"Asian Values" and Global Human Rights

Philosophy East and West 52 (2):173 - 189 (2002)
Are human rights universal, and, if so, in what sense? Starting with the opposition between "foundational" universalism (as articulated in modern natural law and rationalist liberalism) and "antifoundational" skepsis or relativism (from Jeremy Bentham to Richard Rorty) and steering a path beyond this dichotomy, an inquiry is made into the "rightness" of rights-claims, a question that calls for situated, prudential judgment. With specific reference to "Asian values," Henry Rosemont's emphasis is followed on the need to differentiate between "concept clusters" and reflecting different modes of human flourishing--clusters that are neither radically incommensurable nor blandly uniform and exchangeable. What this emphasis suggests is that the globalism or universalism of human rights is not a pre-given premise but rather a challenge and practical task--requiring intensive inter-human and cross-cultural learning and (what Tu Wei-ming calls) the ongoing "humanization" of humankind
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