Res Publica

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 53–66 | Cite as

Suffering, Sympathy, and (Environmental) Security: Reassessing Rorty’s Contribution to Human Rights Theory

  • Kerri Woods


This article reassess Rorty’s contribution to human rights theory. It addresses two key questions: (1) Does Rorty sustain his claim that there are no morally relevant transcultural facts? (2) Does Rorty’s proposed sentimental education offer an adequate response to contemporary human rights challenges? Although both questions are answered in the negative, it is argued here that Rorty’s focus on suffering, sympathy, and security, offer valuable resources to human rights theorists. The article concludes by considering the idea of a dual approach to human rights, combining Rorty’s emphasis on sentiment with an analysis of patterns of responsibility for the underfulfilment of human rights.


Rorty Human rights theory Environmental security Sentimental education Solidarity 



The author would like to thank Cristina Johnston, the participants of the Association of Legal and Social Philosophy 2008 conference, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of YorkHeslington, YorkUK

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