Theory of Fundamental Rights - Not offered in AY 2022-23

Undergraduate Program Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

The second half of the 20th century is marked by the growth of a human rights culture. Human rights form now something like a secular Decalogue of fundamental normative orientation. The concept of human rights raises a plethora of difficult and challenging questions. The attempt to answer these questions leads to the very theoretical core of the law itself. The course will first look at the history of ideas to give contemporary debates an adequate background without theoretical naiveté. It will then turn to analytical and structural theories of rights to develop an adequate formal concept of what rights are about. Finally, questions of substantial contents and their legitimacy will be discussed. Throughout, the discussion will draw from concrete examples of the contemporary adjudication of fundamental rights to avoid lofty spheres of deficient abstractness. As a result of these reflections, it should become clearer how the idea of fundamental human rights has developed, what its real content is, what role the theory of fundamental rights has in legal adjudication and how a catalogue of material rights can (and cannot) be justified in an age of profound ethical scepticism.

Learning Outcomes: 

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:
• understand central background assumptions relevant for human rights;
• engage in critical reflection about foundations of legal concepts that are highly relevant for the application of central norms;
• benefit from a substantial knowledge of comparative constitutional law on the supranational level – advanced level;
• approach constitutional problems in their broader political and societal context, from a comparative, international and inter-/ multi-disciplinary perspective;
• compare and contrast theories on human rights and fundamental rights with a view to identify their strengths and limitations.