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Comparative Human Rights Law$
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Sandra Fredman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199689408.001.0001

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What Is a Human Right? Dealing with Disagreement

What Is a Human Right? Dealing with Disagreement

(p.29) 2 What Is a Human Right? Dealing with Disagreement
Comparative Human Rights Law

Sandra Fredman

Oxford University Press

While the notion of fundamental human rights attracts general respect, there is little agreement on how we identify rights or their substantive content and application. This chapter addresses several ways of addressing these foundational disagreements. One is to formulate a moral principle, from which human rights can be derived. The chapter critically assesses possible moral foundational principles, including autonomy, dignity, basic interests, and capability theory. A second approach rejects the possibility of formulating universal principles. The chapter evaluates theories of pluralism and moral relativism in relation to human rights as well as the liberal response to relativism. The chapter then canvasses various ways of resolving such disagreements. The conclusion sets out the approach in this book. Rather than aspiring to achieve absolute answers across time and place, the book draws on the insights of deliberative democracy, aiming to engage in constant reasoned attempts to develop the understanding of human rights.

Keywords:   dignity, autonomy, capabilities theory, relativism, deliberative democracy, Griffin, Rawls, Sunstein, Berlin

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