Neither Relative nor Universal: A Response to Donnelly
Abstract

Abstract:

This response raises questions about Jack Donnelly’s argument for the “relative universality” of human rights. It shows that Donnelly’s reliance on the terms relative and universal dulls many of his sharp analytic points and in some instances leads to inconsistencies in his account. This response also contends that in defending the relative universality of human rights Donnelly obscures or mischaracterizes the bases of their legitimacy. It concludes by arguing that human rights are neither relative nor universal and shows how abandoning this vocabulary would improve our theoretical understanding of them.