Abstract: “Defining the ‘Human’ in Human Rights beyond Being-Toward-Death”

October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

The advent of what scholars call ‘post-secularism’ arrives as a critique of the foundations of western subjectivity and individualism.  The liberal democratic valuation of “human rights” holds a version of individuality or “personal” as sacred, implying a stable subjectivity worthy of political protection.  Yet, the intrinsic value of human life promoted by liberalism coexists with the western European conception of life as “being-toward-death.”  The finality of death is conceived as one’s own-most possession.  At the same time, western society has been debating various versions of both the beginning and ending of human life.  For example, actuarial tactics divine the monetary worth of a life and the later philosophy of Jacques Derrida and more recent work by Giorgio Agamben challenge the Greek conception of human as political and rational-speaking animal.  Similarly, affect theories and neuroscience challenge subjectivity, shaking the very foundations of liberal rights.  This paper argues for the implications of conceiving a legal definition of human rights in terms of reincarnation as “soft law” in international human rights.  Beyond metaphysics, what would such a conception look like as praxis?

I will be giving this paper at the Telos Conference 2014:


Digital illustration of a dna


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