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54 Emory L.J. 171 (2005)
The Consequences of Human Rights Foundationalism

handle is hein.journals/emlj54 and id is 1525 raw text is: THE CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FOUNDATIONALISM
Robert A. Schapiro*
INTRODUCTION
Michael Perry's immense, rich body of work spans many legal fields. He
is one the leading scholars of jurisprudence and of constitutional law. He has
exposed the deepest philosophical underpinnings of the law and has explored
the proper institutional framework for instantiating these fundamental
principles. The breadth and depth of his work is astounding.
The characteristically subtle and provocative article, The Morality of
Human Rights: A Nonreligious Ground?,l represents the philosophical side of
his scholarship. By way of response, this Essay reflects on the applications of
the project he has presented.        I am   interested in tracing    some of the
consequences of the position he espouses.          Perry insists on locating the
foundations of the concept of human rights. His article asks whether a
nonreligious principle can ground human rights. The answer he provides is
No. Rather than directly engaging that answer, this Essay seeks to question
the question. Why should one seek the foundation for human rights? Why
should the question that Perry suggests be pursued?
One response is that Perry is following the highest calling of a scholar: He
is pursuing truth, wherever it may lie. His search for truth leads him to a
particular conclusion, that only a religious ground can provide a foundation for
human rights. Perry, however, suggests an additional answer, that locating the
2
foundation for human rights helps to promote human rights. The goal is not
* Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law. My thanks to Dean Thomas Arthur, Professor
John Witte, Jr., the Emory Law Journal, and the other organizers of this Symposium, The Foundations of Law.
I am grateful for the skilled research assistance of Robert McKeehan and Matthew Spivey. Terry Gordon and
Will Haines of the Emory University School of Law Library also provided valuable assistance. Special
appreciation is due to Michael Perry for his scholarship, inspiration, and collegiality.
1 Michael J. Perry, The Morality of Human Rights: A Nonreligious Ground?, 54 EMORY L.J. 97 (2005).
2 See id. at 104-05 (The claim that all human beings have inherent dignity needs to be defended.); id.
at 146-48.

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