The Pub Debate – Are human rights natural rights?

On Monday 20th April, we have our next Pub Debate.  This will be between Dr Damian Grace and Dr Michaelis Michael, who will be discussing the issue Are human rights natural rights?  Their positions are as follows:

Damian Grace:
I believe that we need absolute principles – very few but very absolute. The protection of life is first, then come the basics of human flourishing. Since these principles come from a notion of flourishing, they are related to human goods in themselves, not to political harmony or government. This means that they are moral and natural.  They should supervene on government and policy because they a) involve treating people as ends; and b) are about human flourishing, which governments ought at least to protect if not foster.
Michaelis Michael:
I think human rights are shrouded in mystical hoopla.  The existing rhetoric makes human rights akin to natural rights and I doubt that natural rights make sense.  I don’t think there are any moral rights at all. However I think that it is important that we give ourselves fundamental legal and political rights by setting up our legal and social institutions to confer such rights on ourselves. These legal and political rights are not justified by their matching any antecedent moral rights. They are justified morally as an acceptable solution to the problem of organizing ourselves, of reining in the possible abuses of power by those who have it to exercise.
The debate will start at 6pm, with drinks beginning at 5pm, as ever, in the Club Bar upstairs at the Roundhouse.  Please come along, listen to, and engage with this interesting topic.


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