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Human Rights and Philosophical Foundations in Jacques Maritain

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), regarded as the most important Catholic philosopher and theologian of the 20th century, was also the leading representative of the philosophical and theological movement called Neo-Thomism started in the last quarter of the 19th century by the Roman Catholic Church. Neo-Thomism, which aims to end the regression of Catholicism spread over hundreds of years in philosophical, scientific, and political spheres based on the thoughts of Thomas Aquinas, resulted in a remarkable transformation in society and political understanding of the Catholic teaching starting from the midst of the 20th century. Catholic layman Maritain was the one who contributed the most to this transformation, moreover, who significantly determined its direction and content. One of Maritain's main contributions to the mentioned transformation was the relevance he established between Catholicism and the idea of contemporary human rights. Maritain's theory of human rights was based on Aquinas' teaching of natural rights, who became the first official philosopher of the Catholic Church with Neo-Thomism in one sense, and related it to the teaching of natural rights that was not included in Thomas. Another foundation of Maritain's theory of human rights was Christian personalism, which again found its origins mostly in Thomas. Maritain tried to avoid the extremism of collectivist ideologies that prioritize society or the state with liberalism's self-centered understanding of the individual, based on the human as a person and their value. The idea that human was valuable as a person was not only in the foundation of Maritain's theory of human rights, but also the philosophies of politics, society, and government.


Jacques Maritain, Neo-Thomism, Personalism, Natural Law, Human Rights.


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