Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Maritain's Human Rights and Sri Aurobindo's Human Unity

Fukuyama: Democracy is not going to survive if people do not want democracy 1. The Final Form of Human Government
Progressives, including President Obama, often speak as if history is moving inexorably toward its utopian end. But the real world is more complicated than that. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama joins Charles Kesler to discuss the future of global democracy and all that has (and hasn't) changed since Fukuyama wrote "The End of History?".

Roots and routes of rights posted by John Witte, Jr. Over the past four decades, a cottage industry of important new scholarship has emerged. This work is dedicated to the history of rights discourse in the Western tradition prior to the Enlightenment: [...] We now know, in brief, that the West knew ample “liberty before liberalism” and had many human rights laws in place before there were modern democratic revolutions fought in their name.

This new historiography has unsettled the conventional historical view that human rights were the products of the post-Christian Western Enlightenment—creations of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, Baron Montesquieu and Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and many others. Human rights, our schoolbooks long taught us, were the mighty new weapons forged by American and French revolutionaries who fought against outmoded Christian conceptions of absolute monarchy, aristocratic privilege, and religious establishment, in the name of political democracy, personal autonomy, and religious freedom . That rights were the keys that Western liberals finally forged to unchain themselves from the shackles of a millennium of Christian oppression of society and church domination of the state was a convenient story a generation or two ago, but it is now clear that the Enlightenment was not so much a wellspring of Western rights as a watershed in a long stream of human rights theory and law that had already drawn in classical and biblical sources, Roman and civil law, medieval philosophy and canon law, early modern Catholic and Protestant law and theology, and more. It is a telling anecdote that, by 1650, every right that would appear in the United States Bill of Rights had already been defined, defended, and died for by various Protestants and Catholics of their day.

Samuel Moyn has further unsettled the conventional view in a series of bold new writings. He focuses on the rise of international human rights norms in the middle of the last century and the “breakthrough” of a global rights movement after the 1970s. Moyn argues that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international instruments, built on the fundamental concept of human dignity, are the real sources of human rights that now pervade international law and culture. The prior two millennia of rights theories and laws constitute only a “fragmentary” and “ancient history,” he writes in the introduction for this forum, almost “entirely distracting” for modern human rights discussions.

Moreover, Moyn argues, the international human rights movement was not initially a leftist secular rebuke of a Christian faith that had so miserably failed to check the outrages of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. It was, rather, a conservative Christian rebuke of the liberal individualism and libertinism that left so many rulers and citizens without moral constraint or legal responsibility for their neighbors. [...] I do not know the modern literature nearly so well as Moyn does, but allow me a few tentative thoughts in response to his learned and provocative thesis.

First, it’s not clear to me why he says that the history of human rights starts in the mid-twentieth century, or why the events of 1930-1970 are ultimately more crucial today than the revolutionary eras of 1776-1791, 1640-1660, 1555-1598, 1215-1225, or earlier, when monumentally important human rights documents were debated and created. Every serious new historian of human rights over the past century has tended to describe his or her own favorite period to be the real source of human rights, rendering the rest mere prelude or postlude. 
  • Leo Strauss picked Hobbes and Locke as the founders of modern rights talk, 
  • Perry Miller the New England Puritans, 
  • Lord Acton the English revolutionaries. 
  • Otto von Gierke picked Johannes Althusius as the rights founder, 
  • Josef Bohatec John Calvin, 
  • R.R. Palmer the Calvinist monarchomarchs in France, Scotland, and the Netherlands. 
  • Michel Villey saw the font of human rights in late medieval nominalism, 
  • Brian Tierney in high medieval canon law, 
  • F.W. Maitland in the Magna Carta, 
  • Harold Berman in the Papal Revolution. 
  • Max Kaser and Tony HonorĂ© saw a veritable rights revolution in classical and Christianized Roman law, while 
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff and Benedict XVI pointed to key biblical and patristic texts as foundational. 
All of these are, in Moyn’s words, “crucial periods” featuring “a strong ideological link of Christianity and human rights.” And all of these periods, including the mid-twentieth century, gave the West, and eventually the world, new norms and theories of rights. But many of the “universal” and “human” rights of today are the “natural” and “constitutional” rights of the past now writ larger. There is no doubt that mid-twentieth century writers introduced new forms and norms of human rights and that modern talk of “human dignity” provides a more generic platform for the universality of human rights than the Golden Rule or the biblical love commands. But every serious community today still roots their rights ideas in far more specific and elaborate ontologies than mere dignity. 

There is also no doubt that the heady “personalist” philosophies of Pius XII and Maritain can still be inspiring for a human rights advocate or claimant in 2015. But, half a century out, is this material any more relevant, cogent, or inspiring than the stirring declarations of the French, American, English, Scottish, or Dutch revolutionaries, or the powerful rights advocacy of a Marsilius of Padua, Francisco Vitoria, Martin Luther, or Theodore Parker? [...]

In this brilliant study, Thomas Pfau argues that the loss of foundational concepts in classical and medieval Aristotelian philosophy caused a fateful separation ...

American Philosophy Before Pragmatism (The Oxford History of Philosophy)
by Russell B. Goodman.

The Common Cause: Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of ...

Leela Gandhi - 2014 - ‎Preview - ‎More editions

Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy, 1900-1955 Leela Gandhi. Sri Aurobindo, also from Bengal like his precursor Sri Ramakrishna, founded his own ashram in former French India while on the run from imperial police for  ... a cinematic dissolving of the frame of scepticism into another fleeting but epiphanic shot of pure relationality, unadulterated by the violence of history. ... Sri Aurobindo consistently urged even the most serious of his disciples to try their hands  ... The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1998), 98. Ibid., 441. Ibid., 98.

trilogy review By Prem Sobel on February 7, 2009

This book, actually a trilogy of books in one volume, is a historically-validated intuitive understanding of global process: ethnic, religious, tribal, national, and of humanity as a whole. It is an insightful look into the next decades and beyond of humanities collective evolution
If you’ve explored spiral dynamics and are looking for something deeper, read this trilogy (as the other reviewer, Prem Sobel noted, this is actually a collection of 3 books that were written in a serialized format between 1914 and 1921 – still highly relevant today). If you’ve looked at the theories of Haidt, Sowell, Mooney and others, and still feel there’s something missing in your understanding of why people end up at different ends of the political spectrum, read this trilogy.

Not just in understanding politics and government, but in the nature of human consciousness, Sri Aurobindo is, in my opinion, without peer. Just last month, the extraordinary book, “Beyond Physicalism” was published. Aurobindo’s vision is implicit in much of that book. But for his work to reach a wider audience, I think it will be helpful for more people to study this trilogy and make an effort to apply his insights to the issues of today.

The entire book is available for free in PDF format at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram website, but it is much better to read it in book form – ebook or physical book. If you want to sample it before buying, look at the PDF version of the last chapter in “The Ideal of Human Unity”, “The Religion of Man”, particularly the end of that chapter. Look also at “The Coming of the Subjective Age” for some truly inspired writing. If you are familiar with spiral dynamics (or Ken Wilber’s writings, for that matter), you’ll be amazed to see how much light Aurobindo’s writing sheds on the understanding of psychological development. 8 Comments 

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