CIAO DATE: 8/00
Kant and Nietzsche on Human Rights: A Theoretical Approach
International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000
Thus far what remains to be evaluated in the contemporary issue of human rights is its theoretical relation to human nature and morality. 1 One way of approaching this question has been to examine the Age of Enlightenment; philosophers of that period wrote extensively and exchanged many ideas including and especially those on man and morality. 2 What is missing, however, is a critical counterargument of such an inquiry. 3 This paper fills the gap. It presents an argument of human rights that (1) looks at their relation to human nature and morality, and (2) postulates them as a corollary of Kant's categorical imperative. As a critical challenge of the argument, the counterargument seeks to (1) state an antithesis, and (2) undermine Kant's categorical imperative (with or without corollary). A synthesis is then introduced to combine the two assessments of human rights in relation to human nature and morality.
Part I makes the argument that human rights are related to Kant's teleological conception of history and the categorical imperative. It also postulates a corollary of Kant's categorical imperative. The corollary amounts to and accords with observing and enforcing the standards and norms of human rights that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies. Part II challenges the thesis of viewing human history from a teleological perspective, as Kant does. Instead of theorizing that human beings as a species progresses along a "horizontal" line, the counterargument employing Nietzsche's eternal recurrence argues the opposite. Human being is seen as an individual who strives to develop the self in an upward direction along a "vertical" line.
Rather than a history of humanity improving its affairs and conditions from the worse to the better, i.e. towards peace and enlightenment, what matters is the ontological self overcoming of the individual whose "story" (not the history of humanity) is the development of her or his power of consciousness, spirituality, and creativity. Where Kant is concerned with egalitarianism, Nietzsche seems to be dealing with aristocratic morality. The former's categorical imperative applies to everyone; the latter's idea of Ubermensch pertains to the few only.
In Part III of the paper, it is shown that in spite of their philosophical differences Kant's and Nietzsche's respective philosophical considerations of human nature and morality do in fact converge. Their understanding of an individual's sense of duty towards other fellow human beings would have neither tolerate a person being treated with disdain. Each would favor the observation of human rights as the rule for being human.
I. Kant on Man, Morality, and Human Rights
In "Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History," from a philosophical viewpoint Kant reconstructs the steps through which human beings as a whole takes in progressing towards culture. Humanity's evolution from a creature governed by animal instincts to a rational and moral being, so Kant conceived from a teleological perspective, leads the species to become "human" beings. Pushed and prodded by reason, and being capable of rational faculty, the human species develops specifically human desires-wishes-achievements, i.e. love, the aesthetic appeal of and taste for beauty, culture, and provisions for the future. From a creature of sense whose perceptive range is limited to mole-like gaze, the human species is transformed to rational and moral beings endowed with sight capable of scanning the heaven and seeing the wonders of the universe. At the end of this transformation stands morality, the logical final end and highest culmination of man's progress.
Viewed from a teleological perspective, the human species' capacity to reason is the beacon that lights humanity's path away from its former bestial state of survival governed by animal instincts to a "position of equality with all rational beings." 4 If morality is the ultimate end in the development of human beings' rational nature, it is because as a subject of morality, only the human species is alone capable of being a final purpose to which nature is teleologically subordinated. As such, human beings are ends in and of themselves, not to be used or treated simply as means only. Kant expresses this idea in a categorical imperative whose maxim reminds an individual never to treat her or his fellow wo/men as means but always as ends in and of themselves.
What sets human being apart from all other creatures on the face of the earth, the distinct feature of the species, is its rational nature. Endowed with the power of rational choice--the capacity of setting an end and achieving it through rational means--humanity as a whole because of its rational nature is an end in and of itself. Hence, the source of value upon which objects are conferred springs from humanity's rational nature--not whims, needs, or desires to which wo/men fall prey. If Kant's categorical imperative commands an individual to act in such a way as to treat and respect the humanity whether in another fellow wo/man or in oneself always as an end and never as a means only, it is because of her or his humanity.
(a) Kant on Man
To see how Kant arrives at the categorical imperative, his argument is analyzed in detail as follows. Kant posits that the "highest possible expression [of human achievement, i.e. culture] can only be the product of a political constitution based on concepts of human right." 5 The true end of Providence, the ultimate destiny of the human species, the end in which humanity as a whole is engaged is the "ever continuing and growing activity and culture." "[T]he philosopher would say that the destiny of the human race as a whole is incessant progress, and that its fulfillment is . . . the goal to which we have to direct our endeavors." 6 It is culture--an achievement of humanity as a whole--that is the true end of Providence.
Using the Bible's Genesis as a basis for his speculative "map," Kant in Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History traces the steps through which the human species evolves from a state of animality to a position of parity with all rational beings. According to Kant's philosophical conjecture, once it is awakened, the human faculty of reason drives humanity as a whole from "the worse to the better." In so doing, it plays the indispensable role of pushing and prodding the human species to move upward, to progress to higher developments. The importance of the human species' usage of and capacity for reason cannot be overestimated. Reason "with the help of imagination" has the power to "invent" desires quite contrary to and "at variance with" bodily needs and natural impulse. "[T]he outcome of that first experiment (of using reason to extend beyond the confines of all animal instincts) influenced [man's] way of life decisively." 7 In fact, however trivial the harm might have been, the "first experiment in free choice . . . probably did not turn out as expected." It was nevertheless enough to open man's eyes to the possibility of another life different from that of which his senses were hitherto incapable of even offering him a glimpse. Progressing ever higher in its developmental stages, reason would later cause worries and afflictions to be fallen upon men and women and their families. Reason goads man the human species as a whole to move beyond those needs that are animated by instincts. Or, it creates new desires that are contrary to his immediate needs, or both. It is also reason, in spite of the "crime" of bringing "ills" to men and women and their families that leads the human species to develop specifically human desires-wishes-achievements, namely, love, the aesthetic appeal of and taste for beauty, culture, and provisions for the future. At the end of this transformation stands morality. It is in morality only that the human species stands erect, apart from and evolved out of a creature of senses whose perceptive range is limited to mole-like gaze. No longer animal, man is now a "human" species, i.e. rational, moral beings endowed with sight capable of scanning the heaven and seeing the wonders of the universe.
As subjects of morality, i.e. moral beings (which are also rational beings as the paper proceeds to analyze how morality is pure rationality), humans make choices--rational choices. In the process, humans confer value on the objects of their choosing; value is thus derived from the act of rational choice. The act of rational choice--of conferring value--is proper to humans alone. Human beings are the sole species that possesses the capacity to determine ends, i.e. defining goal(s) to which (a series of) choices would eventually lead.
It is Kant's view throughout his moral philosophy that every action "contains" an end; there is no action done without some end in view. The difference between morally worthy action and morally indifferent action is that in the first case the end is adopted because it is dictated by reason and in the second case the end is adopted in response to an inclination for it . . . [T]he morally worthy man has adopted this end because it is a duty to have such an end. 8
As the true end of nature, humanity alone as a species is capable of realizing nature's purpose of incessant unfolding. Because a human being is endowed with rationality--this unique capacity--from nature, s/he is enabled to fulfill the ultimate destiny of standing on the face of the earth as the sole creature with the potential of achieving the final purpose of nature, teleologically conceived.
"Telos"--nature teleologically conceived--is a product unique to human beings' rational conception of nature and its design. Yet, telos is not only a concept of rational thought but also a product of human morality. It is so because the capacity of humanity as a species in its totality for determining ends, defining purposes, and realizing them finds its completion, achieves its final, logical end in morality and in morality only. Hence, to state that human being is the true end of nature, as Kant does, it is to view an individual (a human being) as subject of morality and as rational beings possessing moral values, i.e., with the capacity to value things and hence to choose objects by conferring values on them.
In making choices, an individual confers values upon objects, things, and the world. So much that, it is the human species that appropriates nature and views it from a teleological perspective. Seen from this vantage point of humanity, i.e. nature teleologically conceived, the human species in totality is alone capable of completing nature's design, fulfilling its ultimate destiny. As a result of this achievement-evolution from the miserable state of animality to the culminating point where it justifies nature as a function and product of its morality, humanity has done itself honor and is able to "claim to be an end in [it]self . . . not to be used by anyone else simply as a means to other ends." 9 This claim of honor as an end in itself is expressed in the Formula of Humanity whose maxim tells every person to treat all fellow wo/men as ends and never as means, and it is this Formula of Humanity that will be analyzed in the next section.
(b) Kant on Morality
"[H]e is the true end of nature and [it follows imperatively and necessarily] that nothing which lives on earth can compete with him in this respect." 10 Recognizing his capacity for determining and realizing ends rationally--not just blind acceptance of commands, like the sheep that he shepherds and uses to satisfy his ends--elevates man as opposed to animal to the status of parity with all beings endowed with rational faculty. In terms of morality, this recognition calls every wo/man, being free, autonomous, and equal to each other to duly regard her- or him- self and one another as an unconditional end in and of her- or him- self and never treat the other or oneself as a mere means. More specifically--as a result of acting according to this recognition--every wo/man lives and carries with her/him the rightful duty to her/himself, i.e. an obligation whose principle is given a priori by pure reason. This duty is called the Formula of Humanity.
Hence, as one admirer of Kant explains the latter's political thought with respect to the concept of rightful duty in her comments about "Universal Law and Humanity,"
Moreover, treating others as equals and acknowledging them as sources of value, i.e. observing the Formula of Humanity, lead to the possibility of "constitut[ing] moral personality . . . a good will and moral character." 12 "[H]umanity," as Rawls characterizes and considers in his constructivist account of the "Themes in Kant's Moral Philosophy," "is [man's] pure practical reason [coupled] together with [his] moral sensibility." 13 It is by performing the duty in accordance with the maxim expressed in the Formula of Humanity that an individual becomes aware of the power of moral law. In the process the individual is awakened to the moral sensibility--unique moralness--of humanity's rational nature which one shares with other fellow human beings. This awakening to and awareness of the unique moralness of humanity's rationality "discloses [humanity's] capacity to act independently of the natural order [free from whims, from the totality of natural desires]." 14 The human species' freedom is thus the "knowledge" that one can act from a moral law of pure reason, a law based upon the principle of autonomy whose features are exhibited in such manner as the categorical imperative represents them. The content of the categorical imperative, or called at times as the Formula of Universal Law, is next examined.
From the perspective of Kant's political thought and moral philosophy, the Formula of Universal Law is the critical project that follows the conclusion of his speculative description about the Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History. Having retraced the steps through which humanity discovered reason as a faculty and made use of it to free itself from a life dependent on and governed by instincts, the categorical imperative--or the Formula of Universal Law as Korsgaard characterizes it--represents Kant's examination of the moral self. The Universal Law concerns the moral conduct of the self and the use of practical reason in legislating-limiting freedom.
What emerges from Kant's philosophical analysis of the self as autonomous agent is the idea of human autonomy--that human beings in their capacity for self-given legislations are autonomous. In fact, with respect to Kant's moral philosophy concerning "Autonomy and the Kingdom of Ends," Korsgaard concludes that "the categorical imperative is in a special way the principle of autonomy." 15 Similarly, as Beiner and Booth point out in their introduction,
Moreover, what is important and to be born in mind throughout Kant's moral philosophy, as Rawls signals to the reader, is that "Kant is concerned solely with the reasoning of fully reasonable and rational and sincere agents." 19 This assumption bears consequences that are open to criticism. First, Kant limits humanity to rationality; he subordinates humanity's irrationality. While all wo/men are capable of rational, autonomous, moral choices, Kant could be criticized on the ground that he refuses to acknowledge victimhood due to the inequalities in education, natural gifts, and social or environmental circumstances. Second, given the unconditionality of the moral law, the CI-procedure implies that human being possesses equal and unqualified value. This moral certainty entails that every wo/man must act for the sake of that equal value. Hence, the moral constraints of duty are valid for all reasonable and rational persons, regardless of their natural inclinations or whims. In moral terms, the categorical imperative is a product of autonomy, not contingency.
As seen, Rawls's constructivist account of the "Themes of Kant's Moral Philosophy" has disclosed the three different things that really are (1) moral law, (2), the categorical imperative, and (3) the CI-procedure. In the same vein, the paper now specifies the three different formulations or maxims of the categorical imperative, or the Formula of Universal Law.
The ideas that Kant conveys through the categorical imperative phrased in the three formulations above are as followed:
As these ideas reveal, the categorical imperative confirms the intuition about morality. It in fact reaffirms the proposition that morality is a product of autonomy, not contingency. As such, the formulations of the categorical imperative represent the right rules-procedures leading to moral conduct. "The Formula of the Universal Law is to be used in actual decision-making."
Albeit consequences might not always follow intention, as rational and autonomous agent--free and equal but potentially moral--every wo/man is capable of differentiating right from wrong. Autonomy plus rationality yield the right rules-procedures leading to moral conduct.
All the specifying and detailing of the ideas and formulations of the categorical imperative serve two purposes which Rawls points out in his account of "Themes." First, they deepen one's understanding of the categorical imperative. 22 Second, a deeper understanding induces a stronger desire to act from the categorical imperative. Given this finer appreciation of the categorical imperative, the individual comes to have greater motivation to obey the CI-procedure. The individual would also have more incentive to observe, especially, the third formulation where as moral agent is subject to her/his self-given laws by imagining living in the world so created by her/his will of maxims to be universal laws of nature. If morality is to improve the lives of individuals living together, so too is politics to be concerned with how to develop a legal system in which every person endowed with rights is able "to lead a moral life and thus be true to [her/his] own innate humanity." 23 As such, then, every wo/man as autonomous agent is to do her/his moral duty irrespective of contingency is itself rational. Viewed in this light, as Korsgaard demonstrates through her "practical" interpretation of the categorical imperative, morality--in Kant's critical project--"is" pure rationality. 24
(c) Kant on Civil Society
As morality is the end point of humanity and rationality, the human species is the true end of nature's creation. The point of convergence between morality and the human species is the liberal regime--the civil state, a polity founded upon the principles of a republican constitution. Only liberal regime respects an individual's moral autonomy. As Kant articulates in his philosophical treatise on "Perpetual Peace," only civil state based on republican constitutionalism sets as its purpose the establishment of a framework of external relations among individuals. Only within this type of polity can every person find the greatest space possible at the widest extent possible to exercise rational faculty, develop moral autonomy, cultivate freedom, and exert influence so as to be worthy of the status of humanity, a position of parity with all rational beings. 25
As they permeate throughout, by organizing, Kant's teleological view of human history and his political thought, a priori principles are central in fact indispensable in laying the foundation of a civil state. "The civil state, regarded purely as a lawful state, is based on . . . a priori principles." 26 They are, as Kant enumerates them: (1) freedom as human being, (2) equality as subject, (3) independence as citizen. 27 Writing "on the Disagreement between Morals and Politics in Relation to Perpetual Peace," Kant again refers to these a priori principles and their importance in founding a state.
Indeed, Kant calls for man to follow his duty--guided by reason, the infallible a priori standard that "alone determines what is right among men." 29 Moreover, in concluding his refutation of Hobbes's political theory "on the Relationship of Theory to Practice in Political Right," Kant establishes the basis upon which political right is founded. If political right has all the force and power to bind individuals
For the individual to "unite with everyone else (with whom [s/]he cannot avoid having social intercourse) in order to submit to external, public and lawful coercion," 35 what must be established a priori by pure reason is the principle of civil state, wherein everyone's belonging is protected by law and guaranteed by an adequate power. To maintain law and power for the purpose of "external, public and lawful coercion" amounts to no less than setting up a civil state, and to achieve this end, the people must constitute a state. "[T]he mere idea of such an act is the original contract." 36 Continuing his writing on "Political Right" (under the heading "Theory of Right" in The Metaphysics of Morals), Kant explains the general idea of a state, the constitutive elements essential for its establishment (the three powers: the legislative-ruling power, i.e. sovereignty, which belongs only to the united will of the people, the executive power, and the judicial power), the three principles (freedom, independence, and equality), and the relationship between a universal sovereign and the people. 37 For the relationship to be considered legitimate and valid as an expression of the people's will and have legal foundation in terms of right, the people are to establish a state for themselves. "The act by which the people constitut[e] a state for [themselves], or more precisely, the mere idea of such an act . . . is the original contract." 38 The original contract, as such, is more of an idea than an act.
What is "original" about this contract is the idea of the people uniting together as the legislative-ruling power, i.e. the sovereign, and "legislate" a contract for themselves--making as legally binding a constitution to express their general collective will in a legitimate, rightful (valid) manner. By this contract, the people relinquish their unbridled freedom (found among barbarians or savages who spend their lives in a state of anarchy) in exchange for a state of civil society. As Kant elaborates,
Hence, as an expression of the legislative (i.e. popular) will, the civil state is it, deriving from the idea more so than by the act of an original contract. With respect to the type of government for a civil state, the only possible regime is the republican constitution. This point cannot be over emphasized, for not only is the concept of a republican constitution part and parcel of the philosophical sketch of "A Perpetual Peace." Furthermore, only in a republican constitution would one find the "highest possible expression [of human beings' culture] (which) can only be the product of a political constitution based on concepts of human right." 40 To the connection between a republican constitution--the only form of government possible for a civil state--and a political constitution founded on the concepts human right, the paper now turns.
In the second section of "The Perpetual Peace," defining its "First Definitive Article," Kant expounds upon the reasons that "the civil constitution of every state shall be republican." 41 Without ambiguity, stating in rather emphatic terms, Kant lets it be known that a republican constitution "is the only constitution which can be derived from the idea of an original contract, upon which all rightful legislation of a people must be founded." 42 It is so because only a republican constitution is founded upon the three fundamental principles of freedom, independence, and equality. As such, then, republicanism is in fact the cornerstone of liberal regime. Hence, Kant has an abiding, deep faith in republicanism. This is confirmed by his swift and uncontested conclusion on republicanism, which "is in itself the original basis of every kind of civil constitution." 43
For Kant, the real inquiry into republicanism is less focused on its a priori origin as "the pure concept of right" than is concerned about whether or not it has the prospect of offering a perpetual peace. His answer is affirmative, for the mode of government that most correspondingly accords with "the pure concept of right" from which springs republicanism is the representative system. 44 In a representative system, the executor of the general will of the people is separated from the legislator; this "alone makes possible a republican state, and without it, despotism and violence will result, no matter what kind of constitution is in force." 45 The representative system as a mode of government (or a type of regime) is indispensable to, most compatible with, and best guarantees the expression of the people's general will being served by a republican constitution.
By way of investigating the foundation of a civil state, the virtue of republicanism, and the purpose of a representative system, in passing, the concept of a general will emerges from the inquiry. "[T]he general will as it is given a priori . . . alone determines what is right among [wo/]men," 46 Kant concludes after making clear the difference of principles between a political moralist (whose "material" principle leads her/him to treat problems of right as mere technical tasks) and a moral politician (who operates by "formal" principle which views the problem to be a moral task). If an individual's conduct (has the seemingly paradoxical feature that it) harmonizes with its moral end by not depending upon (or by deviating from) the physical or moral advantage anticipated, it is because of the certainty of acting from a priori (formal) principles given by pure reason. To determine "what is right" or righteousness in and of itself--i.e. pure, moral, correct conduct--is to conceive of and codify into the concept of right based upon a priori principles. Given that the general will of the people is founded on a priori principles, this union of the will of all individuals "can . . . be the cause which leads to the intended result and gives effect to the concept of right." 47
As a testimony of human beings' potential for moral goodness, the concept of right (which is derived from the general will of the people) underscores the need to establish a federation of free states to escape the omnipresent condition of pure warfare to which man--being "animus domindi"--is subject. For Kant, the very fact that every state pays homage--at least, lip service, if nothing else--to the concept of right "proves that man possesses a greater moral capacity . . . to overcome eventually the evil principle [the will to dominate-subjugate others] within him." 48 To achieve this end, to counteract the will to dominate-subjugate others--be they individual(s), people(s), or nation(s)--"a lawful federation under a commonly accepted international right [based upon enforceable public laws to which each member state must submit]" is the only rational solution. 49 Hence, to check "the depravity of human nature [as] is displayed without disguise [i.e. the evil principle manifests itself] in the unrestricted relations which obtain between the various nations [through warfare]," 50 as Kant reasons, the solution would be to establish international right and "couple it with a federation [of free states]," 51 which follows the antecedent step of strengthening and deepening the concept of right.
(d) Kant on Human Rights
What the concept of right imports, and allows to import, is the link that ties together Kant's teleological view of the human species' end (to be attained in culture) "whose highest possible expression . . . [is] based on the concepts of human right" and the contemporary ideas and debates about what human rights are and should be. Put in more specific terms, that link is Kant's perfectionist morality, i.e. cosmopolitan right and international right. Similar to civil or political rights, international rights of nations conceived within the legal framework of a federation of states are based upon shared common laws to which each member state is subject. Under the section of "International Right," in The Metaphysics of Morals, Kant discloses the nature of international right, which
(e) How Kant's "concepts of human right" relate to today's ideas of human rights
If the ultimate telos of human history is peace and enlightenment, as Kant theorizes and believes, then today's ideas of human rights are an instrument for the realization of such ends. Kant's "concepts of human right" and today's ideas of human rights are both grounded on the same ontological assumption about human nature. While human nature is fixed and immutable, what is natural (fixed) and essential (immutable) is the human capacity for rationality. Kant's concepts of human right are derived a priori from principles of morality. These principles of morality are themselves a priori based upon reason. Kant's concepts of human right are the moral foundation upon which bases political constitution wherein produces and flourishes human culture because these concepts as a product of pure rationality are in congruence with human nature and serve to nurture it and to make it worthy of its humanity and morality--or in a word, dignity.
Today's ideas of human rights as "declared" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights express a priori in terms more prescriptive than descriptive the universal rights an individual has and enjoys as human being. While they are motivated by and are a response to the empirical needs arose as a result of and after World War II in 1948, there is nothing empirical about the protection that an individual is entitled to and that today's ideas of human rights afford. These ideas of protection and entitlement that today's human rights provide are derived a priori from principles of morality--morality about what human beings are 56 , i.e., rational beings worthy of respect and sanction and protection, and what they are entitled to as such. As with Kant's "concepts of human right," today's ideas of human rights stem from principles of morality which as seen are themselves a priori based upon reason. Seen in this light, from their shared ontological status as traced to the "natural" and the "essential" of human nature, both Kant's "concepts of human right" and today's concepts of human rights serve to nurture human nature to become worthy of its dignity. In the former instance, his concepts of human right are the moral foundation upon which bases political constitution that is the building block of a perpetual peace and an enlightened world (federation of liberal states). As for the latter, human rights--as they are used and applied in contemporary discourses and speeches--seem much more mundane by comparison. This is perhaps because more often than not they are practical instruments in the service of individuals who speak of their relation to a state in terms more prescriptive than descriptive. While contemporary ideas of human rights share the same ontology as Kant's "concepts of human right"; much more difficult, however, is the question of one's fulfillment of and meaning in life:
In order to make the most of life, human rights are the instrument that protects and guarantees for every individual her or his right to free speech and inquiry. Human rights do not determine the content of one's speech or inquiry, for that can only be sought and found by the individual who makes the decision for her/himself within the context of being a member of a community. As argued, being grounded on the philosophical premise that each individual has an equal, irreducible moral worth because of her or his humanity, human rights protect and guarantee this inherent dignity and worth of an individual by establishing a series of standards and norms with which a state must comply and demonstrate steps in the process of being taken to fall into compliance. Before stipulating (more in prescriptive than descriptive terms) the relation of an individual to a state, human rights must necessarily as a requisite (an intermediary step) specify the relation between individuals as persons, as moral rational human beings living in a community. To speak of human rights as if they solely pertain to an individual's relation to a state, i.e., not taking into account interpersonal relations between individuals, amounts to regarding an individual in isolation from her or his social context. To argue that human rights diagnose (in terms more prescriptive than descriptive) primarily the relation of an individual to a state is different from regarding them as solely so. The latter would deprive of an individual's interpersonal relations in a social context, reducing human rights to a variety of legalistic, political and civil rights in contrast to social, economic and cultural rights that in turn are compartmentalized from the fraternal and solidarietal rights. (The partition of human rights will be analyzed.) The effective net result of stressing human rights as solely covering the relation of an individual to a state--or as is pejoratively put "cutting human rights down to size"--would be precisely to have dehumanized the individual. That indeed would be one of the greatest ironies. In relation to the "human" of human rights, the significance of Kant's categorical imperative can be seen in two halves that are--for a lack of better terms--the positive side and the negative side. 58 On the negative side, Kant tells everyone "not" to treat humanity whether in oneself or anyone else as means but always as end. This is important and appropriate to human rights because the converse of the negative side advances the proposition that each human being has intrinsic value that entitles the individual to be protected by rights. Milne explains:
The positive side of Kant's categorical imperative is not its opposite but rather a corollary. If human beings are not to be treated as mere means but always as ends, then there are certain ways in which they must be treated and others in which they must not. This corollary applies (and must be applicable) to all affairs and interactions between human beings if humanity in oneself or fellow human beings is to be respected and treated as an end. Moreover, the corollary, i.e. the positive side of Kant's categorical imperative, implies necessarily--as indispensably and inevitably--the application of contemporary ideas of human rights in all interactions between human beings because they always transpire in a social context. Since all affairs and interactions between individuals necessarily and always take place inside a state, and life outside of a state is impossible, relations and interactions also take place between individuals and states. Given this condition, an individual's relation to a state must, too, be covered (and governed) by human rights.
The positive side is the lynchpin, so to speak, that connects Kant's categorical imperative with today's concepts of human rights. In fact, the latter translates the former from abstract ideas into concrete standards and norms applicable primarily to an individual's relation to a state--the social context in which human affairs and interactions take place. If the tone of voice used to formulate the positive side of Kant's categorical imperative (i.e. the corollary) seems rather emphatic, it is for a specific reason. To underscore the unconditionality of the categorical imperative, the necessity of discharging the obligation once it has been incurred, irrespective of how it was incurred, a passionate voice is used--which also serves to bring forth one's emotional commitment and to "touch one's heart"--to use a cliché, if ever there were one more banal! It is one thing to expound upon Kant's categorical imperative and argue its link to contemporary concepts of human rights. (To release oneself from the imperative is possible only by complying with it, which on its positive side amounts to observing the precepts that are embodied in today's human rights as documented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). It is altogether different from feeling in oneself the moral and naturally human disposition to care about the humanity in oneself and fellow wo/men and to respond in ways appropriate to it within the context of one's community (i.e., a state). Acquiring the capacity to follow rules and precepts, without necessarily grounding one's understanding of them on philosophical premises, is a step in the right direction to becoming a moral agent who is capable of respecting and treating humanity as an end, and hence able to observe and comply with human rights norms and standards. It is, however, not enough because being a moral agent involves also one's emotional commitment, i.e., "feeling in one's heart" the disposition to care about humanity whether in oneself or fellow wo/men, and to care about--paying attention and giving one's due to--doing "the right thing."
(f) More than Human Rights
To argue that the relations between individuals and of an individual to a state are covered (and governed) by human rights implies on the positive side that one has rights. Not mere immunities from being treated as a mere means, rights are claims to which an individual is entitled. S/He is to be respected as an end in and of her/himself. Positive claim rights as opposed to negative immunity rights (both of which are included in today's ideas of human rights whose principle reference continues to be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), is a concept that remains to be further analyzed. In his now classic article "Duties, Rights, and Claims" published in the American Philosophical Quarterly, 1966, Feinberg provides a revealing account of the theoretical working of a right as claim to have a right in the first place:
Feinberg's theoretical insight has important implications for human rights on practical grounds. By responding to the demand of recognition of one's rights with an (albeit non-binding acknowledgement that is the) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is a step in the right direction. Being more of an honest universal acknowledgement than a true bill of rights for all wo/men, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nonetheless a giant step to clinically care for humanity as a whole. The reason is that once an individual's human rights are recognized, any and all recognition translates in concrete terms to a state's obligations and duties to mobilize and organize itself in such a way so as to be able to discharge and release from them by complying with the norms and standards established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A state's performing the duties and fulfilling the obligations increase an individual's chance of actually enjoying a life worthy of her or his humanity. Furthermore, in recognizing one's right to claim to have human rights as a given by virtue of being human (which is the principle upon which bases the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), this presupposes the priority of human rights-as (1) rights (to be enjoyed) and (2) claims (to benefits to which one is entitled)-over society's function or reason of state. In effect, human rights "trump"-take precedence and have ascendancy over-function, reason, or whatever a society or a state asks, commands, or demands an individual to do, even if it were "the right thing" for that society or state. The significance of the priority of human rights over society or state will be further analyzed as the paper turns next to examine the philosophical grounds of human rights and inquire into why they are necessarily universal and cannot be partitioned into a variety of political, economic, and social rights, each with their own jurisdiction and domain of protection and guarantee.
(g) How Human Rights are Applied
There are a few theoretical implications in recognizing the right to claim to have rights. As is acknowledged in the UDHR, an individual has human rights simply as a virtue of being human. This recognition (or acknowledgement) of the right to claim to have rights cannot presumably or logically (on analytical ground which differentiates a priori given from a posteriori empirical fact) antecede the rights one has in first place. It is logically impossible to recognize (or acknowledge) a claim if it had not a priori existed. Human rights, having been recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, thus are a priori given--that every individual has. On philosophical grounds, at least, they are universal--i.e., applicable to every person everywhere with respect to her or his relation to a state and cannot theoretically be partitioned into a variety of political, economic, or social rights.
Human rights are not universal, however, in terms of practical application, compliance, and observance. For political expediency and convenience, the protection and guarantee afforded (and mandated) by human rights norms and standards that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodied are cut up (or rather "down to size") into various so-called "generations" of rights, i.e. political and civil, which are succeeded by economic and social, and now fraternal and solidarietal. Such a partition holds some merit 64 within the context of the Cold War during which the West led by the US could condemn without political self-embarrassment their enemy in the East for violations of their citizens' "fundamental" human rights. However, in the (post-cold war) world today, as the current situation stands, the partition of human rights has caused some backlashes against the US--principally, who had in the first place advocated the partition on political grounds so as to be able to condemn with impunity its communist enemy. In fact, "pro democratic" regimes allied with the US were equally reprehensible in terms of human rights violations; for political expediency and convenience within the context of the cold war, the US looked the other way.
A few of the backlashes against the US to this day are international pressures on the US for not signing the treaty to ban land mines 65 , or during the past two years for not complying with the worldwide moratorium on capital punishment. This year, the US is again facing the possibility of a political embarrassment for its "unfair, arbitrary and racist use of capital punishment"--which could be construed as "proof [of] the United States, too [just as reprehensible as, for example, China] breaches international human rights norms." 66 Similarly, the US has still not ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This has affected negatively (to say the least) the US's voice and prestige in the international scene when it comes to worker's protections and providing guarantees of equal pay for equal work. It is arguable that no American worker or employee is in (bodily) jeopardy without the "economic" rights as far as being able to "bring the breads home." What is opened up by the partition of human rights into various categories from which countries, for example the US, can select to uphold (and ratify) or not is the more potent criticism of human rights: They interfere in a state's domestic affairs whose aspirations and goals conflict with human rights, i.e. they are not universally applicable to or desirable for every state. The backlashes against the US for (real or possible) breaches of international human rights norms could be (construed as) suspect and motivated by gains that American rivals and enemies seek to have in terms of political damages and embarrassments. Such an argument could be advanced on practical grounds in favor of partitioning human rights.
Also in favor of the argument for partitioning human rights is the more sophisticated (and hence more potent) criticism that they interfere in a state's domestic affairs. To even hope for some form of adoption of human rights, so as not to be rejected altogether, they must be "cut down to size" to fit a state's cultural values, social priorities, economic goals (of development), or political ideology. 67 A logical inference from such criticism as above (which has been espoused in various guises by countries in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe to a certain extent) is that human rights do not apply across boundaries be they political, societal, economic, or cultural. In the name of "cultural" boundaries/divides, the challenge to the applicability of human rights has been the most contentious and strongest. Even proponents of human rights concede some grounds as far as the issue of diversity is concerned. This poses serious challenge to human rights as their universality is called into question! Along with the criticisms above that human rights have to be partitioned in terms of obtaining some practical applications, this challenge could be summed up by the catchall generalization of relativism--cultural, political, economic, and societal.
As a response to the challenge and criticism above, on practical grounds, in spite of the merits of partitioning human rights might have during the cold war, it is a post-cold war world today. The argument of political expediency and convenience cannot forever shield violations of human rights by repressive regimes, the most recently publicized case being, of course, that of Augusto Pinochet. However "pro democratic" or "pro growth" in terms of economic development their claims are, with each use, the shield diminishes its effectiveness. To the extent that some credit can be granted to the relativist argument as advanced by those who criticize proponents for ignoring the historical contingency and specific processes of which human rights are an appendage, a possible response in the form of rebuttal is (as exemplified by) Donnelly's insight among comments from other scholars:
Suffering is suffering. It is the same everywhere. As Kant explains in the "Conditions of Universal Hospitality" "a violation of rights in one part of the world is felt everywhere." 70 Behind the pretext of diversity or conducting a state's domestic affairs, human rights are being violated. Ethnic groups are being killed in Kosovo, Rwanda, Congo. Political dissidents are "neutralized," imprisoned, or under house arrest in Myanmar, Cuba, China, Cambodia, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia--to cite the most notorious cases in the recent news. Whatever the excuse, no state can be tolerated to go on a killing spree, committing human rights crimes, and not face sanctions from the international community. If the partition of human rights on practical grounds of political expediency and convenience had opened the door for the (more potent) criticisms of diversity and relativism under whose pretext human rights violations are being committed. The paper next inquires into the argument being made and advanced against such partition of human rights.
On philosophical grounds, the partition of human rights into categories, generation, groups, or conceptual frameworks implies that human nature, as it were, could equally be partitioned. This is because as previously argued human rights serve to nurture human nature to become worthy of its dignity. Human rights as an instrument for the realization of human nature which progresses along with the development of human affairs from the worse to the better, if this instrument (means) is partitioned, the end must suffer and does suffer--if it is not also partitioned. The end being human nature cannot be partitioned. To at least have the protection and guarantee of political and civil rights but not economic, social, and cultural ones amounts to partitioning one side of human nature and emphasize its development and not the other, or at the expense of the other.
On practical grounds, as shown, such partition is possible and (is sadly) made. The philosophical implication is that human nature is equally being "cut up and down to size." It is philosophically obscene (as in the etymological sense of "outside the scene") to partition human nature into areas, sectors, groups, categories, and have one side be preferred and not (or over) the other. In terms of understanding human rights at the day-to-day level, the conventional dichotomy of political versus economic rights (originating from the partition on practical grounds) actually creates conceptual blind spots instead of providing theoretical insights. Who is to say that the denial of "economic" rights, such as that to rest, leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, would not cause damages as crippling (physically and psychologically) as those associated with depriving an individual of her or his "political" right to the freedom of speech? Conceptualizing within the framework of the conventional dichotomy, such a question would (tend to) be set askew, if brought up at all.
Furthermore, on what grounds can a state still claim to be protecting and guaranteeing (or even granting) "political" rights (such as that to the freedom of association and assembly) when it puts aside "economic" rights (for example, that to form and join trade unions) for reasons of growth and development which supposedly authorizes the repression and sacrifice of "economic" rights? Or vice versa? When does doing away one side of human rights allow for the protection and guarantee of another side? When does doing away one side not completely destroy the very human rights? If as is generally asserted that some human rights are not compatible with the needs of growth and development, and hence, those categories should be postponed until the country is "developed" enough. In terms of conventional dichotomy between political rights and economic rights, this argument is advanced on practical grounds of prioritizing societal goals and meeting those needs, which allegedly in the process of achieving those goals or fulfilling those needs, one side of human rights takes precedence over the other.
Yet, even at face value, to view human rights in such conventional (and generally accepted contemporary) terms cannot produce much "growth" except intellectual confusion and dishonesty in conceptually framing the issue. The conventional dichotomy (originating from the partition of human rights on practical grounds) provides the intellectual vocabulary and theoretical framework in which in could be argued for and advanced "legitimately"--i.e. by utilizing the conceptual terms of the dichotomy--the denial of one side of human rights or preference for one side over the other. Such is a working of the intellectual confusion and dishonesty surrounding the debates on human rights.
For human rights, what is valid on philosophical grounds must also be the same on practical grounds. That "is" not so, needless to say. On philosophical grounds human rights as examined in this paper are not subject to partition for that would be tantamount to having human nature itself be partitioned; that is altogether unfathomable. What is comprehensible and philosophically relevant is, however, the assumption upon which bases the ontological status of both today's ideas of human rights and Kant's "concepts of human right." If Kant is correct believing in the ultimate telos of human history is peace and enlightenment, then human nature is improving along with the development of human affairs from the worse to the better. Whether it is Kant's "concepts of human right" or today's ideas of human rights, they are an instrument to realize such enlightened and peaceful end by protecting and guaranteeing for an individual her or his "human" rights to enjoy a life worthy of one's humanity and dignity. Next the paper examines a counter argument from Nietzsche from a different philosophical point of view.
II. A Counterargument: Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence and Ubermensch 71
Unlike Kant's philosophy that views human history from a teleological perspective, Nietzsche's eternal recurrence is "scientific"--i.e. not teleological. Nietzsche's "scientific hypothesis" of eternal recurrence posits (the cosmos which necessarily comprehends) human affairs to be "recurring inevitably without any finale of nothingness." 72 As such, if everything simply repeats itself hopelessly and aimlessly, human dealings (transactions and affairs) are caught in a loop, and human beings as a whole does not progress--as Kant conceives of it--or if it does, it would be radically different.
Rather than theorizing human dealings are improving as viewed from teleological and cosmopolitan perspectives that take account of humanity in its entirety, as Kant does, Nietzsche's "scientific hypothesis" of eternal recurrence denies both assumptions of this moral world order. Neither human dealings nor its nature is progressing. Existence as a whole encompassing the cosmos merely repeats endlessly and continuously as if it were caught in a loop. Instead of accounting for a comprehensive history of man the species, what is at stake in Nietzsche's conception of the eternal recurrence is a new picture of an "individual" wo/man from the viewpoint of a psychological inquiry with all its implications.
Almost a polar opposite of Kant with respect to the same sort of treatment to which each person is entitled, Nietzsche is anti-egalitarian, even anti-democratic. In order to respect the humanity in themselves and others, Kant's categorical imperative tells all wo/men to treat each other as ends and never as means. This entails observing and complying with the norms and standards embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As such, Kant's political theory provides the premise from which theorists and proponents of egalitarianism draw their conclusions, and the basis on which ground their arguments of all wo/men are entitled to equal treatments. However, according to Nietzsche, as Kaufmann eruditely "dissects"--to borrow his term--the latter's opaque philosophical suppositions,
Nietzsche's theory of value amounts to nothing less than "aristocratic" ethics in contrast to the egalitarian ideals called for and implied in Kant's categorical imperative. In relation to Kant's political thought and moral philosophy on man, morality, and human rights that the first part has drawn out and argued, a counter-argument is now being made by way of pursuing the following three objectives:
1) Analyzing (in detail) Nietzsche's "scientific hypothesis" of eternal recurrence, Kant's belief in the ultimate telos of human history is challenged. Nietzsche's eternal recurrence is presented as an "antithesis" of Kant's faith in progress and human improvement.
2) Deepening the inquiry, Nietzsche's Ubermensch is argued to be inimical to Kant's conception of man as the true end of nature; i.e. man's moral and rational nature which engenders and entails the categorical imperative of treating humanity with respect as an end in and of itself. The Ubermensch would render superfluous and (even) alien Kant's categorical imperative.
3) Criticizing human rights on ontological grounds, what is troubling and eventually rejected is a false sense of complacency that would arrest an individual from further developing her or his state of being. The concept of human rights as defined and afforded by the protection and guarantee in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is argued to be conflicting and even stifling an individual's self development.
Anyone who has ever shouted in joy knows the preciousness of the moment(s):
On a cosmological scale, existence comprehending everything living and non-living must, too, recur. Projected onto the cosmos, deep are the implications of one's willing the recurrence of moment(s) of joy. To have just one point in time, again, a person has to trace that moment to its genealogy (to borrow a term from Nietzsche) and regress to the stars and the birth of the universe. It must be so for a person to re-live her or his life and to re-experience the glory of the moment(s) because to reclaim a point in time would mean the "recurring inevitably without any finale of nothingness." 74
This repetition of the "now" in perpetuity collapses the distinction between Being and Becoming. The reason lies in the disappearance of time altogether. Caught in a loop of recycling the process of one's Being to "be" an individual's Becoming, the dialectic continue to unfold insofar as they hold still one another. They are locked in a constant stalemate--so to speak. Any direction in which the dialectic could and would move cannot be "horizontal" as Kant's teleological conception of human history would suggest and necessitate.
The Being and Becoming dialectic would end in that they would have to converge with one another as a result of this process of having one's moment(s) of joy willed to recur. Where Being and Becoming converge is the point in time (to be) reclaimed as a moment of joy (that is yet to be) re-lived. For that to happen, the dialectic overcome themselves internally. In the convergence, they implode--their union turns out to be their undoing.
The phrase that crystallizes this "scientific hypothesis," the aphorism that conveys the meaning of eternal recurrence is that of Zarathustra: "Become who you are!" 75 More than collapses (and denies) the distinction of Being and Becoming, this phrase draws out the essence of a counter-argument of Kant's philosophy of human history from a teleological perspective. By becoming who one is, i.e. enacting and following simultaneously the dictum of eternal recurrence, what an individual is being urged to do is to stand alone--on her or his own, as discussed above. The implications of enacting and following this dictum, in relation to Kant's telos, are threefold. One, it undermines a teleological view of human history--not just Kant's but all and any perspective determined by telos. Two, it dampens Kant's optimism of a gradual improvement of human nature from the worse to the better. Three, it shakes Kant's faith in the progress of human dealings (interactions and affairs). To draw out these three implications, it would do to examine Nietzsche's Ubermensch who embodies and personifies the dictum of becoming who one is. Such then, it is argued that one's moral and rational nature is not the end of an individual.
Nietzsche's Ubermensch embodies and personifies eternal recurrence as a doctrine whose dictum is the aphorism "Become who you are!" In that capacity, by enacting and following the command, the Ubermensch--or in Kaufmann's alternate terminology the "hyper-anthropos"--is the individual who stands outside of any historical process. S/He has overcome all dialectic. The Ubermensch is the Dionysian who fuses by collapsing the union of Dionysus and Apollo, the value-creator absorbed in her or his process and whose power of creation encompasses by breaking down the (false) dichotomy of spirit and matter, or of reason and passion, or both. S/He is the master who enjoys experimenting in science as a gay scholarly and leisure enterprise because the will to power and its twin the drive for truth have been sublimated by, harmonized with, and given way to style. The Ubermensch embraces life as it is, affirms the power and joy of creation now and ever. The distinction of Being (Ubermensch) and Becoming (Ubermensch) is nullified and collapsed because the scientific hypothesis of eternal recurrence becomes the doctrine and it is the doctrine of the Ubermensch. S/He embraces now and ever the apotheosis of happiness, which is and happens only with the recurrence of the joy and power of creation--for eternity.
In relation to Kant's categorical imperative, the unexceptional individual's imperative would be to adopt the dictum of the Ubermensch, "Become who you are!" The implication of being unexceptional driven by the will to power to become Ubermensch is to overcome who one is (the unexceptional) in becoming who one will to be (the Ubermensch). Not only the unexceptional, all things living are struggling, striving, and streaming--by the will to power--to overcome 76 , to drive beyond and above their mediocre, weak, and impotent condition of being. To become who and what they are amounts to a continuous uphill battle to overcome the mediocrity, the weakness, and the impotency. Granted, they are (already) who and what they are to become. The exception is that giving style to the eternal recurrence of one's becoming in being is what makes it all bearable and (even) joyful for there is/are moment(s) of joy in knowing and accepting the repetition of it all (cf. Camus's myth of Sisyphus). Then, in the eternal recurrence, the unexceptional and the Ubermensch can and do become who they are, as well as all things living in the cosmos.
Differently put, if Kant's telos posits that the history of man as a species to be moving horizontally--albeit unevenly and sometimes at a standstill due to the "unsocial sociability" of human beings--then Nietzsche's eternal recurrence postulates that everyone is caught in a loop. The history of man would not be moving per se. The self develops and progresses vertically, but the person circles in loop--recurring in becoming who s/he is.
Kant's categorical imperative would be shattered if every individual were busy developing and overcoming the self (by adopting the Ubermensch's imperative). The categorical imperative covers and concerns the relation of an individual with other fellow human beings; its corollary governs the relation to a state. Contemporary human rights deal with both relations 77 . Yet, neither human rights nor Kant's categorical imperative would matter if the "scientific hypothesis" of eternal recurrence were believed to be true. Everyone would be goaded by the will to power (to struggle, strive, and stream to overcome the mediocrity, the weakness, and the impotency) to create her- or him- self. All except the Ubermensch, s/he is the exception to the rule. As far as the Ubermensch is concerned, rules, norms, standards such as those embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do not apply. S/He embodies and personifies the imperative that the unexceptional would adopt and follow. The Ubermensch would render superfluous and (even) alien any imperative save the dictum of "Become who you are!" In this sense, the Ubermensch is inimical to Kant's conception of man and his rational nature by eliminating the need for a categorical imperative. While definitively aristocratic in nature (and in bias) compared to Kant's egalitarian ethic, this is not to be confused with caricatures of Nietzsche as a raving mouthpiece dismissing the mediocre, the weak, and the impotent--often unfairly imputed to him. In no uncertain terms does Nietzsche contradict such un-becoming conduct:
Only a few philosophers and artists turn out to be exceptional individuals--Socrates and Goethe being the exemplars, not only of these select Ubermensch but of the highest ideals of humanity also. These individuals by virtue of their value-creating qualities (i.e. creativity, spirituality, and autonomy) stand apart and above from the mediocre. If few are the exceptional (by definition), then, the masses are unexceptional and mediocre. Insofar as this definition is true--not an opposition of polar extremes but rather related and constitutive of one another for it makes little sense to speak of the few without the masses, or the mass--Nietzsche's ethics discloses his aristocratic tendencies. Yet, when projected onto the cosmos, the doctrine of the Ubermensch, eternal recurrence affirms the self of each individual as who s/he is. It is posited to be at a standstill, recurring now and ever. If eternal recurrence applies to the Ubermensch who cries in happiness from the joy and power of creation, because the individual enjoys it and is in rupture of it, so too can the unexceptional bear it--the repetition of standing still in perpetuity. Viewed this way, Nietzsche's ethics is not so aristocratic. Eternal recurrence as a "scientific hypothesis" seems highly debatable, but as a doctrine it could be adopted by the masses--for the exceptional do not adopt their own doctrine, they embody it--and enacted and followed by each individual.
In so doing, the imperative of "Become who you are!" would be the dictum not only of the Ubermensch but for everyone else too. As such, what would become Kant's categorical imperative?
Kant's categorical imperative says that one's humanity is to be treated and respected as an end. It reminds an individual of the starting point and end point of human beings. One's rational and moral nature is the level at which all humans are equal. For Kant, by way of always enacting and following the categorical imperative, humanity would progress towards and ultimate end in perpetual peace which best protects and guarantees an individual's enjoyment of a life worthy of her or his humanity. For Nietzsche, in contrast, humanity's goal lies in self-perfection. 79 The reason is that, as Nietzsche diagnoses the situation of humans, the world is comprised of the few (Ubermensch) and the masses. Because of such aristocratic tendencies in his ethics, Nietzsche urges the masses to master and tame their chaotic passions, internal upheavals in the process of overcoming themselves. What happens during this process of overcoming in "becoming who one is" is that instead of applying and using power on oneself, the masses (the unexceptional, by definition) turn to the will to power. Power is applied and used not on oneself to overcome who one is and become who one really (i.e. potentially and genuinely) is, but rather it is misapplied and abused. It becomes perverse and is perverted. Power is turned against fellow wo/men. Instead of dominating the self's chaotic passions, power is turned against others in order to dominate "their" chaotic passions and internal upheavals--allegedly manifested in the evil acts they commit.
Rather than working on the development of self--creating it by mastering and taming the chaotic passions, and ultimately giving style to it, i.e. perfecting it--power is used to "rule" out the exceptional--beings who have perfected themselves. "Rules" outlaw work on the development of self and prohibit any room for exceptions. The reason is that humanity grounded on rationality and man's moral nature is the starting point and end point of an individual. What needs protection and safeguard (from chaotic passions and internal upheavals whose manifestations are the evil and crimes committed against humanity) is an individual's humanity. Concealed is the fact that behind the "cover" of protecting and safeguarding one's humanity, the mass are legislating their rules and values--i.e., the standards and norms of human rights--by which all, especially the exceptional, are required to enact and follow. Power is thus willed (or turned) against the exceptional. Their perfection of self--i.e., efforts at creating the self into art or philosophy by giving style--becomes exception to the rule that individuals are to be treated at the same level. As such, enacting and following the categorical imperative would result in equal treatment for everyone while covering up that as a rule the exceptional are evil.
For the Ubermensch, the recognition of her (or him, or them) as "higher" human beings would come to be envied, feared, and hated. "They are evil," says the rule. (It is not the Ubermensch who would mistreat and disrespect the mass, but the unexceptional rather than tolerate or celebrate would prefer and want to remove or displace her (or him, or them), considered and branded "obscene"--literally outside of the scene.) This is because the Ubermensch calls into question one's human self, the rational and moral nature, which as given at birth remains inartistic, unphilosophic and has yet to be perfected, or mastered, or both, and ultimately be given style to it.
Human rights as corollary (rules and guidelines of relational conduct) of Kant's categorical imperative seek to prioritize the goal of humanity. Not necessarily working towards self- creation, perfection, or mastery, but grounding it as an end in and of itself, the individual's focus is shifted to respecting the humanity whether in oneself or others. The development of the self is subordinated to respecting one's humanity. The goal of humanity, then, is in its end, and lies not in the highest exemplars.
As such, human rights can be criticized on the ground of diverting energy, effort from works on the self to focus on relational concerns of an individual with fellow wo/men and to a state. Human rights cover and concern treatments due to an individual as a virtue of her or his humanity. They do not remind an individual of her or his work towards one's self. The reminder is for respect of one's humanity. It would not be a slight comment to suggest that the same level treatment leaves few if any space for an individual to excel. Room for the exceptional individuals' concern with their own selves' development could be limited (even stifled), if their ends were viewed as included in and part of the overall progress of humanity. Giving style to one's self would be tantamount to individualistic egoism and such inconsiderate conduct could make a means of one's humanity. A violation of human rights is committed.--?
III. Sense of Duty: Synthesis of Kant and Nietzsche
As seen, an individual's self could be subsumed in Kant's teleological conception of human history. Insofar as this reasoning is sound, a criticism of human rights for subverting the development of self could be argued. It seems, however, that Kant's theory of man's "unsocial sociability" would permit the development of an individual's self and at the same time reconcile with his view of human history from a teleological perspective. Kant does not say that because the ultimate telos of humanity is peace and enlightenment, an individual's self, or its development, or both, are sacrificed. As a matter of fact, by positing the trait of "unsocial sociability" in man, Kant believes that the very force driving an individual to satisfy her or his egoistic interests, desires, and whims would serve to spur humanity from stagnation and sloth. Human affairs progress from the worse to the better, Kant theorizes, as a result of suffering and learning from the violence and distress that individuals inflict upon each other. What drives humans to improve and develop themselves at the same time causes the evils as recorded through the ages, which are manifestations of individuals' ways to satisfy--or, at least, to give expressions of--their egoistic interests, desires, and whims at the price of conflict, strife, or even war. Kant writes,
The fatal flaw of this argument is that by the development of self, it is meant the control and harmonization of chaotic passions and internal upheavals, not their unleashing and unbridled celebration, as Kant suggests. The mastery, perfection, and creation of self--culminating in giving style to it--have nothing to do with conflict, violence, distress, or evil which are the manifestations (bridled or unbridled) of chaotic passions and internal upheavals. The development of self would raise an individual's state of consciousness, spirituality and creativity; s/he would overcome her or his former "unsocial" self, to use Kant's term. The Ubermensch would grow up from and out of man's "unsocial sociability." Moreover, as the Ubermensch stands apart from and outside of the history process, her or his learning from and growth out of "unsocial sociability" would play no role in and contribute nothing to the progress or unfolding of human affairs. This line of reasoning is a non-starter. Kant's theory of man's "unsocial sociability" does not reconcile his teleological perspective of human history with an individual's development of self.
In order to synthesize Nietzsche's intense concern with an individual's development of self and Kant's teleological view of human history, so that human rights do not come to mean the end of personal growth, one would do well to look at "an answer to the question 'what is Enlightenment?'" According to Kant, "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity." 81 He urges an individual to develop her- or him- self and grow up from "self-incurred immaturity"; the motto of enlightenment is a dictum: "Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding! [without guidance of another]." The significance of Kant's motto amounts to and harmonizes with that of the Ubermensch's dictum that tells an individual to become who s/he is. An individual's overcoming of the inartistic and the unphilosophic through the development of self may not necessarily (will, in fact, most unlikely) make her or him into a Goethe or a Socrates--who are admired by Nietzsche for not only their superior reason but cultivating of the mind also. Such overcoming and development of self would, however, absolutely free--i.e. release--her or him from "self-incurred immaturity."
Furthermore, as an individual grows out of and away from her or his "self-incurred immaturity," s/he would be on the way to think and act freely, i.e. achieve self-sufficiency and attain enlightenment. To be enlightened is to embrace in oneself and spread to another, elaborates Kant, "the spirit of rational respect for personal value and for the duty of all men to think for themselves." 82 These praiseworthy qualities harmonize and accord with those valued by Nietzsche. Socrates and Goethe exemplify the greatest critic/philosopher and the greatest poet/artist, respectively, for their embodiment of--Nietzsche's--" new" virtues. As Kaufmann elucidates in his chapter "The Death of God and the Revaluation," what Nietzsche had in mind by these virtues are "honesty, courage--especially moral courage--generosity, politeness, and intellectual integrity." 83 These qualities that Nietzsche praises are the very same ones that Kant urges an individual to achieve and attain as a result of releasing her- or him- self from self-incurred immaturity and embracing and spreading the spirit of enlightenment. What Kant finds missing in "immature" individuals concurs with what Nietzsche lauds in the "enlightened" ones.
In relation to human rights, the enlightenment of man--as an individual and then slowly as a species--is the linchpin that ties together Kant's belief in the ultimate telos of human history and Nietzsche's intense concern with a person's development of self. The work and example that an enlightened individual--or Ubermensch in Nietzsche's term--embraces and spreads would slowly improve a people's mentality and help them grow out of their "self-incurred immaturity." Such individuals embody and teach a people "the spirit of rational respect for personal value and for the duty of all [wo/]men to think for themselves," whether it be through works of art such as Goethe's masterpieces or by setting an example of intellectual integrity as Socrates who sacrificed his life rather than his stance. Slowly overtime a people would learn from what these individuals left behind. A people would develop their collective self--as would individuals create and master themselves--and grow out of their immaturity. They would come to value self-sufficiency and independence. They eventually would think and act freely for themselves--albeit not without concomitant violence and distress as Kant theorizes. They would arrive to the point of "even influenc[ing] the principles of governments [such that the governments] themselves [would] profit by treating man who is more than a machine, in a manner appropriate to his dignity." 84
The instrument that guarantees and protects the dignity of man as seen is human rights. More than ever, the norms and standards embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights need to be enforced and complied with throughout the world. The reasons, in short, boil down to governments' unenlightened policies, not an individual's self-incurred immaturity. Human rights as ideas exist because enlightened individuals have conceived of them and legislated them in a charter--now recognized by all states--in order to seek to influence governments' policies and principles. States and their governments have long treated man in an unenlightened manner, inappropriate to his dignity. From a teleological perspective, however, steps have been taken and made which go beyond and above the view of man as a creature enslaved by animal instincts or a machine without mind or spirit. For man the species, some self-incurred immature ideas have been overcome--because of the works and examples of the enlightened few, or the Ubermensch in Nietzsche's term, who create art and philosophy of and in themselves despite of the violence and distress engendered by the mindless and the poor-in-spirit. One such idea is human rights. As attempt at a self-criticism--to use Nietzsche's term for self-assessment--the setup of a thesis, then antithesis, and finally synthesis seem artificial and forced. Coherence and flow of thought and structure are sacrificed for a dichotomy whose nature is suspect and perhaps even false. The choice of opposing Kant to Nietzsche needs explanation. Well-founded and justifiable are those points above. The "false dichotomy" setup serves to highlight Kant's teleological view of human history in contrast to Nietzsche's supra-historical approach. Drawing from the critical power and many passionate perspectives of Nietzsche's philosophy, as it is expounded in and epitomized by his aphoristic writings, the paper questions and seeks to undermine Kant's faith in human nature and optimistic belief in progress.
Not necessarily a sustained criticism, the paper presents a critical examination of Kant's conception of telos. It exploits Nietzsche's intense concern with an individual's development of self as a means to undermine Kant's cosmopolitan view of human affairs. Nietzsche's evaluation and postulate of humanity's goal as being lied in its highest exemplars illuminate the blind spot in Kant's teleological perspective. Subsuming under the all-encompassing term of progress of the human species as a whole, an individual's cry for space to voice her or his uniqueness, or to develop and create her- or him- self, or both, is neglected--and denied, or even crushed and buried. This neglect of an individual's self (development) is the danger of seeing humans abstractedly and primarily as a collective body whose history is devoid of exemplars, as Kant conceptualizes in his universal history with a cosmopolitan purpose and sketch for a perpetual peace.
The paper objects at face-value that peace and enlightenment would or could be achieved at the expense of neglecting an individual's development of self. Observing the categorical imperative and its corollary which calls for an individual to respect the humanity in her- or him- self and others by enforcing and complying with the standards and norms embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a person's dignity is protected and guaranteed. S/He would be able to enjoy a life worthy of the status of being human. What has to be born in mind, however, is that human rights govern and concern the relations of an individual with fellow wo/men and to a state. They do not concern--i.e. neglect--an individual's development of self that Nietzsche would "command," in the form of an aphoristic dictum, every person to have the utmost interest in. To overcome the inartistic and the unphilosophic (chaotic passions and internal upheavals) by giving style to one's self is equally important to and as much a moral duty as treating and respecting the humanity in oneself and fellow wo/men.
It is worthwhile, then, at this point, to compare Kant's categorical imperative with Nietzsche's reminder (styled in relief) for an exceptional individual when dealing with her or his less gifted brethren. An exceptional individual simply does not have the right to treat with disdain the less gifted. S/He has instead the "duty" to respect even more deeply the less gifted than would s/he with peers. Nietzsche emphasizes:
Nietzsche's reminder of the duty of an exceptional individual converges with Kant's categorical imperative which reminds every individual of her or his moral duty to treat humanity, whether in her- or him- self, or in others, as an end and never as a mere means. In relation to human rights, where Nietzsche and Kant meet and concur is the duty of an individual (exceptional or not) to treat with respect peers and fellow wo/men. As a rule, it is simply the duty of every person; s/he is called to perform this duty simply and solely because it is the rule of being human. As a corollary of the rule, observing the norms and standards of human rights serve to ensure a person's dignity would not be violated.
As far as real and practical applications are concerned in today's world, what matters most and attracts attention in the news is the relation of an individual to a state. A person's relation with another person falls under and is legislated by a state's internal body of laws. Such a conception of the jurisdiction of human rights is being challenged, however, as trial experts in the Pinochet case argue that international conventions govern and cover human rights everywhere 86 . Pinochet has been tried outside of Chile, and most recently (as of February 15, 2000) Hissene Habre 87 has been placed under house arrest in Senegal on torture charges and human rights violations committed during his dictatorship of Chad. In spite of being a former head of state, both Pinochet and Habre are charged with and now placed under house arrest in England and Senegal, respectively, for the violations of human rights. Besides the Spaniards, the governments of Italians, Swiss, French, and Germans who had "disappeared" have filed suits in British courts on the behalf of their respective citizens against the erstwhile Chilean dictator. International human rights groups and Chadian survivors of torture have filed criminal complaints against the exiled former dictator of Chad.
Presenting a traditional thesis-antithesis-synthesis argument, the paper analyzes the contemporary issue of human rights on grounds of theoretical significance relating to human nature, history, and morality as Kant and Nietzsche had considered them in philosophical terms. The original contribution of the paper is that working within (the terms and parameters of) Kant's and Nietzsche's philosophical thought concerning man and morality, it draws out their consequences and implications and connects them with human rights. This task is accomplished by a critical evaluation of human rights. Neither a "pro" nor "con" argument, the paper fuses the two halves by diffusing Kant's belief in telos with Nietzsche's hypothesis of eternal recurrence. As a corollary of Kant's categorical imperative, human rights serve as an instrument for the protection and guarantee of an individual's dignity. Similarly, the theoretical basis of human rights are grounded on the same philosophical concern that Nietzsche expresses when he reminds the exceptional human beings--the Ubermensch--of their duty as a rule to treat with respect and kindness (especially) towards the less gifted, not their peers only.
As for a position on the moral and philosophical issues, the paper accepts and embraces Kant's and Nietzsche's sense of duty (defined in terms of either the categorical imperative of being human or the rule as a virtue of being exceptional) towards peers and fellow wo/men. It rejects, however, the former's comforting faith in the telos of man as much as it contests the latter's disenchanted view of human beings. (According to the "scientific hypothesis" of eternal recurrence, a person's life is destined to repeat itself now and ever in an interminable loop of an impregnable cosmos, i.e. a universe that cannot be overcome.) The one seems dismal, the other too distant--both sublime.
Note 2:Kant is generally accepted as the "father" of liberal peace in international relations literature. See also Kant and Political Philosophy 1993, Paton 1947, Sullivan 1989, and Henkin 1989. Back.
Note 40:Kant Political Writings, p.219. This point harks back to the Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History. As indicated in the beginning of the paper, Kant posits and maintains that the true end of Providence and the ultimate destiny of man is not happiness but "incessant progress" which finds its fullest expression in "ever continuing and growing activity and culture." Back.
Note 56: During World War II certain civilians were killed indiscriminately and put in mass concentration because they were not considered "humans," i.e., not moral, rational beings worthy of sanction and respect. Back.
Note 57:Milne, 1986 150. It is not possible to produce within the scope of this paper an exposition of what Donnelly calls "philosophical anthropologies" that serve to ground human rights (1989 23). Henkin in the Age of Rights argues that human rights are a relatively new idea, being a product of "a modern kind of political society" (p.184; see also p.21). Both Felice and Donnelly posit that the source of human rights arises from the "inherent dignity" of being human, i.e. man's moral nature (Felice, p.17; Donnelly, pp.17, 19). Donnelly elaborates further, however, as he also examines the liberal approach to human rights and traces it to Locke; see p.90. As for Milne, the principle of justice is the foundation of all rights, and the right to life is the cornerstone of all moral status (pp.107, 114, 116, 121, 128, 129). Hence, the inquiry into the source of human rights is shifted from one whose emphasis being historical (Donnelly), moral (Felice and Donnelly), political (Henkin), to foundational by Milne This approach seems theoretically more promising and less uncertain than the inquiries into the "roots" of human rights in that the fundamental role of morality in human affairs, as Milne expounds, is "to provid[e] the necessary basis for trust between the members [of a community], without which they would be unable to carry on the various forms of cooperation" (p.36). Morality, as it were, provides the idea of "doing the right thing" or the "right thing to do." In terms of a basis for the foundation of human rights, it is arguable and conceivable that the concept of human rights (as a practical matter describing or prescribing relations between individuals, groups--communities or states--, or some combinations) can be grounded on the basis for trust that morality provides (Milne, pp.35-36, 102). Regardless of where their "roots" are located, for on theoretical grounds the question is ultimately one of infinite regress, in contemporary speeches and discourses, "all human rights are embedded in a social context" (emphasis original, Donnelly, p.20). It is therefore altogether groundless to articulate respecting or violating human rights outside of human community--a group, or as usually is the case in today's situation, a nation-state. Given that only within the context of a social community (a nation-state) can ideas of human rights (as prescriptions more than descriptions of the relations between an individual and a state) make sense and be implemented, one of their principal functions, as rights that every individual has simply because s/he is a human being, is to shape and determine the outcome of relations between individuals, groups, states, or some combinations of them. As such, then, human rights are an instrument--not mere moral ideals or social prescriptions--in service of protecting and guaranteeing the social conditions necessary for a dignified life, a life worthy of one's humanity (Donnelly, pp. 18, 68-69; Milne, p.124; Henkin, p.4). Human rights seek to replace the abstract ground rules governing the relations of an individual to a state by humanizing her/him, i.e. ensuring individuals are not sacrificed in the name of the "greater good of the state," or that their rights under the law, protected by a (republican) constitution, are not trampled upon and circumvented for "reasons of national security"--whose content is open to scrutiny and more rhetorical than reality based. An individual is seen (and is to be seen) as a human being with rights, entailing that her or his humanity should be treated with respect and dignity in such a way that the person is worthy of her or his status of parity with all rational beings. Individuals are not statistics of which governments keep track, not some faint figures to be categorized and filed away. Individuals are human beings whose collective numbers constitute the state's citizenry without which it cannot be--or exist, for it is senseless to speak of a state that has zero population, albeit memories of it and its past culture and civilization can be "re-discovered" in monuments and tombs. Furthermore, human rights open up the space for an individual so that the potential of her or his nature can be realized and have a chance to be fulfilled--i.e. to have one's humanity be respected. Human rights do not determine the goals and purposes of an individual, instead they stipulate those for a state such that the relation between an individual and a state is not abusive, repressive, or detrimental to an individual's development of her or his nature and enjoyment of her or his status of humanity. By way of acting as a protective shield against a state's power, human rights also serve instrumentally to realize human dignity. This is so because a right is not only an immunity claim against the state but also "an entitlement to a presumptive benefit" (Milne, p.120). The establishment of norms as those that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies serves as standards against which states measure their human rights practices; it is a crucial and formative step in creating new legal rights for every individual. The creation, or abolition, or alteration of human rights entails a (re-) configuration of the "presumptive benefits" to which all people as human beings are entitled. The list of human rights (as written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) can change over time and will certainly do. The implication of having a list of human rights in the relation between a individual and a state is that, and the point of posting any list at all of human rights--binding or non-binding--is that, it signals and "declares" in the language of rights a series of entitlements whose benefits are becoming pervasive and increasingly entrenched for every person. Back.
Note 64: There is arguably some attributable credit to the partition of human rights into various "generations" each of which is covered by a covenant of one type of another. This is demonstrably conceivable insofar as the ex-USSR and its satellite states were gross violators of their citizens' human rights as far as political or so-called "fundamental" human rights were concerned. It is unnecessary to repeat the litany of violations committed such as putting so-called "political" dissidents into Soviet or soviet-styled gulags. The merit of partition human rights into political and civil first, then social, economic, and cultural rights, and now solidarietal and fraternal rights seems to be that during the Cold War by holding the Soviets and their satellites responsible for human rights violations in the political and civil list, at least, pressures were being applied across the political divide and unanimously by all parties in the West. Some positive results were achieved, and it can be equally argued (rather sympathetically) that in the case of China today, encouraging results have been made albeit never adequately. Some "political" dissidents such as Dan Wang, Wei Lin have been released and freed due in part to their high profile cases--which naturally rise the questions on the thousands whose names and profiles are unknown to the world outside. The question of thousands whose names and profiles who are unknown and remain unknown to this day--at least through readily accessible reliable news sources--is brought up most prominently of late in the cases of Pinochet and an "African" Pinochet in the form of the exiled former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre. Aside from these two high-profile cases, it has to be kept in mind of the thousands of members of the so-called "out-lawed" group Falung Gong mushroomed in China are now locked prison, denied of their human rights. Back.
Note 67:For commentaries and arguments pro and con on attempts to strip human rights down to the core, the minimum, or the basic, see Henkin, p.5 (core); Milne, p.124 (minimum); Donnelly, pp.41, 69 (minimum); Shue, p.11 (basic); Felice, p.32 (generations). Back.
Note 71:Ubernensch is retained and preferred over the translations "overman" or "superman" in order to (1) avoid the confusion as a result of using the translated terms which convey nuances different from the German, and (2) highlight and remain faithful to Nietzsche's conception which translations inescapably dilute and lose some of the flavors and connotations. Back.
Note 76:In the section "on Self-Overcoming," Nietzsche underlines this idea: And life itself confided this secret to me: "Behold," it said, "I am that which must always overcome itself" (emphasis original, Zarathustra, II, 12, The Portable Nietzsche, p.227). Kaufmann explains that "[m]an is something that should be overcome-and the man who has overcome himself has become an overman" (1974 309). In the Prologue, it is introduced that "[s]elf-overcoming . . . is the key to Nietzsche" (1974 16). Back.
Note 77:William F. Felice's Taking Suffering Seriously (1996) shifts the debate to the "concept of collective human rights" that embraces and covers the "totality of the human experience," which hitherto has ignored group rights that "address major spheres of human suffering in today's world" (p.3). Group rights include those based on class, race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Back.
Note 79:"On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life," Nietzsche stresses that "the goal of humanity cannot lie in its end but only in its highest exemplars" (emphasis original), Untimely Meditations, II, 9. Back.