International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 12, Issue 1, Spring 1998

William Sweet
Pages 117-132

Human Rights and Cultural Diversity

In this paper, I discuss some challenges to the discourse of universal human rights made by those who insist that the existence of pluralism and cultural diversity count against it. I focus on arguments made in a recent article by Vinay Lal but also address several other criticisms of universal human rights-arguments hinted at, but not elaborated, by Lal. I maintain that these challenges frequently fail to distinguish the discourse of human rights from its adoption by certain states to advance foreign policy objectives, and suggest that, even when these criticisms appear plausible, closer inspection reveals that they are either inconsistent or simply do not succeed. I conclude that the notion of universal human rights still has an important place in a culturally diverse and pluralist world.