Chapter

The Universalist Argument

Arvind Sharma

in Are Human Rights Western?

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195679489
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195679489.003.0013
The Universalist Argument

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This chapter examines the universalist argument for the claim that human rights are Western. Most discussions of human rights assume that the word ‘universal’ is univocal—that it has a single clear-cut meaning, which everybody understands in the same way. It is assumed (1) that what is universal cannot be parochial; (2) that what is parochial cannot be universal; and (3) that whoever questions universal human rights in any way is being parochial. However, such an understanding of the word ‘universal’ overlooks the possibility that what is overtly or putatively parochial may turn out to be universal or at least possess a universal dimension and, conversely, what is overtly or putatively universal may turn out to be parochial, or at least possess a parochial dimension. Human rights are Western in the sense that the concept of the universal with which they work is ‘Western’, or even Christian, even though it is presented in a secular guise. It seems, however, that the conclusion seems to change if the issue of universalism is addressed philosophically rather than historically.

Keywords: universalist argument; human rights; parochial nature; Christian concept; philosophical approach; historical approach

Chapter.  1765 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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