Conversations Needed for Realizing Human Rights

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Professor Gabriel Moran provides new approach to history, nature and basis of human rights in new book "Uniquely Human: The Basis of Human Rights".

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“Human rights” is a term that is used often in today’s world, but everyone does not have the same understanding of the term. Gabriel Moran, who has been a professor of ethics and religion for over 30 years, explores the term’s meaning in his book “Uniquely Human: The Basis of Human Rights.”

“The rhetoric of human rights has outstripped a firm basis for understanding the nature and the basis of human rights,” Moran said. “Those few rights that are universal that is, rights that apply to every human being, are grounded in dialogues about gender, age, religion, culture and the environment.”

“Uniquely Human” explores both the sameness and differences within each of those categories. The book carefully distinguishes between human rights and those rights that may vary by nation or culture. 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 subsistence.

In his book, Moran traces the conversations about human rights that fill out the diversity within the unity of the human 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.

He criticizes the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was a great accomplishment in 1948, but according to Moran, is a flawed document that lists too many rights. The authors thought of their task as restating the “natural rights” that were proclaimed in the eighteenth century. Instead, they were beginning a worldwide discussion of a new idea, human rights, a discussion that is still in progress.

According to Moran, “The book is not mainly about political agreements or international laws; it is about aspects of life… that generate respect for people who may be different in religion, race, nationality or sexual identity.”

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About the Author
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.”

Uniquely Human: The Basis of Human Rights * by Gabriel Moran
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