SPS/02 - 9 CFU - 1° Semester

Teaching Staff


Course Structure

From Natural Law to Human Rights: the course, which consists of 3 parts (9 ECTS) begins with the history of western natural law and natural rights traditions, with some references also to ancient times, and ends with the recent human rights debates, passing through the historical declarations and focusing on the UDHR which celebrated its 70th anniversary a few years ago. Although human rights issues continue to be debated and discussed, the longer history of human rights is often unexamined and even forgotten. Rather than being a twentieth-century phenomenon, HR mark both a culmination of and a transition from the western natural law and natural rights traditions. The course is structured in regular lectures, seminars held by foreign professors, discussion papers, PPT presentations and simulations that will help students to better understand changes and continuities of the debates and claims about rights throughout the early modern and contemporary age.

Detailed Course Content

Within the framework of globalization processes, the course will examine the affirmation of political doctrines concerning natural law and natural rights through the study of articles and essays written by important modern and contemporary philosophers. Students will be able to better understand the origins of what we now call "human rights" in a perspective that is based on the tradition of predominantly Western thinking. The course focuses on the historical path that marked the transition from natural law and natural rights to human rights, identifying continuity and changes related to human rights debates and claims during this long-lasting period of time, in order to explore how these rights have been historically affirmed, denied, justified and violated. The course aims to provide students with a thorough understanding of the history of fundamental claims that have certainly influenced the human rights documents drawn up in the contemporary age.

Textbook Information

  1. Maurice Cranston, Are there any Human Rights? Daedalus, vol. 112, n.4, Human Rights, 1983.
  2. Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights - A History, W W Norton &Co, 2008.
  3. Lynn Hunt, The French Revolution and Human Rights, Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996.
  4. Leonard Krieger, Kant and the Crisis of Natural law, Journal of the History of Ideas, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965.
  5. Stephen P. Marks, From the "single confused page" to the "Decalogue for six billion persons": The Roots of the UDHR in the French Revolution, Human Rights Quarterly,1998.
  6. Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia - Human Rights in History, Harward University Press, 2012 (paperback edition)
  7. John B. Noone, Rousseau's Theory of Natural Law as a Conditional, Journal of the History of Ideas, 1972.
  8. Brian Tierney, Natural Law and Natural Rights: Old problems and recent Approaches, pubblished on line by Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  9. Richard Tuck, Natural Rights Theories : Their Origin and Development, Cambridge University Press, 1981.
  10. Mark Tunik, John Locke and the Right to bear arms, History of Political Thought, 2014.

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