In a similar way, the acknowledgement of human rights – rights that all people are said to possess merely by virtue of being human – appears to be interdependent with the acknowledgement of a common humanity with them.
The same is true for the recognition of the “Dignity of Humanity” to which, we are told in preambles to important instruments of international law, an unconditional respect is owed, as it exists, inalienably, in every human being.
More often than not, we refer to the idea of a common humanity when we lament the failure of its acknowledgement. The forms of that failure are depressingly many: racism, sexism, homophobia, the dehumanisation of our enemies, of unrepentant criminals and those who suffer severe and degrading affliction.
This is an edited version of a lecture Raimond Gaita gave on Wednesday August 10 in the series The Wednesday Lectures, held at the University of Melbourne.