Christine Susienka

Title | Organization: 
Graduate Student | Ph.D. program in Philosophy
Student Year: 
8th Year PhD Student (Dissertation Phase)
Areas of Specialization: 

Moral and Political Philosophy


I work primarily in ethics and political philosophy and am also interested in moral psychology, philosophy of law, action theory, and the role of emotions in belief formation and revision.

My current research is on the philosophy of human rights, and it considers the function and justification of human rights as well as the criteria for being a human rights holder or duty-bearer. Throughout the project I develop a relational account of human rights according to which they have their source in a basic community membership relation that exists between human beings simply as fellow human beings. While most often human rights are discussed in the context of international law or when a sufficiently large number of people are affected, taking seriously the commonsense idea that all human beings are human rights holders, and that they hold those rights against all human agents, requires conceptualizing human rights in broader terms. While the current literature effectively considers the structure of human rights and the role they play in international political contexts, not much has been said about the role human rights play in everyday life. For example, think of cases where the content of human rights is relevant, but where we don’t often invoke them, such as in interpersonal relationships or in response to violent crimes. As a result, the emphasis of my project is on the positive fulfillment of human rights, rather than merely their violation, and examining the many ways in which we as individuals and as members of particular communities regularly work to fulfill the human rights of those around us. One upshot of the project is that human rights can be realized in a variety of ways, and that even in cases where human rights exist, we need not always invoke them as such.