To conclude this discussion, assessment of justice demands engagement with the 'eyes of mankind',first, because we may variously identify with the others elsewhere and not just with our local community;second, because our choices and actions may affect the lives of others far as well as near;and third,because what they see from their respective perspective of history and geography may help us to overcome our own parochialism.
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If the knowledge of torture of others makes you sick, it is a case of sympathy... It can be argued that behaviour based on sympathy is in an important sense egoistic, for one is oneself pleased at others' pleasure and pained at others' pain, and the pursuit of one's own utility may thus be helped by sympathetic action.
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The increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant 'identity' ('this is your duty as an American', 'you must commit these acts as a Muslim', or 'as a Chinese you should give priority to this national engagement') is not only an imposition of an external and arbitrary priority, but also the denial of an important liberty of a person who can decide on their respective loyalties to different groups (to all of which he or she belongs).
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Any classification according to a singular identity polarizes people in a particular way, but if we take note of the fact that we have many different identities - related not just to religion but also to language, occupation and business, politics, class and poverty, and many others - we can see that the polarization of one can be resisted by a fuller picture. So knowledge and understanding are extremely important to fight against singular polarization.
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It is hard to understand how a compassionate world order can include so many people afflicted by acute misery, persistent hunger and deprived and desperate lives, and why millions of innocent children have to die each year from lack of food or medical attention or social care. This issue, of course, is not new, and it has been a subject of some discussion among theologians. The argument that God has reasons to want us to deal with these matters ourselves has had considerable intellectual support. As a nonreligious person, I am not in a position to assess the theological merits of this argument. But I can appreciate the force of the claim that people themselves must have responsibility for the development and change of the world in which they live. One does not have to be either devout or non devout to accept this basic connection. As people who live-in a broad sense-together, we cannot escape the thought that the terrible occurrences that we see around us are quintessentially our problems. They are our responsibility-whether or not they are also anyone else's. As competent human beings, we cannot shirk the task of judging how things are and what needs to be done. As reflective creatures, we have the ability to contemplate the lives of others. Our sense of behavior may have caused (though that can be very important as well), but can also relate more generally to the miseries that we see around us and that lie within our power to help remedy. That responsibility is not, of course, the only consideration that can claim our attention, but to deny the relevance of that general claim would be to miss something central about our social existence. It is not so much a matter of having the exact rules about how precisely we ought to behave, as of recognizing the relevance of our shared humanity in making the choices we face.
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An epistemic methodology that sees the pursuit of knowledge as entirely congruent with the search for power is a great deal more cunning than wise. It can needlessly undermine the value of knowledge in satisfying curiosity and interest; it significantly weakens one of the profound characteristics of human beings.
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Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up to independence ... they disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multiparty democracy and a free press. ... a free press and an active political opposition constitute the best early-warning system a country threaten by famines can have
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Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty, which robs people of the freedom to satisfy hunger; or to achieve sufficient nutrition, or to obtain remedies for treatable illnesses or the opportunity to be adequatley clothed or sheltered, or to enjoy clean water or sanitary facilities.
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The elimination of ignorance, of illiteracy... and of needless inequalities in opportunities (is) to be seen as objectives that are valued for their own sake. They expand our freedom to lead the lives we have reason to value, and these elementary capabilities are of importance on their own
When I was giving a lecture in India, the capabilities that I have to be concerned with there, namely the ability of people to go to a school, to be literate, to be able to have a basic health care everywhere, to be able to seek some kind of medical response to one's ailment; these become central issues in the Indian context which they're not in the UK, because you're well beyond that.
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The notion of human right builds on our shared humanity. These rights are not derived from the citizenship of any country, or the membership of any nation, but are presumed to be claims or entitlements of every human being. They differ, therefore, from constitutionally created rights guaranteed for specific people.
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But once we recognize that many ideas that are taken to be quintessentially Western have also flourished in other civilizations, we also see that these ideas are not as culture-specific as is sometimes claimed. We need not begin with pessimism, at least on this ground, about the prospects of reasoned humanism in the world.