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Do We Need a Philosophical Account of Human Rights? Rorty

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Title: Human Rights in International Relations Author: Risse, Mathias Last modified by: itfsa Created Date: 9/12/2007 6:49:27 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Do We Need a Philosophical Account of Human Rights? Rorty


1
Do We Need a Philosophical Account of Human
Rights? Rorty
  • ER 11, Gov E-1040
  • Spring 2012

2
  • Pragmatism
  • anti-foundationalist, practice-oriented movement
    in (American) philosophy

3
  • The tangible fact at the root of all our
    thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that
    there is no one of them so fine as to consist in
    anything but a possible difference of practice.
    To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an
    object, then, we need only consider what
    conceivable effects of a practical kind the
    object may involvewhat sensations we are to
    expect from it, and what reactions we must
    prepare. (William James, Pragmatism)

4
Pay a visit?
5
Rorty on Human rights
  • Pragmatism applied to search for foundations for
    human rights
  • disagreement about foundations makes no
    practical difference anyway, so might as well not
    have it

6
Rorty on Human rights
  • Pragmatism applied to search for foundations for
    human rights
  • disagreement about foundations makes no
    practical difference anyway, so might as well not
    have it

7
Against foundations in ethics
  • We pragmatists argue from the fact that the
    emergence of the human rights culture seems to
    owe nothing to increased moral knowledge and
    everything to hearing sad and sentimental
    stories, to the conclusion that there is probably
    no knowledge of the sort Plato envisaged.
  • We go on to argue Since no useful work seems to
    be done by insisting on a purportedly ahistorical
    human nature, there probably is no such nature,
    or at least nothing in that nature that is
    relevant to our moral choices. (p 118)

8
So argument is
  1. Foundational inquiries do not explain emergence
    of human rights culture.
  2. If X is not needed to explain emergence of Y, but
    we care about maintaining Y, we need not inquire
    about X.
  3. Therefore, we need not make foundational
    inquiries about human rights.

9
To blame Plato
10
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11
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12
Ethics all wrong-headed, following Plato?
  • Moral philosophy focused on rather rare figure
    of psychopath who (a) grew up without moral
    sentiments, and (b) can be rationally persuaded
    to adopt them
  • much more common person whose treatment of
    narrow range of people is impeccable, but who
    remains indifferent to others

13
  • () The rational egoist is not the problem. The
    problem is the gallant and honorable Serb who
    sees Muslims as circumcised dogs. It is the brave
    soldier who loves and is loved by his mates, but
    who thinks of women as dangerous, malevolent
    whores and bitches. (p 124)

14
Leave foundationalism behind!
  • concentrate energies on sentimental education
  • acquaint people with one another so that they are
    less tempted to think of others as only
    quasi-human

15
  • Expand reference of terms such as
  • our kind of people
  • and
  • people like us

16
Wrong audience?
17
Wrong audience?
18
Instead --
19
Instead, indeed --
20
Progress of sentiments
  • would think of immoral people not as irrational
    but deprived
  • thinking of the spread of the human rights
    culture not as a matter of becoming more aware of
    the requirements of the moral law, but rather as
    what the philosopher Annette Baier calls a
    progress of sentiments.

21
Why should I be moral? New responses
  • Because this is what it is like to be in her
    situation to be far from home, among strangers
  • Because she might become your daughter-in-law
  • Because her mother would grieve for her
  • People will be more readily inclined to adopt
    this attitude if they live securely enough to
    develop sympathies with others

22
Fourth strategy for grounding human rights
  • Natural rights/Kant/Griffin
  • Rorty not focusing on rational argument, but
    putting people in position to show sympathies
  • raise them in such a way that they understand
    moral life as richer than morally deprived life

23
What we can grant to Rorty
  • Given resistance we offered to Kant/Gewirth
    approach, we can grant that a certain approach to
    morality is asking too much
  • Griffin approach does not tie rationality and
    morality in the way Rorty criticizes
  • centrality of education for progress of
    sentiments is undeniable

24
The hardest task
25
Objecting to Rorty power of ideas
  • Rorty underestimates power of ideas
  • Opposing standpoint Thought achieves more in
    the world than practice for once the realm of
    imagination has been revolutionized, reality
    cannot resist (Hegel)
  • Remember emancipation movements

26
Objecting to Rorty power of ideas
  • Rorty underestimates power of ideas
  • Opposing standpoint Thought achieves more in
    the world than practice for once the realm of
    imagination has been revolutionized, reality
    cannot resist (Hegel)
  • Remember emancipation movements

27
Why inquire about foundations?
  • questioning dominance of human rights discourse
    in evaluation of moral success
  • understanding ones own approach to an assessment
    of other cultures

28
  • We use human rights language to justify
    interventions they better have good
    foundations!

29
  • Education is essential, but intellectual
    engagement is required as well for success

30
Recall the argument
  • Foundational inquiries do not explain emergence
    of human rights culture.
  • If X is not needed to explain emergence of Y, but
    we care about maintaining Y, we need not inquire
    about X.
  • Therefore, we need not make foundational
    inquiries about human rights.
  • First premise is doubtful, second premise is
    false.
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