Talk by Alex Lefebvre

Lunch Seminar: Human Rights and the Care of the Self

This talk will be based on my recently published book, Human Rights and the Care of the Self (Duke 2018). When we think of human rights we normally start from two presuppositions. The first is that the purpose of human rights is to protect human beings from harm. Whatever else they may be, there is overwhelming agreement between scholars and practitioners that human rights serve to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuse. The second assumption is that human rights are in the business of advancing global justice. Especially for those who live in rich and privileged countries, human rights are seen as an institution to help empower and care for less fortunate people. In my presentation I approach human rights from a different perspective. I propose that several well-known figures in the human rights tradition (such as Wollstonecraft, Tocqueville, Bergson, and Roosevelt) advance human rights as a means for individuals to concern themselves with, work upon, and improve themselves. To use an expression that might sound glib at first, they see human rights as a tool for “self-help,” one that provides strategies for people to become more resilient, happier, fulfilled, present, loving, or even joyful. My goal is to demonstrate that a persistent past and present feature of human rights discourse and practice is to inspire individual to a new way of life and to care for themselves.

Alex Lefebvre is Associate Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations, and Philosophy, at the University of Sydney. He is author of several books, most recently Human Rights and the Care of the Self. He teaches courses on political philosophy, human rights, and philosophy as a way of life

For participation in this event, please use this registration form no later than 10 December 2019 at 12:00.