Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Rorty, sentiments and human rights

Richard Rorty, speaking of human rights, believed that reason was not an effective means of communication in a human rights discourse. Anti-foundationalist that he was he did not believe in human rights being founded on some moral or eternal principle, which everyone ought to recognize and admit.  He rather preferred to speak of a 'human rights culture' something that we socially have agreed to.  And the best means of building this culture? Through sentimental education, not rational argumentation.

I see a very valid point in what Rorty is trying to build.  The sentimental appeal is much stronger than any rational argument. We are affected more by our sentiments than our logic and rationale. The idea is to make people see that others are not "like us", but "us".  However, there seems to be a sort of drawback lurking just round the corner in this argument.  Am not really able to pinpoint it, but I can feel it.

  • Is it that convincing someone of human rights using emotions is more of a blackmail than a real conviction? 
  • Would I be using the suffering of others as a 'lesson' plan? If no suffering or pain with which I can appeal to the sentiment of others, do I not have a valid means of conveying the worth of human rights? 
  • Seems more like claim-rights... only when 'we' agree to something.  What if 'we' agree to what is convenient for us?  Slavery and dowry was very convenient once upon a time.  Even to those who were burdened by it, because it was a 'socially accepted norm'. 
  • What of those who 'understand' the language of reason?  Learned men and women who know what is being said and discussed?  
  • Can international and national policies ride on the strength of emotions and feelings? 


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