Nowadays the rhetoric of human rights seems to be just about universal. No tyrants, no autocracy, seem to be so benighted that they refuse, in public at least, to endorse the claims of human rights. In practice they may jail or torture political opponents, or refuse to educate women, but when applying for aid to the United Nations they will give solemn assurances that human rights are respected in their jurisdiction, respected at least as far as is practical under conditions of emergency, respected at least in point of intent: that when the current crisis has been alleviated, normal conditions will be swiftly resumed. ‘Normal conditions’, of course, will comprise the promotion and protection of a standard list of human rights. The ‘standard list’ is likely to be provided by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. If any political principles have been elevated to the pantheon of political correctness, to the point where denial of them taints the

innocent philosophical sceptic, human rights have. This makes it all the more important that we examine their philosophical credentials.