Human Rights: A Critique of the Raz/Rawls Approach

22 Pages Posted: 31 May 2013 Last revised: 4 Jun 2013

Jeremy Waldron

New York University School of Law

Date Written: June 2013

Abstract

This paper examines and criticizes the suggestion that we should interpret the “human” in “human rights” as (i) referring to the appropriate sort of action when certain rights are violated rather than (ii) the (human) universality of certain rights. It considers first a crude version of (i) — the view that human rights are rights in response to whose violation we are prepared to countenance humanitarian intervention; then it considers more cautious and sophisticated versions of (i). It is argued that all versions of (i) distract us with side issues in our thinking about human rights, and sell short both the individualism of rights and the continuity that there is supposed to be between human rights and rights in national law. The paper does not deny that there are difficulties with views of type (ii). But it denies that the positing of views of type (i) gives us reason to abandon the enterprise of trying to sort these difficulties out.

Keywords: Charles Beitz, John Rawls, Joseph Raz, human rights, humanitarian intervention, rights, sovereignty, universalism

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Human Rights: A Critique of the Raz/Rawls Approach (June 2013). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2272745 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2272745

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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