Document Type : Research Article


Department of Philosophy, Michigan University


This paper will build on ideas I presented at the previous conference (in 2003) on human rights at Mofid University.  In that paper, I argued that it is a mistake to view human rights as the  expression of a specific culture or historical identity (e.g., that of the “West”).  Instead, human rights are better understood as historically emergent universals created in the conflict and interaction of various social groups with contrasting interests, cultural understandings, and identities.  The aim of preserving a specific culture, religion, or historical identity against cultural imperialism or other kinds of domination can be supported by appealing to a human right to the formation of distinctive identities.  Therefore this human right can contribute to a plurality of identities within the global network of societies that is emerging today.  The aim of this paper is to develop this idea of a human right to identity formation


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