Name: Ayça Mazman
Institutional Affiliation: University of Cincinnati, Department of Philosophy and Department of Women's, Gender, Sexuality Studies, PhD/MA joint degree student
Paper Title: A Response to Rorty's Endorsement of the Idea of a Shared Humanity, Sympathy and the Human Rights Discourse as Means to Eliminate Global Injustice
In Is “Cultural Recognition” a Useful Notion for Leftist Politics, Richard Rorty claims that acting on the idea of a shared humanity is the most efficient way to eliminate prejudices. He suggests that if people who have prejudices against some groups realize that the members of those groups have inner lives similar to their own, they would better understand that a shared humanity unifies them, and that in essence, we are not all that different from one another. In this sense, Rorty suggests a required sense of sympathy to eliminate prejudice. He also believes that creating a human rights culture in which people teach their kids to focus on the shared humanity rather than pointing out cultural differences would be the only sustainable way to eliminate discrimination. Taking these ideas as a starting point, my paper provides an analysis of Rorty's account of a shared humanity, sympathy and his employment of the human rights discourse. My major claim is that Rorty's attempt to invoke a shared humanity and encourage sympathy to eliminate prejudice is faulty, especially since he makes it clear that he is a supporter of Leftist politics. I argue that the discourse of human rights that takes its leverage from a notion of a shared humanity can be used in ways that aim for homogenizing differences, and hence, oppress and further marginalize the stigmatized groups and/or justify actions that further violate human rights. In this sense, surrendering to, and endorsing, a human rights discourse without questioning the ways it is used is naïve. I will use a feminist framework to criticize Rorty's claim that human rights is the most central idea to adopt in order to regulate the way we act toward others. I am not going to claim, however, that the human rights discourse is never beneficial to people. My claim is that Rorty's failure to acknowledge the limitations of the human rights discourse paints a false picture of reality.
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