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On Human Rights$
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James Griffin

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199238781

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199238781.001.0001

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Human Rights: The Incomplete Idea

Human Rights: The Incomplete Idea

(p.9) 1 Human Rights: The Incomplete Idea
On Human Rights

James Griffin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Use of the term ‘human rights’ began at the end of the 18th century, but gained wide currency only in the middle of the 20th century. Before the end of the 18th century, the talk was instead of ‘natural rights’. The two terms come from the same continuous tradition; they have largely the same extension, though different intensions. ‘Natural rights’ were generally seen as derived from ‘natural laws’. This chapter shows how it is altogether harder to say from what ‘human rights’ are supposed to be derived. It considers the state of the discourse of human rights today. It highlights the need for an account of ‘human rights’ with at least enough content to tell us, for any such proposed right, difficult borderline cases aside, whether it really is one and to what it is a right.

Keywords:   human rights, natural rights, natural law, intensions

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