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The Political Theory of Human Rights

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 16, 2014 - June 27, 20142M-F 12:45-3:35POpenJason Swadley10301

Course Description

What are human rights? Why is torture immoral? Is there a basic right to education, or health care? Is war sometimes justified to protect those who can't protect themselves?

In this class, we'll use philosophy, film, and literature to answer these questions, to examine how the idea of human rights developed and how we use that idea in modern debates about war, economics, nonviolence, immigration, and other topics.

The first half of the course will examine how the concept of human rights developed. We'll read thinkers from ancient times to our own who argue for the existence and protection of rights. In the second half, we'll apply this knowledge to modern debates about who should protect human rights and when they should be protected. We'll also look at critics of rights; why would anyone want human rights in the first place?

This class will ask, in essence, what it means to be human, and what rights are entailed by that humanity.