Universal Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

Social Philosophy Today 24:13-26 (2008)
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Abstract

I argue that a reasonably comprehensive doctrine of human rights can be reconciled with at least a good deal of diversity in cultural belief and practice. The reconciliation cannot be achieved by trying to show that there is in fact a cross-cultural consensus about the existence of human rights, partly because no valid inference to the normative status of human rights can be drawn from the existence of such a consensus. However, by highlighting the premises rather than the conclusions of normatively persuasive arguments for human rights, I argue that a reasonably comprehensive doctrine of universal human rights can be squared with what is known about the diversity of cultural beliefs and practices. This is because the (empirically plausible) denial that there is in fact a cross-cultural consensus about the existence of human rights can go hand-in-hand with cross-cultural endorsement of the normative considerations that underpin human rights doctrine

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