Common Humanity and Human Rights

Social Philosophy Today 21:51-62 (2005)
Abstract
Many people, often students, appear apathetic because they do not know how to support human rights. In this paper, I explore a question that is part of a larger project helping people think through moral life in the age of human rights. What are appropriate contexts for invoking human rights? I begin with two assumptions: (1) Our sense of common humanity is the source of human rights. (2) There are situations where it seems we should disregard human rights out of common humanity. Reflecting on two examples, I argue there is a class of harms where one should disregard human rights because one intends to be humane. I call this class “harms that exceed right” (HER). I isolate two kinds of such harm: (1) harms against relationship and (2) harms against personhood. I conclude with a general point: human rights application should bear in mind an “adverbial consideration.” How we invoke human rights matters, and human rights should be invoked humanely
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