What would a community of shared future for mankind look like in the area of human rights
December 22,2017   By:André van der Braak
Hogan argues that the traditional conceptualization of human rights theory as a universal language, grounded in transcendent norms, and apprehended through a form of abstract reasoning, not only misreads the philosophical nature of human rights discourse, but also ignores its historical trajectory (Hogen 2015: 113). When we redescribe the human rights discourse as situated knowledge and embedded universalism, we will stop looking for absolute and transcendent foundations of human rights. However, as an expression of embedded universalism it is also true that human rights claims express a value that is believed to have global resonance. They are contextual expressions of value in which are embedded universal aspirations. And, Hogen argues, this has always been so:
“In reading the historical record, one can see that human rights claims are not, in the end, grounded in an abstract or universal conceptualization of rationality but rather emerge from the complex interactions of multiple situated communities who, drawing on their own expression of value, articulate claims that they believe to have universal purchase. Human rights norms express the settled consensus as it is currently.” (Hogen 2015: 112)
Therefore, in the dialogue on human rights between different situated communities, “we aim for a consensus on the importance of certain values, all the time aware that in this consensus building we are shaped by the cultural and historical limitations of our moral languages, our moral traditions, and our moral imaginations. The issue at stake, therefore, is not ethical relativism but rather ethical pluralism.” (Hogen 2015: 112).
Grounding human rights
The human rights discourse has, through a history that involved both colonialism and consensus building, emerged as a moral language with global appeal. However, the grounding for this global appeal has shifted. Traditionally, human rights were conceived as a universal language, grounded in transcendent norms, that were apprehended through a form of abstract reasoning (Hogan 2015: 113). However, when we reconceive human rights as situated knowledge and as embedded universalism, we can understand the question of their foundation in a new way.