[Pathways] Call for Papers - Human rights


The French journal Implications Philosophiques has just opened a broad call for paper on the topic of human rights. You may find the details of the call below.

Implications Philosophiques has been publishing special issues on a wide variety of topics since 2009, with a focus on interdisciplinary works where the philosophical methods meets with all the arts and sciences.

Since the mid-twentieth century, human rights seem to have evolved. They have multiplied and been increasingly diversified. New "generations" of rights, different from the original civil and political rights, have flourished.

In that process, human rights seem to have separated more and more from the individualistic conception to which they were closely related at the beginning. Nowadays, human rights seem to relate to a larger - but perhaps more ambiguous - conception of humanity linked to the idea of an equal concern and respect due to every human being. Because of their humanity, humans do not only have fundamental liberties; they also have legitimate aspirations - which may be individual or collective - that must be satisfied.

It is those more recent evolutions which we would like to account for.

In order to provide some guidance to the contributors, we have determined six possible approaches which are exposed below. However, the contributors are not required to choose one of those. Since the subject is very wide and complex, there are certainly other perspectives which would be of great interest. Moreover, for each possible approach we identified, a few references are given. However, those references are only examples. The contributors are not required to use them.

1. Human rights as subjective rights

When talking about human rights, one of the most difficult questions is: what do we mean with the word "right"? Indeed, in that context, that word seems very ambivalent for two reasons.

First, traditionally, human rights were not viewed as legal rights, that is, rights susceptible to be invoked before tribunals to support legal claims. This has only begun to change since the mid-twentieth century. From that point, more and more human rights have been "legalized" but not all of them. There are still a lot of rights which, for professional judges, have no value other than symbolic (for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is not legally binding). For those non-legal human rights, it is therefore unclear what the word "right" means (are they moral rights, political rights? And what does that mean?).

Second, even in the case of "legalized" human rights, the meaning of the word "right" remains unclear as it cannot be understood in its traditional sense, as the positive aspect of a specific debt or obligation (for example, what can be the precise content of the obligation corresponding to a "housing right"?). This also invites us to a broader reflection around the notions of subjective rights and natural rights.

2. Human rights as historical constructions

Human rights have much evolved over time. Their history dates back to the antiquity when the first doctrines of natural law appeared. Therefore, it is certainly very useful to study that historical development in order to properly explain what they are.

Besides, it might also be interesting to study the way human rights influenced the work of the main legal and political philosophers over time. In particular, studying the role that could be assigned to human rights in certain political and moral currents (such as utilitarism, libertarism, liberal-egalitarism, etc.) could be of great interest.

3. Human rights, law and morals

Human rights seem to be at the crossroads of law and morals. Therefore, their study may benefit from an examination of the existing connections between law and morals, as well as the distinction between those two notions (which remains one of the most controversial problems of the contemporary legal philosophy).

4. Human rights, democracy and the separation of powers

With the development of human rights, a new problem has emerged: that of their conciliation with the political ideas of democracy and separation of powers.

Some jurists have argued that the existence of multiple human rights the content of which is sometimes difficult to identify and which, moreover, frequently conflict with each other, provide the judges with the illegitimate power (in a democratic regime) to contradict the will expressed by the people's representatives.

Besides, the French philosopher Marcel Gauchet defended the idea that, because our contemporary democracies have made human rights a central component of politics, they have lost the ability to transform such rights into a real collective political power, leading to the paradoxical situation where, in returning to its original roots, democracy has become its own enemy.

Those criticisms show that the coexistence of human rights, democracy and the separation of powers is more problematic than it seems at first sight.

5. Practical aspects of human rights

It may also be interesting to question the role of human rights in political or altruist activism nowadays.

Especially, thoughts about their role in various philosophical approaches used for studying economic development would probably be very interesting. For example, one may study:

-- the connection between human rights and Amartya Sen's theory of capabilities;
-- the place of human rights in the economic literature on development;
-- the place of human rights in the United Nations' actions as well as in that of other international institutions (such as the World Bank) and of non-governmental organizations.

6. New issues regarding human rights

The more recent political and technological evolutions have raised several new problems regarding human rights.

A first example would be transhumanism and, more broadly, the progresses of medicine and technology. Such progresses should probably lead us to question the very notion of humanity and, thus, the object of what should or could be protected by human rights.

Furthermore, the various debates on animal welfare and artificial intelligence may lead us to question the relevance of the mere idea of "rights for humans": perhaps should we recognize those rights to a broader category of beings.


The contributors must send their proposals (4.000 characters maximum, spaces included) to marc.lamballais@gmail.com before 15 April 2020. We will answer each proposal before 30 April 2020. Papers might be written in French or English, provided that the quality of the writing is excellent.

The authors will then have until 30 September 2020 to submit their papers. We expect to publish the papers towards the end of the year.

Some references

Section 1

-- Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld "Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning" in The Yale Law Journal, 1917, Vol. 26, no. 8, pp. 710-770;
-- Ronald Dworkin, Taking rights seriously, Bloomsbury, London, 2013 (especially chapter 7);
-- Joseph Raz, "On the nature of rights" in Mind, XCIII, 370, 1984, pp.194-214;
-- Joseph Raz, "Human rights without foundations" in Oxford Legal Studies, Research Paper No. 14/2007, mars 2007, available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=999874 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.999874 .

Section 2

-- Henri Sumner Maine, Ancient Law: Its Connection with the Early History of Society, and its Relation to Modern Ideas, J. Murray, 1870 (especially chapters 1 to 5);
-- Jeremy Bentham, Anarchical Fallacies, 1796;
-- Edmund Burke, Reflections on The Revolution in France And Other Writings, Everyman, 2015;
-- Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question, Blurb, 2017;
-- John Rawls, Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, 1999;
-- John Rawls, Justice as fairness: a restatement, Belknap Press, 2001;
-- Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Basic Books, 2013.

Section 3

-- Herbert L.A. Hart, "Positivism and the separation of law and morals" in Harvard Law Review, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Feb., 1958), pp. 593-629;
-- Lon L. Fuller, The morality of Law, Yale University Press, 1977;
-- Harry W. Jones, "Law and Morality in the Perspective of Legal Realism" in Columbia Law Review, Vol. 61, no. 5, 1961, pp.799-809;
-- Ronald Dworkin, Taking rights seriously, op.cit.;
-- Joseph Raz, "Human rights in the emerging world order" in Transnational legal theory, 2010, no. 1 pp. 31-47.
-- Joseph Raz, The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality, Oxford University Press, 2009.
-- John Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Section 4

-- Marcel Gauchet, La democratie contre elle-meme, Gallimard, Paris, 2002;
-- Karl N. Llewellyn, "A realistic jurisprudence - the next step", in Columbia Law Review, Vol. 30, no. 4, 1930, pp.431-465;
-- Jerome Frank, Law and the modern mind, Stevens & Sons Limited, London, 1949.

Section 5

-- Amartya Sen, On ethics and economics, Wiley-Blackwell, 1991
-- Amartya Sen, The idea of Justice, Belknap Press, 2011.
-- Amartya Sen, "Human rights and capabilities" in Journal of Human Development, Vol. 6, Issue no. 2, 2005, pp. 151-166.
-- Martha C. Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach, Belknap Press, 2013.
Section 6

-- #BigData: Discrimination in data-supported decision making , report of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, September 2018, available at https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/big-data-discrimination.
-- Roberto Manzocco, Transhumanism - Engineering the Human Condition: History, Philosophy and Current Status, Springer, 2019.
-- Stephen Holland, Bioethics: A Philosophical Introduction, Polity, 2016.
-- D.M. Broom, "Animal welfare: concepts and measurement" in Journal of Animal Science, Volume 69, Issue 10, October 1991, pp. 4167-4175.

Best regards

Marc Goetzmann

Lecturer in philosophy, University of Reims Champagne Ardenne
PhD, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, UCA
Editor-in-chief for http://www.implications-philosophiques.org

ATER Universite de Reims Champagne Ardenne (URCA)
Agrege de philosophie. Docteur, Universite de Nice Sophia Antipolis, membre de l'Universite Cote d'Azur. Redacteur en chef pour http://www.implications-philosophiques.org