Introduction to Philosophy: Rights - PL300

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 3)
Autumn 4 15 (7.5) DR E Kanterian checkmark-circle


This module provides an introduction to some of the key issues in the philosophy of law. All of the ideas discussed are linked by focusing on the notion of 'right'. Students will be exposed to a variety of questions and issues, such as: ‘What is a right?’, ‘Are there such things as natural rights?’, ‘Is there any absolute right?’, ‘What is involved in saying that one has a right to free speech or a right to private property?’, ‘Who has a right and why?’, ’Do future people have rights?’, ‘Do we have a right against social deprivation?’ and ‘Do children have a right to be loved?’.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay 1 – 40%
Essay 2 – 50%
Seminar Participation – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Liao, S. M. (2006), 'The Right of Children to be Loved', Journal of Political Philosophy, 14: 4, 420–440.
Singer P.(1989) 'All Animals are Equal', in Regan, T. and Singer. P (eds.), Animal Rights and Human Obligations. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 148-162.
Langton, R. (1993), 'Speech acts and unspeakable acts', Philosophy and Public Affairs 22: 4, 293-330.
Shue, H. (1996). Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2nd ed. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Nickel J. W. (2007). Making Sense of Human Rights. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Brownlee, Kimberley (2013). 'The Human Right Against Social Deprivation', Philosophical Quarterly 63: 251, 199- 222.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate understanding of the difference between natural and political rights;
Demonstrate understanding of the two major normative accounts of rights (the interest theory vs the choice theory);
Demonstrate understanding of fundamental questions surrounding human rights (what are they, why do we have them, are they universal?);
Demonstrate understanding of various rights that people might be thought to have and debate whether people do in fact have them (e.g. the right against social deprivation or the right to free speech);
Demonstrate understanding of the notion of a rights-bearer and debate whether various types of possible rights-bearers do in fact have anything approaching a right (e.g. animals);
Demonstrate understanding of different critiques of rights (e.g. feminist and communitarian critiques of rights);
Apply this theoretical understanding to relevant case studies (e.g. rights of future generations, animal rights).


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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