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3 JRE 103 (1995)
How Should Human Rights Be Conceived

handle is hein.journals/jaret3 and id is 113 raw text is: 

            How Should Human Rights be Conceived? *

                               Thomas W. Pogge


  Our current notion of human rights has evolved out of earlier notions of natural
law and natural rights. We can begin to understand and analyze it by examining
the continuities and discontinuities in this evolution. I will do this by focusing on
the shifting constraints imposed, ideas suggested and possibilities opened and
closed, by the three concepts rather than on the particular conceptions of them that
have actually been worked out.1
  All three concepts have in common that they were used to express a special
class of moral concerns, namely ones that are among the most weighty of all as
well as unrestricted and broadly sharable. These four common features of the
three concepts constrain not the content of the select concerns, but their (potential)
status and role. In regard to the first feature, it should be said that the natural-law
and natural-rights idioms were also used to express the agent's liberty to pursue his
own self-preservation and self-interest - as in Hobbes's famous assertion that
,,every man has a Right to every thing; even to one anothers body.2 Since the
concept of human rights, which is at issue in this essay, has not been used in this
vein, I will here leave such uses aside and focus on uses that present natural law, or
the natural rights of others, as imposing moral constraints upon human conduct,
practices and institutions.

  * Work on this paper was supported by a Laurance S. Rockefeller Fellowship at the
Princeton University Center for Human Values. I am greatly indebted to my colleagues there,
and very specially to Amy Gutmann, for a most productive discussion of an earlier version. I
also wish to thank my fellow-participants at the Law and Ethics Conference for their valu-
able comments and Eric Goldstein for extensive and very helpful written criticisms.
  I For more on the historical details, see esp. Richard Tuck: Natural Rights Theories, Cam-
bridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979, and Richard Tuck: ,,The ,Modern' Theory of Nat-
ural Law in Anthony Pagden, ed.: The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Eu-
rope, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  2 Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan, ed. C.B. Macpherson, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1981
[1651]), p. 190. As Tuck stresses in his later piece, such uses were exceedingly common in
the period from Grotius to Kant.

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