Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe KUL (1999)
PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN RIGHTS: HUMAN RIGHTS IN LIGHT OF THEIR INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION
The book consists of two main parts: in the first, on the basis of an analysis of international law, elements of the contemporary conception of human rights and its positive legal protection are identified; in the second - in light of the first part -a philosophical theory of law based on the tradition leading from Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas is constructed. The conclusion contains an application of the results of the analysis conducted in the second part.
The first part comprises four chapters. The first aims at revealing characteristics of human rights on the basis of an analysis of historical conditioning of the inter-national law of human rights and its development. The historical context displays the practical, vindicative, and critical character of the positive legal protection of human rights. Moreover, the process of change of positive human rights law is distinguished from the process of change of human rights as such.
In the second chapter the content of human rights - a topic which is only auxiliary to the conducted analysis - is discussed. Basic typology and catalogues of rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and protected in the International Covenants of Human Rights are presented. The review of the content of rights aims at a more precise limitation of the field of research. The examination shows a diversity of rights which poses a serious challenge to the coherence of every philosophical theory of human rights.
In the third chapter, central in the first part, international law is analyzed with regard to the characteristics of rights and the foundations of them. The analysis of documents shows a number of solutions referring to the anthropological foundations of rights. The inherent dignity of the human person is the source of all human rights. Each human being is recognized as free, and endowed with both reason and conscience. In the propounded conception of man individuals are not rivals but create a community which is a condition for their development.
International law characterizes the rights as universal, inherent, inalienable and inviolable. The reconstructed conception also comprises the following basic elements: on the level of the structure of rights, a recognition of their equality, interdependence, and comprehensiveness; in the grounding of these rights, a recognition of the anthropological foundations of law; in the conception of positive law, a recognition of the secondariness of the positive law of human rights to human rights themselves, and a recognition of human rights and justice as the basis for legal order; in the conception of state, a recognition of the well-being of the individual as the fundamental aim of actions undertaken by political institutions, and recogni¬tion of rights which form an impassable boundary to the power of the state, includ¬ing its legislative actions.
The characterization of the international legal paradigm serving for the under¬standing of human rights is supplemented by analyses of the structure of their posi¬tive legal protection. Various meanings of the terms "right" and "freedom" are distinguished. Subjective right, as basic structure of the positive legal protection of human rights, is understood as a complex relation formed by various legal situations of the subject of a right which create a functional whole in respect of the subordi-nation of human person to its good. Subordinating person to a good proper for it, expressed usually in a proclamatory norm, is the central element of particular rights around which further elements aiming at the realization of this good are built.
In the second part of the book a philosophical theory is developed which allows for the location of a coherent foundation for the presented characterization of human rights and their positive legal protection. This part consists of two chapters. The first includes a review of some - not entirely satisfactory - means of founding of human rights; the second presents philosophical conceptions of law and man which may form a basis for the constructed theory.
The review of arguments contained in the first chapter does not aim at a detailed analysis of various specific ways of argumentation encountered in works on this subject but rather at a concise presentation of the main possible lines of argumentation. These analyses also serve to emphasize the positive solutions which are pro¬posed later and to underscore the explanatory power of the elaborated theory. This theory, retaining accurate intuitions contained in the presented types of argumenta¬tion, helps in avoiding their consequences which are difficult to reconcile with the reconstructed paradigm of human rights.
Efforts to base human rights on the norms of international law rightly take into account the necessity of determining the content of the rights and their positive legal protection as a means for the realization of man's good. These attempts, how¬ever, do not properly take into account the inherent character of human rights, which are independent of positive law and provide grounds for applying specific legislative measures and not others.
Founding human rights on freedom accurately points at the freedom of an indi¬vidual as a constitutive element of some rights; however, absolutization of freedom leads, to a loss of an important element of the contemporary paradigm of under¬standing human rights. This foundation undermines recognition of the fact that human rights may set limits to both the freedom of others and the freedom of the subject of rights itself.
Additionally, attempts at the so-called axiological justification of human rights are discussed. This type of justification has a few variants depending on the as¬sumed conception of value. Subjectivistic conceptions have similar advantages and disadvantages to the conceptions basing human rights on freedom; objectivistic conceptions while providing for the universality of human rights place, the fundamental aim of human rights protection beyond the individual human being - in the idealistically existing world of values; finally, conceptions rooting values and human rights in culture, while accurately noting that human rights are learned through the medium of culture, place the source of human rights beyond a concrete individual - in culture and processes which take place in it - which leads to difficulties in finding a basis for the universality of rights.
Furthermore, attempts to ground human rights in specific characteristics of the human being are presented. This type of approach points to an important problem of dependence of the content of rights on what man is. However, recognition of specific characteristics of a human being as an ontic foundation of the existence of rights poses a danger to their universality since one has to accept that it is not enough to be a man to be a subject of rights, but a man possessing specific charac¬teristics.
The second chapter aims at outlining solutions worked out by Saint Thomas Aquinas. For a fuller understanding of his propositions selected elements of Plato's and Aristotle's philosophy are presented. It was them who formulated the founda¬tions for reflection on law and justice in the ontological context. A qualification is made that Stoicism is not be analysed in depth. Although Thomas' concept of law was undoubtedly developed under the influence of the Stoic doctrine as well, it is not in this that one should look for the tools to understand the ontic foundations of human rights and law in general since the Stoic moral philosophy and philosophy of law were developed in the context of a theory of being which assumed monistic and pantheistic premises as foundations, leading to the recognition of a total subor¬dination of the human individual to a larger unity of which man is only a part.
The analysis of Plato's and Aristotle's texts concentrates on problems of justice. Plato seems to be the first philosopher who reflected on the formula basic in the history of European thought: to render to each his due. It appears that justice as both a characteristic of man and his acts is understood in the perspective of that which is just, that which is a good for another man - the recipient of the act. The basis for determining what is just is the relation of correspondence between some¬one and something.
While in the case of Plato this relation is based on something beyond its terms, namely on ideas, in the case of Aristotle the relation occurs on account of the elements of the relation itself. Something is just when it contributes to the develop¬ment of the recipient of an act realizing that which is just. At the same time, the realization of that which is just is a good for the agent. In the analysis of the just two types of relation are revealed: the relation of due-to-recipient occurring on account of the compatibility of that which is due, with the recipient of the act; and - a "superstructure" - a relation of obligation-of-subject occurring on account of the compatibility of the acting subject with the thing which should be done. The basis for being that which is due is formed by various potentialities of development
of man - the recipient of agency; the basis of being that which is an obligation is
the possibility of development of the subject of action.
Aristotle distinguishes various types of freedom and points to the necessity of taking them into account in the discussion of justice. Among other things, as the core of man's freedom, he considers life for its own sake, which can be seen as his expression of the basic indices of the autotelic character of man - which is funda¬mental for later conceptions of dignity. The freedom which is described by him is not, however, inherent and inalienable; being free is conditioned by a factual possi¬bility of undertaking actions, which are not solely means to the realization of aims set by others.
Thomas Aquinas takes over the Aristotelian research perspective both in his conception of man and of law. At the same time, however, he significantly enriches it. In anthropology he develops a conception of personal being. Drawing upon his distinction between existence ("that something is") and essence ("what something is"), he sees the basis for being a person in the dignity of personal being which is a certain way of existence of a rational being more perfect than that of non-personal beings. The person is a being which, by virtue of its act of existence, is individual¬ized in a specific way. It is an aim in itself. Expressing it in a negative way, one may say that it does not exist as a means for the realization of the aims of others and, in this sense, that it is free. As distinct from Aristotelian conclusions, being a person is not conditioned by the specific actions of a being. Dignity is inherent, based on that which is the foundation of the factual existence of every rational being. Although freedom requires that a being is rational, dignity still encompasses all being, all its properties and potentialities. Thus an act conforming with dignity has to take into account a whole human being.
Among different types of that which is just, ius, the first place, from the point of view of understanding law, falls to "the just thing itself ("ipsa res justa"), which is right in the full meaning of the word. On the one hand, it is that which is due; on the other hand, it determines the way of acting in the utmost degree, since the course of every act is determined in the fullest extent by its aim. The content of ius may be determined both by elements independent of free decisions - ius naturale - and by free decisions taking into account the state of things - ius positivum.
Recognition of the objective structure of being as the basis of law does not entail that it is possible or desirable to determine unequivocally "the only right" patterns of conduct. This concept is very well justified within the system proposed by Saint Thomas. Individualization of being is a significant element of the develop¬ment of a person as a person. It is attained by the realization of individual aims which are not unequivocally determined by circumstances and the nature common to all people. By virtue of free choices made in the sphere of that which is not by its nature unjust, the object of action becomes ius. Since in the realization of the person the individualization of human being is central, Aquinas clearly sees the need for the protection of the sphere of "dominion of will". This sphere itself constitutes ius naturale, something which is due to man independently of the acts of will. Therefore "law should forbid nothing which is not unjust" ("nihil debet lege prohiberi quod licite fieri potest", In 3 Sent., dist. 40, q. I, a. 1, 3).
Besides the relation of due-to-recipient, ius also includes the relation of obligation-of-subject which is superimposed on the relation of due-to-recipient. As far as the ontic foundations of obligation are concerned, in explaining why man is subordinated to realization of the good of others, Aquinas generally follows Aristotle in accepting that this basis is the subordination to moral good - to actions conforming with the learned truth about reality. Aquinas' systemic solutions allow, however, to reach deeper and understand why moral development is also a development of the whole human being. This was difficult within Aristotle's system, since he was reluc¬tant to decide whether precedence should be given to intellectual or moral develop¬ment. The inclination to realise good of another appears to be a transcendental characteristic of being, based on its very existence. Morality understood as rational and free subordination to realize the good of another is a specifically personal way of the realization of this inclination. Thus just actions contribute to the actualization of being in the aspect of its existence and therefore to the actualization of being as a whole.
Thomas' conception of natural law (lex naturalis) as participation in eternal law (lex aeterna), offers possibilities for grasping that which is just as something which is basically accessible cognition, independently of Revelation and independently of faith in God, and at the same time as something based in eternal law, understood as a design of God's wisdom. Eternal law, embracing all particular actions, is not, from the human perspective, accessible cognition directly. It is enacted in the struc-ture of the created being and - in case of human beings - in free choices taking this structure into account.
In the concluding remarks, the results obtained earlier are applied directly to the contemporary conception of human rights. Human rights are understood in the first place as "just things" - concrete goods of man; as that which is due because of subordination, based on dignity, to the personal development of man. That which is just is understood as a relational - actual or potential - state of things, which exists by virtue of existing relations. Evaluations referring to that which is right are true when respective relations of due-to-recipient take place; norms of conduct are true when respective relations of obligation-of-subject take place.
Examples of the application of the sketched theory outside the field of human rights are also presented. Procedural consequences of the developed theory are shown, such as the discrimination of two types of legislative procedures which differ significantly in the structure of argumentation: the first aims at recognition of that which is just independently of the will of the legislator, and the second, at making individual or collective "projects" of development compatible. Finally the possibilities of applying the theory to the increasingly important problems of the protection of the environment and the "rights" of animals are mentioned.
The central issue is a philosophical conception of man and his freedom and a conception of law. It is also indispensable to turn to a general theory of being. The search for a comprehensive theory of human rights requires attention to the Abso¬lute Being - God - as well. This is important for at least two reasons. First, a conception of the Absolute Being is integral to philosophy of the systemic type -of which the present book is a piece. A conception of the Absolute Being is signifi¬cant for understanding all being, including, first of all, man as a personal being. Second, every theory of human rights which does not comprise the problem of the Absolute may be questioned as to whether solutions adopted in it do not lead, in consequence, to eliminating God from the perspective of the understanding of law. It is desirable that a philosophical theory should deal with this problem directly. A theory which eliminates God from the perspective of the understanding of rights will be unacceptable for all those who, for philosophical reasons or relying on faith, consider God as the author of inherent rights. Nevertheless, a theoretical approach to rights from the perspective of the Absolute Being should only be a possible extension of a philosophical approach which bases rights on something which is cognizable independently of the acceptance of the existence of God so that the theory is also acceptable for those who reject the existence of God or suspend their judgment on this subject. The pursued theory should therefore contain, on the one hand, reference to natural, faith-independent foundations of human rights, but on the other hand, point to a possible extension accounting for the Absolute Being.
The analyses contained in this chapter have undoubtedly some historical value since they are based on source texts. Nevertheless, the use of these texts and not critical works was dictated, first of all, by a conviction that analyses embrace a given theory in the aspect selected by the interests of the researcher. Therefore to find out what past thinkers say on the subject characterized in the first part it is simpler to reach to the sources than to adopt the existing critical works. The pre¬sented reconstruction of Aquinas' views on philosophy of law incorporates proposi¬tions of supplementing and developing some of the ideas undertaken by him.
Obligation to act in this and not an other way arises because human actions are subordinated to the conformity, on the one hand, of aims realized by these actions and, on the one hand, the order of being determining that which is favourable to man or destroys him. The content of the order of being is, on the one hand, determined by the structure of being independent from man's will and, on the other, by free decisions of man.