Human Rights

Human rights can be justified from different moral staring points, in accordance with more than one comprehensive doctrine, religious as well as secularist ones. Following John Rawls, we can speak of an “overlapping consensus” concerning basic rights (Rawls 1993, i33ff). That fact relieves us from the requirement of extensive moral argument that would clearly exceed the scope of this chapter. Nevertheless, a few remarks concerning the philosophical background of the very idea of human rights are required.

Human rights are valid claims each individual has simply by virtue of his or her humanity. The validity of the claims results from at least one moral principle being valid itself. What principle can play such a role? There is wide acceptance now in moral philosophy as well as in international law that each individual human being is entitled to equal concern and respect (Dworkin 1978). My fundamental interests, regarding life, well-being, and personal autonomy, deserve the same consideration than those of anybody else.24 No political authority can be legitimate, no basic structure of a society can be just, if it rests on a systematic violation of those interests. Human rights define a threshold of minimal acceptability in the realm of politics.

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