Taking international legality seriously: A methodology for human rights

Allen Buchanan, Gopal Sreenivasan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The chapter aims to draw philosophical attention to the neglected enterprise of figuring out whether the existence of international legal human rights is morally justified. Philosophers usually focus on whether moral human rights exist, which is often rather controversial. As is argued here, however, the existence of a moral right not to be imprisoned for debt (say) is neither necessary nor sufficient for an international legal human right not to be imprisoned for debt to be morally justified. The chapter proceeds to indicate how rich and complex the issues involved in morally justifying an international legal human right really are; and to show how much philosophical distance there is between such a justification and the existence of a relevant moral right. Finally, the chapter draws some lessons from its analysis for the methodological debate over political approaches to human rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHuman Rights
Subtitle of host publicationMoral or Political?
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780198713258
StatePublished - Apr 19 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Human rights
  • International law
  • Legal rights
  • Methodology
  • Moral justification
  • Moral rights
  • Natural rights
  • Universal rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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