Adam Etinson

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Human Rights: Moral or Political?

Editor: ADAM ETINSON

Forthcoming in Oxford University Press (full proposal)

Since the publication of John Rawls’, The Law of Peoples, in 1999, the still nascent field of the philosophy of human rights has become increasingly divided. On the one hand, there are the “political” or “practical” theorists who, inspired by Rawls, believe that human rights should be understood in light of their role or function in modern international politics, e.g., as rights that set limits to national sovereignty, or that serve as the focus of international concern. On the other hand, there is the amorphous group of theorists – variously identified as “orthodox”, “humanist”, “naturalistic”, “traditional”, “moral”, or “philosophical” – that do not fall into this camp. These thinkers take the international political role of human rights to have a less definitive philosophical significance. So, for instance, rather than identify human rights by their performance of some contemporary political function (or set thereof), such thinkers will typically identify human rights by their distinctive moral features, such as their profound importance and universality.

This volume will be the first to address this ongoing and, by now, well-entrenched philosophical dispute. By the same token, it will also explore new and undeveloped dimensions of that dispute. Up to now, the debate between political theorists and their opponents has revolved around questions about the nature and grounds of human rights, as well as the methodology of human rights theory more generally. But as a debate that is, at core, preoccupied by tensions and quandaries that are generated by the dual status of human rights as both moral rights, on the one hand, and as legally posited and politically practiced rights, on the other, it in fact raises a much broader set of questions. Out of that broader set, this volume will explore a handful of important topics that have not yet been thoroughly addressed in the philosophical literature. These include questions about the relevance of the history of human rights to the philosophical understanding thereof, about the relationship between human rights morality and law, about the value and validity of politically realist critiques of human rights, about the tension between individual and collective human rights, about the feasibility of human rights, and about their alleged “utopian” ideological status.

I. THE RELEVANCE OF HISTORY

1) Samuel Moyn, “Human Rights in Heaven”

Commentator: John Tasioulas

2) Martti Koskenniemi, “Rights, History, Critique”

Commentator: Annabel Brett

General Commentator: Jeff Flynn

II. THE MORAL-POLITICAL DEBATE

3) Jeremy Waldron, “Human Rights: A Critique of the Raz/Rawls Approach”

Commentator: Joseph Raz

4) James W. Nickel, “Assigning Roles to Human Rights”

Commentator: Adam Etinson

5) Allen Buchanan & Gopal Sreenivasan, “Taking International Legality Seriously: a Methodology for Human Rights”

Commentator: Erasmus Mayr

6) Andrea Sangiovanni, “A Third Account of Human Rights: The Broad View”

Commentator: Rainer Forst

III. THE FEASIBILITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS

7) Kimberley Brownlee, “Dwelling in Possibility: Ideals, Aspirations, and Human Rights”

Commentator: Rowan Cruft

8) Elizabeth Ashford, “The Feasibility of Universal Human Rights”

Commentator: Daniel Weinstock

IV. THE MORALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS LAW

9) Andreas Follesdal, “The Margin of Appreciation”

Commentator: George Letsas

10) Matthias Kumm, “Institutionalizing a Right to Justification: Three puzzling features of global human rights practice and how to make moral sense of them”

Commentator: Samantha Besson

V. THE CHALLENGE OF POLITICAL REALISM

11) C.A.J. Coady, “The Hazards of Rescue”

Commentator: Vasuki Nesiah

12) Pablo Gilabert, “Reflections on Human Rights and Power”

Commentator: Elizabeth Frazer

VI. HUMAN RIGHTS AND POLITICAL COMMUNITIES

13) Stephen J. Macedo, “Self-Determination, Borders, and Democratic Exclusion”

Commentator: Seyla Benhabib

14) Peter Jones, “Human Rights and the Right to Collective Self-Determination”

Commentator: Will Kymlicka