Human Rights And The Rights Discourse Essay

Human Rights And The Rights Discourse Essay

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Various approaches have been taken to respond to questions of human rights’ universality, that they are ‘by definition universal and everyone has exactly the same rights, no exceptions.’ While not a single answer has been agreed upon, this essay will argue that human rights are universal in principle, yet relativist interpretations may affect the perception and adoption of human rights in different contexts. There will be three main sections. The first section addresses the concept of human rights exploring the process of ideas’ formulation and development. The next part mainly draws on Jack Donnelly’s article on relative universality, and observes Asian values, taking into account both strengths and weaknesses of the idea. As a concluding remark, the last section briefly reviews the findings with regards to the question noting how both universality and relativity affect the human rights discourse, and draws a conclusion which reiterates the importance of reinforcing universality and relativism’s significance in the discourse.
The claim that human rights are universal conveys the idea that people has such rights that are equal and inalienable simply for being human beings (Donnelly, 2007: 282-283). This claim is necessarily true in that “these rights are trans-historical or ahistorical” under “condition of possession” of certain identity (Chan, 1995: 28). The conceptual basis of such view on human rights and universality is natural laws, or natural rights, whose morality derives profoundly from religious, Christian in particular, principles which appeal to the inherent moral or ethical laws (Langlois, 2012: 342). Subsequent attempts to conceptualise human rights have provided different approaches and interpretations, for example ...


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...re by definition universal. Everyone has exactly the same rights, no exceptions.”? The former appears to be a justifiable part, as the findings of this essay suggest that the very concept of human rights is profoundly based on the notion of universality, as visible from the morality of human rights and various interpretations of universality proposed by Donnelly. The latter, however, though normatively true, is realistically an inapplicable claim; it has been challenged by various relativist approaches, including Asian values, which argue for different conceptions of such rights and implementing practices that stem from distinct historical and cultural backgrounds, if not the unwillingness of conventional socio-political authorities. Human rights, therefore, will require a more sophisticated conceptual ground for universalism which relativist claims cannot undermine.

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