ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Thinking through Rights-Exploring Grey Areas in the Theory

Contemporary thinking on rights is marked by deep and profound philosophical scepticism on the issue. The core of the problem as critics identify it is as follows; rights theories, they argue, subscribe to an outmoded concept of a transcendental human nature, without regard for specific cultural and historical traditions. Richard Rorty's philosophy is representative of this strain of thought. From another vantage point, that of Michel Foucault's, for example, comes the argument, that the idea that there is an essential human nature upon which we can pin rights is pure fiction. Dismissal of the concept of a transcendental human nature has had profound consequences for both the moral basis of rights, as well as the political weight ascribed to them. This dismissal, I consider, has left us without a handle to negotiate moral and political problems. This essay explores the grey areas in rights theory and charts out the consequences of abandoning the notion that there is something valuable about human nature which we must protect through rights.

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