Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category

Rights cannot be created, they must be discovered or they are of no value

December 16, 2009

If human rights are created by majorities, of what use are they? Their value lies in that they can be used to insist that majorities honor the dignity of minorities and individuals despite their conception of the ‘greater good.’ Rights cannot be created, they must be discovered or they are of no value… if we want to defend individuals rights, we must try to discover something beyond utility that argues for these rights.

Source: Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), p. 151.

We cannot decide, as a society, to grant human rights to anyone or to all. There must be something inherently worth protecting in the weak. If morality is a majority decision, then a regime change will make the vulnerable victims again. To protect the weak some higher law must be appealed to, an ‘ought’ that is not grounded in the fickle decisions of the populace.

If there is no God, then there is no way to say any one action is “moral” and another “immoral” but only “I like this.”  If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law?  You may say “the majority has the right to make the law;” but do you mean that then the majority has the right to vote to exterminate a minority?  If you say “No, that is wrong,” then you are back to square one.  ”Who sez” that the majority has a moral obligation not to kill the minority?  Why should your moral convictions be obligatory for those in opposition?  Why should your view prevail over the will of the majority?  The fact is, says Leff, if there is no God, then all moral statements are arbitrary, all moral valuations are subjective and internal, and there can be no external moral standard by which a person’s feelings and values are judged.

ibid., p.153-154.

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

October 3, 2009

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

Individualism in Political Theory

September 1, 2009

(Liberalism’s) essence lies in a respect for the autonomy of the individual. Because liberalism starts with the individual, the most characteristic liberal political doctrines are the social contract as the foundation of legitimate government and individual rights as the basis of liberty. Contemporary liberals will speak enthusiastically of natural rights, but they tend to reject the concept of natural laws, in the sense of obligations that are superior to those created by governments. Obligations in contemporary liberalism come not from nature…but from society, and they are clearly legitimate only to the extent that individuals have in some sense consented to be bound by them. Rights, on the other hand, are founded directly on our assumed status as autonomous beings.

Phillip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance, 1995, p.46

And this raises the question how community life, marriage and its obligations etc. can be supported by social contract theory.
cf.
The only obligation I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right.
Henry Thoreau