What would a community of shared future for mankind look like in the area of human rights
December 22,2017   By:André van der Braak
The task of building a community of shared future for mankind in the field of international human rights seems very appropriate, as human rights can be said to represent one of the great civilizing projects of modernity. The human rights discourse has emerged as the primary discourse of global politics and has become an increasingly prominent category in international and domestic legal systems. 
However, the category of human rights continues to be both controversial and contested, and this presents many obstacles to the task of building a community of shared future. Firstly, there is much political and philosophical criticism of the philosophical grounding of human rights, and their supposed universality, especially from feminist and postcolonial critics. Secondly, many non-Western critics (as well as Western theologians) have voiced concern that the human rights discourse is “liberalism gone global”: it is individualism, secularism and Western political imperialism in disguise. Such fundamental criticisms put the global future of human rights in jeopardy.
In her recent publication Keeping Faith with Human Rights, the Irish theologian Linda Hogan addresses the issue of the future of human rights (Hogan 2015). She moves away from traditional approaches that conceptualize human rights in terms of universal values. She draws on a constructivist strand of political philosophy, and looks for a rearticulation of human rights that retains their ethical force, while also acknowledging their contingent character. She argues that such a constructivist understanding of human rights has also been part of the discussions around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is not grounded in the universalist philosophy of liberalism, but in tradition-thick, cross-cultural, multireligious conversations.
In this paper I want to follow parts of her argument. I will first describe her perspective on human rights both as a form of situated knowledge, and a form of embedded universalism. Then I will give an overview of the discussions with regard to the need for a grounding of human rights in order to secure their global appeal. Finally, I will briefly comment on the need for the various religious traditions to be part of the conversation around human rights.
Situated knowledge
Hogan notes that, in their ongoing battle over the universality and objectivity of human rights claims, universalist advocates  and relativist critics of human rights defend opposite sides of the same epistemological model, which is that human rights can be captured in one single philosophical framework, that human rights claims can be evaluated through a form of decontextualized or abstract reasoning, and that some kind of neutral normative regime should be possible with regard to human rights. However, as both Aristotle and Confucius already stressed, ethics is not an exact science. We cannot expect the same degree of precision and certainty from morality as, for example, from mathematics. An important theme in both Chinese and African philosophy is that all our knowledge of the world is situated and contextualized. 
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