Are International Human Rights Universal? East–West Philosophical Debates on Human Rights to Liberty and Health

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In philosophical debates on human rights between the East and the West, scholars argue whether rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international documents (in short, “international human rights”) are universal or culturally relative. Some scholars who emphasize the importance of East Asian cultures (such as the Confucian tradition) have different attitudes toward civil and political rights (CP rights) than toward economic, social, and cultural rights (ESC Rights). They argue that at least some international human rights on the list of CP rights are not universal and believe that East Asian cultures can contribute to the moral justification of ESC rights. This chapter introduces a philosophical argument to support a normative account of human rights. This normative account, called “the minimal account of human rights,” is based on the ideas of minimal values, especially essential necessities of dignity. Based on this account, we can explain why international human rights are both universal and justified by East Asian cultures, especially the Confucian tradition. To explain this minimal account and illustrate how it can be applied to debates on international human rights, this chapter focuses on debates on the international human rights to liberty on the list of CP rights and the human rights to health on the list of ESC rights.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMetaphysics of Human Rights 1948-2018
Subtitle of host publicationOn the Occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR
EditorsLuca Di Donato, Elisa Grimi
PublisherVernon Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781622736409
ISBN (Print)9781622735594, 9781622737130
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Publication series

NameSeries in Philosophy
PublisherVernon Press

User-Defined Keywords

  • Human Rights
  • Dignity
  • Confucianism
  • East Asian Cultures
  • Minimal Values
  • Liberty
  • Health


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