Law and Philosophy

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 1–28 | Cite as

It’s Right, It Fits, We Debated, We Decided, I Agree, It’s Ours, and It Works: The Gathering Confluence of Human Rights Legitimacy

  • Hugh BreakeyEmail author


How should we understand human rights and why might we respect them? The current literature – both philosophical and historical – presents a barrage of conflicting accounts, including moral, functional, deliberative, legal, consensual, communitarian and pragmatic approaches. I argue that each approach captures a unique, common-sense – and, in principle, compatible – insight into why human rights warrant respect. Acknowledging this compatibility illuminates the myriad different avenues for legitimacy human rights enjoy, and provides a historical window into explaining how human rights rose to become the international community’s ethical lingua franca. The depth and spread of convergence on human rights proved possible precisely because myriad people the world over found a wealth of disparate reasons for rallying under its banner. But even as human rights enjoy seven distinct sources of legitimacy, I argue that they are thereby opened for normative challenge on seven distinct fronts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law Futures CentreGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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