Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 50, 2008

Social and Political Philosophy

Edward Demenchonok
Pages 133-139

Human Rights
From International to Cosmopolitan Law

The paper examines the current debates regarding human rights and international law. Two contrasting approaches are analyzed: One is represented by the neoconservative and neoliberal concepts, which justify forcibly “spreading democracy” through the unilateral intervention of a superpower, thus challenging the global rule of law. The other approach consists of strengthening international human rights law and cosmopolitan order. It is represented by the theorists of “discourse ethics” and “cosmopolitan democracy.” The paper analyses the internal relations and difference between the legislation of a particular democratic state and the universality of international law. It examines the tension between the plurality of democratic states and the universal principles of international law, e.g. human rights, which direct us toward a cosmopolitan legal order. It further asserts that universally valid international law is above any positive law of any state, including a democratic state, and provides a regulative principle for external normative critique with regard to human rights. The paper examines important insights provided by discourse ethics theory. The transcendental-pragmatic principle of discourse ethics gives a moral foundation for human rights and thus for the law of a liberaldemocratic state as well as for international law. As Karl-Otto Apel notes, the idea of democracy is not identical to that of universally valid law, and the universal concept of law cannot be reduced to the legislative autonomy of any state. Jürgen Habermas argues for an “egalitarian universalism” and emphasizes the paramount role of international law as a medium for the advancement of human rights. The analysis shows that the universal concept of human rights cannot be adequately realized either by individual democratic states or by a “world republic” as a hegemonic superpower. Rather, its realization requires strengthened international law and institutions such as a properly reformed UN. The contemporary period is viewed as a transitional phase from an international to a cosmopolitan order.