Imago Dei & the (Forgotten) Roots of Human Rights

Campbell Law Review (Regent University Law) recently published Looking For Bedrock: Accounting for Human Rights in Classical Liberalism, Modern Secularism, and the Christian Tradition by Professor C. Scott Pryor, also of Regent Law. 33 Campbell L. Rev. 609 (2011).

Professor Pryor argues that the corresponding rights and duties of prototypical Western “human rights” were not free floating:  In Christian, Hebraic, and even Roman civil law traditions they originated in grounded conceptions of human nature.  These notions defined the human being and the rights others owed to him or her and the corresponding duties he or she owed to others.  While the Western conception of human rights has continued to develop, Pryor asserts that knowledge of these rights’ foundation has eroded; as memories fade, consensus as to what are human rights and their implications becomes harder to reach.  When this consensus becomes more remote, human-rights-based arguments lose their salience.  Pryor’s discussion of the weakening of rights discourse is analogous to Alasdair MacIntyre’s bleak premise in  After Virtue (3d ed. 2007) that, over time, “the language of morality [has reached a] state of grave disorder.”  Id. at 2.  (In my post criticizing Richard Dawkins’ overly bellicose rhetoric, I discuss After Virtue in greater depth.)

For further discussion of this problem and Pryor’s solution, please follow the jump. Continue reading

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