Topics: Human Rights Philosophy 185s, Spring 2007


The catalog name for this course was “Topics in Social and Political Philosophy”. The particular topic we discussed was human rights.

Where’s the website?

This website is the same as the one you might remember. It just has a different address and a new look. The content is all the same.

Class notes

What Are Rights?

  1. History and analysis
  2. A Right to do Wrong?
  3. Natural Rights
    1. Handout: the natural law tradition
    2. Maritain vs. MacDonald
  4. Hart’s Choice Theory
    1. Handout: Hobbes, David and Uriah
    2. Choice theory of rights
  5. Hart on Natural Rights
  6. Why equal rights?
  7. Raz’s benefit theory
  8. Raz: interests, rights, and duties
  9. Rights, Claims, and Self-respect
  10. How important are rights? update 9 March
  11. Handout: injury vs. harm/damage

Rights and Duties

  1. Torture
  2. Handout: 24
  3. Gewirth’s absolutism
  4. Nagel’s Absolutism
  5. Rights as Side Constraints
  6. Form and content
  7. Which rights are real?
  8. Basic Rights
  9. Rights and duties
  10. Criticisms of Shue
  11. Criticisms, continued


  1. A Foundationalist Account
  2. Criticisms of Gewirth
  3. A non-foundationalist account
  4. Beitz, continued
  5. Rorty's anti-foundationalism.
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Topics in Social and Political Philosophy: Human Rights