The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries

Paperback | January 15, 2000

byMichael J. Perry

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Inspired by a 1988 trip to El Salvador, Michael J. Perry's new book is a personal and scholarly exploration of the idea of human rights. Perry is one of our nation's leading authorities on the relation of morality, including religious morality, to politics and law. He seeks, in this book, todisentangle the complex idea of human rights by way of four probing and interrelated essays. * The initial essay, which is animated by Perry's skepticism about the capacity of any secular morality to offer a coherent account of the idea of human rights, suggests that the first part of the idea of human rights--the premise that every human being is "sacred" or "inviolable"--is inescapablyreligious. * Responding to recent criticism of "rights talk", Perry explicates, in his second essay, the meaning and value of talk about human rights. * In his third essay, Perry asks a fundamental question about human rights: Are they universal? In addressing this question, he disaggregates and criticizes several different varieties of "moral relativism" and then considers the implications of these different relativist positions for claims abouthuman rights. * Perry turns to another fundamental question about human rights in his final essay: Are they absolute? He concludes that even if no human rights, understood as moral rights, are absolute or unconditional, some human rights, understood as international legal rights, are--and indeed, shouldbe--absolute. In the introduction, Perry writes: "Of all the influential--indeed, formative--moral ideas to take center stage in the twentieth century, like democracy and socialism, the idea of human rights (which, again, in one form or another, is an old idea) is, for many, the most difficult. It is the mostdifficult in the sense that it is, for many, the hardest of the great moral ideas to integrate, the hardest to square, with the reigning intellectual assumptions of the age, especially what Bernard Williams has called 'Nietzsche's thought': 'There is not only no God, but no metaphysical order of anykind....' For those who accept 'Nietzsche's thought', can the idea of human rights possibly be more than a kind of aesthetic preference? In a culture in which it was widely believed that there is no God or metaphysical order of any kind, on what basis, if any, could the idea of human rights longsurvive?" The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries will appeal to students of many disciplines, including (but not limited to) law, philosophy, religion, and politics.

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Inspired by a 1988 trip to El Salvador, Michael J. Perry's new book is a personal and scholarly exploration of the idea of human rights. Perry is one of our nation's leading authorities on the relation of morality, including religious morality, to politics and law. He seeks, in this book, todisentangle the complex idea of human rights ...

Michael J. Perry holds the University Distinguished Chair in Law at Wake Forest University. He is the author of several books, including We the People: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court (Oxford, 1999).

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 6.1 × 9.29 × 0.91 inPublished:January 15, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195138287

ISBN - 13:9780195138283

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Questions of human righs have become important to a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines-constitutional law, international law, jurisprudence and political science being the most obvious. Since Perry's book is to a large extent concerned with questions of religion and ethics, it willalso be important for theologians and philosophers. Perry wrties lucidly enough that his book will be suitiable not only for scholars but for students in specialized seminars."--Steven Smith, Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame