Human rights have been taken for granted in the Western world. It was asserted that they were universal and every human being was entitled to them on the ground that he or she was human. These rights are considered as inalienable since they are inseparable from the human nature. The challenge is to define universal human rights in a pluralist world. Human rights exist as both moral and legal rights, and they constitute shared norms of human morality and legal norms at both international and national level. Jurgen Habermas, a German sociologist, mentions this duality that human rights carry. On the other hand, Richard Rorty's attempt consists of ruling out the aspect of morality. In this document, we examine the similarities and differences between the two schools of thought.
[...] In this regard, we can refer to what Donnelly says about universalism without imperialism. Indeed, the universality of internationally recognized human rights does not require global homogenization or sacrifice of valued local practises. Universal human rights precisely aim to protect people from imposed conception of the good life. In addition, the underlying purpose of such rights is to allow every human being to give meaning and value to their lives and to pursue their own vision of the good life. There is a connection between Rorty's thinking and this reading of universality. II. [...]
[...] For his concern, Rorty gets the credit for disputing human rights in a brand-new perspective which is far from being pointless. Donnelly Jack, International human rights, 3rd ed., Boulder, CO : Westview Press; 2006, p. 37-57. Habermas Jürgen, “Remarks on legitimation through human rights”, in Philosophy and social criticism, vol 24, London : Sage Publications, p.157. Habermas Jürgen, ibid, p.161. Berlin Isaiah, « Two concepts of liberty », in Goodin Robert E. & Pettit Philip, Contemporary political philosophy, 2nde ed., Cambridge, MA : Blackwell Publishers. [...]
[...] sentimentality Though Habermas and Rorty agree on the importance of human rights, they differ when it comes to justification. Habermas uses human rights to legitimate his system of rights. Such rights are one of the bases of the legitimacy of political systems and constitutional democracies. The power of the state draws its recognition from laws. Actually, political power of modern states is constituted in the form of positive law, in the sense of enacted and coercive law, hence a specific structure and mode of validity of the modern law. [...]
[...] His vision of morality is rooted in the Kantian tradition. He regards morality as a matter of unconditional moral obligations with respect to individuals' autonomy. For Kant and Hegel, rationality is very functional, instrumental and goal-oriented; Habermas argues that it is also subjectivist in the sense that in the state of nature we are self-made. Thus his vision differs from Kant's as rationality is intersubjective (rationality emerges only between subjects). Rorty, as we will see later in this essay, says the opposite of what Habermas and Kant say about morality. [...]
[...] Habermas mentions this duality that human rights carry. On the other hand, Rorty's attempt consists of ruling out the aspect of morality. What do Rorty and Habermas share in their human rights view and what differs? Asking this question first implies to see their respective view of the origin of human rights, and then how they justify the existence of such rights. I. The origin of human rights in Enlightenment Both Habermas and Rorty find the origin of human rights in Enlightenment. [...]
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