Religious Diversity and Human Rights

By Irene Bloom; J. Paul Martin et al. | Go to book overview

5
THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE
COLLECTIVITY IN CHRISTIANITY

JOHN LANGAN, S.J.


HUMAN RIGHTS AND CHRISTIAN NORMS

In a recent defense of what he calls postmodern bourgeois liberalism, Richard Rorty draws a contrast between two groups of philosophers and social and legal theorists. The first group believes that there is a "supercommunity one had to identify with as such." Rorty calls them "Kantians," and he observes: "These are the people who think there are such things as intrinsic human dignity, intrinsic human rights, and an a-historical distinction between the demands of morality and those of prudence." 1 He contrasts them unfavorably with the "Hegelians," who "say the 'humanity' is a biological rather than a moral notion, that there is no human dignity that is not derivative from the dignity of some specific community, and no appeal beyond the relative merits of various actual or proposed communities to impartial criteria which will help us weigh those merits." Rorty rejects the project of finding what he calls an "a‐ historical backup" for loyalty to particular communities, and he replaces the notion of human dignity with "the comparative dignity of a group with which a person identifies herself." Rorty makes it clear that he does not object to "the institutions and practices of the surviving democracies;" his difficulty is with the kind of justification that most social philosophers think it necessary to pro

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