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Natural Rights ER 11, Spring 2012. Natural law/ natural rights Some history, drawing on Finnis article.

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Presentation on theme: "Natural Rights ER 11, Spring 2012. Natural law/ natural rights Some history, drawing on Finnis article."— Presentation transcript:

1 Natural Rights ER 11, Spring 2012

2 Natural law/ natural rights Some history, drawing on Finnis article

3 Natural law natural law “objective” sense of “the right” --- what ought to be the case or ought to be done – E.g., Thomas Aquinas (13 th century)

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5 Natural Law vs. Natural Right “subjective” sense of right – I have a claim, and there ought to be a mechanisms to make good on it – Francisco Suarez, Hugo Grotius (17 th century)

6 Natural Law vs. Natural Right both may derive from God But: natural rights are beginnings of focus on justification to individuals that eventually would motivate philosophers to “do without God”

7 Humanism

8 And then we are getting to Locke

9 Natural Rights Philosophical approach: ask what rights people would have in a pre-state “state of nature” What are they? Preservation of life, liberty, health, limb, goods Why do we have them? God Why equally? How do we know all this?

10 Natural Rights Christian theology enters in subtle ways to make sure we can infer equality – human beings created in the image of God Genesis 1:26: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

11 Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel

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14 If Christian God is source of rights, we must rely enormously on revelations

15 Theory of natural rights: intellectually as secure as confidence in revelations

16 Problem of Parochialism

17 Need some way of grounding human rights that does not turn on presuppositions people cannot be reasonably expected to share

18 Problem of Parochialism Theory that depends on revelation is not suitable

19 Different Approach: Self-Evidence A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord and master of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set one above another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty. (sec. 4) Maybe reason alone lets us see what matters

20 Declaration of Independence We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

21 However… Something’s being self-evident means no further justification is (a) possible; (b) needed Equal rights – easy to doubt – not self-evident Self-evidence is not a good guide to truth anyway – see history of science

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23 Self-evident to us is what we have gotten used to

24 Different Approach: Human Nature Jacques Maritain ( ) Catholic theologian – but committed to natural law that does not presuppose God

25 “I am taking it for granted that you admit that there is a human nature, and that this human nature is the same in all men. I am taking it for granted that you also admit that man is a being gifted with intelligence, and who, as such, acts with an understanding of what he is doing, and therefore with the power to determine for himself the ends which he pursues. On the other hand, possessed of a nature, being constituted in a given, determinate fashion, man obviously possesses ends which correspond to his natural constitution and which are the same for all – as all pianos, for instance, whatever their particular type and in whatever spot they may be, have as their end the production of certain tuned sounds.” (pp 140f)

26 Analogy

27 “If they don’t produce these sounds they must be tuned, or discarded as worthless. But since man is endowed with intelligence, and determines his own ends, it is up to him to put himself in tune with the ends necessarily demanded by his nature. This means that there is, by virtue of human nature, an order or a disposition which human reason can discover and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that.” (p 141)

28 “The human person possesses rights because of the very fact that it is a person, a whole, master of itself and of its acts, and which consequently is not merely a means to an end, but an end, an end which must be treated as such. (…) If man is morally bound to the things which are necessary to the fulfillment of his destiny, obviously, then, he has the right to fulfill his right to the things necessary for this purpose.” (p 144)

29 Looking again: doubtful parts I am taking it for granted that you admit that there is a human nature, and that this human nature is the same in all men. I am taking it for granted that you also admit that man is a being gifted with intelligence, and who, as such, acts with an understanding of what he is doing, and therefore with the power to determine for himself the ends which he pursues. On the other hand, possessed of a nature, being constituted in a given, determinate fashion, man obviously possesses ends which correspond to his natural constitution and which are the same for all – as all pianos, for instance, whatever their particular type and in whatever spot they may be, have as their end the production of certain tuned sounds.

30 Doubtful parts… If they don’t produce these sounds they must be tuned, or discarded as worthless. But since man is endowed with intelligence, and determines his own ends, it is up to him to put himself in tune with the ends necessarily demanded by his nature. This means that there is, by virtue of human nature, an order or a disposition which human reason can discover and according to which the human will must act in order to attune itself to the necessary ends of the human being. The unwritten law, or natural law, is nothing more than that.

31 Problems Do human beings really have a function in same way in which pianos do, and a corresponding excellence? – Very doubtful outside of theology Even if there were such an excellence, why must we act in accordance with it? – hard to accept without God

32 Therefore this does not follow: The human person possesses rights because of the very fact that it is a person, a whole, master of itself and of its acts, and which consequently is not merely a means to an end, but an end, an end which must be treated as such. (…) If man is morally bound to the things which are necessary to the fulfillment of his destiny, obviously, then, he has the right to fulfill his right to the things necessary for this purpose. We are not so bound, so no such obligation can be derived

33 Results so far Natural rights approaches based on revelation cannot solve problem of parochialism approach based on self- evidence is non-starter approaches based on idea of a human function are misguided

34 We have found no non-parochial way of making sense of natural rights. Therefore, we have found no such way of making sense of human rights.

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36 Maybe the idea of moral ‘rights’ does not make sense outside of theology – human rights have no non-parochial foundations.


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