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24 - Moral Pluralism, Political Disagreement, and Human Rights

from Part V - Rival Interpretations and Interpretive Principles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2022

Tom Angier
Affiliation:
University of Cape Town
Iain T. Benson
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Australia
Mark D. Retter
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

This chapter examines Maritain’s notion of practical consensus amongst diverse views and backgrounds. For the Universal Declaration, this was built around a specific text setting forth rights dishonoured during war. Post-war conditions provided a stimulus for agreement amongst States. The chapter considers the prospects for consensus when moving beyond the mere enumeration of human rights, to their application in contemporary times, confronted with diverse philosophical views about their foundations. Reflecting on Maritain’s economic thought, I argue that those prospects are hampered given economic instrumentalisation and injustice from global capitalist structures. Moreover, efforts to reach political consensus on a regular basis are confronted with power in politics, which tempts some actors to go for broke, gain full control, and avoid compromise. Maritain realised that progress in protecting human rights would be replete with backward steps and new starts. Nevertheless, his hope was that the practically-embodied consensus embodied in the Universal Declaration would develop through progress in a common ethical life, despite divergence in theoretical explanations of that life.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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