Human Rights I

Human Rights 20100, etc., Fall 2005


The Notes were last updated at 11 AM on Wednesday, 14 January 2009.

  1. There’s a movie about Eleanor Roosevelt and the UDHR. It’s called “Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the world.” Apparently, it’s pretty good. Thanks, Ashley! (12 Dec)
  2. Graduate papers are now available outside of Stuart 202. They will be available every day between 9 and 5 until the exam. (5 Nov, 2 pm)
  3. The papers for College (undergraduate) students have been graded. They will be available in the black shelves outside of Stuart 202 during normal office hours (9-5) starting Friday, 2 December. Graduate papers will be done on Monday (I hope). For those keeping score, that means that David and Adam got their work done on time and I’m the slacker. (2 Dec)
  4. Last item of the day: I forgot to thank Rachel for picking up the evaluations. Thanks Rachel! (29 Nov)
  5. Here are the citations on positive and negative rights that I promised for Andrew. (29 Nov)
  6. The exam, as it says on the left, is on Thursday, 8 December from 10:30 - 12:30. Be sure to look over the exam preview: it has the essay questions you’ll be asked to answer. The sheet I handed out in class says “10 December” but it is wrong. I was looking at a November calendar: doh! Also, the syllabus says the exam will be on Tuesday, 6 December. That’s wrong too. I read the Registrar’s chart wrong. Double doh! I’m not going to say any more, for fear of making another mistake. (29 Nov)
  7. Well, that’s it for me: my last Human Rights I lecture. Our next session will cover the final exam, your questions (about anything in the course), and course evaluations. You will want to attend because I will give out essay questions for the final exam. I also think that student evaluations are tremendously important: I want your input. Happy Thanksgiving. (22 Nov)
  8. Whoops, I seem to have left a blank page where there should have been an index to the notes. I seem to have identified a technical glitch with using two programs to open a connection to the website at once (it has happened before). Everything has been restored, pretty much as it was. Thanks to Toby, Andrew, and Rebecca for letting me know. (20 Nov)
  9. The notes are now up to date. Sorry that took so long. But, bear in mind, I’m here on Saturday evening. Not that that makes up for being late. But, well, it should count for something. (19 Nov)
  10. Stephanie Albin, of the Prizker School of Medicine, asked me to make the following announcement. Princess Kasune Zulu, an internationally renowned HIV/AIDS campaigner from the World Vision Organization is going to speak about her role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Among other things, she will address how students can get involved in this important global fight. This Thursday, November 17th, from 6-7 pm Room 115, Biological Sciences Learning Center, University of Chicago, 924 East 57th Street, Chicago. IL (Hyde Park). (16 Nov)
  11. Christopher had a nice remark about the theme of today’s lecture: “when anthropologists talk about moral relativism, they leave us out of it.” I have to run right now. I’ll say more, and get up to speed with the notes later today or tomorrow. Promise! (15 Nov)
  12. The Williams article “Human Rights and Relativism” didn’t make it into the electronic reserve system the first time out. I left off a copy at 9 am this morning; it should be up shortly. Thanks to Mary for pointing that out. (14 Nov)
  13. The midterms were returned in class today. I’ll try to remember to bring them on Tuesday as well, but if I forget, please be sure to ask me for yours. (10 Nov)
  14. In talking about Nagel, I don’t think that we got back to moral blind alleys. Unfortunately, that is an important part of Nagel’s article for those writing papers on absolutism. I have put what I meant to say in the notes. Also, the notes on Shue are up. (4 Nov)

  15. The midterm exam will be due Monday, 31 October at 10 am rather than Friday, 28 October. Happy Halloween! (27 Oct)
  16. Did you wonder what I was talking about when I mentioned “mandatory” rights in the lecture on Feinberg? Patrick did. And well he should have. The copy of the Feinberg article in the Regenstein reserve system is missing the postscript, where “mandatory rights” are discussed. It isn’t essential for the passage on the midterm, but it’s still an error. I sent them a note and the problem should be cleared up. Dasha tells me that the copy from the copy room has the postscript, pp. 156-8, so it appears we’re largely OK. Sorry about that and thanks to Patrick for being on the ball! (26 Oct)
  17. The midterm is coming up. It will largely consist in passages from the reading that you will be asked to explain and analyze. (18 Oct)
  18. I told the registrar to increase the cap to 75. Just about everyone who attended today should be able to register. (29 Sept)
  19. I incorrectly announced the final exam as being on Tuesday, 6 December. It’s actually from 10:30-12:30 on Thursday, 8 December. The correct date and a link to the Reistrar’s site. The syllabus linked on the right is now correct, the versions of the syllabus that I distributed in class and in the xeroxed course pack are incorrect. (28 Sept)
  20. The Wellman reading for Thursday, 28 September is listed in the reserve system as “Hohfeld’s contributions.” They use whatever looks like a title for the section of a book, I use the title of the book as a whole. Sorry for the confusion. (27 Sept)


Human Rights I covers philosophical questions about human rights. In particular, this course is concerned with the following questions:

  1. What is a right? How are different meanings of ‘right’ distinguished from one another? How are legal rights different from moral rights? What does it mean to say that someone has a right? Are rights a distinctive kind of moral category, that is, do rights add something to the collection of concepts in our moral toolkit that couldn’t be accomplished by another moral concept such as, say, duties?
  2. What is the relationship between rights and duties? What duties correspond with rights? Are any rights absolute? How should rights be compared with bringing about the best overall results? Are there abstract, formal features of the relationship between rights and duties that determine their content? Is there a difference between so-called civil and political rights, on the one hand, and social and economic rights on the other?
  3. What is the best way of responding to cultural differences concerning morality and, thus, rights? Is moral relativism a coherent response to diversity? Is there a connection between moral relativism and tolerance? Do we need a foundation for human rights? Does Alan Gewirth’s celebrated theory provide such a foundation?


This is an upper-division philosophy course. The reading is sometimes difficult, but the course presupposes no special background in philosophy or human rights. It is open to both graduate and College students.


Tuesday, 25 October: midterm distributed.

Monday, 31 October: midterm due.

Tuesday, 1 November: paper topics distributed.

Monday, 21 November: paper due

Thursday, 8 December: Final exam. [Preview]


Tu, Th 10:30-12, Stuart 105 [map]

Discussion Sects.

Thursdays 5-6, 432 Rosenwald [map]

Fridays 10:30-11:30, 209 Stuart [map]


Philosophy Department

Regenstein Reserve