Borges’ Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote and the Idea of a European Consensus
earlier draft of chapter 8 in Building Consensus on European Consensus eds. Panos Kapotas and Vassillis Tzevelekos (Cambridge University Press, 2019)
15 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 10, 2017
This chapter examines aspects of the European consensus, taking as its starting point Jorge Luis Borges’ intriguing parable, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. The story is about Menard’s seemingly impossible and preposterous, but ultimately realized, exercise of rewriting the Cervantes Don Quixote in the 20th century. Applied to human rights, it provides a valuable insight. For it suggests that the universal appeal that certain cultural norms (in our case, human rights) possess is partly explained by the very fact that divergent cultures and histories can somehow simultaneously converge on the same understandings. Human rights norms may be the product of diverse and varied cultural, historical and legal systems. Yet the different legal resources in the member states of the European Convention may nonetheless provide a basis for a consensus. Consensus implies some sort of accord, but there are many ways to reach an accord, and all sorts of interesting and stimulating questions, including literary ones, such as those of Borges, to be asked about this process.
Keywords: Borges, Interpretation, Margin of Appreciation, Autonomy, Pluralism, Universality, Relativity, 'Overlapping Consensus'
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