Confronting the human in human rights

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Gulik, Gauri van
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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with the statement that all human beings possess human dignity. What does human dignity entail and why do all humans possess it? Throughout history, several groups of human beings have fought for recognition and to be seen as fully human. When a step forward has been taken, other groups have been excluded. Those who we thought of as enlightened praised slavery and degraded women; great minds think great wrongs. Non-human animals are excluded by definition from our moral realm. As women and black people during the struggles for women's rights and the civil rights movement, animals are going through a phase of ridicule. This thesis critically revises the boundaries we draw around ourselves. It deconstructs human centrism and the domination of other animals and nature as its consequence. The core of the problem is our sanctification of rationality, deeming both non-human animals as irrelevant, as with humans who live outside our 'civilisation' such as indigenous peoples. Besides reason, a complete morality also consists of outrage, sympathy and compassion. This thesis develops a multi-dimensional ethics that is realistic and takes both rationality and our ability for empathy seriously. The goal is to create a secular, non-metaphysical morality that is open to any being that suffers.
Second semester University: University College Dublin
animal rights, ethics, Universal Declaration of Human Rights