Natural rights vs. human rights : a philosophical investigation of the concept of human rights

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Romsdal, Louise Tuxen
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This thesis is a philosophical survey of the universality of Human Rights and of the foundation of the rights. I will start by outlining the philosophical problems Jack Donnelly runs into when he writes about the philosophical foundations of Human Rights. It turns out that Donnelly uses a different definition of ‘universality’ and ‘right’ than is normally used. I will therefore turn to Locke, who explains about natural rights, which are innate and inalienable for people, inside and outside of society. Lockean libertarianism builds on Locke’s theory about negative freedom as an innate right. I will explain this theory and what kind of society it leads to. The theory is philosophically founded in natural rights as being universal. It therefore lives up to my criteria for a philosophical theory. At the same time though it differs in its fundamental principles from Donnelly’s theory of Human Rights, which I find intuitively appealing. I therefore turn to other defenders for Human Rights to see if their arguments are stronger than Donnelly’s. Here I find that if Human Rights are argued for politically instead of philosophically they can be defended. Therefore my conclusion is that Human Rights do not need the philosophical veil Donnelly gives them. Human Rights have good political consequences. This should be stressed instead of turning them into a weak philosophical theory. My methodology throughout my thesis is philosophical analysis.
Second semester University: Masaryk University, Brno
human rights, natural law, philosophy