Reference : Hans Kelsen and Claude Lefort: On Human Rights and Democracy
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Paper published in a book
Arts & humanities : Philosophy & ethics
Hans Kelsen and Claude Lefort: On Human Rights and Democracy
Lefort, Elisabeth mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Re-Thinking Europe. Book Series. Volume 2
Acosta, Emiliano
Rethinking Europe III
December 2014
Emiliano Acosta
[en] Otherness ; Modernity ; Universality ; Humanism ; Lefort ; Kelsen
[en] In order to raise the question of a potential compatibility between the awareness of Otherness on the one hand, and a form of universality on the other, some hypotheses should first be formulated and defined.
1) How does moral relativism equate to the rejection of universal discourses?
2) Consequently, how can this rejection be understood as a result of Modernity?
3) How can Modernity be understood as recognition of Otherness?
The current paper will attempt to outline some answers to these questions based on a comparative reading between Kelsen and Lefort.
Firstly, in order to explicate the main lines of the Kelsenian relativistic axiology it seems crucial to consider his second edition of the Pure Theory of Law, since one can find within it the grounds for a limitation of human cognition. His Farewell Lecture, “What is justice?”, is also relevant to this theme since in it he claims that the human world is a world of relative and conflicting values. The combination of these two ideas leads to the rejection of Universalist discourses – identified with the ones of Natural Law theories – in the name of science.
Secondly, three of Lefort’s articles seem to be relevant. The first, “The Image of the Body and Totalitarianism”, enables us to understand his symbolic political philosophy, and more importantly, to introduce his definition of Modernity. “Dissolution of Marks and Democratic Challenge” focuses more on the concept of moral relativism, whilst interpreting it as a consistent reaction to modern indeterminacy. Finally, “Politics and Human Rights” offers a restricted concept of Human Rights, reminiscent of Hannah Arendt’s views, namely that human rights mean the rights to have rights.

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