Nicholas Wolterstorff ponders the fate of human rights over the long haul.
One has to distinguish, in reflecting on the fate of natural human rights, between short range and the long haul. I don’t think … I don’t see in the short range any particular danger to recognising the rights, the dignity of all human beings. But if most of our society becomes convinced that there’s just no way to account for the dignity of these marginal human beings, of these impaired human beings, I think after a while they are going to begin to say, but they maybe don’t have any dignity. If we’ve got no explanation, and if that goes on for quite some time, I think a natural response – not immediate – is to say, well maybe they don’t have any dignity.
You know, philosophers – and other people, but certainly philosophers; I’m a philosopher … philosophers can live for a long time with concepts, ideas, that they firmly believe in but they can’t explain – obligation, whatever – but at a certain point you say, hmm, I wonder if maybe I’m living with an illusion here. Maybe my inability to give any sort of account is because there’s nothing there to account for.