The sentiment that Human Rights are not universal poses legal, political, and philosophical problems. Stephen C. Angle cites the head of a Chinese delegation, Liu Huaqiu (1995), in his book Angle, S. C. (2002). Human rights in Chinese thought: a cross-cultural inquiry. Cambridge University Press, p.2. as follows:
The concept of human rights is a product of historical development. It is closely associated with speciﬁc social, political, and economic conditions and the speciﬁc history, culture, and values of a particular country. Different historical development stages have different human rights requirements. Countries at different development stages or with different historical traditions and cultural backgrounds also have different understanding and practice of human rights. Thus, one should not and cannot think of the human rights standard and model of certain countries as the only proper ones and demand all countries to comply with them.
Speaking of Human Rights, philosophy is therefore facing justificatory problems: If we want to justify a certain set of rights against claims like these, we would have to both determine a common "human nature" that is present in all humans and in a second step find a way to derive a set of rights as being linked to or making possible the elaboration of that very human nature.
Simon Hope in Hope, Simon (2011): Common humanity as a justification for human rights claims. (In: The philosophy of human rights, ed. G. Ernst, and J.-C. Heilinger, 211–230. Berlin: De Grutyer.) phrases one aspect of the philosophical problem in the following way:
More precisely, my target is the following thought, basic to many philosophical conceptions of human rights: that, by appealing to the moral significance of features of human nature that all of us – of course – share, human rights can be justified by a conception of the human good that is accessible to all. My complaint will be that these bold invocations of common humanity idealize away the depth and breadth of moral diversity, and so cannot give a satisfactory account of the intelligibility of moral reasons in the face of this diversity. (p, 211)
Hope, thereby, criticises the very idea of common humanity by stating a basic incommensurability of moral plurality.
If we want to justify any set of human rights as universal we will, therefore, have to face these (and other) objection(s) regarding finding something that deserves the name "human nature".1
And the more different objections one can argue against the fewer objections remain. Hence, I am looking for more objections like this, no matter from where they come.
Not that I do not have plenty of literature regarding this already, but maybe there's more somewhere:
What are the main lines of argument (and by whom and where) criticising the very idea of a common denominator of humanity (or the human condition) in light of human variation?
I am interested mostly in arguments that meet the following criteria:
- The text is referenced and being cited (see Google Scholar), i.e. meets minimal criteria of scholarship.
- It is written in English, German, or even French (if must be).
- Arguments from different cultural and/or philosophical backgrounds would be most welcome, given the above two points.
Examples would be the above-mentioned argument of incommensurability, Wittgensteinian arguments about the limits of mutual understanding and community and language framing one's reality, or historical and more general contextual limitations of universality (like the Chinese delegate mentioned).
1 For some more elaboration of these points and other objections as well as counter-objections, see Roughley, N. (Ed.). (2000). Being Humans: Anthropological Universality and Particularity in Transdisciplinary Perspectives. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.