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Title: Human rights and the problem of ethnocentrism
Author: Etinson, Adam
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 8918
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Despite its prominence as a pejorative term in moral and political philosophy, the phenomenon of ethnocentrism has escaped the focused attention of moral and political philosophers. Little sustained effort has been devoted to its in-depth analysis. This thesis attempts to fill in that gap in the philosophical literature, with a particular focus on the analysis of ethnocentrism as a problem, or rather a set of problems, facing the theory and practice of human rights. The thesis begins by drawing a core distinction between ethnocentrism as a moral phenomenon (i.e., a form of moral partiality), on the one hand, and as an epistemological phenomenon (i.e., a mode of judgment), on the other. After singling out the epistemological aspect of ethnocentrism as its main focus, the thesis argues for four interlocking claims. The first claim is that ethnocentrism represents an unwarranted mode of judgment, and thus an epistemic hazard that ought to be avoided if at all possible (Chapter One, §3). This claim is defended at length against the version of political constructivism advanced by John Rawls, which, by grounding political argument exclusively in ideas and values embedded in a common public culture, implicitly justifies a form of ethnocentrism (Chapter Two). The second claim is that moral argument cannot avoid ethnocentrism by grounding itself, as some have thought, in judgments upon which there is broad moral consensus, or rather by avoiding any appeal to judgments that are the subject of marked dissensus (Chapter Three and Chapter Four). Thirdly, the thesis argues that ethnocentrism is, if avoidable, only so to a limited extent (Chapter Six, §2). And fourthly, it offers an outline of how this limited form of avoidance might work (Chapter Five and Chapter Six, §3).
Supervisor: Waldron, Jeremy; Crisp, Roger; Tasioulas, John Sponsor: British Council ; FQRSC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Human rights ; Practical ethics ; moral philosophy ; cultural diversity ; ethnocentrism ; political philosophy ; political liberalism ; the philosophy of human rights