Kevin Flannery, S.J.Pontifical Gregorian University
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In discussions of the history of the philosophy of human rights, typically a distinction is made between theories that understand rights as objective and those that understand them as subjective (or, to use a more contemporary term, more “personalistic”). This talk relates this issue to the history of reflection, especially by Christian thinkers leading up to the thirteenth century, regarding conscience. It argues ultimately that Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of conscience, influenced as it is by Aristotle, entails an understanding of human rights that is primarily objective. It concludes with a few remarks about the advantages of such an understanding.
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Kevin Flannery, SJ, is Ordinary Professor of the History of Ancient Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he previously served as Dean of the Philosophy Faculty. Fr. Flannery is the author of many works on ethics and on the history of logic, including Acts Amid Precepts: The Aristotelian Logical Structure of Thomas Aquinas's Moral Theory. He received his DPhil from the University of Oxford.