TED Conversations

Joanne Donovan


This conversation is closed.

What are human rights? How do we decide and are they universal?

Are human rights the starting point we begin with when looking at how our societies function, or are there more important issues? How true is this statement; 'when people focus on being ethical without being pragmatic they end up being neither.'


Closing Statement from Joanne Donovan

Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation. Some excellent threads. All the best to you and your families for the new year 2012. Peace.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: I think that Humanity already knows what Human Rights are. They are built into our DNA, and they are universal.
    Human Rights could be a good starting point for re-designing society: start with the basics, health, love, family, joy, and work from there.

    When people focus on being ethical, they are being pragmatic. Whomever said the statement above "they end up being neither" must have been feeling cynical. When people act in ethical ways, the rest falls into place. You can "take that to the bank"...but it's too bad we need banks.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: I am inclined to agree, and this is actually what I hope to explore. What is innate to us? We are essentially a hairless ape with a big fatty brain. Like all other apes we prefer to live in troops and work to cooperate with the other chimps in the troop upon which our survival depends. Perhaps the problem with many of our societies today is that we think we are not an ape afterall but something else, and consequently our troop is of no importance, only we as individuals are.

      Are concepts of human rights an extension of what is natural for us? To care for the people in direct proximity? What do you think Thomas.
      • thumb
        Dec 19 2011: I think that is an excellent way to describe human rights. "an extension of what is natural" and "to care for people in direct proximity"...the trick is for Humanity to understand that from here-on-out, all 7,000,000,000 of us are in direct proximity with each other.
    • Dec 16 2011: Well said sir. I agree with everything except for the ethical part in: "When people act in ethical ways, the rest falls into place."

      Perhaps you meant to use the word moral instead?
      • thumb
        Dec 19 2011: "Moral" would be a better vocabulary word; however, I try not to use the word "moral", because throughout my life I have noticed that "morality" is associated typically with religion or sex. It seems that "morals" are imposed upon others. I do not like imposing anything upon others, other than making them stop hurting others.
        On the other hand, a child can learn to be virtuous, or shaped to be ethical, and there are "ethics courses" in colleges...
        Is it possible for a person to be ethical, or is the word ethical only used for groups?
        Thank you!
    • thumb
      Dec 18 2011: Thomas - I take it you feel that it is cynical to believe that all behavior is motivated by self interest. One definition of cynical is “distrusting or disparaging the motives of others.”

      If one trusts that people act out of self interest and don’t disparage this fact, are they being cynical?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.