HREQ 2010 Lecture Notes - Private Sphere, Moral Universalism, Westphalian Sovereignty

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What are Human rights?
Rules that we should follow that recognize the fundamental entitlement of every human being
regardless of their identity or background (Universal declaration of human rights)
- Is not a law in every country but it was built as a guideline to all countries in making their
own human rights regulations
Cyrus the Great initiated the idea of human rights by freeing slaves after the conquering of
Babylon and told them that they could be free to choose religion etc.
USA and France had revolutions about the equality of all humans
Forming the UN was to reaffirm faith in human rights, after both world wars
UN came up with the Universal Declaration of Human rights (signed in 1948)
Why do we include people like MLK Jr when talking about human rights but not Malcolm X when
he fought not just for right for black people but rights universally as well?
Evolution of economic and social rights..
The process of including the rest of the world in the universal declaration of human rights
What is Equity?
Equity - about treating people according to their needs/ a condition of justice obtained when
people get what they deserve
Equality – treating people all the same
EXAMPLE: someone who is in a wheelchair, if there are just stairs then everyone is being
equally treated but in order to find an equitable solution, the person in the wheelchair must be
given access to some way to get up the stairs (elevator or lift whatever)
Equity, in the world usually has to do with financial resources and their allocation
Human Rights
Human rights are ultimately political as they are a result of a negotiation that takes place
in the public sphere
- We engage as members of society to try to come together with a consensus about what
rules should prevail, what kind of basic obligations all members of society have to the
- Human rights have not always been universal they have been exclusionary
- We recognize citizens as members of society who have a status in a particular country
- Rights in our society are recognized not only to human beings but also to other entities
(i.e animals or corporations) this is a social construct that we have created and some
find this very problematic as it sometimes trumps the rights of human beings
- Indigenous groups in the Americas claim that earth has rights, that the planet earth has
intrinsic rights that are afforded to it
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Human rights are also social because they are the result of human interaction, they are
historical in how they originate and all that makes them of a particular nature, i.e they are
- They are a product of our mutual recognition of each other as human beings
They are the political relatedness between human beings and the moral relatedness between
each other
Definition of Equity
- A condition of justice obtained when people get what they deserve
- To be fair/ to treat people so as to allow them to enjoy their basic human rights as much
as we do
- Recognizing that people come from different histories or circumstances so they all
cannot be treated equally
- Something has to be done so that this can be achieved and that is associated with the
notion of equity
If we recognize that certain groups need special treatment because of the circumstances that
they face, we would therefore need to develop policies to bring them up to the same level as
everyone else – not easily accepted for people who are minorities as THEY ARE MINORTIES,
so the majority do not/cannot understand their position
Equality is descriptive
Equity is normative because it responds to a certain set of moral values
*****Natives in Canada deserve equity as they are the only group who can make the claim that
we live on their land but in order to come up with an equitable solution, we would have to re-
allocate resources and that’s something that is not very easy to do and therefore something that
people are not often willing to do
Hanna Arendt’s “Human Condition”
People in power may have certain actions that you may not be able to control and in order to
define yourself or ‘oneself it would be pertinent to just define it as one people or just human and
so as one people we would be unable to be complicit in major crimes
- The first thing that the Nazi regime did was to make people right-less because the
moment that occurs, they lose some of their status as human beings, if no state
recognizes them as persons then they lose some of their humanity
What makes us humans?
- Origins or the west (there is a problem in the recognition of every person as human
beings, ***greeks did not recognize women, slaves, foreigners)
- The division between the private and the public sphere
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- Contrast between the city state and the modern nation states (as a modern nation state,
how did Nazi Germany occur?)
-The one condition that we all share is that we all live on earth
- In 1957 with the launch of sputnik we changed concept the basic human condition, we
might be able to escape from earth and go into space
- All human beings are capable of other things on earth, some because they are
conditioned and others because they have the capacity
-All human beings need to engage in certain activities in order to survive, we are
limited (vita activa v. vita contemplativa)
-We have certain conditions, what we are not who we are
- There is a clear distinction between human condition vs. human nature
Vita activa v. vita contemplativa
Aristotle – truly free activities, the only free activity is vita contemplativa
Vita activa – labour, work and action
Labour – food collection, shelter (private sphere, done by women, slaves and children)
Work – technology, tools that we make, constructions that we build, institutions (possibility of
leaving some kind of mark on earth as a collective)-transform surroundings (how we change our
Action – human activities that we all engage in that are defined by how we relate to each other
in the public sphere, it is through action that we can and have defined human rights (PUBLIC
- There was equality among some and not all, equality was among Greek men but not
women or slaves, equality was based on exclusion, based on the possibility of
legitimately using force against other human beings (women and slaves) to keep them in
the private sphere
- Technology has become invasive and a large sum of the notion of the private sphere as
a scared space has been lost. The private allows you to become a well-rounded
individual so that you can meaningfully partake in the public life. But because of the
disappearance of the private sphere there is nowhere to do that anymore
- Vain glory or fame vs immortality (no long lasting impact, people just want to extra up
themselves so that the can be seen in a way that is passed down and well known but its
fake because it’s short-lived)
1648 – treaty of westfalia (gave the people the right to be a nation state by themselves without
interference of the European countries)
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