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Philosophical Theory and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Edited by William Sweet

Publication Year: 2003

Philosophical Theory and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights examines the relations and interrelations among theoretical and practical analyses of human rights. Edited by William Sweet, this volume draws on the works of philosophers, political theorists and those involved in the implementation of human rights. The essays, although diverse in method and approach, collectively argue that the language of rights and corresponding legal and political instruments have an important place in contemporary social political philosophy.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-

The twentieth century was the century of human rights - of their massive violation, but also of humanity's increased recognition of them. From the Declaration des droits internationaux de rhomme (Declaration of the international rights of man, adopted by the Institute of International Law during its session at New York on 12 October 1929) to the recent discussion of the establishment of an International...

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Introduction: Theories of Rights and Political and Legal Instruments

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pp. 1-16

In his famous lecture "The Rights of Man,"1 the French philosopher Jacques Maritain draws attention to a remarkable event which occurred shortly after the end of the Second World War. Despite the diversity of interests, histories, cultures, politics, and ideologies, nations from every part of the planet were able to agree on a list of universal human rights. And for the more than fifty years since, the United...

PART I: THEORIES OF RIGHTS

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1. Natural Law and Natural Rights

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pp. 19-26

First, I want to discuss some terms. "Natural rights" and "human rights" are closely related but not synonyms. Natural rights are connected with natural law theory and encompass human rights. If something is considered a natural right, it is also ahuman right. Not every proponent of human rights subscribes to natural law theory, however. From this perspective, it is false to say that if something is a human right,...

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2. The Ethical Background of the Rights of Women

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pp. 27-40

Dictionary definitions are often historically revealing. The term "right" as used in the expression "human rights" is usually understood as some kind of entitlement or "privilege." The term has both legal and ethical connotations. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a right is a "justifiable claim, on legal or moral grounds, to have or obtain something, or to act in a certain way" or "a legal, equitable or...

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3. Economic Rights and Philosophical Anthropology

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pp. 41-69

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was put forth a little over fifty years ago, there was a rough division of the world in two - and a rough division of the proclaimed rights into two groups. Traditional personal rights and liberties fell into one group and what came to be known as economic rights fell into the other. But in between were what might be called "social rights," and blurring these...

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4. T. H. Green on Rights and the Common Good

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pp. 71-81

T.H. Green's posthumously published Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (1886) is one of the finest books in the philosophy of rights to date. In it, Green emphasized two distinct elements of rights: the requirement of social recognition and the idea of a common good. But this leads to a tension in his theory. Either of the two principal elements could plausibly be said to exist in the...

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5. A Postsecular Exchange: Jacques Maritain, John Dewey, and Karl Marx

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pp. 83-95

Suppose a conversation among three humanists from the recent modern past could be staged: namely, Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), a principal figure in the twentieth-century revival of Thomism and a leading Catholic philosopher; John Dewey (1859-1952), the American pragmatist and ambivalent apologist for liberalism; and Karl Marx (1818-83), founder of modern communism and the most...

PART II: THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION AND THE PRACTICE OF HUMAN RIGHTS

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6. Human Rights: Fifty Years Later

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pp. 99-108

There are, at least, two general ways of viewing humanity. On one account, humanity is a single entity which encompasses the whole human species: past, present, and future. On this account, whether humanity is created by God or has evolved, each person has a single origin, lives with others, forms communities...

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7. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Maritain, and the Universality of Human Rights

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pp. 109-125

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December 1948. That the Universal Declaration could be proclaimed by a body representative of most of the world's states is a remarkable achievement and worthy of celebration in this so-called post-modern world. Indeed, most of the states that since joined the General Assembly...

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8. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Supreme Court of Canada

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pp. 127-142

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), passed by the General Assembly fifty years ago, is an international document of immense importance.That importance could be developed and examined along a number of dimensions to gain an over all appreciation of its significance. I suggest considering it along the political, moral, educational, and legal dimensions. My plan for this chapter is...

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9. Human Rights and the Survival Imperative: Rwanda's Troubled Legacy

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pp. 143-152

We can understand the enthusiasm of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations General Assembly resolution 217A of 10 December 1948) by considering the historical context of their deliberations. After two cataclysmic global wars, the psychological urge to peace may have overwhelmed philosophical reservations that might have prolonged debate indefinitely.1 Some...

PART III: RIGHTS AFTER THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION

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10. Reconciling Individual Rights and the Common Good: Aquinas and Contemporary Canadian Law

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pp. 155-170

The following paper is divided into three sections. The first section briefly reviews the history of the concept of rights and its significance in the ongoing debate between liberals and communitarians. The contemporary literature has overlooked the possibility of constructing a theory of rights on Thomistic principles, which would reconcile individual rights with the common good. The second section...

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11. Moderating the Philosophy of Rights

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pp. 171-181

Surely one of the most remarkable occurrences in the last half of the twentieth century was the revival of human - formerly natural - rights theory. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the emergence of notions of human rights in political philosophy, especially liberal political philosophy; the use of the rhetoric of rights in international relations; the entrenchment of rights in the...

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12. Maclntyre or Gewirth? Virtue, Rights, and the Problem of Moral Indeterminacy

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pp. 183-200

Within the history of Western ethics, we find both the teleological approach, exemplified by Aristotle's ethics of virtues, and the deontological approach, heralded by Kant's ethics of duty, rule-utilitarianism, and divine will/command conceptions of morality. Usually, we assume that these two approaches are incompatible and we must follow either the "good" or the...

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13. Universal Human Rights, Concepts of Ownership, and Aboriginal Land Claims

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pp. 201-211

Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone has a right to own property alone as well as in association with others." Though the UN has thrown its weight behind a universal right to property, the bare assertion of a right to property needs further clarification. This assertion certainly means that these rights should be recognized by all states, regardless of their conventions and...

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14. Solidarity and Human Rights

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pp. 213-232

The word "solidarity" and the call to solidarity are familiar to us all. "Solidarity" reminds many of us of the trade union movement that arose in 1980 in opposition to the Polish government, whose leader Lech Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and whose actions were instrumental in the collapse of totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. And for some four decades, the term...

Contributors

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pp. 233-236

Index

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pp. 237-241


E-ISBN-13: 9780776616728
E-ISBN-10: 0776616722
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776605586
Print-ISBN-10: 0776605585

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Actexpress

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Subject Headings

  • Human rights -- Philosophy.
  • United Nations. General Assembly. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
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