Institutt for filosofi og førstesemesterstudier


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Seminar on Human Rights - A philosophical perspective

Human Rights is a thriving endeavor in the corridors of courthouses, in political arenas, and in the halls of academia. Even in academia, however, it is usually reserved for Law Schools and departments of Political Science.

Allegories of liberty - (Places: Frontier fence, the Iron Curtain in Hungary, 1978)


This seminar will address human rights in a humanistic context and, more specifically, as a conceptual exploration under the auspices of philosophy. Initially, we will follow the origin and development of the concept of “rights,” moving (chronologically and historically) to natural rights, and from there to the emergence of human rights (mostly, though not exclusively, in the mid-20th century). This philosophical engagement with human rights will entertain several linchpin theoretical issues: the conceptual fundamentals of human rights, the universalism (vs. relativism) of human rights, the liberal conception of individual rights (as opposed to collective rights), and absolute/not-so-absolute human rights. Such an analysis will not, however, shy away from the more concrete and practical topics which have become the fulcrum of human rights discourse today: women’s rights, indigenous rights, economic rights, refugee rights and the like. We will bring the seminar to an end by raising some burning questions that invigorate the human rights agenda, such as torture, the responsibility to protect, and intervention. If time permits we will touch upon the criticism that has become more pronounced of late – of the institutional practice of human rights and even of the very concept.

The seminar is open for both students and staff. Student can take this course under the course code FIL232 and get 5 ECTS. Being that this seminar was planned a bit late and the due date for registering for courses has passed interested students can get the compulsory requirements (submission of draft and individual supervision) approved this semester and hand in the assignment the Autumn of 2014.

Class Meetings and Requirements:
Monday, March 10th – Thursday, March 13th, 12:00-16:00, Room 218, Sydensplassen 12/13
The class will be conducted in seminar format – intensive readings and discussions.
Students will decide on a topic for their seminar paper at the end of the week and will work on it under Prof. Biletzki’s supervision in the following weeks.

For full program and readings see link on the right hand side. The readings are available in My page (in the file storage of FIL232), or you can contact Ståle Melve on e-mail Stale.Melve@fof.uib.no.