Week 10: PHL400
November 12 , 2013
Rachels: not about human rights per say, but about more general things
Philosopher Jacques Maritian (at one time professor at U of T and later one of the drafters of the 1948
Universal Declaration of Human Rights) once said;
“We all agree on the rights, as long as no one asks us why” [pacificity; our collective inability to provide
reasons as to why they are important]
- Once you start defining what it means to be human, we will end up bringing out the worst and
exclude people by definition – disability, characteristics, etc.
- Where are these rights that we define, what makes the substance of their reality? How do they
exist, where do they exist?
- Problem: authority and legitimacy of these rights (Donnelly points out most current
governments enshrine these rights one way or another, such as the Decalaration, which implies
a very strange truth to the reality of human rights – they are generally enforced by the only
people capable of violating them)
- Simpsons Couch Gag (Banksy)
Exploitation of South Korea workers for American entertainment
Is this right, is this the best we can do, are we asking the right questions?
Universal power and appeal of framing the question by invoking norms and images and
juxtaposing them with images, to the point where something is communicated to us
Who is responsible for changing these issues? Who is responsible for these issues?
“Slippery slope”? The most basic bottom rights are being ignored, but for what reason?
Neither Relative nor Universal: AResponse to Donnelly
- “all this talk, but very little action”
- Donnelly struggles with the “relative universality of human rights” practical and empirical
- By definition human rights are universal
- “a form of universalism that also allows substantial space for important (second order) claims of
relativism” (p. 282) What are second order claims of relativism? How does it become relative,
where is it universalized?
- Example: rights are profoundly liberal – so broad to be useless, it is precisely how they live on
through time and space
- Don nelly wants to defend a “functional, legal universalism, and overlapping consensus
- As opposed to “anthropological, historical, or ontological universality
- Most straightforward: why is universality such an important issue to human rights conversation?
If you want to believe that human rights are intrinsic to people, then you must believe they can be applied universally, they are unmodified, unconditional, and not historical or cultural -> not
something we make, but something found there
Ways of being universal
- Conceptual, functional, legal international, overlapping consensus, anthropological/historical
Why does this work in so many parts of the world now?
Near globalization of the norm -> modernity has reached almost every corner of the
- Human rights are not univers