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The philosophy of human rights

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Rights
Wordcount: 3567 words Published: 8th May 2017

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You may undertake EITHER a philosophical defence of human rights (paying particular attention to the fundamental critiques addressed to human rights) OR a philosophical critique of human rights (paying particular attention to the strongest arguments in their favour and to a possible alternative to them).

“Defence of human rights philosophically”

“Natural right is not the just resolution of a dispute offered by a harmonious cosmos or God's commands. It derives exclusively from the nature of “each man”. (Douzinas: 2000, p70)


The philosophy of human rights in turn is based on cultural philosophy and historical philosophy. Whereas human rights cannot be illustrated on the ground of other factors such as reality of violence in historically, culturally, politically or sociologically. Occasionally ethics, literacy, economics, psychology, philosophy and politics are some of the spots who can help describing the human rights better and made it easier to understand “respect of human rights” as a general set of work and discussion. Rights that are connected to human beings and performed as ethical pledge to hold up our argument towards the fulfillment of a simply fine living are called Human Rights. In broad term, human rights on their own are imitative of the perception of a right. We have customaries that human rights initiate as moral rights but that the flourishing channel of numerous human rights into international and national law permits one to consider human rights as, in many situations, both moral rights and legal rights. In addition, human rights may be either claim rights or liberty rights, and have a negative or a positive complexion in respect of the obligations imposed by others in securing the right. (Andrew, 2005, online)

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Aristotle stated that “justice” is a complete virtue, although not without qualification, but in relation to other individual. And for that reason justice is often consider to be the greatest of virtues. According to him “justice” is an actual exercise of virtue, as person do not think about himself but he care about other either a king or colleague. He said that justice is not a part of virtue but virtue entire. He said that just is a species of proportionate is the equality of ratios and proportional sharing. Whereas geometrical equality refers to an adequate measure of proportion. Justice is a kind of mean but, not in the similar way as other virtues and it linked to intermediary quantity. It is a virtue in which a just man is known as a achiever, by option of that which is just, and one who will share out either among himself or another or between two others not so as to give more of what is advantageous to himself and less to other human being, but so as to give what, is equal in agreement with proportion; and resemblance in allocating out between two other persons. (The Nicomachean ethics, Ch.V, 1925)

I agree with Kant views about that our objectives are proscribed by rationale, and he verifies it by a statement, "There is no possibility of thinking of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be regarded as good without qualification, except a good will."( Barbara Herman, p. 208, 1993)

The human nature understood by liberal philosophy is pre-moral. According to Immanuel Kant , the transcendental self, the prerequisite of deed and basis of meaning and value, is a mortal of complete ethical duty and lacks any earthly characteristics. The supposition of the independent and self-disciplining theme is shared by moral philosophy and jurisprudence but has been turned into neo Kantianism. Kant was predictable that Natural right become a matter of introspection and disclosure rather than of rational deliberation and dialectal argument and let to a conceptual morality of percepts. Kant viewed Morality as it is no longer stranded in pre existing idea of the good nor does it obtained from an external source. Kant assumed that classical philosophy made a fault of arranging first good and evil and then arranging the moral law consequently. Dealing to rational law, human rights mean to admit and defend the central and absolute characteristics of human nature. (Douzinas, 2000)

Kant's thought of freedom turns apparent when seen in the perspective of the problem that it was believed to solve. Rational beings survive not only as self conscious axis of knowledge, but also agents. Kant argues “is the sole principle of all moral laws, and all of duties which conform to them; on the other hand, heteronomy of the will not only cannot be the basis of any obligation, but is, on the contrary, opposed to the principles therefore, and to the morality of will”. Since sovereignty is patent only in the conformity to reason, and because reason must lead action always through imperatives, autonomy is explained as ‘that property of will whereby it is a law to itself.'(Roger Scruton, 1982)

From some past decades, philosopher in many different times and places grappled with tricky issues about mutual connection among human beings both as an individual and as a member of communitarian society. Every so often lacking any exacting religious direction at all, they also contemplated the denotation of human nature, the universality of fundamental principles, ethical duties to siblings, social justice, whether customary rule based civilizations should be changed in to right based civilizations, and the proper responsibility of government in the lives of their people. In spite of their much dissimilarities of point of view and cultural tradition, they all required understate not through the exposure of religious faith or metaphysical basics but slightly through worldly inquest and human rationale. (Paul Gordon Lauren, 2003)

The division of rights into personal right, real right and right to act is, in the vein of many other partitions, designed to systemize the heap of unfamiliar material. However this distribution quite confuses rights which presume such tangible relations as the family or the state with those which direct to sheer abstract qualities. Classification did by Kant, of rights into Real rights, Personnel rights and Personal rights that are of real kind. We will get too confused afield to explain how knotted and illogical the classification of rights into personal and real is. Visibly it is just personality which provides us a right to things, and therefore personal right is embedded in real right. A thing must be received in its Universal context as the external reverse of freedom, so with the intention of sense that my body and my life are things. (G.W.F.Hegel, p.4)

If we look at a framework of human rights, the debate about the dignity of human beings relative to the rest of nature not only is a divergence from the context of human rights, but brings in us to metaphysical dialogues unrelated to the issue of human rights. The foundation of human rights, along with harmony and subsidiarity, is the metaphysics of the human beings. Those type of metaphysics function as the sense giving route relating to the wisdom of the speech and praxis of human rights, subsidiarity and commonality. Metaphysics like this should not start from a description or presumption whether religious, judicial or philosophical about human rights, which would be to take as fact to begin the point of influx. Problem regarding Hegel's position should be kept in mind always. (Kant by Mary and Roger, 1996)

The famous documents claiming personal rights, such as the Magna Carta (1215), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791) the English Bill of Rights (1689), are on paper pioneer agreements to many of modern human rights documents. However much of these written agreements, once initially converted into course of action, debarred women, racism, minorities, religious, economic, and political groups. On the other hand, demoralized natives all over the world have strained on the ideology to these written agreement papers for expressions to maintain revolutions that affirm the right to autonomy. This type of pattern and lawfully binding manuscript shield the people from arbitrary persecution and punishment. Much of the flaws of Hammurabi's code were due to its cause and effect nature, it failed to protect more conceptual thoughts such as religion, attitude, race and personal free will.

One of the other important documents of the English history is called Magna Carta. It was about the group of barons who stood against the conflict to the increasingly authoritarian rule of King John, and were ensured with the implementation of the terms of Magna Carta, ‘the great charter of liberties' as it was previously known just ten years later, officially contracted by him at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. It was based on the sequence of undertakings on a paper. According to that paper King should rule England keeping in focus the customs of feudal law. (Matthew Stricland, 2005, online)

If we compare American bills of rights and English declaration such as Magna Carta, it demonstrates at once that the placing out of principles summary, and hence vague, is both common, as is also the suffering with which they are narrating. The French have not only adopted the American ideas, but even the structure they established on the other end. The cavernous gap divides the American declarations from the English ratification that have been mentioned. The Historian of the American revolution says about Virginia declaration that it was tested beside all oppressions in an account of the eternal laws of man's being: “The English petition of right in 1688 was historic and retrospective; the Virginia declaration came directly out of the heart of nature and announced governing principles for all people in all future times.” (Bancroft, VII, p.243)

The English laws that set up the rights of subject matter are communally and independently verifications, come up of particular situations, or analysis of existing law. “Even Magna Carta contains no right, as Sir Edward Coke, the great authority on English Law, perceived as early as the beginning of the seventeenth century.”(Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, I, 1, p.127)

On the other hand, American declarations consist of percepts which are placed on a top then the common policymaker. In the individual states as well as in Unions, there are parted appendages for regular and for legitimate legislation, and the judge observes the performance of the legal boundaries by the common legislative authorities. If according to his conclusion a law disobeyed on the primary rights, he must stop its enforcement. The assertion of rights even at present day is inferred by the American as realistic defense of the minority. (Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 1890, Ch. VII.)

According to Jellinek “American declarations are not laws of higher kind in name only, they are the creations of high lawmakers.” As in Europe, the establishments lay reserved complexity in the way of altering their conditions, but about all over it is the lawmaker itself who makes a decision upon the amendment. The American bills of rights do not dispute about setting firm ethics for the state's organization, but first of all they try to draw border line between state and individual. They think that individual is not the mainframe of rights in the course of the state, but by his own nature he has incontrovertible and undeniable rights. The English do not take it seriously. They do not care to be familiar with an everlasting, natural light, but one hereditary from their forefathers, “the old, undoubted rights of the English people.”(1902, p.13)

If we look upon right and liberties” we find them in seventeenth century English laws. Legislative body is always demanding simply the confirmation of the “laws and statues of this realm” that is, the strengthening of the existing relations between king and people. Even none of their document contains a single word about the new rights. Consequently there is no reference whatever to the important fundamental rights of religious liberty, of assembling, of liberty of the press, or of free movement.

Blackstone (1765) is considered as the first doctrine of the absolute rights of persons upon “the idea of the personal rights of the individual. Security, liberty and property are the absolute rights of every Englishman, which from their character are nothing else than the natural liberty that remains to the individual after deducting the legal restraints demanded by the common interest.” (Loc. cit., p. 125 (113).

Furthermore, the American declaration of rights, initiate with the proclamation that all men are born free and equal, and these statements articulate of rights that fit in to “every individual”, “all mankind “or “every member society”. They count on a much bigger figure of rights than the English declarations, and seem to be taking these rights as inborn and undeniable. (Jellinek, 1901, p. 14)

One of the most dominant political philosophers of the present period is John Locke (1632-1704). He fortified the statement in Two Treaties of Government that human beings are by nature liberal and equivalent in opposition to statements that God had completed all men naturally refer to a sovereign. He stated that men comprise rights, such as freedom, right to life and possessions that covers groundwork, free of the laws of any scrupulous civilization. He made use of the argument that people are naturally liberated and the same as piece of the explanation for considering lawful political control as the effect of a societal bond where populace in the condition of nature provisionally convey some of their rights to the commanding authority in order to improved indemnify the constant, contented enjoyment of their lives, freedom, and assets. (Alex, 2005, online)

Locke's views on property shows that natural right to property can be derived from the natural right to one's life and labour, is usually read as if it were simply the sustaining argument for the bare contention offered at the beginning of treaties that every man had a natural right to property “within the bounds of the law of Nature”. According to him there are two claims, the men have right to preserve their right, and that a man's labour is his own, Locke defended individual misuse of the generation of the earth which was originally given to mankind in common. Locke highlighted that, Money, is a commodity which has a value because it can enter in to exchange with other commodities. But its rationale is not merely to make possible the exchange of things created for consumption, that is, to enlarge, beyond the scale of trade, exchange between producers of goods planned for utilization. The attribute basis of money is to serve as capital. Locke has vindicated the purposely capitalist misuse of land and money. And it is to be noticed that he has justified this as natural right, as a right in the state of nature. Therefore there are two levels of consonant in Locke's theory. One is the consonant between free, equal, rational men in the state of nature, to put a value on money, which Locke treats as accompanied by conventional recognition of the obligation of marketable agreements. (Macpherson, Ch. 5, 1962)

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Locke begins conventionally with a state of nature, and from ‘the law of nature' which governs this state. But the content of this law does not seem reductivist at all. The state of nature that ‘all men are naturally in”, is not a social condition but a historical situation. It is that state in which men are set by God. The state of nature is a topic for theological indication, not for anthropological research. The theological environment functions rather as an interpretive proverb, it does not just lessen to a set of based on fact claims. Locke argues to be taking into consideration the human condition at large in terms of reason but what he recognizes in it is what he already knows (from Christian revelation) to be there.(John Dunn, Ch, 9. 1969)

Dozinas argues “Desire is always moved by evil, to fly it” and the highest evil is death. The purpose of desire and fear overlaps. Nature built the desire of what it fears most. Nature, including human nature , which declared as the gauge of all things, ends up being just matter, to be proscribed, oppressed and shaped either by the self fashioning human being or by the all influential autonomy. According to him the rights of man, like all rights, are not natural or unchallengeable but historical formations of state and law. Their appearance and dialectal process is quite multifaceted: while the partition between state and society was the product of economic changes in society, the state turned the situations of survival of capitalism, which brought in to life, in to lawfully acknowledged rights and sanctified them as natural and eternal. Human rights are for that reason real and valuable but they attain much more and different from what is visible. (Douzinas, 2000)


I will say that the every individual had rights and its reality must be accepted undisputedly whereas there are some clarifications which should be needed in that account. The speech of human rights is implicated and operated by several peoples in extremely assorted conditions. Human rights have a lengthy historical legacy. The major philosophical basis of human rights is a standard in the continuation of a type of integrity applicable for all human beings, universally. To understand human rights understanding is just not needed but there should be some sensibility. The delightful conclusion of a human race can be only be obtained from ‘love' for the joy of human beings. The modern principle of human rights has move towards to take up midpoint of geopolitical dealings.

I would also mention criticism from Marx. His ideology is measured as an unsophisticated and brutal discharge of human rights and their ambitions. Marx was critical too of the rights of the citizens. But this was not because the rights are false and unfair, but because they cannot distribute what they promise within the boundaries of bourgeois society. Rights are confined but can only be criticized and forwarded from the point of view of an unrealized and unrealizable universal. Rights function as serious function only against a future perspective, that of the (impossible) ideal of an unbounded and self comprising humanity. (Douzinas, 2000)

Human rights have turned out to be essential to the current indulgent of how human beings should be taking care of, by one another, locally and internationally political organizations. Human rights are finest reflection of as possible ethical agreement for each individual to direct a simply fine life. Philosophical source of human rights has been issued to regular criticism. Although, various features of the consequent discussion among philosophical followers and challengers of human rights stay unsettled and, possibly, not solvable, the all-purpose side for human rights stays honorably dominant. Debatably, main convincing inspiration for the survival of human may respite upon the implementation of thoughts.


Douzinas, C. (2000 [reprint 2007]): The End of Human Rights: Critical Legal Thought at the Turn of the Century, Oxford: Hart Publishing.

Macpherson, C. B. (1962): The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jellinek, G. (2007 [1895]): The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. 25-page electronic version in pdf format available at http://oll.libertyfund.org & blackboard.

Kant, I. (1996 [1797]): The Metaphysics of Morals, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scruton, R. (1982): Kant, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hegel, G.W.F. (2005): Philosophy of Right, trans. by S.W.Dyde, Dover Publications Inc: Dover Ed edition.

Aristotle, (1998): The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. by William David Ross, David Ross, J. O. Urmson, Oxford World Classics: Oxford University Press.

Herman, B. (1993): The practice of moral judgment, Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Lauren, G. P. (2003): The evolution of international human rights: visions seen, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Strickland, M. (2005): ‘Enforcers of Magna Carta (act. 1215–1216)', Oxford Dictionary of National, Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press. [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/theme/93691]

Cf. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, I, 1, p. 127. (Edited by Kerr, London, 1887, I, p. 115.)

Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 6th edition, Boston, 1890, Chap. VI

Dunn, J. (1982): The political thought of John Locke: an historical account of the argument of the 'Two treatises of government, Cambridge University Press.

Fagan, A. (2005): Human Rights: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, University of Essex.


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