The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 3, 2007

Human Rights

Norman K. Swazo
Pages 91-96

Whose Culture? Which Rights?
The West's "Collocution" with the Margin?

At an international conference on philosophy and anthropology held in 1968, French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida remarked that an international philosophical encounter is an extremely rare thing in the world. Twenty years later, American moral philosopher Alasdair Maclntyre argued that moral discourse today entails the recognition that there are many rationalities, each with its conception of justice, such that one must ask the questions, "Which rationality? Whose justice?" In this paper I take note of these observations with reference to the claim that human rights have universal validity, recognizing that international discussions about this claim are moments in which "the West" presumably experiences a "collocution" with discourses from "the margin". My argument proceeds to conclude that any legitimate discussion of human rights must acknowledge the need for movement from cultural hierarchy to cultural symmetry, thereby conceding that traditions alien to the Western tradition of moral discourse may be superior in rationality, both theoretical and practical, thereby being instructive about the requirements of global justice.