Allen Buchanan

Allen Buchanan’s teaching includes a basic course on human rights, focusing on controversies about the nature of human rights, the justifications for claims about the existence of human rights, the reasons for and against having an international legal human rights system, and the legitimacy (or otherwise) of efforts to promote compliance with human rights norms. Another previous course was titled “Science, Ethics, and Democracy.” It provided a critical examination of relationships between science and democracy, on the assumption that public policy formation in a democracy should be informed by scientific knowledge but also will inevitably require taking a stand on ethical issues.

He continues to do research mainly in three areas: bioethics (at present mainly on the ethics of enhancement and of synthetic biology), philosophy of international law, and social moral epistemology. His most recent papers are “Philosophical Theories of Human Rights” in The Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy, David Estlund, ed.; “Why International Legal Human Rights?” in Foundations of Human Rights, edited by Matthew Liao and Massimo Renzo; “Human Rights and Moral Progress” in Human Rights: The Hard Questions, edited by Cindy Holder and David Reidy; and “Social Moral Epistemology and Education,” forthcoming in a volume on the Philosophy of Education resulting from a Spencer Foundation conference, edited by Harry Brighouse. 1) is a critical survey of current work by philosophers on human rights and argues that they have a seriously inadequate conception of what a philosophical theory of human rights should do. (2) addresses an embarrassingly neglected question: Even if there are moral human rights, why should we have a system of international legal human rights? (3) develops a theory of moral progress and shows how the modern conception of human rights incorporates progress in thinking about justice. These three papers on human rights plus the paper on social moral epistemology and education are available, if you email him requesting them. His books on enhancement include BEYOND HUMANITY (Oxford, 2012) and BETTER THAN HUMAN (Oxford, 2012).

201-E West Duke Building
Box 90743
Durham, NC 27708