Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rights

Benedict XVI, in Caritas in Veritate, addressed the troubled meaning of the word "right." Perhaps no word in modern philosophy has caused more trouble than this, at first sight, noble word. Many a philosopher and pope has tried valiantly to save this word from the meaning that it had when it first appeared in modern thought, generally with Hobbes. The word, literally, has no meaning. Or perhaps, better, it means whatever we want it to mean. It contains no inner criterion by which it must mean this or that. In the state of nature, people had an absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted. This freedom was called a "right." The state arose both to protect this empty "right" and to prevent it from justifying people killing each other off by doing whatever they wanted "by right."

-Called to Eternal Life: Babies and Rights, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., Ignatius Insight, September 10, 2009

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