In response to the fascinating (and utterly predictable, in my circles) exchange dicentra details below
As dicentra knows, her interlocutor’s “dialogue” is but a typical grad-level regurgitation of anti-foundationalism applied to politics in an effort to lazily and cleverly pull a PhD from the leftists who wish to see capitalism replaced by liberal fascism, which they will always claim is a stepping stone to egalitarian communism, but which never arrives there, given the necessity of the more clever pigs to manage the rest of the farm. Dicent was absolute right to identify the rhetoric and call it sophistry — and her interlocutor (like Stanley Fish) embraces that label, in a strange way– but what the interlocutor misses (or else brackets, knowing that a conscious acknowledgment of what is a rather obvious flaw in the “argument”) is that’s it’s sophistry that is itself elevated to dogma. Just a different dogma than the property / labor correlation that is a precondition of individual autonomy.
Ironically, I bet dicentra’s interlocutor would find the fruits of this banal and totally predictable PhD thesis very much his or hers. And thereby viscerally refute the cold and dispassionate “examination” of the building blocks of “truth” that refute the certainty of property/labor connectedness,
And besides, the answer to the posed non-problem discussed at length here is an easy one, and one I’ve discussed here before: You don’t need to believe in God, or nature, or whatever outside force MAN CLAIMS leads to certain truths being self evident.
All you have to do is agree to the man-made restriction on the power of men over other men — by creating a category of unalienable rights, and then agreeing as part of the social compact to accept those preconditions as a foundation plank in the political framework.
You don’t need proof, because “proof’” in this regard is metaphysical, and God and Nature both seem done with stone tablets or egret tracks spelling out scripture.
There is no final arbiter of metaphysical truth available to us — otherwise the certainty of God or something approaching that concept would be settled, and faith would be moot — because we are by nature separated from that category, whether you believe it to be real or whether you’ve agreed to accept it as the controlling part of our political system.
So. In the end, what dicentra’s interlocutor is saying is that without that agreement, codified and ratified in the Constitution after having been spelled out and signed in the Declaration, there is no actual provable basis for the central tenets of the agreement.
To which your perfect reply, doy, settled the matter. Because it is itself a tautology attempting to illuminate a supposed tautology that isn’t: because again, the fact of a God or Nature creating natural rights is secondary to the agreement that this is a fundamental truism in the social and political compact upon which this country was born and established.
Thesis person is falling back on again what is a very trivial postmodernist observation, namely, that things as they are and “truth” are different things (under their dogmatic formulation), because to posit “truths” you must have language, and language is the creation and tool of man (they assert). Therefore, it follows that all “truths” are man-made, while “things as they are” are not.
It’s Rorty and consensus — irony, contingency, solidarity — one on one. It’s Hayden White’s historicism reified.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. Whether you believe in the idea of natural rights being bestowed by God, or natural rights being identified and proffered by man as a way to keep the powerful from attempting to take on the role of God (that is, as a check on the very idea that, because metaphysical certainty can’t be reached, all other possibilities need be given equal weight) — the Statist agenda being just so, frustrated time and again by the compact that made our country — you are agreeing to the attendant corollaries as a form of evidence within the framework of the contract.
This person’s PhD can be boiled down to this: if America wasn’t founded the way it was, it might be different. So I believe we should challenge the way America was founded, beat it over the head with postmodernist cant, then do it my way.
Which cannot then be challenged, and is mine. All things being relative, except of course my argument, which finalizes and fixes as truth the certainty of relativism. Dogmatically.
It’s self-aggrandizement masquerading as sophisticated thinking. When what it really is is sophistic thinking.
Which is sadly what passes for knowledge these days — and as a political ideal, provided your pant crease is just so.