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Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies,
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Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies

Dr Bahlul questions whether Humans have inevitable rights, and why?

On Thursday October 8 2015, Dr. Raja Bahlul, Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute, presented a lecture entitled: "The Discourse of Dignity and Human Rights: From Rationality to Normalization" as part of the ACRPS weekly seminar series.

Dr. Bahlul began by quoting the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating, "Human beings are born free and equal in dignity". This demonstrates the complexity of the concept of dignity and the logical equivalence that links it to human rights. He continued to explore the foundations on which human dignity and rights are based. During this analytic discussion, he considered the meaning of dignity, which is determined by its negation. That is to say, dignity is defined by a violation of it, in a coercive sense, that prevents a person to living a certain way.  Coercion "is the source of man, not of nature, and violates the dignity of another human being." The lecturer also alluded to the distinction between hunger (caused by purely natural conditions) and starvation (forced hunger).

Through this distinction, Dr. Bahlul moved forward to the relationship of man to his fellow humans as central to the definition of the concept of dignity, the relationship that Hegel tells in the "Master–Slave Dialectic" in his book, Phenomenology of Spirit. It is the first encounter between two people and is linked to the emergence of self-awareness, where the "conflict" is inherent, and where the battle is for recognition.

In his lecture, Bahlul asserts that rights, generally and human rights to be specific, are justified in the fact that the mind has no logical reason to distinguish between one person and the other. This fundamental philosophical truth has seen different expressions in various cultures that view humans as one kind of creature, distinct from other organisms, but without differentiation in human value between one individual and another.

The lecturer presented a critique of the theory of reason as the basis of rights and as being at the forefront of the question of determining rationality itself, which differ in essence according to the cultural context of spatial and temporal values. In contrast, Dr. Bahlul explored the emotional and sentimental basis of ethics and rights, regarding both the principle of compassion between people, and the principle of respect. Dr. Bahlul views this second principle as the most powerful in the establishment of human rights and dignity.

This rich presentation was followed by an important comment by Dr. Abdul Aziz Labib, Professor of Philosophy at the Doha Institute of Graduate Studies, and then a general discussion in which a number of researchers contributed.

The weekly seminar at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies is open to researchers, students and interested residents in Qatar. The ACRPS seminar is an academic gathering held for its researchers, staff and invited guests. Every week one of the researchers presents a research project that is completed or is in the process of being completed. Participants can then join the discussion about the research and its ideas and methodology. The public can sign up for the seminar by sending an email with the following details: name, employment, telephone number and e-mail address to