Lecture Notes: Human Rights

The most basic of all human rights is the right to life. This is supported by a simple contingency argument. All other rights are predicated on the right to life. If one does not have life, no other rights apply.

This fundamental principle is the basis for the philosophical and theological definition of the term “pro-life.” While the political definition of the term is merely an anti-abortion position, the theological/philosophical implications are different. A pro-life theologian/philosopher recognizes the sanctity and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. This position opposes not only abortion, but capital punishment, human trafficking, slavery, and any action that violates the dignity of life.

While human rights are vital to a moral and just society, they are not without limit. Generally speaking, a person’s rights end when they infringe on those of another. For example, a persons right to free speech ends when he uses his words to incite violence thus infringing on someone else’s right to security of person.

Human rights have been addressed throughout history in documents such as the United States Declaration of Independence and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The former identifies life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as specific rights endowed in all men by their creator. The latter does not acknowledge a creator, but identifies certain rights with which “all persons” are born, thus dismissing rights of the unborn, but not reserving rights only for men. These rights include life and security of person.

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