chapter  5
25 Pages

Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality R ichard Rorty

In a report from Bosnia some months ago, David Rieff (1992) said, ‘To the Serbs, the Muslims are no longer human. . . . Muslim prisoners, lying on the ground in rows, awaiting interrogation, were driven over by a Serb guard in a small delivery van.’ This theme of dehumanization recurs when Rieff says,

The moral to be drawn from Rieff’s stories is that Serbian murderers and rapists do not think of themselves as violating human rights. For they are not doing these things to fellow human beings, but to Muslims. They are not being inhuman, but rather are discriminating between the true humans and the pseudohumans. They are making the same sort of distinction as the Crusaders made between humans and infi del dogs, and the Black Muslims make between humans and blue-eyed devils. The founder of my university was able both to own slaves and to think it self-evident that all men were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. He had convinced himself that the consciousness of Blacks, like that of animals, ‘participate[s] more of sensation

than refl ection’.1 Like the Serbs, Mr. Jefferson did not think of himself as violating human rights.