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Danodare

Why is the right to the pursuit of happiness needed ?

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My understanding of Ayn Rand is that individual rights are there to protect the individual from the collective.

From that perspective, it is obvious that my right to life has to be a right. Otherwise, a majority could vote to kill me, just as the Athenians voted to kill Socrates.

The right to liberty also has to be a right, because otherwise a majority could vote to put me in jail even if I haven't infringed on anyone else's rights.

The right to dispose of the product of my work must be a right as well. What good is it if I am free to think and act on my thoughts, but if a majority votes to confiscate everything I produce ? This would be incompatible with the requirements of life.

So far, so good. What I have trouble understanding is why the right to the pursuit of happiness has to be a right. I don't see what a majority could vote that would prevent me from pursuing my happiness if I already have the rights to life, liberty, property.

Was Ayn Rand only trying to echo the declaration of independence ? Or is there a better reason ?

Thanks in advance to anyone who could explain it to me, or point me to another thread if the question has already been answered.

And sorry for any language mistake as I am not a native english speaker.

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I am not sure that Ayn Rand ever stressed "The right to the pursuit happiness" given that the right to life is the fundamental right. The rights to liberty and property as you say are necessary for the right to life. Jefferson revised Locke's right to property to the right to the pursuit of happiness. I don't know if he or anyone elucidated on his rationale for this. I would say that the right to the pursuit of happiness is a wider concept from the right to property in that it includes the such things as the right to free associations, free speech, pursuit of leisure activities, etc. that are not specifically property.

Notice that the Declaration of Independence says the pursuit of happiness, not the right to happiness. No one can declare that they have a right to certain things because they are necessary for their happiness.  It begs the question of what defines happiness. I would say that happiness is a consequence of confidently being able to pursue one's life and rationally defined values. I think Peikoff discusses this in his book.

Edited by Wayne

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Rights are those conditions necessary for man’s survival, qua man. Protecting the individual from the collective is a specific application of the concept of rights, having to do with society’s relationship to man (rights are not there so that the individual is protected from the collective. Also note that no rights to things: rights pertain to actions – you have a right to live, to act according to your judgment (this is what “liberty” is about). These are specific perspectives on the fundamental right, that of a man to exist. But to exist doesn’t mean just “be a pile of atoms; be a slave’, it means exist as a man (existence implies identity). Which means, to exist as a man; in accordance with the nature of man – you exist as a reasoning being. Your actions are chosen, by you, because they befit your specific nature. Only you can determine what your nature is, e.g. whether you like the wind-swept prairie or skyscrapers. Your only right, in a social context, is to be free from the initiation of force. The often-enumerated rights to life, liberty, property rights, pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech and so on are all just identifying concrete consequences of the right to be free from force.

It’s a mistake to promote pursuit of happiness to the status of a fundamental right, or happiness as a fundamental desideratum. Happiness is a result of something else, and is not a primary goal. Happiness is the result of achieving your goals. The right way to look at it is, you have the right to pursue your own goals. If you are allowed to pursue those goals and you achieve them, you will be happy. The “right to pursue goal” adds to “liberty” the important notion that actions should have a purpose.

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To softwareNerd: I am refering to the essay "man's rights" in the virtue of selfishness and to chapter 10: "government" subchapter "individual rights as absolute" in objectivism: the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

To DavidOdden: thank you! That was clarifying to me. I had been struggling with the issue of rights for weeks and it all makes sense now. Until I read your comment about a pile of atoms, I wasn't even aware of the implicit mind/body dichotomy in my first post. I realize now that the rights to property and to the pursuit of happiness are two sides of the same coin, property in the material realm and pursuit of happiness in the spiritual realm.

Even if the rights to life, liberty, property are recognized, I see now that a majority could vote that the purpose of  my actions has to be for god or for society instead of for myself, which would be evil. 

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On 1/26/2018 at 7:08 AM, Danodare said:

So far, so good. What I have trouble understanding is why the right to the pursuit of happiness has to be a right. I don't see what a majority could vote that would prevent me from pursuing my happiness if I already have the rights to life, liberty, property.

Because it's the right to PURSUE happiness that delimits those of life, liberty and property in a social context to allowing the practice self-governance with the understanding that individual happiness occurs outside the scope of constitutional provision, or majority vote.  I would argue that it was this right of pursuit, initially secured inconsistently, that exposed the need for emancipation and suffrage in order to create a more perfect union of principle and practice of equal rights.  The more recent recognition of sexual orientation and medicinal/recreational preferences have also advanced the principle of self-governing rights,  yet there remains room for improvement in the practice of allowing individuals to pursue their own happiness in a social context.

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