The question of sound philosophical foundations for human rights continues to generate controversy amongst theorists, if not amongst many (perhaps most) of those who campaign for human rights in the real world. The latter may find frustrating the persistent scepticism of some human rights theorists about the normative foundations of human rights claims, though the overwhelming majority of moral, legal and political theorists in fact endorse human rights. Yet it seems to me that Perry is absolutely right to insist that a theoretical justification for human rights is practically necessary — whenever and wherever human rights are challenged in the real world, advocates of human rights need to be able to offer reasons in support of their demands. If an agent ought to do X because a theory of human rights says so, then the agent might reasonably ask why he should be guided by a theory of human rights — in other words, what are the grounds or foundations of human rights claims? This question matters, not least because, as Michael Freeman points out, ‘rights without reasons are vulnerable to denial and abuse’ (1994, p. 493).
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