Study day “The Religious Foundation of Human Rights: Georg Jellinek (1851-1911)”, June 9th, 2017

On June 9th, 2017, a study day with Francesco Ghia (Professor for Political Philosophy at the University of Trento) on the topic “The Religious Foundation of Human Rights: Georg Jellinek (1851-1911)” was hosted by the department of Fundamental Theology in collaboration with the research platform RaT. The centre of the talk was the renowned Austrian philosopher and theorist of constitutional law Georg Jellinek. In his lecture Francesco Ghia elaborated on Jellinek’s understanding of law as “ethical minimum”, which, however, always remains dependent upon a given ethos which cannot be produced but only recognized by law. The main topic was Jellinek’s historical reconstruction of the origins of the rights of the individual, which rejected the contemporarily common ascription of the human rights of the Déclaration from 1789 to Rousseau’s influence.
According to Jellinek human rights, with their emphasis on individual freedom and equality, are more likely to have their foundation in the religious freedom of the American Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, whose nonpolitical but religious origin lies in Protestantism. Jellinek’s interpretation of the religio-historical genesis of human rights was emphasized, on the one hand, in order to demonstrate the relevance of Jellinek’s approach of looking for the importance of religious phenomena where they are not suspected at first. On the other hand, the thesis of a religious origin of political rights became the starting point for further discussions on the necessity of the self-limitation of the state with respect to the ethical domain of conscience, whereby the current relevance of this self-limitation reaches up to the threat of the loss of the difference between the public and the private sphere in the postmodern era.