Submission Date


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Kelly Sorensen

Committee Member

Christian Rice

Committee Member

Roger Florka

Department Chair

Roger Florka

Project Description

This project aims to take the subject of Human Rights and attempt to wrestle with its clarity. The concept has been, since its more modern manifestation, as represented by the United Nations’ Uniform Declaration of Human Rights, heavily criticized for its being indeterminate, unclear, ambiguous, or somehow not fully understood. Despite the concept’s incredible moral potential, the extent to which this potential can be realized is determined by the concept’s intelligibility and defensibility—both of which are affected by the concept’s being understood to a sufficient point. Given Human Rights’ moral potential to challenge the forces of evil in the world, and inform the extents to which individuals can be protected from antagonizing institutions, the importance of the subject is palpable. In this thesis, I attempt to assess key thinkers’ conceptions and use these conceptions to clarify my own understanding of Human Rights to hopefully bolster the subject’s credibility and intelligibility. I do so by merging the work of two philosophers of international law and Human Rights: John Skorupski and Joseph Raz. With the unification of Skorupski’s notion of efficacious enforcement, juxtaposed to what Raz’s Social Relativism asserts, I hope to synthesize an interesting lens through which myself and others can better understand the concept of Human Rights. Thus, through this new lens, I hope to be able to better understand the consequences of this pursued understanding of Human Rights—what can and can’t we leverage with the concept. This is accomplished through defending a two-level hierarchy of Human Rights, which maximizes the utility of the subject as well as maintains its intended function: individual defense of transgressing state/institutional powers.