Reconstructing the subject of human rights

Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (2):47-60 (1999)
Abstract
Recent philosophical criticisms of individual rights and the postmodern deconstruction of the sovereign subject raise serious questions for the defense of universal human rights. This paper critically examines Paul Ricoeur's effort to reconstruct a viable notion of the human subject as the bearer of human rights. Ricoeur's analysis of the narrative structure of human experiences and action takes account of the recent philosophical criticisms of sovereign subjectivity; it avoids both the fiction of the atomistic individual of liberal political philosophy and the fragility of a completely relativized and decentered subject. By extending Ricoeur's work on narrative identity and by developing a humanism based on the ethical primacy of the other-than-self, this paper aims to provide new insights into the complexity of implementing and defending universal human rights. Key Words: deconstruction • human rights • narrative • Ricoeur • subject • subjectivity.
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