The Idea of Universality in Linguistics and Human Rights | MIT video | TELT |

"Chomsky leads us through a history of language theory, concluding with the revolutionary model he championed: a universal grammar underpinning all languages that corresponds to an innate capacity of the human brain […] But he brandishes examples of how 'our moral and intellectual culture '.forcefully rejects universal moral judgments' -- such as continued U.S. refusal to approve anti-torture conventions.

In contrast, Elizabeth Spelke forcefully links 'universals in human nature to some of the developments in bringing about a greater balance in human rights.' Thirty years of cognitive and cross cultural research show that humans universally structure their world in terms of objects, have a universal capacity to represent numbers, and to represent other people as 'intentional, goal-directed agents whose freely chosen actions are subject to moral evaluation.'"