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Amber Kavka-Warren '11

39d_kavkia_warren_amber.jpgAmber Kavka-Warren '11, an honors major in philosophy and minor in linguistics, spent her summer on campus researching the subject of human rights.

What are human rights? What can philosophy say about them? Can we say anything practical about them?

I spent the summer researching answers to these questions. I was inspired by a course titled Justice, taught by Professor Peter Baumann, and I developed a research project proposal with Professor Hans Oberdieck, who helped to refine my interest in political philosophy. The center of my project is a critique of Charles Beitz's The Idea of Human Rights.

Human rights as they are understood today are a relatively recent phenomenon, growing out of the tradition of natural rights that philosophers have discussed since Descartes. The philosophers who have had an impact on my work, besides Beitz, include Henry Shue, Joseph Raz, and H.L.A. Hart. Most philosophers writing on human rights today agree that they aren’t finished yet.

I considered myself a campus nomad. I traveled between the libraries, Papazian Hall [home of the philosophy department], and anywhere else with air conditioning. It was a lot like finals week, except that you have one project for the whole summer. It allows you a perspective you don’t get during the year.

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