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.

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    Dec 21 2011: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights appeared and had the possibility of existing only in relatively recent times. Before the 20th century people discussed only the rights of different groups. The Bill of Rights of England, the Bill of Rights in the United States, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France are not the forms of universal human rights. They have constituted mostly the limited political and legal agreements within specific political circumstances without constituting of universal human rights.
    Neither the Greeks nor the Romans had any concept of universal human rights; slavery, for instance, was justified both in ancient and modern times. The impulses which led to creation of the concept of universal human rights occurred in 20th century during a time which is known to us as democratic. Within the democracy not only the philosophers, but all people became able to accept a thinking concerning the question of what the human being is, and about the meaning of this in a universal sense.

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