This paper develops a theory of rights that operates on a middle ground between ethnocentric universalism and cultural relativism. It does so by arguing that rights are derived from basic human vulnerabilities, which are situated and contextual. It is argued that advancing human rights is a legitimate goal for the human and social sciences and that all such sciences need a qualitative understanding of situated rights and duties in order to understand their subject matters. It is also argued that the emerging neo-positivism in the social sciences, in particular psychology, is detrimental to producing knowledge about human rights and rights violations, and that this may seriously affect our capacities for self-understanding and moral action. A tentative way forward is sketched that involves the education of students in a way that will sensitize them to human rights and vulnerabilities.
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