I have two major topics to discuss this evening. Both may be "intellectual masturbation," as someone referred to the lecture we were supposed to read by Derreda for class today. (Did I spell that correctly? Does that reflect badly on my lack-of-finishing the article and not really getting it, other than thinking that he was actually probably doing some basic concepts under all that french?)
1) Foundations of Human Rights
Conor, our program leader, gave one of the Hamlyn Lecture tonight, entitled "A Crisis of Authority; Can Human Rights Survive?" In it, he talked a great deal about how the traditional foundations of HR are crap, how they're largely irrelevant to our current conceptions and not really the best place to start if we think that these things are important. Which I'm totally good with; I'm here mostly because I wasn't satisfied with the things that everyone seemed to be pointing at as the basis of human rigths. In the end, however, Conor (like Professor Klug last week) sort of decided that we didn't really need to know or even to pretend to have a foundation for human rights. He returned to Rorty's idea that human rights are superstitions and noted that superstitions are not necessarily untrue and may be entirely true. Klug, last week, basically told us that we didn't need to know the origins as long as we could tell other people that "this is what I believe. If you want to know why these values are important, look around you." I'm really not happy with these explanations. I can believe that human rights are important just because I think they are, but I can't believe that this is an arguement that I could use on anyone who wasn't already predisposed to believe in the concepts. I'm rather practical and I'm not sure that such a theory is useful. As my coursemates noted afterwards, I'm either too much into the theory or too much of a positivist. Maybe both are right.
2) New Thesis Idea
Did I mention the last one on here? If not, good. If so, ignore, it was kind of crap and didn't actually have anything to do with human rights.
So, the new idea comes out of the discussions that we've been having about pirates in classes (same professor in both and he's currently very interested in the metaphor that the pirate can represent in current society). In LL423, we talked about how pirates could be defined as people who are both a) outside the international legal system and b) nevertheless subject to the political decisons that the international order makes and universal jurisdiction. And, then, I was thinking, well isn't that how we practically define stateless persons? And, come to think of it, why do we think it's ok to treat the stateless (who may be stateless through no fault of their own) as criminals? Who protects their human rights if states are the bodies charged with protecting human rights? So, I think I'd like to examine this intersection between criminalization and statelessness and, perhaps, try to come up with a new framework for thinking about statelessness that doesn't make stateless persons on par with criminals.
And interesting side-idea would be the transition from "pirate" to sovereignty. Gerry (said pirate professor) said that it has happened, in history, that pirates would become respectable and found states. So, is this process similar from the formation of states by former "terrorists?" When do those states stop being outlaws and become members of the international community? How? I'm thinking about the KLA and the fomer PLO, but....
Yeah, that's enough for now.