Rights and Wrongs

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Herman Kuehn

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By Willard Cross.

Rights are right. Hence Kuehn is wrong. He does not see Natural Rights. But there are many phenomena of Nature that Kuehn does not see. His failure to see does not mean that what he fails to see has no existence.

True, Kuehn does not profess to be a philosopher. He makes no pretense to be troubled about metaphysical niceties. He declares himself concerned only as to the common good. Well, from the standpoint of the common good we must grant him his point. That the assertion of natural rights always .leads to clashes. But what of it? Arc clashes to be avoided? Docs not humanity progress because of its clashes?

If it be peace we want, and are willing to enjoy it at the expense of Truth, that's another matter. Yet no one wants peace at such a price.

But even in the interests of peace we need not truckle to error. Men have natural rights. To assert this finds so instant a response in the perception of all men that it requires no proof. Now, if to assert these rights makes for war and we prefer peace, all we need do is to waive our rights in the interest of peace.

Jesus, whose sayings and activities Kuehn likes to cite gave his life for those he loved. But that does not imply that he gave up his natural rights to life. He may have been fully conscious of his rights and waived them deliberately. He was the prince of peaoe and yet declared that he had brought a sword. And history is written in vain if it fail to convince us that man has gained more from war than from peace. Hence my voice is still for war. And if the doctrine of natural rights produces war, so much the better. And, furthermore, if there were, or could be, any doubt about men having natural rights, and there were nothing else so capable of provoking hostility, it would behoove us to stifle such doubts. And did that doubt ever grow so potent as to overthrow our belief in natural rights he would be the benefactor of his kind who would teach us to restore our reverence for the doctrine.

  • Willard Cross, “Rights and Wrongs,” To-Morrow 3, no. 2 (February 1907): 70-71.