The nature and extent of human rights are central to philosophy. What are rights? Do rights entail corresponding duties? Are rights absolute, or is it sometimes permissible to over-ride them in order to resolve conflicts with other rights or to produce far better consequences than could be achieved by preserving those rights? When is it permissible for a third party to intervene in order to prevent another’s rights from being violated? Is there a basic catalogue of human rights, and if so, how do we identify and justify it? When we speak of human rights, must we include the rights of future generations of currently non-existent humans? What are our rights as citizens, and do our governments have a duty to ensure that they are satisfied? To what extent do other animals have the rights enjoyed by biological human beings or is one’s species an interesting but morally irrelevant feature? The list of such questions is extensive, and every question on it, has been and is being extensively debated by philosophers, including those here at the University of Manitoba.
Neil McArthur is an associate director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba and a professor of philosophy. He is currently completing a manuscript on the history of philosophical treatments of the concept of human rights. He also teaches an undergraduate course on the topic.
Arthur Schafer is a professor in the department of philosophy. He specializes in bioethics, philosophy of law and social and political philosophy.
Schafer also acts as an ethics consultant at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre. Previously, Schafer was head of the bio-medical ethics section in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba and was director of the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics.
Schafer has published widely in the fields of moral, social, and political philosophy. He recently co-edited a book with Dr. Steven Lecce and Neil McArthur titled, Fragile Freedoms: The Global Struggle for Human Rights, which is based upon a lecture series inaugurating the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights and features some of the most influential thinkers on human rights. He is also the author of The Buck Stops Here: Reflections on Moral Responsibility, Democratic Accountability and Military Values, and co-editor of Ethics and Animal Experimentation. Schafer has published more than 90 scholarly articles and book chapters covering a wide range of topics, with a special focus on issues in professional and bio-medical ethics.
Schafer is a Canadian Commonwealth Scholar, Honourary Woodrow Wilson Scholar, and a Canada Council Fellow. At the University of Manitoba, he has received the Stanton Teaching Excellence Award, the Campbell Award for University Outreach, and the University Teaching Service Award for Teaching Excellence.
He has been a frequent guest on CBC radio and television and has written dozens of newspaper articles for the Globe and Mail,Toronto Star, Winnipeg Free Press, Medical Post and Sunday Times (London).