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Kant on the Primacy of Human Rights

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Genuine politics cannot risk a step without first having demonstrated its fidelity to morality, and even though politics may justly be called a difficult art, its combination with morality is no art at all; for morality slices in two the knot which others flounder in the face of once they fall into squabbling. Human rights must be kept whole, no matter what that may cost the powers that be. In this case there must be no compromise, no median worked out between pragmatically oriented rights (between rights and utilitarianism)–all politics must bend its knee before human rights, and only in this fashion may politics ever aspire to reach the stage where it will illuminate humanity.

Immanuel Kant, Zum ewigen Frieden – Anhang II (1795) in: Sämtliche Werke vol. 5, p. 703 (Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst ed. 1927)(S.H. transl.)

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