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A Secular View of Human Rights

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Chapter Summary

Michael J. Perry's The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries is a major contribution to the clarification of the idea of human rights, which he considers to be, for many, the most difficult of all the influential moral ideas to take center stage in the twentieth century. He argues that it is, "in one form or another", an "old idea" and opens his Introduction with a quotation from Leszek Kolakowski dismissing the assertion that "the idea of human rights is of recent origin". For someone who is as ready to admit being a "secular enthusiast of human rights" as the author of this comment, Perry's denial of the fact that human rights constitute a recent phenomenon certainly "poses a problem". The mere existence and acceptance of catalog of generally recognized human rights implies a virtual "intelligible" and "secular" version of human rights today.

Keywords: human rights; Michael J. Perry; secular version



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