Rethinking Rights

Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 2:15 PM

End Date

10-2-2015 3:45 PM

Abstract

What makes some human rights campaigns denouncing prisoner abuse and torture more effective than others? Specifically, what convinces individuals to support, accept, and take action on behalf of calls to stop prisoner abuse and torture? Some normative theoretical literature has argued that justifications for human rights matter, with multiple traditions offering their own versions of rights foundationalism Other theoretical literature, however, has argued that foundations used to legitimate human rights are unimportant. Despite these theoretical arguments, there is a dearth of empirical investigation into the actual appeal of different foundational arguments. This is surprising, because foundational arguments by their nature assume a universal or broad-based appeal.

Although some empirical human rights research has considered individual attitudes, they have not considered the effect or appeal different human rights justifications. We therefore construct an experiment to empirically compare the effects of different justifications used to ground human rights on human rights attitudes and commitments for action. The project explicitly focuses on four prominent human rights justifications: religion, international human rights law, human suffering, and human dignity. Subjects in the experimental conditions are presented with a depiction of prisoner abuse, and are presented with an argument against torture stemming from one of the four justifications.

We next measure human rights attitudes towards torture and prisoner abuse and ask subjects to commit to participate in human rights advocacy. Ultimately, we find that the quest for some justification for human rights with universal appeal may be misguided. While each of the arguments, in general, had some positive effect on human rights attitudes and commitments for action, we found that different arguments systematically appealed to different types of people.

Comments

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Oct 2nd, 2:15 PM Oct 2nd, 3:45 PM

On Solid Ground: Evaluating the Effects of Foundational Arguments on Human Rights Attitudes (abstract)

University of Dayton

What makes some human rights campaigns denouncing prisoner abuse and torture more effective than others? Specifically, what convinces individuals to support, accept, and take action on behalf of calls to stop prisoner abuse and torture? Some normative theoretical literature has argued that justifications for human rights matter, with multiple traditions offering their own versions of rights foundationalism Other theoretical literature, however, has argued that foundations used to legitimate human rights are unimportant. Despite these theoretical arguments, there is a dearth of empirical investigation into the actual appeal of different foundational arguments. This is surprising, because foundational arguments by their nature assume a universal or broad-based appeal.

Although some empirical human rights research has considered individual attitudes, they have not considered the effect or appeal different human rights justifications. We therefore construct an experiment to empirically compare the effects of different justifications used to ground human rights on human rights attitudes and commitments for action. The project explicitly focuses on four prominent human rights justifications: religion, international human rights law, human suffering, and human dignity. Subjects in the experimental conditions are presented with a depiction of prisoner abuse, and are presented with an argument against torture stemming from one of the four justifications.

We next measure human rights attitudes towards torture and prisoner abuse and ask subjects to commit to participate in human rights advocacy. Ultimately, we find that the quest for some justification for human rights with universal appeal may be misguided. While each of the arguments, in general, had some positive effect on human rights attitudes and commitments for action, we found that different arguments systematically appealed to different types of people.