Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Non-Truth of Self-Evident Truth

The great thinkers and speakers that I know have at least one thing in common: they keep repeating themselves. Their sayings and stories become like the classic tracks of an artist, which, while perhaps reinterpreted or redeveloped in new performances, will forever remain constitutive of who they are. What Like a Rolling Stone is to Bob Dylan, The Prodigal Son is to Jesus, or the Niels Bohr story is to Slavoj Zizek. In other words, continual originality is overrated.

Stanley Hauerwas is another who repeats himself. One of his classics is the track America is the only country that is founded on a philosophical mistake. That mistake? The concept of inalienable human rights. Alasdair MacIntyre calls it a "pseudo-concept" which we have as much reason to believe in as we do witches and unicorns. The reason he has no time for it is this: there are no self-evident truths.

I probably agree with Hauerwas and MacIntyre, but my question is this: How do we know that it's true that there are no self-evident truths?


  1. Please footnote this! I need it for an essay I've to write. :)

  2. The Hauerwas bit is from his essay 'Abortion, Theologically Understood,' but I'm guessing you already knew that one. MacIntyre talks about rights on p. 68ff of After Virtue [Second Edition]. He calls the concept of natural rights a "pseudo-concept" on p. 258