Mind and Rights: Neuroscience, Philosophy and the Foundations of Legal Justice

Chapter 5 in: M. Sellers (ed.), Law, Reason and Emotion, CUP, 2017

75 Pages Posted: 17 May 2017  

Matthias Mahlmann

Chair of Legal Theory, Legal Sociology and International Public Law

Date Written: January 10, 2017

Abstract

The main question explored is: What is actually the relationship between human thought, its structure and exercise, and the idea of human rights, which is surely among the most important products of human thinking?

The first question will be: Why does the theory of mind matter for ethics and law? Second, the concept or idea of a human right as a subclass of moral and legal subjective rights used will be outlined and clarified to answer the question: What precisely are we talking about? Third, the question Where do rights come from? will occupy the attention just long enough to substantially understand why an answer to one of the two currently particularly interesting fundamental forms of human rights’ revisionism, the historical, genealogical attack on human rights, leads necessarily beyond the limits of human rights history in the deep waters of the epistemology and ontology of human rights and thus to those kinds of problems these remarks intend to explore. Fourth, the question Why are rights justified? will be considered. Fifth, after having sufficiently prepared the ground by the preceding remarks, the core issue of these reflections can be addressed: What is, after all, the importance of the theory of mind for the project of human rights? Here the second fundamental challenge to the idea of human rights will be discussed. This attack stems from the quarters of today’s neuroscientific neo-emotivism, which is interesting in itself and has the advantage that the critique of this form of human rights revisionism has considerable heuristic merits for a constructive account of the theory of mind and the foundations of human rights. How a theory of human rights could draw from the theory of mind, and more concretely from a mentalist account of ethics and law, to provide such a constructive account is the final perspective to be explored.

Keywords: mind, rights, neuroscience, philosophy, law, justice, human rights, morality, ethics, human thought

Suggested Citation

Mahlmann, Matthias, Mind and Rights: Neuroscience, Philosophy and the Foundations of Legal Justice (January 10, 2017). Chapter 5 in: M. Sellers (ed.), Law, Reason and Emotion, CUP, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2969090

Matthias Mahlmann (Contact Author)

Chair of Legal Theory, Legal Sociology and International Public Law ( email )

74/27 Ramistrasse
Zurich, Zurich 8001
Switzerland

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