An East and West Debate on Human Rights
Chan, Benedict Shing Bun
Morris, Christopher W.
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In an East and West debate on human rights, scholars from different cultures disagree on whether all civil and political rights are human rights. While they generally agree that basic civil rights such as rights against torture and slavery (i.e., physical security rights) are human rights, some of them argue that traditional political rights in the West such as freedom of speech and political participation (i.e., liberal rights) are not human rights. Some scholars, such as Daniel A. Bell, argue that liberal rights are not human rights because liberal rights conflict with some East Asian cultures. In this dissertation, I argue that both physical security rights and liberal rights are human rights, and explain the relationship between these rights and East Asian cultures. First, I argue that if liberal rights are not human rights because they conflict with some East Asian cultures, then physical security rights are also not human rights because physical security rights also conflict with some East Asian cultures. Next, I discuss the idea from Daniel Bell and Michael Walzer that physical security rights are human rights because they are minimal values. Based on their idea, I explain what minimal values are, and why it is possible to develop some maximal theories of physical security rights in East Asian cultures. I argue that since physical security rights are minimal values, they are still human rights even they conflict with some East Asian cultures. I then argue that liberal rights, similar to physical security rights, are also minimal values, and it is possible to develop some maximal theories of them in East Asian cultures. Therefore, similar to physical security rights, liberal rights are also human rights even they also conflict with some East Asian cultures. I also discuss other human rights debates, especially the debates between Daniel Bell and other philosophers. Charles Taylor argues for an overlapping consensus approach on human rights; Jack Donnelly argues for a Western liberalist approach on human rights. I explain the relationship between these approaches and my arguments, and how my arguments can help them to reply to the challenges from Daniel Bell.