Jacques Maritain, Christian New Order, and the Birth of Human Rights
29 Pages Posted: 23 May 2008
Date Written: May 1, 2008
This paper traces some changes in Catholic political theory eventually taken up and extended during World War II by Jacques Maritain, who became the foremost philosophical exponent of the idea of "human rights" on the postwar scene. I show that the invention of the idea of the "dignity of the human person" as embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights occurred not in biblical or other longstanding traditions, but instead in very recent and contingent history. In conclusion, I speculate on what the restoration of Maritain's route to human rights to its proper contexts might suggest about the cultural meaning the idea had in postwar Continental Europe, which became its homeland.
Keywords: human rights, Jacques Maritain, Catholicism
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