13 thoughts on “Pat Condell: “The Term ‘Human Rights’ Isn’t Worth Respecting”

  1. Isn’t there is a flaw at the centre of human rights which has encouraged their unchecked growth – the fact that human rights, as defined by the UDHR, are not rights at all but merely wishes?

    If paid holidays are a human right (UDHR Article 24) then why not clean air, equality of outcome and the right not to wear a bra at work (one I came across today)?

    • But there’s a genuine philosophical issue behind what you’re calling a flaw. What is the basis for a moral claim? Where does it come from?

      There are different answers to that – God, secular moral systems based on reasoning, even moral nihilism – which says there is no basis for moral claims, they are nothing more than preferences.

      The UDHR seems to rely on historical traditions and a general consensus to determine what we should call human rights. That’s always going to leave room for disagreements.

      • I have to disagree. The human rights of the UDHR are not just moral claims but are described as “fundamental” and “inalienable” rights and entitlements ie they exist in the world prior to humans conferring them on each other.

        Article 1 starts “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. I would say that all of those claims are patently untrue.
        No one is born free but already subject to familial and social rules. No one is born equal in dignity. Consider the baby prince and the baby pauper.
        No one is born with equal rights. The son of a free man and the sone of a slave come into the world with markedly different rights.

        If it said “Let’s strive to bring about a situation in which human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” I wouldn’t quibble because it would be talking about aspirations rather than making a claim about claimed underlying realities. As some would say – they are of dubious ontological status!

        I realise I am in a minority position but I try to expand on it a bit more here, if you are interested:

        • “The human rights of the UDHR are not just moral claims but are described as “fundamental” and “inalienable” rights…”

          But I believe that all moral claims are thought of as fundamental and inalienable, and existing prior to humans conferring them upon one another.

          I view “murder is wrong” to be a moral claim. For that moral claim to have any substance to it it has to mean more than some group simply deciding murder is wrong. It must be wrong regardless of what anyone else thought of it. Otherwise we slide into subjective morality which means morality is at the whim of the crowd.

          When you say the son of a free man and the son of a slave come into the world with markedly different rights I know exactly what you mean. But I would still argue that that does not separate rights from other moral claims.

          Just as the moral claim that “murder is wrong” will not prevent me from being murdered, the human right to being born free does not prevent me from being born a slave.

          I view human rights and moral claims to be in the same category, and they suffer the same strengths and weaknesses. This is just my take on it though.

          • Moral claims seem very “add-on” and “alienable” to me (for instance murder is wrong but sometimes it can be right, eg killing Hitler in 1930, or convenient to call it by another name such as “execution”). But I can understand that people believing that moral claims have some more solid foundation than socially or legally accepted conventions are likely to make them more effective. That is why, even though I think the terms ”right” and wrong” are no more than shorthand for “positive” and “negative”, “benign” and “harmful”, “nice” and “nasty”, “kind” and “unkind” etc I deplore their being diluted into “appropriate” and “inappropriate” because those terms are a blank cheque for whoever has the social dominance to impose their definition.

            But to get back to human rights, if “the human right to being born free does not prevent me from being born a slave” then I don’t see what use it is, and suggest that it is only a fiction (or as the Russian delegate in 1948 would have termed it “just a pious phrase”). When it becomes accepted by society and enforced then it become an actual right.

            I fear we are going to have to agree to disagree on both moral claims and human rights. You think they both have an objective reality whereas I think neither do.

            I am with Bentham regarding human rights, or as he knew them “natural rights”, ie that they are “nonsense on stilts”.

          • ECAW, yes, we disagree about whether human rights and moral claims belong in the same category. No problem. But I think we aren’t too far apart on the rest.

            In my first reply I described my view on three possible foundations for moral claims – God, secular systems or nihilism. But I didn’t express a preference for any one of them.

            I defended, and still do, placing moral claims and human rights together and that was really the main point I was arguing for.

            But if you look back at how I argued it I said that if moral claims are to have any substance then they must be more than the opinion of the crowd. I never did claim that they actually do have any objective basis, only that they would need to for us to take them seriously.

            Now, I agree I threaded a fine needle there. So I must apologize for that. I generally try to avoid outing myself as a nihilist because generally no good discussion is possible after that. I’d rather argue the ideas themselves.

            So, to get my position completely out of the shadows I agree with you that moral claims have no objective foundation. There is nothing to support them other than our assertions of them. They have no truth value.

            I believe the only way moral claims, or human rights, could have an objective foundation is through God. But that brings up a whole separate discussion which I think is best left alone.

          • gjest – I was going to leave it there but I thought you might be interested in this article by a philosopher (or a lecturer in philosophy at least – are they the same?):


            In paragraph #5 he tells us that a “moral right” is a “valid claim”, and a claim is valid if it is implied by a true moral theory.

            Does he tell us what makes a true moral theory? Not that I can see. Perhaps others more intelligent than I can discern it but in the meantime I think we should claim the “evidential right” to ban philosophers from engaging in serious things like declarations of human rights.

            There were at least two philosophers on the drafting panel. One was called Malik, a Lebanese Christian. Eleanor Roosevelt later told of the difficulties involved with getting consensus from the representatives of different outlooks. When the Taiwanese panellist complained that Confucianism wasn’t being taken into account Malik held forth at length about Thomas Aquinas. Must have been a fun meeting.

            btw, 280 years they’ve been arguing over whether you can get an ought from an is and still haven’t sorted it out (so a philosopher told me) – Jeez!

  2. Its just a business opportunity for the legal profession. It bears no resemblance to Human Rights as one knew say during the last war.

  3. Should there ever be a church of the denomination ” The latter day antidjihadists” , I suggest that Pat Condell be its high priest.

  4. It’s just that most women in Europe/Germany vote for the leftist parties, which keep on letting the rapists in.

    Strange, isn’t it?

    Why the hell do they do this ?

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