Hegel and Human Rights: The Dialectic of Freedom
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In the present work, I argue that there is a crisis in the realm of human rights theory. Namely, how can we achieve a rationally justified account of human rights without abstracting away from all the important, particular features that constitute our various identities as human beings? It is my argument that current theoretical approaches to human rights contribute to the problem of alienation in rights-based societies, and fall short of practicability in other societies due to an insufficient understanding of human subjectivity and freedom. One solution to this difficulty, I argue, can be found in philosophical perspective of G.W.F. Hegel. Hegel’s unique dialectical understanding of human subjectivity and freedom allows us to focus on the “human side” of human rights, ultimately developing an account which incorporates the strongest points of current human rights theories while avoiding their problematic consequences. Through this Hegelian analysis, we will see that while human rights are grounded in freedom, this freedom requires a social community in which it can be realized. In other words, we must acknowledge that society and the individual are mutually constitutive and for human rights to be more than just empty formalisms, there needs to be certain societal and institutional structures which are conducive to their actualization.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeJenkins, Maricarmen; MacLeod, Allan
Copyright DateSeptember 2011