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Human Rights as Fundamental Conditions for a Good Life

A number of important philosophical books and articles on the topic of human rights have appeared in recent years including James Nickel’s Making Sense of Human Rights [1], James Griffin’s On Human Rights [2], Charles R. Beitz’s The Idea of Human Rights [3], Martha Nussbaum’s Creating Capabilities [4], Allen Buchanan’s Heart of Human Rights [5], and John Tasioulas’s various articles and his planned monograph on human rights [6].

Readers of Ethics Etc might be interested in a paper of mine called “Human Rights as Fundamental Conditions for a Good Life,” [7] which appears in a forthcoming volume that Rowan Cruft, Massimo Renzo and I have edited called the Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights [8], and in which I defend what I take to be a new substantive account of human rights. A copy of the paper can be found here [9] and here is an abstract of the paper:

What grounds human rights? How do we determine that something is a genuine human right? In this paper, I offer a new answer: human beings have human rights to what I call the fundamental conditions for pursuing a good life. These are certain goods, capacities and options that human beings qua human beings need whatever else they (qua individuals) might need in order to pursue a characteristically good human life. I call this the Fundamental Conditions Approach. Among other things, I explain how this way of grounding human rights is better than James Griffin’s Agency Approach and Martha Nussbaum’s Central Capabilities Approach, and I also show how it can be compatible with the increasingly popular Political Conceptions of human rights defended by John Rawls, Charles Beitz and Joseph Raz.