Dissertation, University of Birmingham (2020)

Helen Ryland
Open University (UK)
Most philosophical accounts of human rights accept that all persons have human rights. Typically, ‘personhood’ is understood as unitary and binary. It is unitary because there is generally supposed to be a single threshold property required for personhood. It is binary because it is all-or-nothing: you are either a person or you are not. A difficulty with binary views is that there will typically be subjects, like children and those with dementia, who do not meet the threshold, and so who are not persons with human rights, on these accounts. It is consequently unclear how we ought to treat these subjects. This is the problem of marginal cases. I argue that we cannot resolve the problem of marginal cases if we accept a unitary, binary view of personhood. Instead, I develop a new non-binary personhood account of human rights, and defend two main claims. First, there are many, scalar properties, the having of which are conducive to personhood. Second, different subjects have different human rights depending on which of these properties they have, and what threats apply to them. On my view, and contra most existing accounts, most marginal cases have some degree of personhood and are entitled to some human rights.
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References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Being Realistic About Reasons.T. M. Scanlon - 2014 - Oxford University Press.

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