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Dignity and the Foundation of Human Rights: Toward an Averroist Genealogy

journal contribution
posted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by Miguel VatterMiguel Vatter
AbstractThe aim of this article is to give a new reconstruction of the conception of human dignity as a pre-associative yet legal status. Such a legal conception of human dignity carries a universal legal obligation to respect the “innate” right to independence and enables us to move beyond the impasse between moral and political views of human rights. The argument has a normative and a genealogical component. The normative component shows why a legal conception of human rights is grounded on the Kantian idea of an innate legal right to independence, as well as showing that Kant adopted a legal status concept of human dignity. The genealogical component shows that the conception of human dignity as legal status undergoes a transvaluation from its ancient aristocratic to its modern democratic meaning in Dante's political thought, which is itself rooted in the western reception of Arabic philosophy, in particular political Averroism. By contrast to the Christian elaboration of dignity, the Averroist genealogy of dignity better describes the modern pursuit of an ideal of worldly happiness essentially linked with the collective attainment of public happiness through the unrestricted public use of reason facilitated by republican constitutions crowned by human rights.

History

Journal

Politics and Religion

Volume

13

Article number

PII S1755048319000336

Pagination

304-332

Location

Cambridge, Eng.

ISSN

1755-0483

eISSN

1755-0491

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Issue

2

Publisher

CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS