Foundation of Human Rights, BasisJune 28, 2021
Although we sometimes come across with counter-arguments that a theoretical or rational justification for human rights by thinkers like R. Rorty cannot be made, nor is it necessary, objections to human rights often require a grounding or justification process.
“Why human rights?”, “Why do we need to protect human rights?” These types of questions are those that are prompted by a grounding need. Like many other ideas, the idea or idea of human rights also encounters such demands. One of the foremost preoccupations of those who work on the informational foundations of human rights and the philosophical foundations of human rights is to meet this demand. In other words, grounding is showing why people have some fundamental rights, where these rights come from – and how being human will suffer if these rights are not protected.
Grounding means showing the basis of the grounded principle or proposition, that is, the place from which it is derived or derived.
If an expected “foundation” is to show the foundations of human rights principles or norms, this can be done first of all by showing their sources or where they are derived from. This will also reveal the difference between these principles, which are thought to be “universal”, from those that are not. Such a grounding view is made by Ioanna Kuçuradi, who distinguishes human rights norms from other cultural norms by taking into account their epistemological and value characteristics. According to him, the norms he calls cultural norms are derived by experimentation, a kind of induction, from “certain natural-social conditions and human understandings of different cultures”. The vast majority of traditional-custom (cultural) norms that have been passed down from generation to generation are such norms. Other kinds of norms, which differ from them with their informational-value features, are “derived by comparing at least two different historical situations in which man is in, in the light of the knowledge of the value of some of the structural possibilities of man (or in the light of what we call human dignity)”. A typical example of this second type of norms is human rights norms such as “no torture”, “no racial discrimination”. It is from these sources of human rights that human rights are “universal”, that is, that they demand a certain way of acting for all human beings. These norms are not derived from experimental (local) conditions, which are different and variable like cultural norms, but from “the knowledge of some natural possibilities of human beings in certain historical conditions” (Kuçuradi 2007, pp. 62-66).
Rather than pointing out the different sources and characteristics of human rights norms, the question of “why human rights” should be answered, “Why should we respect human rights?”, “What will be the consequences if we do not respect human rights?” Those who understand it as a form of justification try to justify human rights – in this context, it is more appropriate to use the term justification, rather than justification – and try to present the justifications for protecting human rights. To give just two examples of these, firstly, Consequentialism, or the view that decides the right-wrongness of actions by looking at the results they bring, can be looked at. Utilitarianism is a typical Consequentialist ethical theory. Accordingly, an action is right if it ultimately leads to the well-being and happiness of as many people as possible. By applying this principle to human rights, the chain of inference is revealed as follows:
1. We should increase, not decrease, human happiness and well-being through our actions and institutions.
2. Human rights protect the vital needs and basic interests of people by enabling them to pursue what they find joyful and worthwhile.
3. Disrespecting and violating human rights harms both its victims and their relatives. It also undermines the confidence that everyone can expect their human rights to be respected. Human rights violations lead to personal suffering and general distrust.
4. Therefore, we must respect human rights through our actions and institutions (Orend 2002, pp. 89-90).
In order to verify this chain of justification, Consequentialists draw attention to what has happened in history, the situation of people living in societies where human rights are respected today, and the situation of societies where human rights violations are experienced intensely. Based on these examples, they conclude that it would be better for all of us to live in a society where human rights are protected.
Another justification view is Michael Walzer’s human rights justification, which is based on the distinction between narrow (thin) and broad (thick) morality. This view is essentially an opinion that tries to show that besides the different moral practices of all cultures, there are some common values or principles in all cultures, in other words, it tries to justify the existence of a “universal ethics”. This universal core, according to him, is usually—killing, brutality.