Review Of "Rights And Demands: A Foundational Inquiry" By M. Gilbert

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Rights and Demands is a mature philosophical exploration of how to understand the nature, scope, and limits of demand rights. To have such a right is to have standing to demand something of another. But on what grounds? Gilbert (Univ. of California, Irvine) argues that demand rights are grounded solely in joint commitments, which she illustrates using promises and other social agreements. The solely is important because she denies that demand rights have a grounding outside of social agreements. Further, moral demand rights cannot be generated by a legal system unless joint commitments are involved. The book ends with a fascinating chapter titled "Human Rights in Light of the Foregoing," in which Gilbert discusses in some detail the views of Henry Shue (Basic Rights, CH, May'81; 2nd ed., 1996), Charles Beitz (The Idea of Human Rights, 2009), and Joseph Raz (The Morality of Freedom, CH, Dec'86). Gilbert does not deny that there are such things as moral rights, though she does suggest that they are more problematic than many philosophers suppose. What she does deny is that human rights are demand rights, as she understands them. This wonderful book is a treasure store of careful argumentation. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.


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