Methods of Philosophical Research on Human Rights
METHODS OF HUMAN RIGHTS RESEARCH, F. Coomans, M. Kamminga and F. Grunfeld, eds., Intersentia, 2009
10 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2010 Last revised: 26 Sep 2010
Date Written: October 1, 2009
The author holds that there is no unique philosophical method for good philosophical work on issues of human rights. To the contrary, the same method should govern such research as other philosophical work: the method of 'reflective equilibrium' which seeks the mutual accommodation of moral judgments at various levels of generality to arrive at a consistent theory.
One of the central philosophical topics - and one which also seems to create confusion among philosophers and other scholars alike - concerns the appropriate relationship between international, legally binding human rights norms and 'moral' or philosophical human rights. One source of confusion is that they both serve as critical standards for, or constraints on, domestic legislation. For this reason they sometimes seem to be conflated. The article considers two prominent recent attempts at addressing or using that relationship: those of Amartya Sen and Charles Beitz, and uses the method of Reflective Equilibrium to indicate some of their strengths and weaknesses.
Keywords: human rights, philosophy, norms, reflective equilibrium
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