Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL3262: The Idea of Human Rights

This module descriptor refers to the 2020/1 academic year.

Module Aims

The module considers the idea of human rights from a variety of perspectives within political, moral and legal philosophy. We begin by considering the history (and historiography) of the concept of human rights, looking at how the idea is articulated by cosmopolitan liberal writers in the late eighteenth century (such as Thomas Paine). We look at how historians have contested its emergence and thereby consider how the idea itself is best conceptualized. We move on to look at Arendt’s critique of universal human rights and Rorty’s attempt to offer an anti-foundational defence of the idea. We then turn to consider the theories of human rights – advanced by John Rawls, James Griffin and others – before raising specific normative questions about how the concept relates to substantive political concerns. These questions vary from year to year, and will include some of the following: the relationship between human rights and democracy; the human right to freedom of movement; feminism and human rights; the post-colonial critique of human rights practice; human rights and healthcare; and how a concern with human rights relates to the natural environment.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. demonstrate understanding of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of a prominent political phenomenon
2. critically evaluate different conceptions of human rights
Discipline-Specific Skills3. analyse texts in moral, legal and political philosophy
4. criticise philosophical texts effectively
Personal and Key Skills5. formulate and express ideas at different levels of abstraction
6. demonstrate proficiency in written communication according to scholarly conventions