In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declared that every
human being, without "distinction of any kind," possesses a set of
morally authoritative rights and fundamental freedoms that ought to
be socially guaranteed. Since that time, human rights have arguably
become the cross-cultural moral concept and evaluative tool to
measure the performance-and even legitimacy-of domestic regimes.
Yet questions remain that challenge their universal validity and
Some theorists are "maximalist" in their insistence that human
rights must be grounded religiously, while an opposing camp
attempts to justify these rights in "minimalist" fashion without
any necessary recourse to religion, metaphysics, or essentialism.
In Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World, Grace Kao
critically examines the strengths and weaknesses of these
contending interpretations while also exploring the political
liberalism of John Rawls and the Capability Approach as proposed by
economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Martha Nussbaum.
By retrieving insights from a variety of approaches, Kao defends an
account of human rights that straddles the minimalist-maximalist
divide, one that links human rights to a conception of our common
humanity and to the notion that ethical realism gives the most
satisfying account of our commitment to the equal moral worth of
all human beings.
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