Historicity and the Normative Basis of Rights

Stream: Panel 52 - Political Theory: Histories and Concepts of Rights
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


Traditional philosophical approaches to rights have tended to treat them as moral entities whose existence is independent of historical circumstances. By contrast, recent political and genealogical approaches to the history of rights, especially human rights, tend toward the opposite view according to which the nature and existence of rights is entirely a matter of historical circumstance. Neither view is tenable in its extreme form, but this only intensifies the problem of how we should conceive of the relationship between the moral, political and historical dimensions of rights. Many philosophers are happy to concede that the social recognition and institutional embodiment of rights is historical, but reluctant to concede that there is a historical dimension to the justification of rights. This paper will explore reasons for and against the thesis that the normative basis of rights, including human rights, is no less historical than the forms of institutional embodiment of rights.


Paul Patton (Presenter), UNSW
Paul Patton is Scientia Professor of Philosophy at The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Deleuze and the Political (Routledge, 2000) and Deleuzian Concepts: Philosophy, Colonization, Politics (Stanford, 2010). He has published widely on aspects of French poststructuralism and contemporary liberal political philosophy, including the rights of colonized indigenous peoples.