Vol. 2 No. 1 (2020): Simon Fraser University Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy

Social Mitigationism: Utilizing Harm Mitigation as a Ground for Human Rights and a Guide for Social Relations

Published 2020-10-21


  • Human Rights,
  • The Orginal Position,
  • Rawls,
  • Harm Mitigation


This paper proposes a new theory regarding human rights, which it coins Social Mitigationism. It attempts to provide grounding for the notion of rights, aims to determine the exact contents of these rights, and stipulates on how they would be applied in practice. This investigation utilizes ‘the original position,’ a thought experiment first introduced by John Rawls. While he concludes that those within the original position would agree to two principles of justice, this paper suggests that the contractors would agree to a third principle; that is, serious risks and harms should be mitigated within society and human rights are best understood as instrumental tools towards this aim. It proceeds to analyze what rights could be derived from this theory, what they would contain, and how they would interact. Finally, this paper discusses potential implications and criticisms of this theory on a domestic, international, and interpersonal scale.