To be or not to be: Charles Beitz on the Philosophy of Human Rights
It has taken some years, but human rights have finally gained the serious attention of moral and political philosophers. The Idea of Human Rights is the most recent confirmation of this trend. Between its covers, Charles Beitz, a pioneering theorist of global justice,1 turns to the question of what a human right is, and what makes it different from other varieties of rights. His hope is that a constructive response to this question will allow us to address various sources of scepticism about the modern practice of human rights, including the profligacy of rights claims, their cultural contestation, inadequate enforcement, and ambiguous practical requirements. The result of Beitz’s efforts is a deeply valuable, original, and edifying contribution to a debate that is still just beginning to take shape.
Beitz begins his book by distinguishing between three eligible conceptions of human rights: naturalistic, agreement, and practicaltheories. Although this simplified taxonomy falls well...
My thanks to John Tasioulas, Roger Crisp, Kimberley Brownlee, and S. Matthew Liao, who read and provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this review article.
- Beitz, Charles. 1979/1991. Political theory and international relations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Buchanan, Allen. 2004. Justice, legitimacy, and self-determination: The moral foundations of international law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Nickel, James. 2001. Making sense of human rights, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, Martha. 1997. Human rights theory: Capabilities and human rights. Fordham Law Review 66: 273–300.Google Scholar
- Rawls, John. 1999. The law of peoples. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Raz, Joseph. 2010. Human rights without foundations. In The philosophy of international law, eds. John Tasioulas and Samantha Besson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Tasioulas, John. 2007. The moral reality of human rights. In Freedom from poverty as a human right: Who owes what to the very poor?, ed. Thomas Pogge, 75–101. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Taylor, Charles. 1999. Conditions of an unforced consensus on human rights. In The East Asian challenge to human rights, ed. R.Bauer Joanne, and Daniel A. Bell, 124–147. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Walzer, Michael. 1994. Thick and thin: Moral argument at home and abroad. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar