There is a vague effort underway to assert that such rights exist and are universal.

One may prepare such a list of rights, but try and rank them in order of priority!

I am rather fatigued by those who pontificate and then do not make their list.

Here are some questions: 

For rights, should one seek universals or local criteria?

Are the criteria to be set by commoners or by the elite?

Is there such a thing as "National Character" or is there a universal character?


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These questions implicate the subject in multiple ways and are not easily answered.

Your views are welcome.

Those who would like more background are advised to get "Dreams, Genes and History" from Amazon Books.

Xie-Ming, indeed you have raised some very fundamental questions in regard to universalisation of human rights as against it relativity.Some time ago, we have  discussed issues in this respect on this network.However,more light could be shed on these questions with the proper understanding of the generational  trend of of human rights as peculiar to the various existing Blocs and rooted in their political economic ideologies.These tensions circumscribe the effectiveness of international laws and at the same time make some nations/persons circumvent international laws as well thus suggesting the localization of criteria.But the bottom line is, respect for human person and his dignity in all ramifications must be upheld and respected by all nation States, persons  in its territory and what have you.Nations are built from a very strong moral value inclination, hence national character, I believe could as well be built also on a strong moral values if the citizens of the nation are so willing taking cognizance of human dignity and respect as priority.I also see the practice of Democracy as very germane  when who set the criteria is considered......Civil and Political Rights, Social ,Economic and Cultural Rights and Minority Rights.


Your idea concerning a generational trend in the universalisation of human rights is undoubtedly germane, with younger people tending to be more universalist unless indoctrinated otherwise.

Where you live does make a difference, for Asiatic youth raised in California are less Confucian than similar youth raised in Taiwan.

International law is not really prescriptive. Two countries make a contract to observe certain principles. The contract is valid as long as both parties feel that it is. This is a source of much misunderstanding.

Does human dignity and respect have priority over eating?

If criteria are set democratically, then one may have mob rule and little respect for principles of fairness. Hugo Chavez tried to install a system of local rule which gave the local people as much decision-making as possible, however. This is still a valid question and possible sticking point.

More than 2,500 years ago, China had the Maoists (who thought man was good) and the legalists (who thought man was bad). One can see the same argument in America today. It may be that each person is a bit Maoist and a bit legalist. I will look into this and let you know what I find out.


Thanks Xie- Ming  for your comments. I have only made allusion to the generational trend for better understanding the rationale for the divide and more importantly, the events that informed the nature of the categories of rights in that material point in time.There are of course, negative and positive rights according to Johan Galtung. And these categories of rights can be located within the political and social struggle of man with the State and man with his fellow man.I quite believe  you will agree with me that evidences of these abound the world over and for example, liberty of man in all ramifications.Thus after liberty be it mental or material from the shackles of the dictatorial State or principality, what next if I may ask you, I guess human basic needs which positive rights are committed to.From the above elucidated, one can infer the  bearing of the two diametrically opposing political economic ideologies underpinning the philosophy of human rights and as  informing the emphasis given to the two categories of rights by the occidental and oriental worlds. That said,providing food for mankind which according to Maslow is a psychological need is synonymous with dignifying and respecting his humanity which should be a priority just as  liberty in all its ramifications because having material wealth without liberty is tantamount to De-humanisation of mankind.Regarding democracy, there is capitalist democracy and socialist democracy and the beauty of it is that both still recognizes the basic tenets of democracy except for the area of contextualization to their locale and within the purview of their socio-cultural settings stemming from the relativity of culture and values.Our discuss there fore, should not be on moral assertions or moral ethnocentrism but sound moral arguments to take us out of the wood

Xie-Ming Mai, sorry for the misups, I was going to say positive  and negative peace as Galtung's typologies of peace and in the same line of thought,is the positive rights and negative rights.Similarly, Maslow physiological needs and not psychological needs.Incessant power outage does not provide enough time to prove read very well before posting.Thanks


Economics being pervasive, we use “value” when we really mean “good” or “bad”. Would we say that the value system of chimpanzees, as manifested in their behavior, was either good or bad? To do so would mean that we are applying criteria that we assume for ourselves. Are such criteria really universal?

The claim to universality encounters several obstacles. Primates do experience a certain empathy, but selfishness, rather than altruism, is common. Community living does require a certain control for the common good. The extent of this control will vary with the culture and its economics. Beyond the mental genetic substrate of the chimpanzee, our ideology is created for us by the society. Many of the strictures are aspirational.

If we would construct a universal value system, would we tailor it for the person who is fundamentally good as Mencius (350 B.C.) claimed, or for primate person who needs to be molded (Hsun Tzu 270 B.C.)? Is it to be constructed for the collective benefit of society (Locke, Kant) or for the distributive benefit of the individuals making up the society (Spinoza, Mill, Montaigne)?

If “happiness” includes all the other values (Mill), could the “pursuit of happiness” be considered specific?


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