Selected Topics in Jurisprudence: Rights Theory
Prof. Edmundson; Fall 1999
Thursdays; 6-7:40 pm; room 325AThe language of rights has come to dominate contemporary moral, political, and legal discourse. Most of the significant moral and legal controversies of our age turn upon the issue whether or not to ascribe a right of a certain description to one or another class of persons (or creature!). But the very concept of a right held by an individual--the rightholder--against the state, or even against all the world, is thought to be of fairly recent vintage. This fact alone raises the question whether rights can be universal, and whether discourse conducted in terms of rights is not inevitably biased by unexamined presuppositions.
Participants in this seminar will be working together toward a general account of rights--what precisely they are, how they are related to other notions such as duties and permissions, how they arise, what they count for as against other moral and practical reasons, who may hold them, and why. We will read recent work in rights theory, some of it rather technical. Each participant will be responsible for leading discussion of at least one article in the literature, and a final paper of 12-20 pages will be required. An undergraduate background in philosophy or political theory would be advantageous, but is not a prerequisite. The permission of the instructor is, however, required for enrollment, which will be capped. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the seminar.
ReadingsJeremy Waldron, ed., Theories of Rights (Oxford, 1984)
Jeremy Waldron, Liberal Rights (Cambridge, 1993)
James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy (recommended)
E-mail Discussion ListThere is an e-mail discussion list for the seminar. To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail from the e-mail address at which you wish to subscribe to:
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The Grading System ExplainedThere will not be a final examination. Your grade will be based upon class participation and an 12-20 page (typed, double-spaced) paper, on the article you have chosen to present or, with my permission, on another topic. A bibliography is available to help give ideas for possible paper topics. A first draft of the paper will be due in class on Thursday, November 18, and the final paper will be due at noon on the last day of the examination period. This course should count toward satisfying the writing requirement for graduation.
Attendance policyRoll will be taken at each class meeting. Two or more unexcused absences will be grounds for the assignment of a failing grade. Please also note that class nonparticipation may influence your final grade. Because absences due to illness or conflicting family, legal, military or business duties are routinely excused, you need not telephone me to ask that an absence be excused.
Office HoursI have an "open door" policy on meeting outside class. I encourage you to thrust yourselves past the bodyguards at the fourth floor security checkpoint at any time or, if you like, call me to make an appointment. My number is 404-651-2136, and I can be found in office 458, all day, Monday through Friday. E-mail is the most efficient means of communicating with me when I am not available in person: email@example.com .
The schedule is subject to change; it was last updated on Friday, September