Can the notion of Human Rights be justified and in what are such rights grounded?

Essay by suzanna_pUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, August 2005

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Can the notion of Human Rights be justified and in what are such rights grounded?

"Human rights are a set of universal claims to safeguard human dignity from illegitimate coercion, typically enacted by state agents" (Brysk, 2002 p. 3). The notion of human rights is an important ideal in society and a cause of great debate these days. Rights limit the extent to which other humans can intrude on other individuals and groups and are a necessary component of life. Human rights act as cornerstones on which society operates socially. Human rights are not as straightforward as one may think, with cultures clashing over the rights set by governments of other cultures, and there is some emphasis placed on the need to define universal human rights. What also comes into this, is the question of whom in fact, has the power to define human rights and set rules and standards accordingly.

There are those who think it is the government who has this right, and others who see it as a law of nature; an inherent disposition in humans that does not need defining and should not need to be enforced by anybody. And there are others who believe it is the church that defines and enforces human rights. This essay will seek to explore these views and consider whether the notion of human rights is justified.

Throughout history, the concept of 'human rights' has been altered and modified in accordance with the changing structure and ways of functioning, that past and present societies have gone through. In the past, the days of primitive tribes and cavemen, people lived in tightly-knit communities. These were not like the communities we see today. They were very basic, relying on the land and on each other for food and sustenance. Macdonald (1984) claims...