Reflections on the Foundations of Human Rights

Abstract

Is there an approach to human rights that justifies rights-allocating moral-political principles as principles that are equally acceptable by everyone to whom they apply, while grounding them in categorical, reasonably non-rejectable foundations? The paper examines Rainer Forst’s constructivist attempt to provide such an approach. I argue that his view, far from providing an alternative to “ethical” approaches, depends for its own reasonableness on a reasonably contestable conception of the good, namely, the good of constitutive discursive standing. This suggests a way in which constructivism about human rights might be able to coherently and plausibly negotiate the tension between the scope, the depth and the strength of discursive inclusion: the justification of rights-allocating moral-political principles needs to be premised on an “ethical”, perfectionist defense of the good of constitutive discursive standing.

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Thomas M. Besch
Wuhan University

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2011-09-02

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