In Defense of Soft Universalism: a Modest, yet Presumptuous Position

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  • Department of Jurisprudence
The present paper is work in progress, a preliminary attempt to present a position of soft universalism as regards human rights. The position is not seen as a compromise between contradicting perceptions, universalism and relativism, but rather as a better and more correct position. It takes as a point of departure that human beings are a gregarious species with a highly developed capacity i.a. for individuality and for rights, thus avoiding the liberalists’ mistake of putting the individual first and the communitarians’ of putting society first. The relevant group or society for international human rights is the emerging global society, and human rights law is therefore best understood as (part of) the law of this emerging society. Seen in this way, human rights are an attempt to cope with a (partly) new situation, based on knowledge of human beings and society, a knowledge which has improved considerably since the time of the natural rights theories and the enlightenment. As a consequence prevailing international human rights are not the only possible human rights, and soft universalism is therefore partially open as regards the content of human rights, even though non discrimination and other elements have some naturalness to them.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCuadernos constitucionales de la Cátedra Fadrique Furió Ceriol
Issue number62/63
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2011

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