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Uniquely Human

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The basis of human rights remains in need of exploration. The effectiveness of the language of human right is threatened by its widespread but uncritical use. This book is neither a sermon to believers nor an attack by a skeptic. It is a critical look at the basis of those few rights that are genuinely universal, for example, a right not to be tortured or a right to basic subsistence. A human right is a claim that every human being can make on the whole human race. The rights that are specifically human arise from human respect for all living beings.

There is still widespread assumption that “human rights” is just another name for the confused idea of “natural rights” from the eighteen century, rights that were promulgated by and for adult white meals. The authors of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 assumed that they were reformulating an old idea. Instead, they were beginning a new idea. Human rights can be realized only through conversations across differences within gender, age, culture and religion. This book traces those continuing race. The convergence of many particular traditions creates a human tradition that can sustain human rights as a standard of moral conduct for all nations.


GABRIEL MORAN is a Professor Emeritus at New York University where he has taught for 34 years. He currently teaches International Ethics. He is the author of two dozen books on ethics, religion and education. These titles include A Grammar of Responsibility, Speaking of Teaching, and Living Nonviolently.