What is the philosophy of human rights?

The philosophy of the human rights attempts to examine the underlying basis of the concept of human rights and critically looks at its content and jurisdiction. Several theoretical approaches have been advanced to explain law and why human rights have became a part of social expectations.

One of the Western philosophies of human rights is that they are a product of a natural law, stemming from different philosophical or religious grounds. Other theories hold that human rights codify moral behavior which is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution as held by David Hume. Human rights are also described as a sociological pattern of rule setting as theorized by Max Weber. These approaches include the notion that individuals in a society accept rules from legitimate authority in exchange for security and economic advantage as according to John Rawls as a ‘Social Contract’.

The two theories that dominate contemporary human rights discussion are the ‘Interest theory’ and the ‘Will theory’. Interest theory argues that the principal function of human rights is to protect and promote certain essential human interests, while Will theory attempts to establish the validity of human rights based on the unique human capacity for freedom.

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