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About the Conference

A Conference on “Human Rights and the Controversy about the Nature of Law”

February 9-10, 2017

Tallinn University A-002

The idea of the conference is to discuss human rights moving from the work of one of the leading contemporary philosophers of law, Robert Alexy. Professor Alexy along three decades has been Ordinarius for public law and philosophy of law at the University of Kiel in Germany, developing an impressive jurisprudential opus that is now widely acknowledged as one of most powerful legal theories in the contemporary debate. In particular Alexy has devoted his work to three related issues, (i) legal argumentation, (ii) the concept of law, and (ii) human and fundamental rights.

Very important is Alexy’s conception of fundamental rights as “precepts of optimisation” which then to be applied and implemented need refer to a process of weighing and balancing, distinct from the deductive operation that is appropriate to rules. Such distinction between rules and rights, that are conceived as “principles” has been widely adopted by supreme courts, e.g. by the German Bundesverfassungsgericht or by the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg, opening to a reappraisal of an old concept of both civil and common law, reasonableness, now reshaped as “proportionality”, Verhältnismässigkeit. Alexy moreover tries to expand the notion of fundamental rights into that of human rights (making a generous and original use of Habermas’ suggestions), and to make such notion an integral part of the definition of law within a democratic system. 

We will first have the chance of giving the floor to Professor Alexy for a review of his seminal theory. Then a selected group of scholars would discuss human rights from different angles, in particular their impinging on the ideal dimension of law, that is opening the concept of law to values and principles. The conference main purpose is a reassessment of how much (or else how little) human rights can be on the one side seen as political entitlements appropriate and required to give life and legitimacy (even “sense”) to democracy and on the other side to be able to reinvigorate a Welfare State central category, such as that of social rights that has suffered a decline once exposed to globalisation and neoliberal structures.

Professor Massimo La Torre

For additional information please contact:

Mariliis Rannama