Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Asker of Questions

The right to one's life: where does it come from?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Your life is a value to you, just like the money in your wallet. You can lose it if you fail to use your mind properly. It even has an expiration date (whatever that date may be) which means that you can spend it; you can spend it wisely or foolishly and nobody else can spend it for you.

It's different from any other value, though, because there aren't any values without it. Without your life there isn't any good or any bad (as far as you're concerned); there's just nothing. So the fact that you can value things at all depends on your life; it's the ultimate value which makes all the others possible.

You've only got one life to live and it's up to you to really LIVE it.

You don't have to make that a priority, of course; you're free to squander your life on whatever aimless whims you please. If you do you'll be your own victim and your own murderer, when you're done, and you'll deserve whatever you suffer for it.

If you choose to accept the responsibility of LIFE to the fullest then the standard which separates right from wrong is very simple:

Whatever you do in order to live a long and prosperous life is good; whatever you do to waste it is evil.

The beauty of it is that, in this equation, "prosperous" means whatever YOU think it should mean, as long as you're thinking about it logically! Every egoist on Earth will have a slightly different idea of it and only YOU can rationally figure out what it would mean for YOU to prosper!

"Rights" only enter into it when we ask ourselves how we can live long and prosper together, as a civilized society. However, I strongly recommend that you really chew on this idea of morality before you jump into that.

There's a speech by Yaron Brook about selfishness which is absolutely amazing.

Also, I don't know if you've ever heard The Nights by Aviici, but it's equally amazing in a musical form.

:thumbsup:

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just want to point out, in case anyone new to Objectivism is reading this, that the OP Harrison's post above is probably not intended for people who don't have some background with the Objectivist arguments for egoism and capitalism. The arguments in the OP Harrison's post above are all solid if you know what he's talking about, but there are a lot of suppressed premises.

 

Edit: Oh wait, this is page 2 of the thread! Sorry, I was referring to Harrison's post.

Edited by William O

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HD said:

 

If you choose to accept the responsibility of LIFE to the fullest then the standard which separates right from wrong is very simple:
Whatever you do in order to live a long and prosperous life is good; whatever you do to waste it is evil.
 

 

 

 

A question for everyone:

 

Is there an essentially differentiating characteristic that can be isolated between these two instances of "right"? :

 

Is it right for me to take any form of life to sustain my own? 

 

Do I have a right to sustain my life thorough the exploitation of other living things?

 

Or

 

I did the right thing by hunting when I was alone on the island without food.

 

I had every right to hunt when I had no one to trade with for food.

 

HD said:

 

 

If you choose to accept the responsibility of LIFE to the fullest then the standard which separates right from wrong is very simple:
Whatever you do in order to live a long and prosperous life is good; whatever you do to waste it is evil.

The beauty of it is that, in this equation, "prosperous" means whatever YOU think it should mean, as long as you're thinking about it logically! Every egoist on Earth will have a slightly different idea of it and only YOU can rationally figure out what it would mean for YOU to prosper!
 

 

Are you trying to point at a difference between survival and flourishing?

Edited by Plasmatic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

A question for everyone:

 

Is there an essentially differentiating characteristic that can be isolated between these two instances of "right"? :

...

 

The question, "is it right", asks is it correct and proper to being what you are.

The question, "do I have the right", asks is it justifiable.

 

It is right for you to take actions necessary for your survival, but not your right to act unilaterally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you trying to point at a difference between survival and flourishing?

Yes and no.

I'm assuming the difference between survival and flourishing. In particular I was trying to outline what "flourishing" is, there. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for it; each of us has to decide what it means to us, but it's not just whatever we feel like; we have to make that decision in accordance with certain rules (epistemology).

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just want to point out, in case anyone new to Objectivism is reading this, that Harrison's post above is probably not intended for people who don't have some background with the Objectivist arguments for egoism and capitalism. The arguments in Harrison's post above are all solid if you know what he's talking about, but there are a lot of suppressed premises.

I meant for it to be accessible to anybody (particularly those who are new to Objectivism) but certainly not a replacement for that fuller understanding; there are a lot of conclusions that won't help anybody for long if they don't understand the reasoning behind them.

It's like a free sample: available to anybody who wants a taste but not a substitute for a well-balanced meal.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there an essentially differentiating characteristic that can be isolated between these two instances of "right"? :

Is it right for me to take any form of life to sustain my own?

Do I have a right to sustain my life thorough the exploitation of other living things?

They're two different ways of looking at the same thing. You have the right to do what's right.

Since this is a question of "rights" in a social context (which we look at through a sort of reification of those actions which are morally right) the fundamental thing to grasp is the Objectivist ethics. Hence my attempt to boil the moral apects of Galt's Speech down to a single page; giving only minimal reference to political "rights".

If you're pointing out the fact that I've completely ignored politics, you're absolutely right. It was by design.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And you assert so - unilaterally?

 

Absolutely; absolutely unilaterally :thumbsup:

 

Actually, I like your reduction better...  You have the right to do what's right...  Brilliant!

 

Comedian Ron White said, "I had the right to remain silent, but I didn't have the ability."  I like that too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Notice also that Ms. Rand says "freedom of action", not freedom from the action of others.

...

 

Correct, and I think it points to a distinction between right (moral) behavior and a right (permission) to behave, as in the following:

 

"If, before undertaking some action, you must obtain the permission of society—you are not free, whether such permission is granted to you or not. Only a slave acts on permission. A permission is not a right." ~ ARL, Individual Rights

 

Borrowing from what was offered from another topic asking what the source of a right to life is, Harrison put it about as clearly as possible:  "You have the right to do what's right."  A moral right is derived from the law of identity.  A political right is only a permission that recognizes (but doesn't create) a moral right.  Those who delimit all use of the term right to a social context confine their moral actions to those of a slave.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Notice also that Ms. Rand says "freedom of action", not freedom from the action of others.

I asked about the life boat view in Oism because it turns some ideas expressed here on their head. Either one can treat emergencies as amoral, or one can choose to act on the principles that are derived from a context where moral, life sustaining choices are available. If one chooses the latter and chooses to pursue moral principles, the irony is that one will be acting against ones own life.

Example, a sick person is in a post hurricane disaster. They are an insulin dependent diabetic. They have no insulin and there is another person who is insulin dependent nearby and none else wise. You can either take their insulin and live, or choose not to live in a manner less than the rational animal-man qua man.... If you choose the latter, to treat this as a moral context, you must choose to jettison life in order not to jettison moral principles.

Incidentally, I often think I would choose the latter, so I am not picking on SL. I don't think I could sustain an untormented conscience by reminding myself that I had no moral choice but to accept that my life required me to behave like wild animals. But I am not sure.

 

freedom of action - presupposes freedom from interference in performance of action, otherwise the right would simply be "right to action". 

 

But a right to "action" as such is not something which needs to be considered wrt a volitional being capable of action, he/she can and will act.  However, in the face of interference in a social context, a right to freedom of action is necessary because of possible interference (force, constraint, the opposite of freedom) caused by the action by others. 

 

(One also should remember that this right stands against others not nature itself)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DA:

 

Rights are principles, they are "moral principles" in that they are informed by morality, i.e. based upon morality.

 

Morality is not based upon Rights, it forms a basis for them.

 

I think we are in agreement, however I'd say (and I believe this squares with Objectivism) that rights, as moral principles, are derived from the law of identity, and as such inform politics.  In that sense, the right to life (as a moral principle) is appropriate to raise in a discussion about the morality of suicide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A right to action presupposes an ability to perform that action, as again (from that other topic) quoting Ron White, "I had the right to remain silent... but I didn't have the ability."  Humans have the ability to commit suicide, so a social prohibition is morally questionable and a religious prohibition contradicts free will.
 
Nonetheless, the effect of suicide, from the POV of the actor, is to switch from morality to amorality, i.e., the act is moral, but the result is amoral because morality is only relevent to living beings.  That's troublesome to me because it suggests a kind of contradiction that can't exist in nature.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we are in agreement, however I'd say (and I believe this squares with Objectivism) that rights, as moral principles, are derived from the law of identity, and as such inform politics.  In that sense, the right to life (as a moral principle) is appropriate to raise in a discussion about the morality of suicide.

 

I will concede that a moral issue dealing with a social context can tangentially be enriched by a discussion of rights, but the rights are not determinative or foundational or even contributory as regards to a moral conclusion, at best they should be consistent. 

 

What I am saying is, insofar as a right (which you have previously validated as correct) is based upon morality, its expression perhaps which reveals something about that morality upon which it is based - it is that something about morality which becomes useful in the analysis of the specific moral issue (to the extent the right has been correctly formulated). 

 

 

The right to life is, essentially, the ultimate right, and it is informed by the entirety of morality as a whole, which is based on life as the standard - rational self-interest (which itself is based on the identity of man).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A right to action presupposes an ability to perform that action, as again (from that other topic) quoting Ron White, "I had the right to remain silent... but I didn't have the ability."  Humans have the ability to commit suicide, so a social prohibition is morally questionable and a religious prohibition contradicts free will.

 

Nonetheless, the effect of suicide, from the POV of the actor, is to switch from morality to amorality, i.e., the act is moral, but the result is amoral because morality is only relevent to living beings.  That's troublesome to me because it suggests a kind of contradiction that can't exist in nature.

 

Where is the suggestion of a contradiction? 

 

Life is a form of nature which possesses the property of "living", which form can be modified/changed so that the form of nature no longer possess the property of living.  The matter remains and the life goes out of it.  Equally a volitional form of nature has the property volition, or the ability to choose, and that form can change blah blah blah. What are you uncomfortable with?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SL, haven't you been essentially arguing that rights are political principles?

DA: you are confusing morality and politics.

Also politics is derived from ethics, not the converse

As in, politics is based on ethics. Politics is a social context. Rights are freedom from social interference, therefore rights are political.

To be clear, I think its uncontroversial that politics depend on ethics, which depends on epistemology, which depends on metaphysics.

Also that ethics presuppose value, which presupposes life.

That is not being debated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SL, haven't you been essentially arguing that rights are political principles?

As in, politics is based on ethics. Politics is a social context. Rights are freedom from social interference, therefore rights are political.

To be clear, I think its uncontroversial that politics depend on ethics, which depends on epistemology, which depends on metaphysics.

Also that ethics presuppose value, which presupposes life.

That is not being debated.

 

When you say "political" are you not merely saying "in a social context"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SL said:

When you say "political" are you not merely saying "in a social context"?

I agree that all political realities are social. That is not the basis of the difference here. Yes, the social presupposes the individual but the question is how to formulate the moral action of individuals within a social context without denying the individual nature of values and moral principles.

If rights are a species of the genus moral principles, then the definition, the genus and differentia, the to's and from's of the definition has to reflect that.

Edit: basically I am arguing that what we mean by "rights" in a political context is a narrowing of what is right in an ethical, individual context. It is simply a matter of extending to others what one grants to ones self.

Edit:

Society is nothing but the individuals comprising it.

Rights are nothing but the limiting of the values one is able to pursue in the presence of the values of others??? The presence of other valuing agents limits what is a moral choice for the individual given productive actions having secured certain values already??

Trying to formulate an essential principle....

Edited by Plasmatic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SL said:

I agree that all political realities are social. That is not the basis of the difference here. Yes, the social presupposes the individual but the question is how to formulate the moral action of individuals within a social context without denying the individual nature of values and moral principles.

If rights are a species of the genus moral principles, then the definition, the genus and differentia, the to's and from's of the definition has to reflect that.

Edit: basically I am arguing that what we mean by "rights" in a political context is a narrowing of what is right in an ethical, individual context. It is simply a matter of extending to others what one grants to ones self.

Edit:

Society is nothing but the individuals comprising it.

Rights are nothing but the limiting of the values one is able to pursue in the presence of the values of others??? The presence of other valuing agents limits what is a moral choice for the individual given productive actions having secured certain values already??

Trying to formulate an essential principle....

 

Something like that.

 

There are some questions of morality such as "should I drink x amount of poison" which are simple to answer.  The facts of reality which go into the decision of whether one should drink poison are straightforward:  what effect does the x amount of poison have on my body, what are the consequences of those effects on my life, long term.

 

 

Moral questions in dealing with a social context are complicated because the facts of reality which must be accounted for involve things like what other people think, how they could act. etc.

 

So "Should I bother to live I a society" although a complicated question, can be answered "if you live in the right society", but this answer requires the simultaneous formulation of what the right society is.  Rights form a big part of what you expect in that society in regard to your action, and likewise in your expectation for the kinds of values and means/actions used to pursue them which are no longer in your self-interest because 1) you could not live in that right society any longer, 2) your beneficial relationships with other men in that right society would suffer 3) your action would contribute to the dismantling of the right society etc.

 

So instead of "limits" moral choice, I would tweak it to be "defines" moral choice in the context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of the recent posts would probably fit better in that earlier thread, where they can be found again later? Thoughts?

 

We are getting off topic.  Sorry.  I'll restrict my responses here to things more connected with the OP.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In some languages, there are two different words for the two different concepts that are both labelled "right" in English.

Understood correctly, and with the elaboration that follows, people have a right to do what is wrong.
They have a right to do anything that is wrong as long as it does not wrong someone else (in other words until it infringes on someone else's rights).

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×