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What are the current frontiers in Human Rights ?

Q:Lets start by sharing our understanding of how Human Rights are defined as a starting point

Here is one very good summary from http://www.iep.utm.edu/hum-rts/

The moral doctrine of human rights aims at identifying the fundamental prerequisites for each human being leading a minimally good life. Human rights aim to identify both the necessary negative and positive prerequisites for leading a minimally good life, such as rights against torture and rights to health care. This aspiration has been enshrined in various declarations and legal conventions issued during the past fifty years, initiated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and perpetuated by, most importantly, the European Convention on Human Rights (1954) and the International Covenant on Civil and Economic Rights (1966). Together these three documents form the centrepiece of a moral doctrine that many consider to be capable of providing the contemporary geo-political order with what amounts to an international bill of rights.

Q: What is a justification for or against human rights?

Some arguments for:

Interest theory

The universality of human rights is grounded in what are considered to be some basic, indispensable, attributes for human well-being, which all of us are deemed necessarily to share.

Will interest:

The justification is fundamental respect for the unique human capacity for rationally purposive agency.

Some arguments against:

Western Cultural Imperialism:

Nice way to impose Western Values on the rest of world with the smoke screen of universalism..

Human Rights are a fiction

Philosopher Alastair Macintyre argues Human Rights is just a fiction and he worries that these rights can be as extreme as the rights proclaimed in the Enlightenment which resulted in a number of people loosing their heads. His basic thesis is that public norms flow from a shared conception of the public good and that human rights  appear as a disembodied 'rational' principle not integrated into the public fabric.

Some current frontiers in Human Rights

Q:Is Health care a Human Right ?

Some state based movements in the US are using this argument for a single payer system. See in Maryland https://org.salsalabs.com/o/307/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=5851

Note Vermont is actually implementing a single payer system in 2017.

Here is an article that argues against healthcare as a human right arguing narrowly that human rights are 'natural rights' and only endow a negative obligation. But what about education ? 

http://libertarianstandard.com/articles/gabriel-e-vidal/healthcare-is-not-a-human-right/

Q:Is equal opportunity for LGBT lifestyle a human right ?

Witness Russia, Iran, Uganda , ... Here is a recent anti-gay law passed in Uganda .

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/24/uganda-president-signs-anti-gay-laws

If one is an ethical relativist perhaps this law is reasonable ?

Q: Is excessive wealth inequality a violation of political human rights ?

One could argue that if there is excessive wealth inequality then those with this wealth will intrinsically have too much influence on the political process in terms of media control and direct access to political leaders, that the rest do not get fair representation in the political process.

Some actually argue this is fair, because those with excessive wealth have earned this wealth, and it is rational that people should have influence proportionate to their value. Should a homeless man have the same value to the political process compared to say Warren Buffet ? . This is the argument for Philosopher Kings with Swiss Bank Accounts.


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  • Gavin

    The meeting was very well run. The topic was well chosen and sparked lots of interesting discussion.

    The location was problematic due to the lack of nearby parking.

    March 10, 2014

    • Jonas W.

      One tip - you can park on the far side of the canal and walk over the footbridge. It takes only five or six minutes more.

      1 · March 11, 2014

  • Phyllis

    It was my first time to attend. Very thoughtful and well moderated discussion.

    March 11, 2014

  • Jen

    smaller group seemed to contribute to easier-to-follow and overall better conversation

    March 11, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    vibrant discussion, entertaining and thoughtful...

    March 10, 2014

  • Jonas W.

    Sorry - last minute disaster I should have seen coming. If anyone can take my spot - feel free to just show up. I have a feeling that there will be more than one free spot.

    March 10, 2014

  • Afshin S.

    Sorry, I cannot make it tonight. A family situation has come up. Sorry for the short notice. I just found out.

    March 10, 2014

    • Gavin

      The full attendance is 20 and we are now at 17. So, the three people on the top of the waitlist (Lisa, Jessyka and Juliette) can attend.

      March 10, 2014

  • Leo

    There was a spot created in the list of attendees. But I, in the waitlist, cannot join ´cause deadline has passed. It doesn't really make sense...

    1 · March 10, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      technically the next person on the wait list, Lisa is thus enabled... I'll leave it to one of the organizers to give the reason why they stop the RSVPs ...

      March 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    human rights, hmm, why no human lefts? Don't folks like sinister folks? I demand equal rights, oops lefts for sinister folks...

    March 9, 2014

    • Denis

      We already had this. It is called medieval canon (church) law. It was like chock-full of discrimination. It featured inequality of rights at birth (bastards, women), legalized torture, restriction of worship under penalty of death, arbitrary imprisonment and allowed church to hold men in perpetual servitude(a.k.a slavery). It’s like evil twin brother of modern declaration of human rights.

      1 · March 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is there a relation between religion and human rights?

    1 · March 9, 2014

    • Dr S. Ranga S.

      Yes, in Hinduism. In its tenet that God exists in every living being, and that it is the duty of every human being to respect his manifestation equally and the Hindu prayer includes the safety and well being of all His creations.

      1 · March 9, 2014

    • Denis

      So if we are talking just about doctrine, christianity has somewhat of a similar approach. To quote: “Christians assert that because God loves all people, all people have rights and the corresponding duties to respect the rights of all others. The human person does not have rights as an individual, but in relation to others in community and ultimately in relation to God.” This sounds to me very different from modern declaration of human rights, which IMHO is closer to Kant’s universal community of rational and autonomous individuals who are equal because they can all reason.

      2 · March 10, 2014

  • Mike H

    As background, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is of interest, including art. 12 re health care:

    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

    Canada has ratified this Convention but its obligations are not enforceable either domestically (it has not been incorporated into domestic law), or internationally (it is not a party to the Optional Protocol that deals with enforcement). The US has signed but not ratified the Convention. In any case, the language of article 12 is aspirational.

    The answer to whether at least "basic" health care is a right will be driven by one's political commitments. Libertarians and their ilk will tend to be against with those on the "left" perhaps tending to be for it. One can also argue that a state should provide such care but it should not be a constitutional right. That would reflect the current Canadian situation and may please someone like MacIntyre.

    March 9, 2014

  • Phyllis

    I think human rights are rights that can be universally applied. Can health care as a human right be universally applied? Is it easier to have this discussion in a western society than in a society where discussions of rights focus on access to food and water? To follow up on LGBTQ mentioned above. What about trans issues as human rights, the right to self identity, is this the most basic of rights? What about genetics and genetic testing? Will we one day all be required to undergo genetic testing? Are we facing a future where we can be disqualified from rights based on our genetics?

    March 9, 2014

  • Denis

    In somewhat tongue-in-cheek move China just released a whitepaper on human rights situation in United States. It does cover some interesting points like drone strikes and child labor in agricultural sector. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-02/28/c_133150579.htm

    March 6, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      tongue in cheek? more like tit for tat...

      1 · March 6, 2014

  • Mila

    Thank you James.
    That's right. More seats are available here: http://www.meetup.com/Westboro-Socrates-Inquiry/events/169427712/

    March 5, 2014

  • Dr S. Ranga S.

    I will be happy to attend if I am in town

    February 2, 2014

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