Contemporary debates about the concept of human rights are characterized, at their core, by difficulty negotiating the tension between the universal and the particular. One of the central challenges of an increasingly global society is to determine how we can affirm universal human rights while respecting the distinctive traditions of individual cultures. To address this challenge, Clinton Timoth Curle turns to John Humphrey, an oft-ignored Canadian who is chiefly responsible for the United Naitons' Declaration of Human Rights. Using Humphry's journals as a starting point, Curle illustrates how Humphry was profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Henry Bergson, and in fact regarded the Declaration as a kind of legal transliteration of Bergson's philosophy of the open society. Curle goes on to provide a careful analysis of Bergon's philosophy, and to establish an affinity between Humphry's vision of the contemporary human rights project and the Greek Patristic tradition.
Curle concludes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, understood in a Bergsonian context, provides us with a way to affirm in the modern context that there is a ground to human fellowship which is transcendent and which offers a basis to establish a universal ethics without a radical homogenization of cultures.
Clinton Timothy Curle is an independent scholar living in Ottawa.
PrefaceIntroduction Universality, Particularity, and International Human Rights Universality as a Problem A Compelling Solution A Better Way? John Humphrey and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Early Works Humphrey and the United Nations The Drafting of the Declaration Humphrey and the Problem of the Universality of Rights Humphrey and Bergson Conclusion The Greek Patristic Tradition An Apology Gregory Palamas and Barlaam the Calabrian The Greek Fathers: Five Thematic Distinctives Conclusion John Humphrey and Henri Bergson Henri Bergson Bergson's Philosophy Bergson and the Greek Patristic TraditionConclusion: MacIntyre Revisited Jacques Maritain and the Neo-Thomist Critique of Bergson Maritain's Acceptance of Neo-Thomism Maritain's Early Criticisms of Bergson Maritain's Later Criticisms of Bergson Maritain's Final Assessment of Bergson A Summary of Maritain's Critique of Bergson Conclusion Two Versions of Human Rights Maritain, Natural Law, and the Open Society Maritain and the Contemporary Human Rights Project Maritain and the Universality of Human Rights Bergson and the Universality of Human Right A Rapprochement between Bergson and Maritain? ConclusionConclusionNotesBibliographyIndex