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Philosopher Kings?The Adjudication of Conflicting Human Rights and Social Values$
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George C. Christie

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195341157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341157.001.0001

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The Unsuccessful Attempt to Find a Philosophical “North Star” to Aid in Judicial Decision Making

The Unsuccessful Attempt to Find a Philosophical “North Star” to Aid in Judicial Decision Making

(p.89) 7 The Unsuccessful Attempt to Find a Philosophical “North Star” to Aid in Judicial Decision Making
Philosopher Kings?

George C. Christie (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The prospect that conflicts between fundamental human rights of supposedly equal value may have to be decided by a diverse body of judges, each of whom may have his or her own vision of the relative value of the rights at issue in the case before the court, is not a comforting one. It is understandable that people should attempt to alleviate that discomfort by resorting to some more basic philosophical principle or value that enables us to resolve those conflicts in a way that even people with different ideas about the value of the rights in question are willing to accept as legitimate. General concepts like “human dignity” seem too vague and undefined to provide the guidance sought, particularly when talking about a world with different social as well as legal traditions. There are, however, two well-known recent attempts by Ronald Dworkin and John Rawls to provide more specific but still plausibly neutral and universally acceptable methods for providing that guidance. This chapter examines whether those proposals are in fact capable of providing the guidance sought, and argues that they are not. In the discussion that follows, that chapter undertakes to justify that assertion.

Keywords:   human rights, Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, judicial decisions

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