Volume 53, Issue 3, September 2013
Recovering a More Robust Understanding of Naturalism and Human Rights
Remarks Inspired by McDowell and Wittgenstein
To those working for human rights because of belief in their substantive value, Richard Rorty’s non-cognitivist advocacy of the Western culture of human rights is an example of a confused vision that is tragically self-defeating. Rorty undermines the grounds for a commitment that can transcend feelings and endure threats. In addition, the natural consequence of developing the reflective intelligence of the young would lead in time to seeing their “teachers” of human rights as cultural colonizers attempting to rob them of their identity. The argument here is that there is a more compelling vision of nature and human nature available that is (1) not a version of materialism, (2) eliminates having to confront materialism’s inherent difficulty with norms, and (3) can make intelligible and support a more self-aware, inspiring human rights culture. The argument draws upon, qualifies, and extends reinforcing insights to be found in the works of McDowell and Wittgenstein.