Rights are normative social relationships; sociality is built into the essence of rights. A right is a right with regard to someone. In the limiting case, that “someone” is oneself; one is other to oneself. Usually, the other is somebody else than oneself. Rights are toward the other, with regard to the other. Rights are normative bonds between oneself and the other….
I will argue that it is on account of her worth that the other comes into my presence bearing legitimate claims against me as to how I treat her. The rights of the other against me are actions and restraints from action that due respect for her worth requires of me. To fail to treat her as she has a right to my treating her is to demean her, to treat her as if she had less worth than she does….
The critics point to the abuses of rights-talk. I concede the abuses. But rather than concluding that we should abolish rights-talk so as to eliminate the abuses, I hold that we should heal rights-talk of the abuses. Something of enormous worth would be lost if we could no longer bring rights, and the violation of rights, to speech. The critics focus entirely on the abuses of rights-talk; they do not ask what would be lost if we threw it all out. What would be lost is our ability to bring to speech one of the two fundamental dimensions of the moral order: the recipient-dimension, the patient-dimension. To the moral status of each of us there are two dimensions, that of moral agent and that of moral patient or recipient. When we speak of duty, obligation, guilt, benevolence, virtue, rational agency, and the like, we focus on the agent-dimension; when we speak of rights and of being wronged, we focus on the recipient-dimension. To eliminate rights-talk would be to make impossible the coming to speech of the recipient-dimension of the moral order. Nicholas Wolterstorff, from Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Like Ron Belgau, I was largely convinced by Alasdair MacIntyre’s critique of “rights-talk” — until I read Wolterstorff’s book. Now I think that MacIntyre’s argument is largely, though not wholly, wrong.
It is one of humanity’s enduring mysteries why some individuals, such as ourselves, rise from unpromising origins to such dizzy heights when so many others, like you, are failures. This book aims to answer that question for the first time – by drawing on bits of research that happen to fit our thesis, emails sent to our daughter and Google searches.
So why do some groups outperform each other in America? What has made us both brilliant lawyers, bestselling authors (and one of us a devastatingly attractive Tiger Mother), while you struggle along on welfare benefits? One simple answer is that we are both shameless, publicity-hungry individuals who pretend to court controversy, while you are gullible, reactive losers. But that is not an area we intend to explore too deeply. The Triple Package by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld – digested read
Experiments of light, Bacon insisted, were more important than experiments of fruit. He sought to restore to man something of his fallen dignity, to erase from his mind the false idols of the market place and to regain, by patient labor and research, some remnants of the innocent wisdom of Adam in man’s first Paradise. The mind, he contended, had in it imaginative gifts superior to the realities of sixteenth-century life; in fact, to the realities of the world we know today.
Our ethics are diluted by superstition, our lives by self-created anxieties. Our visions have yet to equal some of his nobler glimpses of a future beyond our material world of easy transport, refrigeration, and rocketry. The new-found land Bacon sighted was not something to be won in a generation or by machines alone. It would have to be drawn slowly, by infinite and continuing effort, out of minds whose dreams must rise superior to the existing world and shape that world by understanding of its laws into something more consistent with man’s better nature. “Our persons,” he observes, “live in the view of heaven, yet our spirits are included in the caves of our own complexions and customs which minister unto us infinite errors and vain opinions if they be not recalled to examination.” Loren Eiseley, Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma