State of the Art: The Nature and Function of Rights


Giulio Fornaroli (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

Cristián Rettig (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez)

Up to Date Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Renee Bolinger (Princeton); Nicolas Cornell  (Michigan – Ann Arbor); Rowan Cruft (Stirling); Matthew Kramer (Cambridge); Saladin  Meckled-Garica (UCL); Laura Valentini (LMU)

*All times are British Summer Time (BST)

Tuesday 7th September

Session 1

Start time 3 pm – End time 4.30 pm

“Rethinking Moral Claim Rights” – Laura Valentini (LMU)

TBD – Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL)

Session 2

Start time 4.40 pm – End time 7 pm

“Directedness, Rights, Interests, and Conditions for Cooperation” – Guido Löhr (Eindhoven University of Technology)

“Children, the Unconscious, and the Dead: Consent and the Will Theory of Rights” – Karamvir Chadha (Durham)

“Directed Obligations, Recognition, and Moral Deliberation” – Jonas Vandieken (LMU)

Wednesday 8th September

Session 3

Start time 3 pm – End time 4.30 pm

“Rights and Right-Holding” – Matthew Kramer (Cambridge)

“Can There Be Positive Human Rights?” – Adina Preda (TCD)

Session 4

Start time 4.40 pm – End time 7 pm

“Towards an Action-Guiding Theory of Human Rights” – Cristián Rettig (Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez)

“Rights Enable Agency” – Siegfried Van Duffel (Nazarbayev University)

“Bentham’s Test and the Protection of Interests” – Simon Franz Ewers (Zurich)

Thursday 9th September

Session 5

Start time 3 pm – End time 4.30 pm

“TBD” – Rowan Cruft (Stirling)

“Meaningful Rights Proclamations” – Giulio Fornaroli (UNAM)

Session 6

Start time 4.40 pm – End time 7 pm

“Rights and Action-Guidance” – Nicolas Cornell (Michigan – Ann Arbor)

“Owing Something to Another” – Joseph Bowen (Stockholm)

“Natural Rights and Normative Powers” – Richard Healey (Roehampton)

Friday 10th September

Session 7

Start time 3 pm – End time 4.30 pm

“The Social Approach to Rights” – Renee Bolinger (Michigan – Ann Arbor)

“Rights in an Uncertain World” – Chelsea Rosenthal (Simon Fraser)

Session 8

Start time 4.40 pm – End time 7 pm

“Moral Patients Who Shave with Occam’s Razor: A Reductive Account of the Grounds of Rights” – Matthew Perry (Manchester)

“The Razian’s Elephant in the Room” – Kimberley Brownlee (UBC)

Social Event/Virtual Drinks TBD

The philosophy of rights in the last decades has been both prolific and deeply innovative. The  will vs. interest debate still informs, in an always more sophisticated form, a good part of the  scholarship. But recent accounts by authors such as Cruft, Gilbert, Sreenivasan and Wenar at tempt to overcome or radically reframe the debate.  

In the meantime, growing attention is being devoted to the concept of a directed duty. It  is now commonly accepted that the duties correlating with claim-rights are characterized by an  element of direction (they are to be discharged for the right-holder; they are owed to them)  absent in generic ethical duties. 

Directionality is increasingly taken as a crucial feature in the understanding of the nature  of claim-rights. But what directed duties are is far from clear. Some understand directed duties as creating their own separate realm of bipolar or second-personal normativity that is irreduc ible to the third-personal normativity of general ethical norms. Ohers, however, (Darwall, Wal lace) argue that ethics in general is, at bottom, a second-personal exercise.  

Equally ripe for debate is the relationship between directionality and interest or will  theories. Is directionality a challenge for traditional will- and interest-accounts of the function  of rights? Or is it, by contrast, an element of claim-rights that will and interest theories are per fectly fit to capture and explain (as argued by both Steiner and Kramer)? 

And, how do these theoretical puzzles in the general philosophy of rights relate to ap plied questions about rights in legal theory? If directionality is indeed the core property of  rights, what should we think of those rights that do not seem to involve bipolar normativity?  Consider rights in rem such as those found in property or criminal law, which are directed against a collection of duty-bearers, consisting in the whole world. How should directionality  be understood here?  

A different question that has lately attracted renewed interest concerns natural rights.  What role, if any, should they play in a general theory of rights? And, if we do not want to ex press outright skepticism about their function, what can we say about their grounds?  

Finally, is there anything about the concept of a right that determines which entities can  be holders of rights? Interest and will theorists have traditionally answered differently to this  question, and it is far from obvious how authors who take inspiration from directionality can  use that paradigm to tell us whether non-human animals, or group agents, or the future generations and the dead, or maybe even natural elements and human artefacts can hold rights.  The workshop welcomes any contribution which aims at answering these and related  questions about the nature and function of rights.  

To apply, please send a 300-400-word abstract to by 15th May. We aspire to give around 40 minutes (inclusive of both presentation and Q&A) per paper.  

Registration will open in May. All participants must register in order to attend.

This year’s fees are 

Academics: £45 

Graduate students, retirees, and unaffiliated attendees: £20 

Non-speaker/non-presenting attendees: £15 

A small number of bursaries (for graduate students only) are available. Please state in your  application to our panel whether you intend to apply for a bursary. 

We look forward to reading your abstracts, 

Giulio and Cristián.