The Problem of Justification
Would human rights advocates be at ease with the preceding analysis? The idea of human rights, like that of any other moral rights and duties, may seem to have been reduced here to individual experiences and their expressions—to the feelings of rights and to norms expressing those feelings. Thus understood, human rights norms, like all other moral norms, become subjective, personal pronouncements. This is exactly how moral skeptics perceive ethics. “There are no objective values,” they assert. 1 Any moral judgment, especially a moral norm, is a product of its utterer’s moral experience, and thus it does not express anything but the utterer’s subjective state of mind. Because of their proximity to our minds or hearts—the skeptics maintain—the ultimate moral norms become the first principles that we consider so obviously binding that we accept them without any further evidence or explanation. We make them, we choose them, and their acceptance is “a responsibility that falls upon ourselves.” 2 Thus, they become moral axioms from which lower-level norms can be deduced.