🔒 The Modernization of Duties

The conventional belief about the well-known dichotomy of duties and rights is that the former are premodern and the latter are modern. Some have celebrated “the age of rights” while others express concern that modernity takes “rights talk” too far. There is a human rights movement, as if duties require none. The last American secretary of state ostentatiously called together a “Commission on Inalienable Rights,” but no one would ever say that the president he served took personal or political duties seriously. And while some philosophers have been subtle in recognizing that any right implicates a duty, our recent thinkers have mostly battled about how to justify the various rights that moderns claim. Conservative oracles instruct that rights come from God or nature (the Roman Catholics among them having overcome their modern anxiety that rights were liberal and relativistic), while liberals have bickered about whether to establish their foundations in

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