Law Ethics: The Concept of Human Rights

Subject: Law
Pages: 3
Words: 690
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


A clear definition of the term “human rights” is one of the major factors that contribute to upholding the values of members of a given society and, indeed, the entire universe. However, describing the difference between social and human rights necessitates thoughtfulness because it is compounded with conflicting inferences. As a result, a number of philosophers have delved in diverse theories in a bid to identify the factors that contribute to human rights. But how do human rights emerge? Are human rights considered as dynamic or static?

Emergence of Human Rights

The term “human rights” can be best described as a system that clearly takes into account the fundamental values of providing a good life to humanity, at least to a minimal level (Motilal, 2010).The emergence of human rights started back in the 17th century through diverse philosophical foundations. It is from such a background that there is a huge demand for an analysis of the concepts of human rights. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to delve into an analysis of human rights with regard to moral and legal rights, and then shed light on why ‘human rights’ is a dynamic concept.

Moral and Legal Rights

Moral rights emerge from a viewpoint that seeks to evaluate the essentials needed by humanity in order to live a better life, at least to a minimal level. The moral rights, however, cannot be classified as claim rights because they are not in accord with the bill of human rights from the legislature point of view, but only encompass the pressing needs of the society (Nickel, 2010). Despite this shortcoming, members of the society can exercise the autonomy of the moral rights. For case in point, the feminists groups in United States, even without a legal framework under which they could claim a violation of their political rights, were able to exercise their moral rights by putting their point across to a point where it raised an international concern, and this gave way to emergence of their human rights to vote.

Legal rights, on the other hand, are rights that are characterized by gradually evolving ideas, which are then placed in the legal codes. A legal right, therefore, can be entrusted since it is fully recognized as a law, which, through the legislation, can help to resolve contentious issues concerning human rights. The legal rights emerge from moral rights that take due diligence in assessing the minimal rights that a human beings should possess at a universal level (Nickel, 2010). However, the legal human rights are highly dependent on the jurisdiction of the legislature even though they are accepted on an international level. For case in point, in United States, the legislature, after examining a moral right that is universally accepted, assented to a bill granting every citizen to receive free education from public schools within the country. However, this legal right does not go beyond the United States.

‘Human Rights’ as a Dynamic Concept

The fact that moral and legal rights are not mutually exclusive makes human rights a dynamic concept that does not seem to end any time soon. And even though human rights were developed between the 17th century and the 20th century (Alfredsson & Eide, 1999), there is still more capacity for development because people’s social needs as well as their social economic status change overtime. For case in point, the right to access social amenities, such as health care and education, is perceived as moral universalism because it facilitates eradication of hunger and serious illness; however, this right, under a legal framework, is not considered as a human right, but a social right in majority of the developing countries. But with a change in social economic status, access to such amenities shall be considered as human rights, and shall therefore be provided by the appropriate legislature.


Alfredsson, G., & Eide, A. (1999). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A common standard of achievement. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Motilal, S. (2010). Applied ethics and human rights: Conceptual analysis and contextual applications. London: Anthem.

Nickel, J. (2010). Human Rights. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.