Patočka's Conception of the Subject of Human Rights

Idealistic Studies 41 (1-2):1-10 (2011)
Jan Patočka appears as a paradoxical figure. A champion of human rights, he often presents his philosophy in quite traditional terms. He speaks of the “soul,” its “care,” and of “living in truth.” Yet, in his proposal for an “asubjective” phenomenology, he undermines the traditional notion of the self that has such rights. The question that thus confronts a reader of Patočka is how to reconcile the Patočka who was a spokesman of the Charter 77 movement with the proponent of asubjective phenomenology. What, in fact, is the conception of selfhood that allows him both to affirm human rights and to deny what has been traditionally conceived as the subject of such rights? This conception, I argue, is that of the self as a specific “motion of existence.” By focusing on how, through motion, we actualize our humanity, he avoids both the naturalistic and the idealistic (subjective) conceptions of the self
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