Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Human Rights in Transition
In his major new work, David Boucher surveys the history of thinking about human rights and shows that far from being seen as universal and emancipatory, they have almost always privileged certain groups in relation to others.
Ethical constraints on relations among individuals within and between societies have always reflected or invoked a higher authority than the caprices of human will. For over two thousand years Natural Law and Natural Rights were the constellations of ideas and presuppositions that fulfilled this role in the west, and exhibited far greater similarities than most commentators want to admit. Such ideas were the lens through which Europeans evaluated the rest of the world. In his major new book David Boucher rejects the view that Natural Rights constituted a secularisation of Natural Law ideas by showing that most of the significant thinkers in the field, in their various ways, believed that reason leads you to the discovery of your obligations, while God provides the ground for discharging them. Furthermore, the book maintains that Natural Rights and Human Rights are far less closely related than is often asserted because Natural Rights never cast adrift the religious foundationalism, whereas Human Rights, for the most part, have jettisoned the Christian metaphysics upon which both Natural Law and Natural Rights depended.Human Rights theories, on the whole, present us with foundationless universal constraints on the actions of individuals, both domestically and internationally.; Finally, one of the principal contentions of the book is that these purportedly universal rights and duties almost invariably turn out to be conditional, and upon close scrutiny end up being 'special' rights and privileges as the examples of multicultural encounters, slavery and racism, and women's rights demonstrate.
Introduction; 1. Classical Natural Law and the Law of Nations: The Greeks and The Romans; 2. Christian Natural Law; 3. Natural Law, The Law of Nations and the Transition to Natural Rights; 4. Natural Rights and Social Exclusion: Cultural Encounters; 5. Natural Rights: Descriptive and Prescriptive; 6. Natural Rights and Their Critics; 7. Slavery and Racism in Natural Law and Natural Rights; 8. Nonsense Upon Stilts? Tocqueville, Idealism and the Expansion of the Moral Community; 9. The Human Rights Culture and its Discontents; 10. Modern Constitutive Theories of Human Rights; 11. Human Rights and the Juridical Revolutions; 12. Women and Human Rights; Conclusion; References