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A Remedy called Empathy: The Neglected Element of Human Rights Theory

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Recent developments in empirical fields such as developmental psychology and neuroscience have led to a re-evaluation of empathy as a natural human faculty and the fundament of altruism and morality. This essay examines the inherent relations between empathy and human rights conceived of as moral norms. Taking into account the importance of empathy gives us a better understanding and thus reconstruction of the (evolution of) human rights protection, particularly their motivational basis. This may remedy some descriptive shortcomings of traditional human rights theories regarding the relevance of emotion, altruism and human nature. However, human rights are highly complex phenomena with an important normative dimension and as such they neither can nor should be reduced to mere feelings like compassion or empathy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, edited by authorisation of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), is an international, peer-reviewed journal, first published in 1907. It features original articles on philosophical research on legal and social questions, covering all aspects of social and legal life.
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