Theories of Universal Human Rights and the Individual’s Perspective


  • Linda Walter European-University Viadrina



cultural relativism, human rights, individual, political theory, Rainer Forst, Richard Rorty, right to justification, sentimental education, universality


The current scientific debate about the universality of human rights can be structured into a horizontal and a vertical dimension. Whereas the horizontal dimension is about the different ways one can approach the topic “human rights” from different disciplines, the vertical dimension is dealing with the fundamental question whether human rights are universal or particularistic. However, the debate lacks the view of the most important group: the individual human being. Consequently, this paper aims to bring the individual’s perspective on universal human rights into focus by a) striking a balance between universal and particularistic views on human rights and b) building on a realistic human nature in order to understand and embrace the individual’s conviction. The approach meeting these two criteria is a combination of Rainer Forst’s “right to justification” and Richard Rorty’s “sentimental education”. This is the only way to an individually backed and culturally sensitive universality.

Author Biography

Linda Walter, European-University Viadrina

Linda Walter, 29, is research assistant and PhD candidate at European-University Viadrina (Chair of European and International Politics), fellow at the Centre for Internet and Human Rights and is writing her doctoral thesis about the universality of human rights and digital social networks. Linda holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a M.A. in European Studies. Furthermore, Linda is cofounder and board member of wEYE, a secure video platform for human rights issues. She’s been volunteering for Amnesty International and gained experiences at the German Federal Foreign Office, the European Council on Foreign Relations and SAP.




How to Cite

Walter, L. (2014). Theories of Universal Human Rights and the Individual’s Perspective. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 25, 120–141.