July 24, 2013 · 7:00 PM
In a number of recent meetings I have attended, the conversation has included mention of something called "human rights". Further, other terms have been presented, such as "legal rights", "natural rights", and just plain "rights", all of which should intend a different meaning, but have been used synonymously with "human rights". In short there seems to be several terms for the concept and some confusion about how to utilize each term. But the confusion is not just in usage. Most would argue that "legal rights" has a clear meaning, but some would argue that the notion of "human rights" is more basic than "legal rights". Some would argue that "human rights" and "natural rights" means basically the same thing, while some would argue that there is no such thing as a "natural right". So I ask, just what is a "human right"?
Wikipedia states "Human rights are 'commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in local, regional, national, and international law" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights).
However, elsewhere in Wikipedia, it is noted that in some older Western philosophies, human rights "are a product of a natural law, stemming from different philosophical or religious grounds. Other theories say human rights codify moral behavior which is a human social product developed by a process of biological and social evolution". And further, "natural law theories base human rights on a 'natural' moral, religious or even biological order that is independent of transitory human laws or traditions" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_human_rights).
Apparently there is some disagreement as to whether human rights are "natural" or man-made or perhaps even a little of both. What do you think? What are "human rights"? Where do such rights come from? Do they really exist or are they something we have made_up? And if we have made them up, why have we?