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11 - A Personalist Foundation for Natural Law and Human Rights

from Part II - Natural Law Foundations of Human Rights Obligations

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 argues that there are two key errors in the classical natural law tradition: first, that the ultimate end of all human actions is happiness instead of doing justice and loving the intrinsic good for its own sake; second, that our relationship to the good consists above all in desiring it, instead of giving goods an adequate response of will and heart. Grounding natural law on natural inclinations in this way commits the naturalistic fallacy: the moral ought is derived from facts about human desires. Drawing on realist phenomenology, the chapter secures natural law and human rights with an account of intrinsic objective values perceived by human reason. The intrinsic and objective value, or dignity, of human persons grounds a strict ethical obligation (natural law) to respect that dignity, and act with an appropriate value response. The appropriate value response is the object of a person’s fundamental human rights. The scope and hierarchy of human rights proceeds from this ethical obligation to respect human dignity in its various manifestations: ontological dignity, the dignity of conscious and rational persons, acquired dignity and bestowed dignity.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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