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Human Rights Review

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 5–24 | Cite as

Conceiving human rights without ontology

  • Anthony J. Langlois
Article
  • 147 Downloads

Conclusion

In his book, World Poverty and Human Rights, Pogge sets out to articulate an approach to basic justice that is inversal and cosmopolitan. This notion of justice is to be articulated through the language of human rights. Pogge’s arguments about justice, moral universalism and cosmopolitanism are impressive and reward serious study. It is to be hoped. indeed, that many aspects of his argument might be adopted by the elite ruling classes of world politics; they have much to offer in the project of creating a world that is humane for all.

The issues that I have raised in the foregoing argument however are central to the integrity of Pogge’s project. I have argued, in sum that it is not possible to advance a program for the expansion of justice and the implementation of human rights in world politics without making an appeal to a specific account of the nature of justice and of human rights. The account that informs Pogge’s argument is that of political liberalism, and this is an account that has much in its favor as a preferred vehicle for justice in world politics. However, this account makes itself vulnerable when it argues for universal principles without acknowledging their partisan and normative base. My argument has been that this issue is at the center of Pogge’s attempt to isolate the conception of human rights he explicates, which he wants to serve as the language for his global ethical universalism, from the ontological affirmations which make that conception of human rights possible, and which of necessity tie human rights to a specific conception of the nature of the good for human persons and groups. The attempt to establish a single, universal criterion of justice, and to express it in the language of human rights, is undermined from within for as long as it fails to engage with ontological concerns.

Keywords

Human Person Ontological Status Political Liberalism Ontological Argument Ontological Question 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer 2005

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  • Anthony J. Langlois

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