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Abstract

Whereas the idea of human rights is often imagined as placing limits on the political sphere from a standpoint outside it, I argue that it is better conceived as a political project that draws authority from its claim to be apolitical. Such an understanding enables us to historicize human rights and to assess it politically and morally, alongside other normative projects. Samuel Moyn has argued that the contemporary understanding of human rights as rooted in the dignity of the person emerged out of twentieth-century Catholic personalist theology. In the latter half of the essay I consider Simone Weil’s objections to the personalist conception of dignity and suggest that Weil’s idea of an impersonal, sovereign good provides an alternative conception of value.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society