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to prohibit ideas which theaten its fabric or even stray beyond its boundaries. The feeling is generally an uneasy one, for it is hard to see how it can be reconciled with the feeling for toleration and the belief in human rights, or with the necessity for change in outlook and social structure.

However, there is one fact which the framers of Declarations of Human Rights and the social philosophers have perhaps not taken sufficiently into account, and that is the rise of natural science and the scientific method in the modern era. The scientific method involves suspension of judgment and the willingness to change opinion in the face of new facts. But – and this is often neglected – it also leads to the building up of a permanent and growing body of established fact. It is the only way in which certain essential kinds of truth can be discovered, but the truth is never absolute and never complete. Science is the only way of increasing our knowledge of the phenomenal world: but is does so by disclaiming any finality for its results.

In addition, the rise of evolutionary science has necessitated our viewing all phenomenal existence, including human history, as part of an inevitable process of change, and is beginning to clarify the rôle of opinions and ideas in furthering that process in the human sphere.

I imagine that in this vital field of belief, opinion, information, and education, the conflict between freedom and restriction, between individual opinion and collective authority, will eventually be resolved by the building up of a broad framework of ideas which will be generally acceptable because it is based on tested knowledge in all relevant fields, which is fruitful of practical results because it is consonant with facts, and yet is flexible and tolerant within wide limits because it is founded on the flexible and tolerant methods of science.

One of the great intellectual inventions of man has been the working hypothesis, so fruitfully used in the natural sciences. A scientist conducts his experiments and makes his observations as if his working hypothesis were true, instead of only the most probable explanation that he can suggest at the moment. He may then find that it is true: but equally he may find it is not true, and he is always willing to scrap it or modify it, if the facts so demand. Here we have a pragmatic half-way house between the paralysis of complete indecision and the rigidity of absolute certitude, which would be very desirable and useful in the social sciences and in human affairs in general, where so often doctrine or dogma take the place of scientific hypothesis or theory, and there is an idolatry of the Absolute.

True freedom, as many philosophers and moralists have pointed out in various ways, consists not just in doing what you like (which implies servitude to your likings and cravings) or in exerting irresponsible preferences, but in discovering what is necessary on the highest and most comprehensive level, and then willingly performing that necessity. As we discover more truth, and make it more available, and if we utilize it more fully in education, freedom of opinion and belief will increasingly result in the acceptance of truth and rejection of error: a framework of ideas will become freely accepted by enquiring minds, and the restrictions on freedom of opinion and belief will become increasingly self-imposed.

However, such a consummation, though it must be believed in and worked for, will not be achieved in our time. Until that time arrives, we must rely on Declarations of Rights, on international Conventions or Covenants which legally bind their sig. natories to honour certain rights, and on national legislation and regulation which translate rights in terms of law and detailed practice.

Meanwhile we require a profounder and more comprehensive theoretical analysis of the problems involved in Human Rights, and a readiness to adjust our formulations to changing social and political conditions.

In pursuing these objectives, we must keep present in our minds the most comprehensive right of all, the right to individuality, always remembering that individuals do not come into being full-fledged but have to achieve whatever degree of individuality they may attain, by a long process of development. This process of development demands a suitable social environment, and should lead towards the formation of an integrated personality. Its satisfactory realization involves an increase in complexity, but also an increase in organization and unity which offsets the complexity and utilizes it to best advantage. And finally it involves the paradoxical process by which individuals attain their highest development and fulfilment by transcending both themselves and their individual limitations, and also the limitations of time and space and present social organization.

Until these implications of the paramountcy of the individual are fully grasped and their practical consequences embodied in law and custom, social structure and outlook, the affirmation of Human Rights will continue to be necessary to protect the individual against the oppressive tendencies of organized power.


Culture - a human right

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