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Human Rights - Research Paper Example

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[Author’s Name] What Is a Human Right and What Role Should Human Rights Talk Play in International Matters: Examining Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach Introduction The concept of human rights is a distinctively moral idea that has obtained global status in at least the rhetoric of world affairs and international declarations…
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"Human Rights"

Download file to see previous pages We do sense that an ‘indispensable minimum’ is required for such an existence. If ‘we chose to set our minds to it by cooperating and making it a priority we feel with some confidence that such unnecessary deprivation could be overcome. And yet profound injustices on a staggering global scale remain. Continuing theoretical confusion and disagreement serves as a barrier for the human rights project. Nussbaum has advanced the 'capabilities approach' as a non-rights alternative. The capabilities approach focuses on what beings are actually able to do and be, their capability to function, and is an influential approach to quality of life measurement that increasingly features in international debate. A capabilities focus was incorporated into the United Nations Human Development Reports in 1993, largely under the influence of economist, philosopher, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. Nussbaum's own pioneering work initially adopted the language and notion of human capability and functioning independently through her study of Aristotle. Nussbaum has since fused her project with that of Sen's into a theoretical framework at once grounded in ancient ideas and pertinent to development of contemporary public policy (Crocker 585). This paper explores the ways in which Nussbaum's theory is not only compatible with but also enriching of rights. The Concept of Capabilities A different language about people's basic entitlements and justified claims has emerged in recent years focused on human capability and human functioning. Capability concerns the freedom to function in certain ways deemed valuable, involving particular powers and opportunities. Functioning is the actual choosing and doing of these valued things. Conceptually, this language of people's capabilities refers to ''their abilities to do and to be certain things deemed valuable" (Nussbaum ' Capabilities and Human Rights’ 119). The idea behind Nussbaum's capabilities approach is that there are certain functions people should be empowered to do which are understood to constitute a human life. A life developed and shaped by the choosing and doing of a range of these functions demarcates a dignified or 'true' life from one that is stifled or oppressed (Nussbaum 71-72). Thus, Nussbaum "conceives capabilities as a person's valuable powers or faculties that can and should be realized in valuable functionings" (Crocker 599). A minimally good life involves recognition of the dignity of that life by empowering it with genuine opportunities to function. In principle a human life is an end in itself. Empowering someone and/or safeguarding an environment in which someone can live a dignified or 'true' human life upholds this principle. Nussbaum's foundational principle of each person as end can thus be restated as the principle of each person's capabilities. Those capabilities necessary for a dignified life constitute universal moral values (Nussbaum 74). Nussbaum's Methodology The central question of Nussbaum's philosophy asks, 'What are people actually able to do and to be?' Answers to this question enable us to draw out a notion of what capabilities we think people need to be able to choose and achieve in order to function and flourish in a dignified manner. Put another way, the "list of basic capabilities is generated by asking a question that from the start is evaluative: What activities ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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