We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
What makes belief in inviolable or natural rights reasonable? It is not enough to argue that each individual possesses an inalienable inviolability because all are, as Rawls holds in both A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, free and equal persons. Or that our inalienable inviolability flows from our moral capacity to form and act on rational life plans. Neither our natural freedom and equality nor our capacity to form, choose, and act on rational life plans rules out that conquest and dominion over others represents the best use of our freedom. When all is said and done, the mature Rawls’s epic intellectual labors do not illuminate this fundamental perplexity. Indeed, those labors obscure the perplexity, even as the difficulties are diminished — though they are far from overcome — by the young Rawls’s theological doctrine. Inasmuch as it conceives of man as in but not entirely of the natural world, and possessing a spiritual dimension or soul for which he is not responsible but which is of ultimate worth and allows him to transcend determination by nature, the young Rawls’s doctrine fortifies a liberalism whose guiding thought is that of an inalienable inviolability possessed by all individuals. Such considerations provide more than ample reason for scholars to vigorously open or reopen the question of Rawlsian liberalism’s — and the larger liberal tradition’s — religious roots.
The analysis is interesting, but largely irrelevant.
Those who founded this country declared it their belief - our belief - that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable (not inalienable ; there is a difference) rights, and because that Declaration was unanimously passed, we, as a nation, entered into a pact based on the premises it contained.
We can, and likely will, discuss endlessly why that conclusion was reached and embodied in the Declaration; but there is nothing to discuss about whether that conclusion was reached, and whether we then agreed, by compact, to abide by that conclusion. If it is thought that there is no longer such a consensus between and among us as citizens of this nation, then someone should stand up and proclaim that, understanding that the burden of proof, of persuasion, will be theirs to carry.
And that would be a debate worth having, perhaps continuously and perpetually.
Cavell comes down on Rawls a lot, most notably in the excellent Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionsim and a bit in the much earlier The Claim of Reason, both searcheable online now, the former at googlebooks and the latter at Amazon.