Monday, November 3, 2014

Human Rights as Morally Ambivalent

Human rights strike me as morally ambivalent, i.e. they can both support and undermine the moral dimension of man. How so? Consider that the same rights can be used both to protect the autonomy of an individual while also entrapping that individual's conscience to the requirements of the state. Or else consider that a right might protect what is owed by justice as well as what is harmful to human flourishing; it might protect the necessities of life while at the same time creating the space in which individuals no longer have to consider each others' existence. "We can and will do as we please so long as we don't get in each other's ways."

I don't see anything intrinsic to the notion of a right that suggests protection of what is morally good. It may have been used as such and in such a narrative—we uphold the rights of humans in order to protect their good, but the narrative depends on a notion of the good that may not be shared, that may arise from a consideration of ideology rather than reason or nature. Couldn't rights conceivably be used to protect something evil?

Finally, what happens to the status of man as a moral individual when the state takes away or replaces his rights? Or rather, what is revealed about the condition of man under the state when the state removes these rights by diktat. If the state no longer says that man has rights, and rights are political principles upheld by a state, would not man as citizen be reduced to a slave? But if the state can already do this act, doesn't that mean man is already a slave of the state but likes to go on pretending otherwise simply because his "rights" remain present by decree of the state?

Should not morality rather be grounded in nature itself then rather than a political construct? This issue also raises the question of how humans existed as moral and political beings before the concept of rights existed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments ad hominem or deemed offensive by the moderator will be subject to immediate deletion.