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Dominique

Individual Rights

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This one was much harder, and I'm not sure I'm getting my point across. It's in response to a comment I got (more like a discussion) on my website in response to the first essay (The Metaphysical Error). I'd like to get some feedback from you all here before I post it as to what it's flaws are and how I can possibly go about correcting them. I am trying to cover so much information but all of seems essential because I am writing to a non-objectivist audience. Ok, well, thanks again in advance :)

As I began to explain in The Metaphysical Error, it is the foundation, or premises that men have accepted through out the centuries which have undermined man’s rational faculty to the extent that he does not even know where his own individual rights come from.

Individual rights are not some intrinsic quality, some divine gift; nor are they some arbitrary agreement among the collective hordes, decided by majority vote centuries ago, never to be questioned.

To understand Individual Rights one must take existence as a primary. One must accept the observable world as reality. And one must accept reason as man’s tool of cognition. In other words: existence exists; the metaphysically given is absolute; A is A. (For a more thorough discussion of the steps leading up to this point I refer you to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand)

Man is a being of volitional conciousness. This means that what sets men apart from the lower animal species is his ability to choose. All living organisms act for the purpose of sustaining their own life, but only man can choose to shut down his mind, to take actions purposefully that harm him, and to end his own life. Man does not have “instincts” as animals have. Man must choose the course of action that is most suited to him and his environment, given the context of his purpose. Even when a man acts without purpose, he first had to make a choice, even if the first choice was a refusal to choose, or to think.

This volitional conciousness is something people bemoan as an undue burden, and constantly try to abnegate their responsibility by either granting a “higher being” power over them, or claiming subservience to “society”. This is the beginning of the mind-body dichotomy.

When an individual gives up his rational faculty, and places above it “divine revelation” or the “common good”, he has given up the right to his own life. He is now at the mercy of the priests or the pollsters (who are simply other individuals).

In reality, the individual is sovereign. The individual must sustain his own life by a process of constant action, beginning with thought. Another individual may bring him water, but he can not drink it for him. Another individual may bring him food, but he can not digest it for him. Another individual may know how to read, and to write, but he can not force him to understand it.

A man can survive alone, he does not need society to survive. Society can and does provide a great many benefits, but a society is only a collection of individuals, and can only function to the extent that it’s individual members do. If each individual member is expecting some entity called “society” to provide for them, if each individual member stops producing and merely waits for “divine revelation” or “welfare”, what will become of society?

A productive society must respect the individual as it’s sovereign. Without the individual, society ceases to exist. This is where the concept of “individual rights” comes in. Rights are man’s moral code, his means of survival, put into law. As such all rights are neccessarily individual. Group rights only mean that some individuals are given (wrongly) special rights over other individuals. They are neccessarily illegitimate.

All rights stem from the need for the individual to maintain his own life. Hence we have the “right to life”. The right to life does not mean that a man must live, only that no other individuals may deprive him, by force, of his means of survival, which are: his body, the products of his labor (his property), and his cognitive tools (right to free press and free speech).

A fundamental aspect of the “right to life” is the right to control the functions of one’s own body without interference. In this day and age of organ donors, feeding tubes, assisted suicide, abortion, and even drugs, there is much talk of “responsibility”. The only true “responsibility” is the responsibility to maintain one’s own life. This requires that he not deprive another individual of their ability to maintain their own, if he does then he has violated the law of reality and has nullified his claim to his own life.

Once a fetus becomes an individual entity through the process of birth, he gains protection by the rights granted to other individuals. This means that after birth a parent may not deprive an infant of the ability to sustain it’s own life, either by abuse, or neglect. There are places established where parents may abandon unwanted children or give them up for adoption.

Prior to birth a fetus has no ability to sustain it’s own life, and so has no individual rights (it is not an individual entity). Before birth there is only one individual, the mother, and she has sovereign control over her own body.

There is no “responsibility” to potential. Responsibility applies only to actual contracts. There is no contract (explicit or implicit) inherent in entering society. However, there is only one moral code that a society may rightfully adopt as it’s law, and subsequently determine it’s rights from. That code is reality.

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As I began to explain in The Metaphysical Error,

If the title refers to an essay, it should be placed in quotation marks.

premises that men have accepted through out the centuries

“throughout”

I refer you to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

If you can, italicize or underline the title.

Another individual may bring him water, but he can not drink it for him. Another individual may bring him food, but he can not digest it for him. Another individual may know how to read, and to write, but he can not force him to understand it.

“cannot”

. . . a society is only a collection of individuals, and can only function to the extent that it’s individual members do.

A productive society must respect the individual as it’s sovereign.

. . . a parent may not deprive an infant of the ability to sustain it’s own life,

Prior to birth a fetus has no ability to sustain it’s own life.

. . . there is only one moral code that a society may rightfully adopt as it’s law, and subsequently determine it’s rights from

“its”

This requires that he not deprive another individual of their ability to maintain their own

Pronoun must agree with antecedent: “deprive another individual of his ability.”

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If the title refers to an essay, it should be placed in quotation marks.

“throughout”

If you can, italicize or underline the title.

“cannot”

“its”

Pronoun must agree with antecedent:  “deprive another individual of his ability.”

Thanks Tom, I meant to mention that I have not run this draft through Word, as I am still working on the actual content. Usually CF gets me on this stuff and I knew it was coming :)

Any comments on the actual content?

Also this is copy/paste from my website and so the titles are hyperlinked and underlined in the actual version (which has yet to be posted).

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Thanks Tom, I meant to mention that I have not run this draft through Word, as I am still working on the actual content. Usually CF gets me on this stuff and I knew it was coming  :lol:

Any comments on the actual content?

Also this is copy/paste from my website and so the titles are hyperlinked and underlined in the actual version (which has yet to be posted).

Microsoft Word will tell you that you misspelled "consciousness" and "necessarily." However, unless your version of the software is better than mine (a distinct possibility), the errors I pointed out won’t be flagged.

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This *requires* that he not deprive another individual of their ability to maintain their own; if he does then he has violated the law of reality and has nullified his claim to his own life.
Pronoun must agree with antecedent:  “deprive another individual of his ability.”

Are you saying that this should read:

"This requires that he not deprive another individual of *his* ability to maintain *his* own life"? This looks very unclear to me.

[edit to add: Should the whole sentence just be scrapped and re-worded, or is the above actually correct? It seems it would stop the reader to wonder which "he" I was referring to.]

Edited by Dominique

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Microsoft Word will tell you that you misspelled "consciousness" and "necessarily." However, unless your version of the software is better than mine (a distinct possibility), the errors I pointed out won’t be flagged.

Quite Right. Keen eye. Thanks again.

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Ok, to avoid further distraction I have done a preliminary editing job.

I'd like to get some feedback regarding the content before posting if possible. I have read and re-read and am still somewhat unsatisfied but cannot pinpoint exactly what it is that is bugging me.

Thanks again. My apologies for posting in haste without editing first.

As I began to explain in The Metaphysical Error, it is the foundation, or premises that men have accepted throughout the centuries which have undermined man’s rational faculty to the extent that he does not even know where his own individual rights come from.

Individual rights are not an intrinsic quality, some divine gift; nor are they some arbitrary agreement among the collective hordes, decided by majority vote centuries ago, never to be questioned.

To understand the concept of individual rights, one must take existence as a primary. One must accept the observable world as reality. And one must accept reason as man’s tool of cognition. In other words: existence exists; the metaphysically given is absolute; A is A. (For a more thorough discussion of the steps leading up to this point I refer you to “Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand”)

Man is a being of volitional consciousness. This means that what sets men apart from the lower animal species is his ability to choose. All living organisms act for the purpose of sustaining their own life, but only man can choose to shut down his mind, to take actions purposefully that harm him, and to end his own life. Man does not have “instincts” as animals have. Man must choose the course of action that is most suited to him and his environment, given the context of his purpose. Even when a man acts without purpose, he first had to make a choice, even if the first choice was a refusal to choose, or to think.

This volitional consciousness is something people bemoan as an undue burden, and constantly try to abnegate their responsibility by either granting a “higher being” power over them, or claiming subservience to “society”. This is the beginning of the mind-body dichotomy.

When an individual gives up his rational faculty, and places above it “divine revelation” or the “common good”, he has given up the right to his own life. He is now at the mercy of the priests or the pollsters (who are simply other individuals).

In reality, the individual is sovereign. The individual must sustain his own life by a process of constant action, beginning with thought. Another individual may bring him water, but he cannot drink it for him. Another individual may bring him food, but he cannot digest it for him. Another individual may know how to read, and to write, but he cannot force him to understand it.

A man can survive alone; he does not need society to survive. Society can and does provide a great many benefits, but a society is only a collection of individuals, and can only function to the extent that its individual members do. If each individual member is expecting some entity called “society” to provide for them, if each individual member stops producing and merely waits for “divine revelation” or “welfare”, what will become of society?

A productive society must respect the individual as its sovereign. Without the individual, society ceases to exist. This is where the concept of individual rights comes in. Rights are man’s moral code, his means of survival, put into law. As such, all rights are necessarily individual. Group rights only mean that some individuals are given (wrongly) special rights over other individuals. They are necessarily illegitimate.

All rights stem from the need for the individual to maintain his own life. Hence, we have the “right to life”. The right to life does not mean that a man must live, only that no other individuals may deprive him, by force, of his means of survival, which are: his body, the products of his labor (his property), and his cognitive tools (right to free press and free speech).

A fundamental aspect of the “right to life” is the right to control the functions of one’s own body without interference. In this day and age of organ donors, feeding tubes, assisted suicide, abortion, and even drugs, there is much talk of “responsibility”. The only true “responsibility” is the responsibility to maintain one’s own life. This requires that he not deprive another individual of his ability to maintain his own; if he does then he has violated the law of reality and has nullified his claim to his own life.

Once a fetus becomes an individual entity through the process of birth, he gains protection by the rights granted to other individuals. This means that after birth a parent may not deprive an infant of the ability to sustain its own life, either by abuse, or neglect. There are places established where parents may abandon unwanted children or give them up for adoption.

Prior to birth a fetus has no ability to sustain its own life, and so has no individual rights (it is not an individual entity). Before birth there is only one individual, the mother, and she has sovereign control over her own body.

There is no “responsibility” to potential. Responsibility applies only to oneself and to the explicit contracts one enters into. There is no contract (explicit or implicit) inherent in entering society. However, there is only one moral code that a society may rightfully adopt as its law, and subsequently determine its rights from. That code is reality.

(Remember the titles are hyperlinked. This is sufficient is it not? Or should I also italicize? Just seems like overkill to have all three, but I'm not sure what the proper method is)

[edit: ack, now my paragraphs are merged-separating]

Edited by Dominique

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(Remember the titles are hyperlinked. This is sufficient is it not? Or should I also italicize? Just seems like overkill to have all three, but I'm not sure what the proper method is)

I would still punctuate as suggested, although the web has a bias against any hard and fact rules on hyperlinked titles.

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I would still punctuate as suggested, although the web has a bias against any hard and fact rules on hyperlinked titles.

Ok, advice taken.

Thanks for the feedback Tom. :lol:

I've gone ahead and posted the essay on my blog. I edited it from what you see here, but will still welcome feedback (I know I didn't give a lot of time to get feedback before putting it up).

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This volitional consciousness is something people bemoan as an undue burden, and constantly try to abnegate their responsibility by either granting a “higher being” power over them, or claiming subservience to “society”. This is the beginning of the mind-body dichotomy.
I think you could leave out the last sentence of this paragraph. The mind-body dichotomy is not directly related to the topic you are discussing, so it would require some longer explanation of how this is the beginning of it, but that would unduly interrupt the flow of your argument.

A productive society must respect the individual as its sovereign.

I think I know what you mean by this, but you're trying to say it in too few words. :lol: Here is how I would say it: "A society can only prosper if its members are productive, and individuals can only be productive if their sovereignty is respected."

Rights are man’s moral code, his means of survival, put into law.
I love the way you phrased this, so I'm reluctant to mess with it, ;) but it can easily be misinterpreted as implying that rights are all there is to morality, i.e. that you could be a drug addict or a Mother Theresa or something like that and still be moral as long as you don't violate the rights of others. Hmm, I'm thinking about how you could best clarify this ... it's not easy to fit it in ... perhaps you could leave this part as it is and add the clarification further down, after the paragraph about the responsibility to maintain one's own life, confirming that yes you ARE morally responsible for your own life, even though not legally required to maintain it.

Once a fetus becomes an individual entity through the process of birth, he gains protection by the rights granted to other individuals.

This sounds like it is "the rights granted to other individuals" that do the protecting of the newborn; this is probably not what you meant. ;)

This means that after birth a parent may not deprive an infant of the ability to sustain its own life, either by abuse, or neglect. There are places established where parents may abandon unwanted children or give them up for adoption.

Here again, you could use a bit more words...Although the connection between the two sentences can be easily guessed in this case, it would be nice if you made it explicit so the reader doesn't feel like you're making him "jump." Somehow like this: "If the parents find themselves unable to support their child after it is born, they should find a couple willing to adopt it, ..."

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I've gone ahead and posted the essay on my blog. I edited it from what you see here, but will still welcome feedback (I know I didn't give a lot of time to get feedback before putting it up).

Uh oh, shoulda been a bit quicker...

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I think you could leave out the last sentence of this paragraph. The mind-body dichotomy is not directly related to the topic you are discussing, so it would require some longer explanation of how this is the beginning of it, but that would unduly interrupt the flow of your argument.
Agreed- I'm stuck on that topic and let it slip in (tsk tsk)-It has been removed.
I think I know what you mean by this, but you're trying to say it in too few words. :lol: Here is how I would say it: "A society can only prosper if its members are productive, and individuals can only be productive if their sovereignty is respected."
Again agreed. I took out the first two sentences and replaced them with just this one. The flow is much better.
I love the way you phrased this, so I'm reluctant to mess with it, ;) but it can easily be misinterpreted as implying that rights are all there is to morality, i.e. that you could be a drug addict or a Mother Theresa or something like that and still be moral as long as you don't violate the rights of others. Hmm, I'm thinking about how you could best clarify this ... it's not easy to fit it in ... perhaps you could leave this part as it is and add the clarification further down, after the paragraph about the responsibility to maintain one's own life, confirming that yes you ARE morally responsible for your own life, even though not legally required to maintain it.
Ok this is what I had done with it prior to reading your post here:

"A man can survive alone; he does not need society to survive. However, even when alone, man needs a moral code to guide his action. A code that is focused on the value of his own life as the standard, and reality as perceivable, is the only one which will ensure his survival. If a man, stranded on a desert island, rejects the facts observable by his senses; if he sits back and waits for instinct to tell him how to build a shelter, or a fire; if he waits for the gods to provide him with food, he will not survive long."

This comes prior to the statement in question, so I was hoping to set the stage and thereby clarify the idea before they get to it. What do you think?

This sounds like it is "the rights granted to other individuals" that do the protecting of the newborn; this is probably not what you meant. ;)[...]Here again, you could use a bit more words...Although the connection between the two sentences can be easily guessed in this case, it would be nice if you made it explicit so the reader doesn't feel like you're making him "jump." Somehow like this: they should find a couple willing to adopt it, ..."

Yeah, I caught that, and I changed it to this:

"Once an individual entity is born, he gains protection by the rights granted to other individuals. This means that after birth a parent may not deprive an infant of the ability to sustain its own life, either by abuse, or neglect. [if the parents find themselves unable to support their child after it is born,] there are places established where parents may legally give them up.

Before birth there is only one individual, the mother, and she has sovereign control over her own body."

Does that help?

Again, Thank You soooo much!!!

Uh oh, shoulda been a bit quicker...

LOL you were like 4 mins behind me. I appreciate it truly. This was a lot harder undertaking than I had expected. Soo many aspects are subsumed under this concept, and non-objectivists are likely to still pick it apart, but at least I straightened a couple things out in my own head :D

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Ok this is what I had done with it prior to reading your post here:

"A man can survive alone; he does not need society to survive. However, even when alone, man needs a moral code to guide his action. A code that is focused on the value of his own life as the standard, and reality as perceivable, is the only one which will ensure his survival. If a man, stranded on a desert island, rejects the facts observable by his senses; if he sits back and waits for instinct to tell him how to build a shelter, or a fire; if he waits for the gods to provide him with food, he will not survive long."

This comes prior to the statement in question, so I was hoping to set the stage and thereby clarify the idea before they get to it. What do you think?

A great solution! It pre-empts any misunderstanding that could arise in the best way possible: by introducing your statement with its logical causes. Wish I had thought of this myself! :P

[if the parents find themselves unable to support their child after it is born,] there are places established where parents may legally give them up.

Before birth there is only one individual, the mother, and she has sovereign control over her own body."

Does that help?

Yes, it's fine that way.

Again, Thank You soooo much!!!

You're always welcome! :D

This was a lot harder undertaking than I had expected. Soo many aspects are subsumed under this concept

Yes ... the Founders were correct about what individual rights were, but they were a little bit too optimistic when they thought it was all self-evident. :)

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Are individual rights not an intrinsic quality? What do you mean by "intrinsic" in that context?

Individual rights are not an intrinsic quality,

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Are individual rights not an intrinsic quality?  What do you mean by "intrinsic" in that context?

Well geez, I thought that's what I explained in my essay. ;)

Intrinsic implies a negation of context and consequence. Individual Rights are a concept. Concepts demand context. Intrinsic rights or values therefore are a contradiction.

See Also The Ayn Rand Lexicon entries for these terms.

In the mean time, here's a quick look.

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Are you saying that this should read:

"This requires that he not deprive another individual of *his* ability to maintain *his* own life"? This looks very unclear to me.

[edit to add: Should the whole sentence just be scrapped and re-worded, or is the above actually correct? It seems it would stop the reader to wonder which "he" I was referring to.]

You could change "another individual" to "other individuals" to make it plural but it doesn't make much difference as using their as a non-gender-specific singular pronoun is widely accepted. :thumbsup:

Interesting (maybe) tidbit: "Singular "their" etc., was an accepted part of the English language before the 18th-century grammarians started making arbitrary judgements as to what is "good English" and "bad English", based on a kind of pseudo-"logic" deduced from the Latin language, that has nothing whatever to do with English. (See the 1975 journal article by Anne Bodine in the bibliography.) And even after the old-line grammarians put it under their ban, this anathematized singular "their" construction never stopped being used by English-speakers, both orally and by serious literary writers. So it's time for anyone who still thinks that singular "their" is so-called "bad grammar" to get rid of their prejudices and pedantry!"

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So it's time for anyone who still thinks that singular "their" is so-called "bad grammar" to get rid of their prejudices and pedantry!"

As H.W. Fowler asked, have you made up you mind to say, "Everyone was blowing their noses" or “Everyone were blowing their noses"?

Let's see how this sounds:

"Whoever allows a 'somehow' into their view of the means by which their desires are to be achieved, is guilty of that 'metaphysical humility' which, psychologically, is the premise of a parasite."

Try it another way:

"Whoever allows a 'somehow' into his view of the means by which his desires are to be achieved, is guilty of that 'metaphysical humility' which, psychologically, is the premise of a parasite."

Does the second version sound fussy or pedantic? Not to my ear. The second version is the one that came from Ayn Rand's pen. See "The 'Conflicts' of Men's Interests."

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At any rate I changed:

"This requires that he not deprive another individual of *his* ability to maintain *his* own life"?

to

This requires that one not deprive another individual of his ability to maintain his own life.

Better?

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