In this chapter, Talbott considers various interpretations of the term “human rights.” He proposes an account of basic human rights as the necessary legal guarantees for a government to be legitimate, even if not necessarily just, and explains why his proposal is an improvement over Rawls's account. He contrasts his response to moral relativism with the defensive response taken by other advocates of universal human rights, exemplified by Waldron. Talbott articulates a new way of understanding human rights claims as epistemically modest (because fallible) but metaphysically immodest (because universal). He identifies two ways of being a moral imperialist and claims that his defense of universal human rights will avoid both kinds of moral imperialism.
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