The nature and extent of human rights are central to philosophy. What are rights? Do rights entail corresponding duties? Are rights absolute, or is it sometimes permissible to over-ride them in order to resolve conflicts with other rights or to produce far better consequences than could be achieved by preserving those rights? When is it permissible for a third party to intervene in order to prevent another’s rights from being violated? Is there a basic catalogue of human rights, and if so, how do we identify and justify it? When we speak of human rights, must we include the rights of future generations of currently non-existent humans? What are our rights as citizens, and do our governments have a duty to ensure that they are satisfied? To what extent do other animals have the rights enjoyed by biological human beings or is one’s species an interesting but morally irrelevant feature? The list of such questions is extensive, and every question on it, has been and is being extensively debated by philosophers, including those here at the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Esa Diaz-Leon is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. She specializes in philosophy of mind and language and is also interested in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of race, and feminist philosophy.
Her research questions include: What is the meaning of "woman?" Can we make sense of the sex-gender distinction? What does it mean to say that a category is socially constructed? Are gender, race and sexual orientation socially constructed? Such questions are the focus of her current project The Social Construction of Gender and Race, for which she was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council standard research grant.
Diaz-Leon earned her PhD and MA at the University of Sheffield (UK), and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Murcia (Spain) and the University of Hull (UK).
Dr. Krishnamurthy was recently appointed assistant professor in the department of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. Her main areas of interest are political philosophy and applied political philosophy.
Krishnamurthy received her PhD from Cornell University in 2011. Her dissertation, Democracy in Global Institutions, argues that the weighted voting systems and conditional loans used by global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are inconsistent with basic democratic values and have a demeaning effect on the citizens of poorer countries.
Krishnamurthy's current research projects focus on issues that lie at the intersection of global justice and global health. She is currently working in the Heath Impact Fund, which is concerned with inequities in the development and distribution of medicines to poorer countries and poorer people. Her future research plans include examining whether these inequities are the result of wrongfully exploitive interactions from global organizations such as the World Trade Organization.
Neil McArthur, an Associate Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics and member of the department, is currently completing a manuscript on the history of philosophical treatments of the concept of human rights. He also teaches an undergraduate course on the topic.
The department is conducting a targeted search, currently on hold for financial reasons, for which the envisioned candidate is conducting research on when, if ever, it is permissible for states to use force against other states that routinely violate the fundamental rights of their inhabitants.
We in the Department of Philosophy enthusiastically support the University’s identification of human rights as one of its key strategic goals. We have already incorporated the topic of human rights into our teaching and research and are eager to expand our activities related to human rights in order to play a role in initiatives taken on by the Faculty in the area of human rights. We strongly believe that we have expertise and experience that can be invaluable to such initiatives, and we as a department have already discussed and identified several possible actions, all resource-neutral, we can take to promote this strategic goal.
Arthur Schafer is the director of The Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, which works closely with the Department of Philosophy and sponsors many visiting speakers a year. Dr. Schafer is interviewed by the media at least one hundred times a year, usually on topics for which a consideration of our rights as human beings is essential. Dr. Schafer’s areas of research include professional and applied ethics; bioethics; environmental and business ethics; and legal ethics. He has published many scholarly articles and book chapters with focus on research ethics.