This thesis traces the foundations and justifications for basic human rights. Using the theories of Loren Lomasky, Henry Shue and Alan Gewirth, it explicates how rights develop in moral communities. Moreover, it shows how welfare rights-rights more extensive than basic rights-can be justified if one accepts Lomasky's libertarian conception of basic rights. Further, it explains how more advanced welfare rights actually enter the experience of more affluent societies. The justification and explanation is derived from a wholely neo-Kantian ethic found in much of contemporary theory. It shows how justification of basic rights is found in Lomasky's concept of project pursuit. It also shows how more advanced rights claims arise and how they can be justified.
All rights are created through experience. None exist a priori. Rights will vary from society to society and will differ according to the collective experiences of each society. Without rights, no meaningful life can be lived. But once some rights are admitted, a veritable Pandora's Box is opened and rights claims will grow as individuals' expectations within the society grow. There are limits, however, to the lengths to which a society will accede rights claims. When these limits are reached or passed, respect for rights declines; expectations are lowered or go unmet. The thesis also shows the role ideological considerations play in allowing a clearer understanding of the depth and breadth of rights. Because rights are the heaviest moral claims individuals make on other individuals, obligation and acquiescence to rights claims must be justified.