Gerhard Ernst, Jan-Christoph Heilinger, The Philosophy of Human Rights. Contemporary Controversies
“Human rights are important. First and foremost they are relevant for those fighting for respect for their own or others’ human rights and for the improvement of situations in which fundamental rights are violated.
But human rights are also of interest for politicians, political theorists, international lawyers, jurisprudents, NGO activists, civil servants, and, of course, political and moral philosophers. Obviously, the interest in human rights is stirred by quite different reasons: some of them purely practical, some of them purely theoretical, most of them combining practical and theoretical concerns. Yet all those involved with human
rights should share one fundamental concern: to know what is the nature of the subject they are talking about and in which way it has normative force. In other words, the clarification of the concept of human rights and the justification of these rights – the two core challenges of the contemporary philosophy of human rights – should matter to all who are interested, in one way or another, in human rights.
In offering such clarification and justification political and moral philosophy has something relevant to contribute to the general discussion of human rights. Being philosophers, we might be criticized for making such a strong claim as to the relevance of philosophy. But forgiveness might be granted in light of our willingness to admit that philosophical insights about human rights are not freestanding, nor do they, in general, enjoy priority. Rather they depend in turn on the political, juridical, etc. dimensions of the idea of human rights, that is, on the use of the concept in practice.” (Dall’Introduzione)