Human Rights [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 24 (3):554-555 (1971)
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Abstract

This collection of reprinted social philosophy broadly surveys and introduces problems and positions vis-à-vis the concept of right. Using the tools of ordinary language analysis, M. MacDonald evaluates the attempts of other writers to resolve the tensions between civil and moral responsibility. H. L. A. Hart argues that "... if there are any moral rights at all, it follows that there is at least one natural right." His laudatory deductive exercise and categorization of rights suggests no leads for answering the hypothetical he poses. While MacDonald and Hart raise no gut issues, G. Vlastos gives a common sense analysis of the main stream of classical debate, couching his inquiry in terms of conflicts between collective and distributive justice. His article both includes the scope and surpasses the stopping points of the earlier selections. Through leading to a philosophical discussion of the workings of the denial of human rights within the segregationist position, R. Wasserstrom unmasks the practical stakes involved in what the others leave as an academic problem. H. Morris's witty analysis of a hypothetical "right to be punished" lays bare the fact that social institutions embody some concept of right, duty, and obligation. He leaves the reader with the unanswered but clearly indicated question of which concept of right does one want society to sanction. Also included are: J. Locke's The Second Treatise of Civil Government, Chapters two and five; J. Bentham's Anarchical Fallacies; The Virginia Declaration of Rights ; Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens ; Universal Declaration of Human Rights ; and a portion of the Declaration of Independence of the U.S.A.--M. D. P.

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