Rights spring directly from an understanding of what man is, but if there is no agreement on the nature of man, or a belief that such an understanding is in principle impossible, then any attempt to define rights or to prevent the creation of new and possibly spurious ones will be unavailing

Rights spring directly from an understanding of what man is, but if there is no agreement on the nature of man, or a belief that such an understanding is in principle impossible, then any attempt to define rights or to prevent the creation of new and possibly spurious ones will be unavailing. As an example of how this could come about, consider the possibility of a future superuniversalization of rights, where the distinction between human and non-human is lost.

Today, everybody talks about human dignity, but there is no consensus as to why people possess it.

If there is no rational basis for saying that human beings have a dignity superior to that of nature, then there is no rational basis for saying that one part of nature, like baby seals, has a dignity superior to another part, like HIV viruses. There is in fact an extremist fringe of the environmental movement that is much more consistent on this score, believing that nature as such—not just sentient or intelligent animals,
but all of natural creation—has rights equal to those of man. The consequences of this belief is an indifference to mass starvation in countries like Ethiopia, since this is simply an example of nature paying man back for overreaching, and a conviction that man ought to return to a “natural” global population of a
hundred million or so (rather than his current five billion plus) so that he will no longer disturb the ecological balance as he has done since the Industrial Revolution.The extension of the principle of equality to apply not just to human beings but to non-human creation as well may today sound bizarre, but it is implied in our current impasse in thinking through the question: What is man? If we truly believe that he is not capable of moral choice or the autonomous use of reason, if he can be understood entirely in terms of the sub-human, then it is not only possible but inevitable that rights will gradually be extended to animals and other natural beings as well as men. The liberal concept of an equal and universal humanity with a specifically human dignity will be attacked both from above and below: by those who assert that certain group identities are more important than the quality of being human, and by those who believe that being human constitutes nothing distinctive against the nonhuman. The intellectual impasse in which modern relativism has left us does not permit us to answer either of these attacks definitively, and therefore does not permit defense of liberal rights traditionally understood.

Franci Fukuyama, The End of History, pp.295-6

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