This article deals with Bartolomé de Las Casas’ contribution to the notion of universal human rights. Though much study has been devoted to Las Casas’ work, what remains understudied is the Spanish philosopher’s conception of religion, which in many ways resembles what Kant called “the religion of reason.” For Las Casas, then, Christianity was conceived more as a rational system of ethics than as a compendium of Biblical and scholastic dogmas. Like the later Enlightenment philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Las Casas believed that all humans belonged to the same universal community of rational beings. By examining Las Casas together with Fichte, this article sheds further light on Las Casas’ anticipatory notions of moral agency, formal freedom, rational religion, and the rights of a free people against the use of coercion—regardless of their race, religion, or culture. They are the ideas underpinning his notion of universal human rights (Paulist and Thomist in nature), and his ethics of the Other, who “is just like me”: a rational, feeling human being, deserving of equal justice and rights.

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