Human Rights

Dr Tom Kerns













Discussion Questions for
the Human Rights article
in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Probably the simplest way to approach this assignment would be to print the .pdf form of this article, then, in the table of contents at the beginning of the article, circle the titles of the assigned sections and cross out the titles of the unassigned sections. With the printed article you can then read it, underline significant portions and scribble your questions or comments in the margins.

Assigned sections:

  • Sec 1
  • Sec 2
  • Sec 3
  • Sec 5.1
  • Sec 5.2
  • Sec 5.7
  • Sec 5.8

Not assigned:

  • 3.1
  • 3.2
  • 3.3
  • 4
  • 5.3
  • 5.4
  • 5.5
  • 5.6

Discussion Questions

  1. On pages 3-5 of Section One author James Nickel lays out ten (he says there are only eight but I count ten) characteristics of human rights.
    1. First list the ten (or eight) characteristics you see here.
    2. Then choose any two that you find interesting or important.
    3. Explain what you find interesting or important about those two.

  2. In the second of those characteristics, Nickel discusses four ways in which human rights exist. Describe what he means by each of those four ways.

  3. The fourth characteristic is that human rights are "minimal standards." Explain what you understand Nickel to mean by that.

  4. Select any two additional points made in the assigned sections of this article that you consider interesting or important. Explain what you find interesting or important about the two points you've chosen.