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Studies in Global Justice

Human Duties and the Limits of Human Rights Discourse

Authors: Boot, Eric R.

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  • Provides a comprehensive discussion of the controversial human duties declarations promulgated in recent decades
  • Uses Kant’s taxonomy of duties as a guideline to distinguish genuine from spurious human rights' claims
  • Challenges the pervasive idea that (duties of) justice is/are more important than (duties of) virtue
  • Provides a critique of the dominance of human rights discourse not only from the ‘external’ perspective of political philosophy, but also from within human rights discourse itself
  • Includes a study of the Universal Declaration’s drafting history, which shows that the drafters initially meant to achieve a balance between rights and duties, a lesson that has since then been forgotten
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About this book

This book demonstrates the importance of a duty-based approach to morality. The dominance of what has been labeled “rights talk” leads to the neglect of duties without corresponding rights (e.g., duties of virtue) and stimulates the proliferation of questionable human rights. Therefore, this book argues for a duty-based perspective on morality in order to, first, salvage duties of virtue, and, second, counter the trend of rights-proliferation by providing some conceptual clarity concerning rights and duties that will enable us to differentiate between genuine and spurious rights-claims. 

The argument for this duty-based perspective is made by examining two particularly contentious duties: duties to aid the global poor and civic duties. These two duties serve as case studies and are explored from the perspectives of political theory, jurisprudence and moral philosophy. The argument is made that both these duties can only be adequately defined and allocated if we adopt the perspective of duties, as the predominant perspective of rights either does not recognize them to be duties at all or else leaves their content and allocation indefinite. 

This renewed focus on duties does not wish to diminish the importance of rights. Rather, the duty-based perspective on morality will strengthen human rights discourse by distinguishing more strictly between genuine and inauthentic rights. Furthermore, a duty-based approach enriches our moral landscape by recognizing both duties of justice and duties of virtue. The latter duties are not less important or supererogatory, but function as indispensable complements to the duties prescribed by justice. 

In this perceptive and exceptionally lucid book, Eric Boot argues that a duty-focused approach to morality will remedy the shortcomings he finds in the standard accounts of human rights. The study tackles staple philosophical topics such as the contrasts between duties of virtue and duties of justice and imperfect and perfect obligations. But more importantly perhaps, it also confronts the practical question of what our human rights duties are and how we ought to act on them. Boot's book is a splendid example of how philosophy can engage and clarify real world problems.

Kok-Chor Tan, Department of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania

 
A lively and enjoyable defence of the importance of our having duties to fellow human beings in severe poverty. At a time when global justice has never been more urgent, this new book sheds much needed light.

Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government and Head of Durham Law School, Durham University

About the authors

Eric R. Boot studied philosophy and literary studies at the University of Amsterdam, the Naples Eastern University and the Free University of Berlin. In 2010 he graduated with a MA thesis on the concepts of freedom and responsibility in the works of Kant and Heidegger. As of June 2011 he started work on his PhD in philosophy of law (supervised by prof. dr. Thomas Mertens and dr. Ronald Tinnevelt) at the Faculty of Law of the Radboud University Nijmegen. For the duration of the spring semester 2013 he visited the Department of Philosophy of the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting scholar. His supervisor there was prof. dr. Kok-Chor Tan. Following the completion of his PhD with honors (cum laude), he started work at Leiden University in December 2015 on the three-year postdoctoral project “Unauthorized Disclosures,” which is part of the project “Democratic Secrecy: Philosophical Analysis of the Role of Secrecy in Democratic Governance.” This project is funded by the European Research Council and will be executed under the supervision of dr. Dorota Mokrosinska. Additionally, he is the coordinator of the Study Group Political Philosophy, of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW). Finally, in 2017, he won both the Praemium Erasmianum for best dissertation in the fields of the humanities and social sciences and the dissertation prize of the Netherlands Association for Philosophy of Law (VWR).

Reviews

“Human duties and the limits of human rights discourse, by Eric R. Boot, highlights that human duties may have been overlooked in favour of human rights. Boot tries to correct this imbalance and advocates for a broadened understanding of morality in the contemporary global era. … The book makes an excellent theoretical and practical contribution to the understanding of human duties as a crucial—yet somehow missing—component of the human rights discourse.” (Isabela Garbin Ramanzini, International Affairs, Vol. 94 (04), July, 2018)

Buy this book

eBook n/a
  • ISBN 978-3-319-66957-1
  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: PDF, EPUB
  • ebooks can be used on all reading devices
Hardcover n/a
  • ISBN 978-3-319-66956-4
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
Human Duties and the Limits of Human Rights Discourse
Authors
Series Title
Studies in Global Justice
Series Volume
17
Copyright
2017
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Copyright Holder
Springer International Publishing AG
eBook ISBN
978-3-319-66957-1
DOI
10.1007/978-3-319-66957-1
Hardcover ISBN
978-3-319-66956-4
Series ISSN
1871-0409
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
IX, 183
Number of Illustrations
2 b/w illustrations
Topics