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

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Abstract

The 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-332
Number of pages29
JournalPolitics and Religion
Volume13
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

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