10 December 2008

On scepticism of human rights

When philosophy is divorced from science (and reason, even), we get so-called intellectuals questioning the validity of concepts like ‘natural human rights’. They argue that the idea of inalienable rights is arbitrarily ‘decided’ upon by a dominant group seeking to impose this relativist idea onto others. One only has to consider the facts – the biological facts of the human capacity for both physical pain and physical flourishing, the psychological facts of the human desire for happiness and aversion to suffering, and the sociological facts of how invoking and enacting the idea of human rights leads to an increase in the good in people’s lives – and one will see the spuriousness of philosophical arguments that construe the idea of human rights as merely being an artificial device of power relationships.