This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Rights imply relation

St. Thomas Aquinas said that “right is the object of justice.”[1] It is here that we can see the social or relational aspect of the right, since justice implies two parties. Insofar as a man is bound by justice, he is bound in a relationship, even if we reduce this relationship to its most primordial level, such as the original relation between creature and Creator. What follows from this observation is that there is really no such thing as a purely “individual” right which one claims for oneself against the claims of others and which is owed to him absolutely without distinction and unconditionally. Just as there are two parties in the relationship, there are two aspects of justice, and the right is only one of them—the other aspect being duty. If duty is neglected, the concept of right is undermined from the start. Nicholas Gomez-Davila struck at the heart of this confusion when he lamented: “It has become customary to proclaim rights in order to be able to violate duties.”[2] To violate one’s own duty is automatically to violate the rights of another.

[1] ST II-II, q. 57, a. 1.

[2] Scholia to an Implicit Text, 2587.

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