Does Human Rights Need God?

By Elizabeth M. Bucar; Barbra Barnett | Go to book overview

6
Natural Law and Human Rights:
A Conversation

ROBERT P. GEORGE

The editors posed a series of questions to Professor George, seeking to discover how natural law theory might respond to the question, “Does human rights need God?” and to put his contribution into dialogue with the themes raised by other essays in this volume. The editors opted for a question-and-answer format for this contribution to reflect George’s position as one of the leading proponents of natural law theory. In his work George frequently finds himself confronted by individuals perplexed by or opposed to natural law philosophy. George is keen to enter into such debates, which allow both interlocutors to reason through the issues presented. The conversational format of the following thus offers a medium that highlights and exemplifies key components of George’s thought. Our conversation is presented below in the original interview format.

As a natural law thinker, how do you understand human nature and human rights?

A natural law theory is, in essence, a critical reflective account of the constitutive aspects of the well-being and fulfillment of human persons and the communities they form. Such a theory will propose to identify principles of right action — moral principles — specifying the first and most general principle of morality, namely, that one should choose to act in ways that are compatible with a will toward integral human fulfillment. Among these principles are respect for the rights people possess simply by virtue of their humanity — rights which, as a matter of justice, others are bound to respect, and governments are bound not only to respect but, to the extent possible, protect.

Natural law theorists understand human fulfillment — the human good — as variegated. There are many irreducible dimensions of human

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