which there is alleged to be a human right is the sort of thing to which the putative right-holder could be thought to have a right. Even if the X in question can be shown to be something of value – something that has the sort of value that would make it desirable for it to be realized – it may be a mistake to suppose that it’s the kind of value to the realization of which anyone has a right. The second challenge rests on the claim that, while the X in question may well be something that the putative right-holder has a personal responsibility to set about realizing by her own efforts, it’s a mistake to suppose that she has a right to its realization, a right that calls for others to secure it on her behalf. According to a third challenge, it is noted that, under the doctrine of the correlativity of rights and duties, a human right to X cannot be ascribed to a putative right-holder unless, simultaneously, an indefinitely large number of persons and agencies other than the putative right-holder have a duty to secure X on her behalf, and it is then argued that no such duty can be shown to be justified.
In reviewing these challenges, I shall argue that they can be met successfully only if recognition is given to three of the requirements that must be fulfilled if the existence of a human right to X is to be established.
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