Self-Evident Truths?: Human Rights and the Enlightenment (The Oxford Amnesty Lectures)

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The keywords of the Enlightenment-freedom, tolerance, rights, equality-are today heard everywhere, and they are used to endorse a wide range of positions, some of which are in perfect contradiction. While Orwell's 1984 claims that there is one phrase in the English language that resists translation into Newspeak, namely the opening lines of that key Enlightenment text, the Declaration of Independence: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...', we also find the Wall Street Journal saying of the Iraq War that the US was 'fighting for the very notion of the Enlightenment'. It seems we are no longer sure whether these truths are self-evident nor quite what they might mean today. Based on the critically acclaimed Oxford Amnesty Lectures series, this book brings together a number of major international figures to debate the history of freedom, tolerance, equality, and to explore the complex legacy of the Enlightenment for human rights. The lectures are published here with responses from other leading figures in the field.