GI7002 - History and Theory of Human Rights (2020/21)
|Module specification||Module approved to run in 2020/21|
|Module title||History and Theory of Human Rights|
|Module level||Masters (07)|
|Credit rating for module||20|
|School||School of Social Sciences|
|Total study hours||200|
|Running in 2020/21||
History and Theory of Human Rights critically engages contemporary scholarship and debate about the political history and moral and political theory of human rights. It follows recent analyses of the mediaeval, Enlightenment and American histories of rights doctrine, paying especial attention to Immanuel Kant’s moral universalism, to the realism of his doctrine of right, and to his importance for contemporary liberalism and rights theory. It explores issues of historical relativism and cultural particularity in various ways but especially through analysis of UNESCO’s famous human rights symposium and of Alasdair MacIntyre’s infamously realist critique. The historical context and significance of Jacques Maritain’s theorisation of human rights is evaluated, in relation to the formation Europe’s human rights regime and to non-European traditions, and so too is John Rawls’ retheorisation of moral and political rights-based liberalisms. Contemporary academic debate about human rights focusses on the rival claims advanced by historians and moral theorists for the superiority of their respective approaches. Historians, led by Samuel Moyn, have recently had the best of this, although John Tasioulas has long promised a rebuttal. Participants in the module scrutinize such debate and engage in the intellectually demanding task of evaluating rival theories..
To provide a historical and critical introduction to ideas, theories and arguments about human rights.
To evaluate political, social, legal and economic institutions and actions by ethical criteria.
To explore ethical ideas and to articulate such ideas in the construction of logical arguments.
Universalist Justification of Human Rights LO1, LO4
Myth and Politics in the History of Human Rights LO2, LO4
Fallacy and Validity in Relativist Accounts of Human Rights LO2, LO4
Rawls and Rivals LO3, LO4
Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity
Scheduled lectures and seminars are supported by Weblearn and students’ independent reading of recommended reading and research. Students are required to make a seminar presentation and to participate in critical discussion of lectures and presentations.
On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1) differentiate and evaluate competing justificationss, interpretations and critiques of the idea of human rights;
2) outline and explain the philosophical, political and economic developments that have effected and affected the pursuit of human rights in Western history;
3) identify and evaluate the cultural and political effects of contemporary human rights discourse in the light of that discourse's particular history and institutional universalization;
4) present and defend a logical argument supported by relevant evidence.
Two essays of approximately 2,500 words each, submitted together, requiring students to demonstrate their understanding of the history of the theory and discourse of human rights and its contemporary significance and, also, their ability to critically evaluate the premises and logical structure of at least one argument for human rights.
one on theorist
one on history
Moyn, Samuel The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, Harvard University Press, 2010.
Chappel, James Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking
of the Church, Harvard University Press, 2018.
Duranti, Marco The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity,
Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention,
Oxford University Press, 2017.
Etinson, Adam, ed. Human Rights: Moral or Political?, Oxford University Press, 2018.
Goodale, Mark, Letters to the Contrary: A Curated History of the UNESCO Human
ed. Rights Survey, Stanford University Press, 2018.
Guyer, Paul Kant, Routledge, 2014 (2nd edn.).
Hoffmann, "Human Rights and History", Past and Present 232, 279-310, 2016.
Kant, Immanuel Practical Philosophy, trans. & ed. Mary J. Gregor, Cambridge University
Knight, Kelvin Freedom’s Useful Name: Politics’ Primacy in Human Rights’ Declaratory
Moment, Cambridge University Press, 2019.
Knight, Kelvin, & The MacIntyre Reader, University of Notre Dame Press, 2019 (2nd
Peter Wicks edd. edn.).
Krasnoff, Larry, Kant’s Doctrine of Right in the Twenty-first Century, University of
Nuria Sánchez Wales Press, 2018.
Madrid & Paula
Lamb, Robert “Historicising the Idea of Human Rights”, Political Studies
MacIntyre, Alasdair After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Duckworth, 2007 (3rd edn.).
Maritain, Jacques “The Rights of Man and Natural Law” (trans. Doris C. Anson), in idem,
Christianity and Democracy and The Rights of Man and Natural Law,
Ignatius Press, 2012.
Moyn, Samuel Christian Human Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.
Rawls, John A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, 1999 (2nd edn.).
Rawls, John Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, 2005 (3rd edn.).
Tasioulas, John Human Rights: From Morality to Law, Oxford University Press, 2019.
Waldron, Jeremy Nonsense upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man,
Ethics: An International Journal of Social, Political And Legal Philosophy
Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development
Human Rights Quarterly