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The Philosophy of Human Rights

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Text Preview The philosophy of human rights
Rights and the Human Person
Rights are due to a man, precisely because he is a person and, therefore, possessing worth and dignity. Man is not merely a piece of matter, a robot, a tool, a bundle of drives, or a meaningless question mark as some philosophers would reduce him to. He is a person, he has the power to think, judge, and reason (CONSCIENCE); he is the master of himself and of his actions; he has a supreme purpose which transcends this life. From the Christian viewpoint, he is of infinite value because he is made to the image and likeness of GOD, being endowed with an immortal soul destined for everlasting life with GOD. By virtue then of his human nature (or by virtue of the natural law), by virtue of his supreme worth and dignity as a person, man is the subject (DUER) of rights and possesses rights. Thus, since man is born and destined by nature to attain his purpose (TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH God), man has the right to live and work out his destiny. Thus, since he is a creature, he has the right to worship his Creator in accordance with the dictates of his conscience. Thus, since he is by nature a social being, he has the natural right to have and support a family, to a place in society, and so forth.

Importance of the Doctrine of Human Rights
The moral doctrine of the dignity of man and his consequent rights is extremely important to the social order; for as we shall show later. It is this very principle of human rights which determines and defines the proper relations that should exist among members of society; as for example the relations between the individual citizen and the state, between employer and employee, landlord and tenant, and even between parents and children in a family. In industrial ethics, involving capital and labor relations, for instance, there is a question as to how the employer should treat his workers? The answer is derived from the doctrine of human rights; that the working man is a man, with the dignity and rights of a human being, and, therefore, he should be treated as a human person, not as a mere tool or machine, an animal or slave hired merely for the amassment of wealth and profit. In the question of the relation between man and the state, it is again the doctrine of human rights which precisely makes up the world of difference between democrac and communism or dictatorship; and the question as to which doctrine is right is the very source of the present conflict that threatens to destroy our present civilization?

Indeed, the whole of the social and the moral order; or the entire science of ethics—individual, social, industrial, and international, may be summed up in terms of the rights of man and his duties- The importance of has principle of natural human rights can hardly be overemphasized: it is the basis of equality or justice on which lies the foundation of democracy and social ethics. The lowliest of the poor servants is equal to the king or the highest official of the land because they have the same fundamental rights. It governs the relation which exist between rulers and ruled; employer and employee, capital and labor. For instance, the humblest of citizens has rights prior and superior to the state, rights which the state can never deprive him of. The least paid laborer, likewise, is a man and, therefore, should live with the dignity of the human being; he should not be required to work under such conditions as to impair his health or his moral character; he has the right to a wage sufficient to support himself and his family. He is a man and, therefore, should be treated as a human being, not as mere tool or a mere cog in the wheel of industry.

Reality and Justification of Rights
Some thinkers deny the existence of rights on the ground that the concept of right is merely an abstraction, not applicable and useful in the concrete, practical world of human affairs. Burke, Taine, and many others have condemned the... Show More

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