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Human Rights. What are they?. Jack donnelly. Man’s “moral nature” is the source of human rights The moral nature that grounds human rights says that beneath this we must not permit ourselves to fall Human rights are needed not for a life but for a life of dignity

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human rights

Human Rights

What are they?

jack donnelly
Jack donnelly
  • Man’s “moral nature” is the source of human rights
  • The moral nature that grounds human rights says that beneath this we must not permit ourselves to fall
  • Human rights are needed not for a life but for a life of dignity
  • Inalienability of human rights – one does not stop being human no matter how badly one behaves nor how badly one is treated
  • Claims to human rights are a “last resort”
focus on the individual
Focus on the individual!?
  • Michael Ignatieff -- rights exist to protect individuals;
  • worth having only if they can be enforced against institutions like the family, the state, and the church;
  • moral individualism is the core of the Universal Declaration.
  • Critique-- Western-centric preoccupation with the individual and free agency
  • universal validity of the valorizing of the individual?
what makes a life of dignity
What makes a life of dignity?
  • Shelter?
  • Adequate Food?
  • Freedom from bodily harm?
  • Education?
  • Opportunity?
  • Work?
  • Freedom of movement?
  • Freedom of speech?
  • Freedom of religion or religious expression?
  • Health care?
  • What is ours as a result of our being human
duties and rights intimately bound
Duties and rights: intimately bound?
  • The interdependence of duties and rights; your right places on others the duty not to violate that right
  • Individual focus of rights can enhance the ego-obsession of the self
  • Liberalism – the notion of the free acting self
  • The collective self; the independent self
  • The individual’s well-being subordinate to well-being of the collective
  • Cultural relativism
kant s categorical imperative
Kant’s categorical imperative
  • Rejects utilitarianism
  • Treats every individual as an end in him/herself and not as a means to an end
  • “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”
  • Do the right thing by your fellow human not because it leads to a favorable outcome but because it is the right thing to do
united nations declaration of human rights 1948
United nations Declaration of human rights, 1948
  • Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
  • Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
  • Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
  • Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
  • Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
  • Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
  • Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
civil and political rights
Civil and political rights
  • Right to life
  • Protection against discrimination
  • Right against enslavement
  • Right not to be tortured
  • Habeas corpus rights against arbitrary arrest and detention
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Right to freedom of speech
  • Right to freedom of movement
  • Right to assemble
social and economic rights
Social and economic rights
  • Right to food
  • Access to health care
  • Right to work, rest, and leisure
  • Right to education
  • Right to found and maintain a family
  • To participate in the cultural life of the community
  • Donnelly cautions against the distinction between political and civil rights, on the one hand, and social and economic rights, on the other.