Rights from Wrongs: The Origins of Human Rights in the Experiences of Injustice

Rights from Wrongs: The Origins of Human Rights in the Experiences of Injustice

by Alan M. Dershowitz, William Frucht
     
 

This is a wholly new and compelling answer to one of the most persistent dilemmas in both law and moral philosophy: If rights are "natural"-if, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, it is "self-evident that all men are endowed...with certain inalienable rights"-where do these rights come from? Does natural law really exist outside the formal

Overview

This is a wholly new and compelling answer to one of the most persistent dilemmas in both law and moral philosophy: If rights are "natural"-if, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, it is "self-evident that all men are endowed...with certain inalienable rights"-where do these rights come from? Does natural law really exist outside the formal structure of humanly enacted law? On the other hand, if rights are nothing more than the product of human law, what argument is there for allowing the "rights" of a few people to outweigh the preferences of the majority?In this book, renowned legal scholar Alan Dershowitz offers a fresh resolution to this age-old dilemma: Rights, he argues, do not come from God, nature, logic, or law alone. They arise out of particular experiences with injustice. While justice is an elusive concept, hard to define and subject to conflicting interpretations, injustice is immediate, intuitive, widely agreed upon and very tangible.This is a timely book that will have an immediate impact on our political dialogue, from the intersection of religion and law to recent quandaries surrounding the right to privacy, voting rights, and the right to marry. More than that, it is a passionate case for the recognition of human rights in a rigorously secular framework.Rights from Wrongs will be the first book to propose a theory of rights that emerges not from some theory of perfect justice but from its opposite: from the bottom up, from trial and error, and from our collective experience of injustice.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The double meaning in Dershowitz's title indicates just one of the insightful thoughts that mark the well-known Harvard law professor's latest work. In tracing the evolution of rights, he argues forcefully against any concept of natural rights deriving from religion and from law. Defining himself as a pragmatist, Dershowitz asserts that human rights derive from the world's experience with "wrongs," i.e., injustice. Only after seeing genocide, for example, did the notion develop that this was a violation of human rights. Dershowitz (Supreme Injustice) has a rare ability to develop complex ideas in readable prose. In the book's first half, he carefully examines the rationale for an experiential approach to rights; the second half applies this approach to some of today's hot-button issues. Dershowitz is often on the liberal side: for instance, he has little stomach for literal interpretations of the Constitution-what he calls the "dead constitution" approach. But he can surprise: he argues, for instance, that Justice Scalia's "dead constitution" approach led him to a firmer defense of individual rights than other justices in the recent Hamdi case. Whether conservative or liberal, absolutist or relativist, readers will find areas of disagreement, but most will concur that a talented and creative legal mind is at work. Agent, Helen Rees Literary Agency. (Nov. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465017133
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/01/2004
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Alan Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Known as a defense lawyer, he is also a litigator, columnist, lecturer, book reviewer, and prolific author. His recent books include Sexual McCarthyism, on the Starr investigation, and Reasonable Doubts, on the O. J. Simpson case. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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