Following are some snippets from a talk given by Robert George entitled “Natural Law, God, and Human Dignity” (video). Robert George is a professor at Princeton University. The entire video is about one hour, but I include below some sections relevant to our discussions here. For each section, I have included the timestamp link. The first one begins at about 25 minutes into the talk, and the others follow almost directly.
I just offer some notes for each section; no transcripts or further comments. Certainly, the video is worthwhile; for sure the last 35 minutes.
Natural Law theorists propose to understand sound principles of justice, including those principles we call human rights.
Natural law theorists reject both strict individualism and collectivism.
Radical individualism overlooks the intrinsic value of human sociability, and tends to view human beings atomistically and materialistically. I enter into relationships solely because I see some gain in it for me, and not for anything to do with the other persons’ intrinsic worth.
Collectivism, on the other hand, instrumentalizes and subordinates human beings and their well-being to the interests of larger social units.
Both have theories of human rights, but both are defective. Neither does justice to the concept of a human person – instead, either as a means to someone else’s ends, or as a being with no consideration for sociability.
We must treat ourselves and others as ends, not as means.
A “human rights” discussion on abortion. This includes a comment on those who accept a utilitarian calculation for when it is right to kill an innocent person – say one or a few – in order to save many others.
What does it mean that man is made in the image of God?
Discusses David Hume’s reason as slave to the passions: we can never reason about ends – these are driven by passion; we can only reason about the means. A comparative example between Mother Theresa and Hitler is offered – can we not reason about which of these two individuals held better “ends”?
Can natural law provide some measure of common ground for a common ethic, even for those who are atheist?