A right is defined as a social, legal and ethical entitlement principle that explores what is or is not allowed to be done by people to themselves, others or society. Human rights are the fundamental rights that are available equally to people, irrespective of their gender, religion, language, sex, nationality or age, among other factors. Human rights are a contemporary conception that has replaced the natural laws of the past. The idea of human rights started to take shape in the mid-20th century. Various scholars have put forward different criticisms that explore the nature of human rights. While some scholars agree that human rights exist, some argue that they do not, while others say that these rights are limited. Therefore, it is imperative to examine the criticism of human rights put forward by Elizabeth Wolgast and Douglas Husak.
Analysis of Identified Criticism
“Wrong Rights,” Criticism by Elizabeth Wolgast. Elizabeth Wolgast also criticizes human rights and considers them to be full of flaws. According to her, one of the characteristics of human rights is that they focus on the well-being of individuals, which goes against the doctrine of society, which is defined as a collection of people who co-exist, leading to their harmonious integration. According to Wolgast, the presence of human rights is mainly aimed at limiting the freedom of the weak in the society since the abled can easily interfere with them and get away without any severe prosecution process. Based on her argument, for the peaceful and harmonious living of people in the society, there is the importance of letting everyone free instead of the human rights situation where their existence limits people’s actions and choices. The fact that human rights do not further the basis on which community was founded makes them wrong (Boersema 31). By focusing on an individual, human rights can lead to the breakdown of relationships among members of the community. Wolgast concludes by saying that it is necessary to focus on the basis on which society was founded and remove or avoid obstacles that may stand in the way of maintaining its integrity.
“Why There Are No Human Rights?” Criticism by Douglas Husak. Douglas Husak criticizes human rights and states that these rights should not exist as the people they represent are different from one another. The difference between and among the members of society is the main obstacle in enforcing them. He notes that for human rights to exist, the government should categorize the members of the community in various groups and then ensure that there are human rights for each group. Interestingly, according to Douglas, there is not any reason for restraining people since it is the main contributory factor to the ever existing conflicts among people on varying groups. Based on the scholar’s stipulations, human rights should not be used as a basis of categorizing people within the society since they have unrealistic requirements. In essence, with the presence of human rights held for a specific group in the community, those belonging to other groups will have the required respect based on the available needs. It will protect people and also ensure that the norms of society are not violated (Waldron 47). For example, human rights call for humane treatment of murderers and those that perpetuate injustices and, therefore, let them get away with their crimes. Douglas notes that it would be necessary to have human rights if everyone had similar characteristics, which is not the case.
Defense of Human Rights in Light of the Above Criticism
In the criticisms, most of the scholars note that human rights are applied partially where the influencing factors are status, power, and money. The fact that human rights can be enforced partially in society is unfair as some people that lack money, high stature or authority are unable to influence outcomes in their favor if they violate such rights (Waldron 51). Ensuring the success of human rights in society is critical. Therefore, it is imperative that various conditions on their just enforcement be developed. Doing so will help prevent institutions and people from abusing human rights and influencing the outcomes when such violations happen. Remarkably, the following are the possible human rights defenses in response to Wolgast and Douglas arguments.
In the criticism put forward by Elizabeth Wolgast, she states that human rights have many flaws. Her argument is driven by the fact that human rights consider the well-being of individual members of society. What she fails to acknowledge is the fact that the community is a collection of different individuals (Waldron). Each human being is an example of a component that leads to the creation of society. Thus, it is critical to ensure that human beings are well-protected to preserve the framework of society itself. Human rights govern the interactions among people, which provides their peaceful co-existence.
Finally, Douglas Husak argues that human rights are impractical as human beings differ from one another and it would be unfair to group all people when they exhibit different behavioral patterns. Many people in society indulge in activities that violate human rights. Therefore, the enforcement of human rights is problematic when some people disregard such rights at the cost of the well-being of others (Boersema 17). It must be admitted that all human beings are entitled to human rights. Some people might engage in behavior that is against the standards of society and commits acts that violate the rights of others. Nevertheless, everyone is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty, and usually, the poor and powerless people are deprived of a fair trial. Therefore, denying such people their human rights robs them of the opportunity to prove their innocence and, thus, makes them suffer for things they might never have done.
Sustainability of the Above Criticism
The defenses put forward by Elizabeth Wolgast, and Douglas Husak in their criticism of human rights are sustainable. First, the ability to apply human rights equally on all members of society will ensure that fairness is achieved and justice is seen to be done. Consequently, everyone will be guaranteed human rights without fear of favor or bias (Boersema 27). Second, protecting the well-being of each member of society helps ensure that society is harmonious and self-sustainable. It is, therefore, possible to consider the welfare of an individual member of the community, which will lead to the overall peaceful coexistence and well-being of everyone. Finally, when people are made aware of their human rights, they stand by these rights, which prevent their violation.
To sum up, human rights are critically analyzed by several scholars. Douglas Husak argues that human rights do not exist. Elizabeth Wolgast claims that human rights have flaws in them: human beings are different, and so, an impartial implementation of human rights is not possible. Finally, the two authors consent that various factors affect human rights, one of which is the ability of some members of society to influence how these rights are enforced. An analysis of the arguments put forth by these scholars helps gain further insight into the workings of human rights and understand the effectiveness of these rights under various circumstances.
Boersema, David. Philosophy of Human Rights: Theory and Practice. Routledge, 2018.
Waldron, Jeremy. Nonsense upon Stilts (Routledge Revivals): Bentham, Burke, and Marx on The Rights of Man. Routledge, 2014.
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