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Abstract

Is there a human right to subsistence? A satisfactory answer to this question will explain what makes human rights distinctive, what is meant by subsistence, and why subsistence is an appropriate content of a human right. This article situates the human right to subsistence within the context of recent philosophical discussions of human rights. The argument for human subsistence rights provides an instructive example of how to understand what human rights are, why we must affirm them, and how they fit together as a coherent group. I begin the article by outlining the meaning, content, and justification of human rights in general. I then identify the strongest arguments for affirming a human right to subsistence and the most powerful objections to such a right. Finally, I address the worry about human rights inflation and question any minimalist understanding of human rights that would either exclude subsistence rights altogether or limit their scope in certain ways.