2014 JSI Seminar Series: Associate Professor Massimo Renzo

14 August 2014

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Basic Needs and Moral Status: A Hybrid Theory of Human Rights
This paper explores the possibility of grounding the justification of human rights in the notion of "basic needs". Associate Professor Massimo Renzo will suggest that human rights protect their holders' opportunity to fulfil a core group of socially embedded biological and psychological needs. A similar view is defended by Thomas Pogge and David Miller, but whilst their accounts offer purely instrumentalist justifications of human rights, Renzo believes that the notion of basic needs also plays a role within a non-instrumental justification, i.e. a justification that does not derive the value of human rights from their capacity to realize fundamental interests we have, but rather from the fact that they express our nature as beings of a certain sort (Kamm). His argument will draw on some ideas by Jean Hampton on moral value. Hampton suggests that there are actions that 'morally injure' their victim, in the sense that the victim is treated in a way which is precluded by her value. These actions represent the value of the victim as less than the value that she possesses, as they deny the entitlements which are generated by that value. Renzo suggests that this is what violations of human rights do (in addition to whatever harm they cause): they deny that the victim has the status of human being, in that they treat the victim as if she did not have those basic protections that all human beings possess simply in virtue of their being human. Basic needs identify the sort of protections that, if disrespected, produce the relevant type of moral injury to our status of human being. It is by failing to acknowledge that individuals have normative protections that guarantee their option of having basic needs met, that we fall short of treating them with the respect owed to them qua human being.

Associate Professor Renzois a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wawrick in the UK. He works primarily in legal and political philosophy and his main research interests are in the problems of authority, political obligation, international justice and the philosophical foundations of the criminal law.Heisone of the editors of Criminal Law and Philosophy, the Secretary of the UK Branchof the International Association of Legal and Social Philosophy (IVR) and the Honorary Secretary of the Society for Applied Philosophy.

Lawyers/barristers: attendance at this lecture is equal to 1.5 MCLE/CPD units

Time: 6.00pm-8.00pm

Location: Faculty Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Free, registration essential

Contact: Professional Learning and Community Engagement (PLaCE) Team

Phone: (02)93510429

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