Question concerning the universality of human rights: a comparative examination of the works of Donnelly, Nino, and Ferry and Renaut

Demiray, Mehmet Ruhi
From the if century when the idea pfhurnan rights has been first articulated m the history of humankind to our age, the adherents of miş Idea have generally asserted that these rights have a universal, thus an ahistorical and trafiscultural, character in their scope of validity. However, even a superficial review of the recent human rights literature is sufficient to give one the insight mat the question of the ground of this universality is the most crucial issue in the current theoretical debates on human rights. Taking granted that 'a conception of human rights without umversalism' is as adverse as to eclipse me very meaning of the idjsa of human rights itself, this thesis endeavours to develop an understanding of a meore^cal-philosophical ground upon which the universality of human rights is both conceivable and defensible. This endeavour is carried out within the framework of a textual and comparative examination of three pro-universalist theoretical projects developed within the contemporary human Trights literature. iiiThese projects arc Jack Donnelly's liberal-conventional approach, Carlos Santiago Nino's Kantian Moral Constructivisöı, and Luc Ferry & Alain Renaut's Critical Humanism. As to Donnelly's approach which is examined first, I argue that in so far as it associates the moral grounds of human rights to Western liberal tradition and relies on an implicit moral relativism, his approach is caught with certain implicit controversies in the grounding of the universality of human rights. In hne with mis, the remaining chapters of the thesis respectively examine Nino's meta-ethical theory and Ferry & Renaut's political philosophy, which present two contemporary versions of Kantian approach bringing out a strong alternative to the inconsistencies and vulnerabilities embedded in the liberal-conventional understanding of the universality of human rights. In the light of a reading of Nino's and Ferry and Renaut's theoretical projects as mutual complementaries, the conclusive argument of the thesis is: the universal validity of human rights is conceivable arid defensible on the Kantian moral ground of the idea of autonomous human moral subject and the ideal of autonomy.
Citation Formats
M. R. Demiray, “ Question concerning the universality of human rights: a comparative examination of the works of Donnelly, Nino, and Ferry and Renaut,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2003.