In Defense of Human Rights: A Non-Religious Grounding in a Pluralistic World / Edition 1

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The argument that religion provides the only compelling foundation for human rights is both challenging and thought-provoking and answering it is of fundamental importance to the furthering of the human rights agenda.

This book establishes an equally compelling non-religious foundation for the idea of human rights, engaging with the writings of many key thinkers in the field, including Michael J. Perry, Alan Gewirth, Ronald Dworkin and Richard Rorty. Ari Kohen draws on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a political consensus of overlapping ideas from cultures and communities around the world that establishes the dignity of humans and argues that this dignity gives rise to collective human rights. In constructing this consensus, we have succeeded in establishing a practical non-religious foundation upon which the idea of human rights can rest.

In Defense of Human Rights will be of interest to students and scholars of political theory, philosophy, religious studies and human rights.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'...a fine contribution to the growing literature on its chosen subject and must be regarded as essential reading for all engaged with these matters.'
David Lay Williams, University of Wisconsin, USA
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Ari Kohen has been Assistant Professor of Justice Studies and Political Science at James Madison University, USA; from August 2007, he will be Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xi
Prologue: Starvin' for Justice     1
Introduction: the first day of class     6
Michael Perry and the religious cosmology: foundations and critiques of human rights     13
Human sacredness and human rights     14
The idea of a religious worldview     20
Nietzsche and the death of God     31
Conclusion     35
The possibility of non-religious human rights: Alan Gewirth and the Principle of Generic Consistency     38
Gewirth's case against previous theories     40
The Principle of Generic Consistency     44
A critique of Generic Consistency     51
Conclusion     61
The problem of secular sacredness: Ronald Dworkin, Michael Perry, and human rights foundationalism     64
Toward a secular conception of "sacred"     65
Michael Perry's objection     69
The etymology of rights     79
Human dignity without teleology: human rights and evolutionary biology     85
The evolution of human nature     88
Personal identity and the mind's "I"     92
Human animals and human persons     97
Dignity and "the boundaries of our existence"     105
Does might make human rights? Sympathy,solidarity, and subjectivity in Richard Rorty's final vocabulary     109
The trouble with irony     111
Self-creation and humiliation     117
Replacing "why" with "how"     122
Conclusion     126
Rights and wrongs without God: a non-religious grounding for human rights in a pluralistic world     129
Constructing the foundation: a reply to cultural relativism     134
Rights by committee and the idea of an overlapping consensus     141
Can consensus have justificatory force?     146
The limits of language     148
Notes     152
Bibliography     192
Index     199
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