On the traditional view, human rights are universal because they belong to all human beings as such, solely in virtue of their humanity. In his paper, Blumenson explores the meaning of that claim and considers two reasons some people find it hard to accept. The first is the appeal of relativism. That appeal is all the greater now, when cultural diversity is more present than ever in one’s neighborhood, on television, and across the internet. It’s a short step from identifying differences in cultural values to identifying justice itself as culturally constructed. The second reason for doubt is also a response to the radically diverse ways of life in the world, but a simpler one: a belief that human rights universality is implausible. Even if there are moral universals, one might think them too few or too vague, and the settings of their operation too diverse, to generate anything as specific as human rights.


Eric Blumenson. 11/24/2020. “How are Human Rights Universal.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School.