Hegel and the intercultural conception of universal human rights

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This six-part chapter draws on Hegelian arguments to fashion an intercultural theory of universal human rights. Here, human rights are defined, realized, and validated in the sociohistorical interactions of the world’s persons and peoples. The theory charts a course between essentialist and political approaches to human rights. Against the essentialist, the intercultural view favors an account of human rights rooted in actual political practice. Against the political, the intercultural view appeals to transcultural principles of normativity. Central to the position here advanced is an appeal to the intersubjectively conceived account of recognition basic to Hegelian thought. Part 1 details the historically embodied nature of a Hegelian account of human rights. Part 2 asserts that such embodiment, far from encouraging a relativist enclavism, not only entails a context-transcending openness to other cultures but empowers processes of mutual adaption tendentially leading to a historically generated and validated consensus on human rights. Part 3 considers the place occupied in the theory by notions of human dignity, common humanity, and universality. Part 4 examines the centrality of a transnational public sphere to an intercultural account. Part 5 construes the public sphere as a domain of contestation and variability informed by norms of sociality and historical development. Part 6 details how an intercultural theory entails a conception of political membership articulated in a globalized version of Hegel’s civil society.

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Hegel and Contemporary Practical Philosophy: Beyond Kantian Constructivism

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