Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Human Rights 1

Well, it looks like I'm teaching three tutorials on human rights for the St Hugh's Summer School. I'll be posting syllabus/reading list info here for ease of access. Feel free to make use of what I suggest and/or recommend additions.

Topic 1: What are 'human rights'?

For the first essay, I think we should focus on what rights there are and, to some extent, why. Think of the various things we are often alleged to have rights to - anything from security of the person, to free speech, to paid holiday, and ask whether these are really human rights. Things to think about include the distinction between legal and moral rights, what is 'natural' or 'human' about them, and what it is that gives us these rights. Write an essay (at least 1,000 words, to be brought with you) addressing some or all of these questions.

I assume you won't have access to many books now (you will be able to use the library when you get here). Therefore I'll concentrate on some online resources, and your own thoughts. Feel free, of course, to draw on other sources you're aware of, e.g. contemporary newspaper discussion or from human rights groups like Amnesty International, however beware that a lot of material on the internet is not necessarily credible - the online encyclopaedia articles given below (unlike, say, Wikipedia) are written and reviewed by academics.

First, familiarise yourself with the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which can be found online, e.g.: http://www.un.org/rights/50/decla.htm

Then read these general overviews:

J. Nickel (2006) 'Human Rights' Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

L. Wenar (2005) 'Rights' Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A. Fagan (2005) 'Human Rights' The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Other useful internet resources:
Human Rights Library <http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/>
Human Rights Internet <http://www.hri.ca/index.aspx>

If you do have access to a decent source of books, you might want to look now at:
J. Rawls (1999) The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP)
M. Freeden (1991) Rights (Open University Press)
A. Gewirth (1982) Human Rights (Chicago: University Press)
J. Nickel (2006) Making Sense of Human Rights 2nd edition (Oxford: Blackwell)
T. Pogge (2002) World Poverty and Human Rights (Cambridge: Polity)
B. Orend (2002) Human Rights: Concept & Context (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview)
J. Waldron (1984) Theories of Rights (OUP)
These aren't essential just yet - but I'm sure we'll look at some of them
later in the course...

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