Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Analysis 72:3 (July 2012), pp. 632–634; doi: 10.1093/analys/ans062
Published online May 22, 2012.


Copyright © 2012 Ari Kohen. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. Used by permission.


In his first volume on human rights, Which Rights Should be Universal, William Talbott made the case for a set of human rights that ought to be regarded as universal. Now comes the second volume, very much related to the first, though not dependent, in which Talbott puts forward a consequentialist argument for basic human rights that governments ought to guarantee to their citizens. This list is an expansion of the one generated in the first volume, based on the idea that the philosophical argument in this volume allows for such an expansion. Because Talbott’s project is a consequentialist one, the goal is to make a case for human rights based on the notion that such rights increase human well-being. Talbott’s (2010: 26–27) book offers a new account that is worth serious exploration, both because of the breadth of the scholarship and because of the depth of analysis when it comes to putting forward his own theory, designed – in his own words – to contribute to the project of improving ‘our ground-level moral judgments’ by establishing ‘a meta-theory of human rights’ that provides ‘guideposts for improvements in current opinions and . . . resources for understanding why future changes are improvements’.