Book Chapter

Normative Disorientation and a Limitation of Human Rights



Hope SJ (2022) Normative Disorientation and a Limitation of Human Rights. In: Brownlee K, Jenkins D & Neal A (eds.) Being Social: The Philosophy of Social Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 252-273.

To think about social human rights is to think about the social dimensions of human life. One of those dimensions is a culture or shared way of going on. That dimension is vulnerable to what Kwame Gyekye termed ‘evolutionary disconnection’ and the potential accompanying loss of one’s practical concepts. This chapter argues that when we think about what it could be to overcome evolutionary disconnection, to retain one’s practical concepts through normative disorientation, we find a general limitation on the conceptual language of human rights. Because that disorientation is itself part of many decolonizing peoples’ histories of injustice, it is reasonable to resist the injustices of colonization by invoking local ethical concepts to characterize them. To instead invoke human rights would make local concepts mere tokens of the generic considerations that really matter; to admit that the local concepts can no longer orient thought and action.

human rights; colonization; conceptual loss; Kwame Gyeke; Jonathan Lear; Maori political argument; social dimensions of human life

Publication date31/12/2022
Publication date online31/10/2022
PublisherOxford University Press
Place of publicationOxford

People (1)


Dr Simon James Hope

Dr Simon James Hope

Lecturer, Philosophy