Document Type : Research Article


Institute for International Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland


The paper argues that an approach to democracy that combines an anti-foundationalist epistemology and a deliberative political and moral stance will enable us to solve the increasing tensions between the universalistic claims of human rights and the particularistic claims to autonomy coming from different cultural groups.
The anti-foundationalist conception of normative authority I put forth is centered on the distinction between universal grounds for and universal scope of normativity. It maintains that the universalistic normative force of our norms and practices remains uncompromised by the acknowledgment of the ultimate circularity of our justifications, thus eschewing the pitfalls of both foundationalism and relativism.
My main contention is that only by ensuring inclusive and self-reflexive practices of collective decision-making we will be able to address the tensions between universalism and cultural relativism, and produce more flexible models of democratic governance, citizenship and cultural membership suitable to face the challenges of the global processes of integration and differentiation.


Main Subjects

  1. A.Phillips: Multiculturalism, Universalism and the Claims of Democracy’. Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Programmer, P.7.
  2. A.S.S.A.Aldeeb: ‘Dialogue conflictuel sur les droits de l’homme entre Occident et Islam’ in Islamochristiana n.17, pp.58-59.
  3. B.Conti: ‘Universality of Rights Tested by Cultures: Islam and Arab Declarations on Human Rights’ in Mediterranean Journal of Human Rights, Vol.6, p.182.
  4. D. Davidson: Inquires into Truth and Interpretation, Oxford: Clarendon, 1984.
  5. H. Putnam: Realism with a Human Face, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990.
  6. R. Bernstein: Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.
  7. R. Rorty: Objectivity, Relativism and Truth, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  8. S.M.Okin: Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? ,Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999, p.131.
  9. T. Nagel: The View from Nowhere, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.