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Human Rights: From Morality to Law (LAWS70454)

Graduate coursework level 7Points: 12.5Not available in 2019

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Year of offerNot available in 2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 7
Subject codeLAWS70454
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Human rights are a dominant but highly contested feature of ethical, political and legal thinking in the era ushered in by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This subject explores the many pressing questions raised by these rights from the point of view of contemporary moral, political and legal philosophy.

  • Are human rights triggers for intervention or benchmarks of state legitimacy?
  • Are they based on dignity, interests or some other value?
  • How do we determine who has human rights and who bears the associated duties?
  • Can human rights conflict with other values and how should such conflicts be resolved?
  • Are human rights compatible with cultural pluralism?
  • How should human rights be legalised?
  • Is international human rights law legitimate in light of the claims of state sovereignty?
  • How is the content of international human rights law to be determined?
  • How should we reform or implement this law?

Principal topics include:

  • The nature of human rights: moral, legal, political?
  • The grounds of human rights: interests, dignity, God
  • The subjects of human rights and the bearers of associated duties
  • Conflicts involving human rights and their relations to the common good
  • Human rights and cultural pluralism
  • The legalisation of human rights
  • The legitimacy of international human rights law
  • Sources of international human rights law
  • Reforming international human rights law
  • Jus cogens, intervention and punishment.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have an advanced and integrated understanding of theories relating to the underlying conceptual and normative principles of human rights morality and law
  • Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess those principles
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding contemporary issues in this field, such as whether human rights are essentially moral or political in nature, the values that ground them, how they are related to wider values, and how they are best embodied in and implemented by public international law
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the factors that bear on the adjudication among different views in this field
  • Have a detailed understanding of some the leading contemporary theories relating to the morality and international law of human rights
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to generate critical and creative ideas relating to the nature and justification of human rights, both as moral and international legal norms
  • Have the communication skills independently to examine, research and analyse existing and emerging issues relating to the theory of human rights morality and law to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Be able to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgment as a thinker and learner in the field of human rights theory.

Last updated: 18 September 2019