Question: Is there such a thing as the Common Good, independent of the wishes of the individual members of society taken separately or together? If so, what is it and how is it grounded?
Answer: According to Eternal Law, everything in the world is seeking to be in the highest degree that is allowed by the nature. Some people may call it divine force with a sophisticated plan for everything from the beginning till the end of times. Humans, therefore, use their intrinsic motivation and intellectual capabilities to reach the higher degree that is available to them which can be termed as the common good. To the question that does this common good exists independent of the likes and dislikes of the individual members or the whole of the society, I would say that yes it exists. The level of common good may or may not be achieved but it certainly exists in nature. Human beings have a reason that can help them reach the common good but that is good enough to guide them to the partial common good instead of the whole. Humans may not be able to exactly identify the terms of common good but our evolutionary history suggests that humans have been able to help and cooperate with each other. This cooperation has been a vital ingredient in the survival of the human specie. Over the time, human have identified common good on an individual level and when necessary, on a society level. The identification of the common good has been simple and straight forward and it was to survive the harsh conditions where humans started to exist. But as time passed by and human progressed, the circle of common good expanded. Its definition became more complex and waste. Therefore, in the modern world, I believe that it would not be an easy task to identify a global common good. We humans might look at the common good from different perspectives, and consider it to be dependent on the wishes or needs of specific people or societies but the matter of the fact is that it is an inbuilt wish that is common to all human beings irrespective of the race and culture.
Question: On what basis, if any, can we speak meaningfully of human rights?
Answer: Human rights have been the topic of discussion for centuries. It has been defined and redefined. John Locke derives the concept of individual freedom from the concept of property rights. He has suggested that when we create something we have exclusive rights to it. Taking the argument forward, Locke suggests that human are created by God and therefore only God owns us. Human beings does not poses the right of harming each other as they do not own each other. But John Locke further argues that the rights of individual freedom can be takeaway by fellow human being if one commits a crime which is punishable by death. This opened the gateway to enslave people as a punishment to a crime otherwise punishable by death. Locke concept of rights of not harming each other is very strong but his loop hole to enslave fellow human beings leave a question mark as this loop hole resulted in providing moral ground for slavery and racism.
Kant’s metaphysics defined rights as the level of freedom that is enjoyed by each individual. He argued that we treat all rational beings as ends and not means. It means that humans cannot use other human beings as a ladder to reach their personal agenda or goals. This definition of human rights is very powerful in my opinion as it treats all human beings equally. It stops us from any kind of abuse of other humans. It could lead us to a greater, common goal. The common goal is much comprehensive than what individuals plane for themselves irrespective of what will be the consequences for others.
Question: What is the relationship between human rights and the common good?
Answer: In my opinion there is a close relation between the two i.e. human rights and the common good. Both of these variables are meant for the betterment of the human beings. The only difference that there exists, in my opinion, is that the human rights are something that has to be fulfilled in their letter and spirit. They are the same for the humanity. Each person should have access to it and its basic definition is the same all over the world. On the other hand the common good is a phenomenon that is local in nature. I mean that there could be a difference between the core ideas of common good in different cultures. In one place the common good will be defined accordance to the needs of that specific place while in another place it is defined differently.
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