The Many Faces of Humanitarianism

TitleThe Many Faces of Humanitarianism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsDouzinas, Costas

Who or what is the ‘human’ of human rights and the ‘humanity’ of humanitarianism? The question sounds naïve, silly even. Yet, important philosophical and ontological questions are involved. If rights are given to beings on account of their humanity, ‘human’ nature with its needs, characteristics and desires is the normative source of rights. The definition of the human will determine the substance and scope of rights. Even if we knew who is the ‘human’, when does its existence and the associated rights begin and when do they end? Are foetuses, designer babies, clones, those in permanent vegetative state fully human? What about animals? The animal rights movement, from deep ecology and anti-vivisection militancy to its gentler green versions, has placed the legal differentiation between human and animal firmly on the political agenda and has drafted a number of bills of animal entitlements. This essay examines the ideology of humanism in its various transformations and permutations.

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