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Which Rights Should Be Universal?$
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William Talbott

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195173475

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195173473.001.0001

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Which Rights Should Be Universal?

William Talbott (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, Talbott responds to four main objections: (1) Rorty’s defense of Humean moral antirealism, the view that the development of human rights norms is a progress of sentiment, not reason; (2) Skyrms’s defense of evolutionary anti-realism, according to which the development of norms of fairness can be explained without supposing there are any truths about fairness; (3) Lee Kwan Yew’s "Asian values" objection to the concept of human rights as a Western invention that is not appropriate for Asian societies; (4) Cranston’s objection to the inclusion of economic and social rights as human rights. Talbott suggests that the characteristic that grounds basic human rights is autonomy in the non-metaphysical sense (understood as good judgment combined with self-determination). Talbott notes that moral progress itself is a collective action problem, so that moral progress depends on the capacity to adopt the moral standpoint and to cooperate rather than take a free ride, at least when the costs of cooperating are not too great.

Keywords:   Asian values, Maurice Cranston, economic and social rights, empathy, evolutionary psychology, Lee Kwan Yew, moral antirealism, moral progress, moral realism, reason, Richard Rorty, sentiment, Brian Skyrms

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