David Hiley

Visiting Fellow, March 2011-June 2011

David Hiley is professor of philosophy at the University of New Hampshire in the US. He holds affiliate appointments in Justice Studies, the Humanities Program, and Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. For fifteen years he held administrative posts in four universities including college dean, vice president for academic affairs and university provost. His philosophical interests span the history of philosophy and contemporary philosophy in both the Anglo-American and European traditions. He is author of Philosophy In Question and Doubt and the Demand of Democratic Citizenship and co-editor of two collections of essays, The Interpretive Turn: Philosophy, Science and Culture and Richard Rorty.  He comes to his interest in human rights from work in democratic theory. 

While at the Centre he was working on a book on human rights that is motivated by the disconnect between the philosophy of human rights, that is largely sceptical about human rights claims, and the work of human rights where the discourse of human rights has become the lingua franc of global social justice. Even the philosophical friends of human rights construe them more narrowly than human rights practitioners, remaining skeptical about socio-economic human rights claims. He will be arguing in this book that to advance the on-going cause of human dignity we should think of human rights as cultural politics – to borrow Richard Rorty's phrase – and should understand the outcome of cultural politics as political innovations through which certain kinds of cruelties get reframed within the evolving discourse of human rights, placing them within a new set of normative understandings and relationships that obligate us as human beings as citizens of civilized states. There have been a number of political accounts of human rights lately, some influenced by Rawls' shift from a metaphysical to a political liberalism and theory of justice and some influenced by Jurgen Habermas' discourse ethics and deliberative account of democracy. While his own thinking is influenced by this emerging tradition, he will argue that their conceptions are political in the wrong sense. The book will develop a somewhat different political account that has its starting point with Hannah Arendt.