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The Elusive Ontology of Human Rights

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What are human rights? After looking at the reasons why the ontology of human rights should not be reduced to the human rights legal infrastructure, and noting that the origin of human rights in "natural law" is no longer a widely persuasive answer, I shall consider a number of recently popular alternatives. My purpose in examining these is to argue that the "what" of human rights resides in philosophical claims about the value of the human person. The particular approaches considered all depend upon a "high anthropology". I argue that contemporary accounts take this high anthropology from historical sources they no longer think viable, without giving an alternative account of why it should be held. Such an account is necessary, however, for human rights to be an authoritative political doctrine.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Flinders University Adelaide Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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