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Vazenios

Defining Individual Rights

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Rights are moral absolutes that identify freedom of action as a necessary component to man’s pursuit of life and happiness. 

Rights are conditions of existence X,  such that is X is denied or forbidden then one either will die or cease to exist as a human person.  For example slavery can reduce a human person to a mere meat machine incapable of choice or discernment. 

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In which case you agree with me - not all lies are rights violations.

 

It seems we agree with each other on some of these things.

 

Let me go back to your earlier question and try to parse it, and try to explain my thoughts a little better:

 

How are you distinguishing from rights violations and non-rights violations that are immoral? ... If I get lied to and I honestly deserve to know, that is a destruction of life on some level. I don't think that you believe lying is a rights violation, so in your formulation, where is the difference?

 

 

The question you raised is how do you distinguish between immoral acts that violate rights, and immoral acts that don't violate rights. And you brought up lying as an example. And you did seem to agree with me, at least in part, when you said that lying is "a destruction of life on some level." And you said that you don't believe lying is a rights violation. 

 

Then I argued that lying IS a rights violation, and I argued the case that lies promote a false or distorted view of reality, and therefore can lead to harm for the person acting on that false information. I gave fraud as an example, and some other kinds of examples.

 

I did make the mistake of making a blanket statement, and when the point was brought up that some lies may not end up harming someone, I clarified by stressing that they are a rights violation to the degree that they cause harm. 

 

And I think we agree on that, because you say now that:

 

Then it's better to say *some* lies are violations of rights.

 

 

And this is different than saying that lies cause "a destruction of life on some level" and yet are not a rights violation. Your statement was a blanket statement as well, and now that we've delved deeper I think we are finding more agreement. And this is a topic for me that I haven't thought about in all these terms before, so I'm learning and refining as we go. But I think my contention that lying is a rights violation to the degree that it causes harm, related to the objective value of life and a person's freedom to own life, is true.

 

So again, let's examine your question and look at what I think you are really asking: "How are you distinguishing from rights violations and non-rights violations that are immoral?"

 

I think what you're really asking is, "How can we call something 'immoral' if it doesn't violate someone's rights?" (If that's not what you were really trying to get at, then you may have to clarify again for me. I might be missing something.)

 

I think there are two reasons why lying is "immoral," whether it causes harm or not. And I think part of one answer to that question can be found if you ask yourself whether attempted murder is immoral, and why. We would say that attempted murder is still immoral because if the act were to be completed it definitely would cause harm. Therefore, immorality of it is due to its relation to the objective value of life (and the desire to end life). 

 

It's important to keep in mind that the way the concept and term "immoral" is used in the objectivist sense is, I believe, different than the way mystics use the term. It does not refer to a violation of some law-code established in relation to the nature of "sin" in reference to a relationship to a spiritual being or state. "Immoral" in the way I mean it is more akin to a negation of reality, including the objective reality that life is better than non life.

 

So why is a lie "immoral"? It's "immoral" (a negation of reality) because it directly negates reality, whether it is believed or not believed, causes harm or doesn't cause harm. Again, I think people slip back into that spiritual notion of "immorality," and that's where the disconnect happens. If "moralness" has simply to do with conforming to the objective nature of reality, then immorality is the negation of objective reality. And lying is a spoken negation of reality. And it can lead to harm, because if people believe the lies, they will arrange their life and their activities around those lies, to their own harm. Religions are a perfect example of this. Lying becomes a rights violation whenever it leads to a destruction of life or the necessary attributes that are a requirement for life (ability to own the self and property). Fraud happens to be a lie that is clearly seen as a rights violation -- because it directly leads to a theft of property. It's not a theft by force, it's a theft by lying and trickery.

 

One other point on this: Lying may not be a direct action by one person against another person that causes harm, in the way murder is. Instead, it is a trickery that causes a person to unknowingly cause harm to themselves. Again, fraud is a good example. 

 

This topic about lying is a bit of an aside to the main conversation we were having, namely what Rand meant about the relationship of rights to a social context. And I maintain that she was saying that rights exist "in" a social context, not that they exist "because" of (in an ontological sense) a social context. In other words that it's not the existence of other people (a social context) that give rights their ontological grounding. It's reality that give rights their grounding, but it's a social context that defines their purpose, because rights refer to the insurance that one person's values will not be taken away by other people. If there are no other people, rights have no meaning. 

 

Like I said above, I'm still parsing out objectivism and trying to ask the hard questions, understand it deeply, and apply it consistently. It's very likely that you'll help me refine my own thoughts. So I appreciate your input and where you think I'm off course.

Edited by secondhander

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The lie isn't that there are tickets to Mars, only that a trip to Mars was taken. 

 

..

 

You may need to clarify what you mean by "right to not be harmed".  What if the truth results in some kind of harm to you? 

 

Can you give an example of where someone telling you the truth can harm you? 

 

And if we take the trip to Mars lie example and put it in the real world, then there will be questions like: How was the trip was taken? Who built the ship? Can other people go? How can I go? If someone believes the trip to Mars lie, in the real world, and begins to spend money, time and resources to travel to Mars themselves, then they may be harmed. 

Edited by secondhander

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Can you give an example of where someone telling you the truth can harm you? 

 

Simple.  If I am a businessman with a criminal record and this gets reported it can harm my business.  That was easy. 

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Simple.  If I am a businessman with a criminal record and this gets reported it can harm my business.  That was easy. 

 

Are you saying that people owe you business, and that if they do not choose to buy from you then they are harming you? Because, while it would surely be harder for you to survive if people chose not to do business with you, I wouldn't say they are violating your right to your own life by freely choosing not to buy with you, as though your survival is their obligation. 

 

Second, it's not the true knowledge about you and your history that is harming you. It's other people's actions, if anything, done (or not done) toward you that you find unpleasant. This is a bit different from lying (like in the example of fraud), where you make decisions based on false information purposefully supplied to you. Yes your own actions are directly harming yourself when you get duped by a lie, but you are doing them because you have been tricked about the nature of reality. But when people relate or respond to you based on true information they have about you, then they may related to you in unpleasant and possible vile ways, but it's their own actions that are the cause, not the fact of the truth itself.

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And you did seem to agree with me, at least in part, when you said that lying is "a destruction of life on some level." And you said that you don't believe lying is a rights violation.


Any immoral action is a destruction of life at some level. Any rights violation is also destructive to life at some level. However, not all actions that are destructive to life apply to rights violations unless a person is literally prevented from evaluating a situation at all, like fraud. All I'm saying is that there are lies, but not all lies are created equal. Not all lies are rights violations. Not all immoral actions are rights violations. Lying is often destructive to life, except in a case like lying to hide people from Nazis. An example of immoral lying is "you look good in that outfit" when it's not.  You probably agree with that. Even some of the worst ways to act immorally, like racism, are harmful to people because it is an injustice, it's just that the harm doesn't stop thinking.

About the outfit lie, and someone did act on the information by wearing the outfit when they didn't intend to wear it if it is ugly. Is that a rights violation? If you say no, it just seems like there has to be more specification of what "act contrary to intention due to a lie" means. You don't have to believe a lie, but some lies are enough to call fraud. But it's not a rights violation because it does more harm than usual. Even you used a similar idea, by saying stealing a pen is a rights violation. Your example was that some cases just aren't severe enough to bother punishing, though. I'm saying that a lie isn't just in a category like stealing. Lies are too variable to consider to be a type of rights violation to the degree it causes harm. The outfit lie is harmful to a minor degree. The lie is 0% rights violation still no matter what happens. At least, not on the premises I am using, namely how I argued earlier about social context and needs to live in that context.


Lying becomes a rights violation whenever it leads to a destruction of life or the necessary attributes that are a requirement for life"


It would be best to phrase it as lying becomes *immoral* if it leads to the destruction of life on some level. What I keep saying is that you need to add "in a social context" for a lie to be a rights violation. What you say here is exactly right if you're talking about the broader category of moral action, but not a subcategory of rights violation. I don't quite think of it as an aside. If you'd like another example, can you come up with an immoral action that is not also a rights violation? Knowing what is a rights violation is just as important as what isn't.
 

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It would be best to phrase it as lying becomes *immoral* if it leads to the destruction of life on some level. What I keep saying is that you need to add "in a social context" for a lie to be a rights violation.

While that is generally true... there is a situation which falls outside of a "social context" where the lies people tell to themselves destroy their own lives. Although, in a broader sense, people lying to themselves is a logical extension of believing the lies of others as well as lying to others within that "social context".

 

"If you closely examine your chains, you will discover they were forged by your own hand."

 


 

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While that is generally true... there is a situation which falls outside of a "social context" where the lies people tell to themselves destroy their own lives. Although, in a broader sense, people lying to themselves is a logical extension of believing the lies of others as well as lying to others within that "social context".

 

"If you closely examine your chains, you will discover they were forged by your own hand."

I was going to respond that it is impossible to lie to one's self, one could evade a truth or fail to apprehend the truth of a thing even be simply ignorant of a fact, but really why bother.

I'm glad I didn't respond.

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