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Debating rights



Nowadays we are assisting to an expansion of the realm of rights. On the one hand, an increasing number of beings and objects are said to be worthy of the protection granted by rights. For example, some have suggested that not only human beings, but also non-human animals, works of arts, ecosystems, future generations, just to name a few, should qualify as right-holders. On the other hand, we are also witnessing the proliferation of the types of rights that individuals (and collectives) are supposed to possess. For instance, while traditionally individuals were assumed to have political, civil, and economic rights, some are now arguing that they may also be entitled to have access to certain kinds of social relationships (Brownlee 2016; Valentini 2016). These issues show that debating rights is still of paramount importance, and that new questions need to be addressed.

This panel aims at bringing together scholars who work on the topic of rights from a broad range of perspectives. As such, we invite contributions that address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • The question of the grounds of rights: What are the sources of rights? Is a relational justification of rights more plausible than a non-relational one? Are human rights necessarily grounded in human dignity (Sangiovanni 2017)?
  • The question of the scope of rights: What sorts of things should be considered right-holders? Do rights exhaust the realm of morality? If not, do rights always trump other moral considerations (Kramer, Steiner & Simmonds 2010)? 
  • The question of the function of rights: Is the main function of rights to protect rights-holders’ interests, or rather that of providing them with the power to control others’ duties? Can the disagreement between the interest theory and the will theory be overcome by a third alternative (e.g. Sreenivasan 2005; Wenar 2013)? Are human rights meant to shield the interests individuals have simply in virtue of their nature, or to constrain the power that political institutions have vis à vis them? Are rights necessarily correlative to duties (Hohfeld 1919)?
  • The question of the types of rights: What kinds of interests ground rights? For example, are the interests in social relationships and/or cultural heritage legitimate grounds for individuals’ (and collectives’) rights? What is the relationship between human rights and citizenship rights?
  • The question of the priority of rights: Are rights governed by any priority rule (Nickel 2008)? If so, which rights are most fundamental, and why?
  • The question of the implications of rights: What institutional implications may be entailed by a theory of rights? Does the ascription of a moral right entail the possession of a legal right?

Submission Guidelines

Please submit an approx. 500-word abstract of your paper prepared for blind-review by the 15th May 2019. We aim to respond within two weeks. All abstracts and enquiries about the workshop should be sent to

At present, we aim to allow for 25 minutes per presentation; and 25 minutes for Q&A, but this may be subject to change.

Registration for this conference will open in May. All participants must register in order to attend. This year’s fees are £230.00 for academics and £135.00 for graduate students and retirees. The deadline for bursary applications (available to current graduate students/early-career researchers and retirees only) will be the 14th June, and successful applicants will be informed by the 21st June. Only people accepted to present on a panel should apply for bursaries.

As organisers of this panel we do not allocate bursaries. However please state in your application to our panel whether you intend to apply for a bursary.  

We look forward to reading your abstracts!