Philosophy of Human Rights: A Systematic Introduction, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Philosophy of Human Rights

A Systematic Introduction, 1st Edition

By Anat Biletzki


246 pages

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Paperback: 9781138787353
pub: 2019-09-26
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Hardback: 9781138787346
pub: 2019-09-26
Available for pre-order

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An introductory text to the philosophy of human rights, this book provides an innovative, systematic study of the concepts, ideas, and theories of human rights. It examines the principal philosophical issues that arise in specific areas of rights, such as women’s rights, minority rights, or disability rights, and addresses the human rights aspects of world problems such as global poverty and humanitarian intervention. Along with the presentation of these established subjects, the book provides a vibrant critique of both the liberal fundamentals of human rights and the legal and political aspects of the concrete practice by individuals and organizations.

Key Features:

  • Presents a thorough philosophical introduction to human rights for anyone from any subject (e.g., international law, politics, public policy, philosophy)
  • While grounded in philosophy, demonstrates a clear, organized understanding of real-world aspects of the field, with a deep analysis of vital, current issues
  • Is attentive to critical stances on human rights and to stultifying privations in the field
  • Offers a well organized overall structure, moving from historical treatment, to conceptual analysis, to a set of current issues, and finally to criticism.


"Biletzki has written the definitive account of the human rights thinking that emerges from centuries of philosophical conversations. She covers, succinctly and clearly, the most fundamental classical writers, for example Hobbes, Lock, Mill, Rawls, as well as scores of contemporary ones like Arendt, Nussbaum, Balibar and Levinas. She deftly lays out complicated material about the most fundamental issues and conflicts within the field: the relationship between equality and freedom, the ability to have rights and its relationship to state formation, the way our very language shapes our thinking, whether human rights need to be religiously grounded, whether human rights doctrine is inherently Eurocentric, ferociously individualistic, and selectively enforced… If you are looking for one book on the swathe of human rights ideas, their history and practical implications, then this is the book for you." - Eve Spangler, Author of Understanding Israel/Palestine: Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict, Boston College, USA

"Anat Biletzki gives us a sophisticated and accessible discourse on pivotal issues of philosophy—how rights are conceived and practiced, contested and reshaped, beaten back and reasserted. Philosophy of Human Rights is both a substantial rendering of the attendant philosophical understandings of rights and illustrations of how rights emerge in lived experience." - John Tirman, Executive Director & Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for International Studies, USA

Table of Contents


Part I: Overview

1. Fundamentals

2. The Legal Framework

3. Some Questions (about Human Rights)

Part II: Philosophical Groundings

4. Liberal Underpinnings

5. Theories of Rights

6. Theories of Human Rights

Part III: Issues in Human Rights

7. The Universalism of Human Rights

8. Groups and Other Collections

9. Rights on Our Mind

10. Global Economic Rights

11. Security, Sovereignty, and Humanitarian Intervention

Part IV: Critique

12. Philosophical Critique of Human Rights

13. Back to the Rough Ground

Epilogue: On the Ground

About the Author

Anat Biletzki is the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, and previously was Professor of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University. Her publications include Talking Wolves: Thomas Hobbes on the Language of Politics and the Politics of Language (1997), and (Over)Interpreting Wittgenstein (2003). She has been chairperson of B’Tselem - the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (2001-2006) and was nominated among the "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize - 2005".

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