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If I cannot legitimately contract to have someone else kill me, then I have no right to kill myself.  Is that your position?

Not at all. You may kill yourself if you have no rational reason to continue living, but you cannot sign a legally enforceable contract with someone else to kill you. If he kills you, he is a murderer, contract or not.

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You are creating the assumption that one will always wish to regain or later assert that which they have relinguished.

Not at all. What I am saying is that one is purporting to relinquish that which allows one to relinquish things. "By the rights I have, I hereby declare that I have no rights." It's not a question of changing one's mind in the future; it's a contradiction in the present.

See also:

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Not at all.  You may kill yourself if you have no rational reason to continue living, but you cannot sign a legally enforceable contract with someone else to kill you.  If he kills you, he is a murderer, contract or not.

You have a contradiction. If Smith kills himself (with presumably Smith's permission), the action is legitimate. If Jones kills Smith with Smith's permission, the action suddenly becomes illegitimate. Thus your law would be inconsistent, for it provides unequal treatment for the same action.

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The only way to cancel your own right to life is to kill yourself, or give yourself a frontal lobotomy.  Anyone else doing it is murdering you, regardless of any legal contracts.  A legal contract cannot nullify your ability to think for yourself, and thus cannot nullify your right to your life.

Or to allow someone else to kill you, thus relinguishing your right to life. Once dead, you have no rights. I do not care about the legal or moral argument, only that which is possible.

Since I see the man who allowed himself to be killed and cannibalized (if that is factually the case) as the perfect example of someone who has relinguished their right to life, that establishs to me that it is possible in a practical sense.

As I reason it, a man who states he relinquishes his right to life to another, furthers that by following the other's every instruction without dissent, and furthers that by taking no action in defense of his life when the other man kills him fully know that is the intent of the other, is a man who has in every practical sense relinguished his right to life.

[Edited - Removed unnecessary commentary on my part and added a little clarification at the end. - RC]

Edited by RationalCop

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You have a contradiction.  If Smith kills himself (with presumably Smith's permission), the action is legitimate.  If Jones kills Smith with Smith's permission, the action suddenly becomes illegitimate.  Thus your law would be inconsistent, for it provides unequal treatment for the same action.

No. You are either not grasping or evading the definition of "right". A "right" exists only in a social context, as a negative obligation on others. Rights as such impose no negative obligation on oneself.

To kill oneself does not involve "rights" one way or the other, "rights" involve only what others may not do to you.

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You have not demonstrated to me that one cannot relinguish his right to life in the practical sense.  What you are saying amounts to, "He just can't."

What a man cannot do in this universe is stop his faculties of reason and volition from functioning, without killing himself. And if he cannot do that, then he cannot relinquish the rights which are caused by the existence of those faculties.

Edited by TomL

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Not at all.  You may kill yourself if you have no rational reason to continue living, but you cannot sign a legally enforceable contract with someone else to kill you.  If he kills you, he is a murderer, contract or not.
These two claims are distinct. It is clear that a "contract" obligating one person to kill another is unenforceable and as such cannot be a contract. You may still grant someone the permission to kill you, and in the moral sense it will not be murder. Whether or not it is legally called murder in some current jurisdiction is separate, and depends on the particulars of the laws. No jurisdiction yet recognises that a person's life is theirs and theirs alone to rightfully dispose of (naturally! if they did, the government would only exist to protect the rights of its citizens, and such a government doesn't exist), but in The Netherlands it is legally allowed for a person to grant another the right to kill them, under certain circumstances.

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Not at all. What I am saying is that one is purporting to relinquish that which allows one to relinquish things. "By the rights I have, I hereby declare that I have no rights." It's not a question of changing one's mind in the future; it's a contradiction in the present.

See also:

Waiving = "By the rights I have now, I declare that I relinguish my rights in the future." No contradiction. In the case of my right to life, once my life is taken, so is my right to life as dead people have no rights.

With that I will withdraw myself from this thread as I have no desire to continue repeating my position, which I do not think has been successfully refuted. We will just have to remain in disagreement.

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Yes, I have.  You are either not grasping it or evading it; either way its not my fault.  Read over again what I have written 6 or 7 times and focus on it.

What a man cannot do in this universe is stop his faculties of reason and volition from functioning, without killing himself.  And if he cannot do that, then he cannot relinquish the rights which are caused by the existence of those faculties.

[Edited - Removed issue of contention settled privately by PM. RC]

Edited by RationalCop

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No.  You are either not grasping or evading the definition of "right".  A "right" exists only in a social context, as a negative obligation on others.  Rights as such impose no negative obligation on oneself.

Then how can Jones be charged with Smith’s murder when it was Smith himself who authorized Jones to administer the lethal injection to him? Obviously, there is no rights violation if we have a signed and witnessed document from Smith granting Jones permission to inject him with a fatal does of adrenaline.

To kill oneself does not involve "rights" one way or the other, "rights" involve only what others may not do to you.

“Rights” is a term that is frequently and appropriately applied to titles to things. In this discussion we can say that suicide and assisted suicide are legitimate based on an individual’s property right to his body.

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In the case of my right to life, once my life is taken, so is my right to life as dead people have no rights.

Yes, but not until after you are dead. Right up to the instant of death, you still have the right to your life, no matter what agreement you make to the contrary. The fact of your lack of rights after death has no impact on the fact of your rights before death.

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In this discussion we can say that suicide and assisted suicide are legitimate based on an individual’s property right to his body.

We cannot.

You are equivocating "life" with "property". The right to property is given rise to by the right to life, but the right to life is an entirely separate concept. You cannot simply call a human body "property", it does not fit the definiton of "property" until is devoid of reason and volition; that is, until its a corpse. Only then can it be considered "property".

"Property" is that which a man creates through his own effort (both mental and physical), and thus his right to that property means it is his to use and dispose of as he wishes. Since a man does not create his faculties of reason and volition through his own effort -- they are handed to him by nature -- then he cannot claim them to "property". Likewise, he has no means whatsoever of disposing of them except by suicide. He may use them, but not dispose of them. He simply can't, there is no other way.

If you can come up with a way for a man to physically shut off his faculities of reason of volition, I'll jump the fence.

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We cannot.

You are equivocating "life" with "property". 

In fact, I am not. I never said that "life" is "property." My position is that an individual has proprietary rights in his own body, which includes the right of disposal, i.e. the right to terminate its condition as a living entity. If an individual is not the owner of his body, then who is?

The right to property is given rise to by the right to life, but the right to life is an entirely separate concept.  You cannot simply call a human body "property", it does not fit the definiton of "property" until is devoid of reason and volition; that is, until its a corpse.  Only then can it be considered "property".

Very well, if a woman cannot call her body her property, then by what right can she sell her hair? Does she have to wait until she is dead to sell it? Of course not. Every human mind is the owner of the corpus in which it resides. The person owns it by the Lockean principle of first occupation and use. If I wish to have a tattoo placed on my arm, what gives me the right to do so? Must I die before a tattoo is placed on my body? No, my body is mine to have tattooed by the fact that I inhabit it, i.e., claimed it before anyone else did.

"Property" is that which a man creates through his own effort (both mental and physical), and thus his right to that property means it is his to use and dispose of as he wishes.

In that case, no one could own the redwoods of California, for those ancient trees were not the product of any human effort. (Please note that I do not disparage your argument that “'Property' is that which a man creates through his own effort,” I argue only that there are other means of property creation.

Since a man does not create his faculties of reason and volition through his own effort -- they are handed to him by nature -- then he cannot claim them to "property".  Likewise, he has no means whatsoever of disposing of them except by suicide.  He may use them, but not dispose of them.  He simply can't, there is no other way.

If a man does not own his body, then he would have no right on his own to damage it irreparably. Are you arguing here against the right of suicide? If not, then what is wrong with contracted suicide?

If you can come up with a way for a man to physically shut off his faculities of reason of volition, I'll jump the fence.

I believe you have already said it: lobotomy or suicide.

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Fine, but you are failing to identify the cause of the right to life. The fact of one's ownership of one's own body is not the causal factor for the right to life. It is the fact of the existence of one's faculties of reason and volition which gives rise to the right to life, and one's ownership of one's body is a consequence of that. So, you are thinking the hierarchy is this:

[property right to one's body] -> [right to life]

when in reality we actually have this:

[faculties of reason & volition] -> [right to life] -> [property right to one's body]

and for that matter, all other property rights.

What I meant in my question of physically turning off the faculties is that, if you can come up with a way for a man to physically turn off those faculties but still be alive long enough for someone else to kill him, then I'll jump the fence. If you commit suicide or give yourself a frontal lobotomy (which I think is physically impossible, by the way, to do with any degree of certainty that your body won't die), then your faculties and your thus right to life ceases, but in either case you're either not alive or not able to sign a contract, so who cares?

Here is one situation: if you could devise a machine that would give a man a frontal lobotomy if he pushed a button, and that man signed a contract saying that someone else could kill his (morally lifeless, but biologically living) body afterwards, then I'd say that was morally acceptable. The man's life qua man ends when he lobotomizes himself, so the death of his body after that is morally meaningless.

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Fine, but you are failing to identify the cause of the right to life

Excuse me, but I say right to one’s own body. Right to life implies . . . at whose expense?

The fact of one's ownership of one's own body is not the causal factor for the right to life. 

Never said it was.

It is the fact of the existence of one's faculties of reason and volition which gives rise to the right to life, and one's ownership of one's body is a consequence of that.  So, you are thinking the hierarchy is this:

[property right to one's body] -> [right to life]

when in reality we actually have this:

[faculties of reason & volition] -> [right to life] -> [property right to one's body]

and for that matter, all other property rights.

My position is that the right to one’s own body is based on the Lockean principle of first occupation and first use. If I do not have a right to my own body it can only be because someone else has a prior (better) claim. But who could have a better or prior claim to my body than the mind that occupies it? In other words, the proper owner of each human body is the mind that originally occupies it.

What I meant in my question of physically turning off the faculties is that, if you can come up with a way for a man to physically turn off those faculties but still be alive long enough for someone else to kill him, then I'll jump the fence.  If you commit suicide or give yourself a frontal lobotomy (which I think is physically impossible, by the way, to do with any degree of certainty that your body won't die), then your faculties and your thus right to life ceases, but in either case you're either not alive or not able to sign a contract, so who cares?

If I am not allowed to have someone destroy my body, then it follows that I myself have no right to destroy my body, which in turn would mean that my body belongs not to me. To whom does it belong, then?

Here is one situation: if you could devise a machine that would give a man a frontal lobotomy if he pushed a button, and that man signed a contract saying that someone else could kill his (morally lifeless, but biologically living) body afterwards, then I'd say that was morally acceptable.  The man's life qua man ends when he lobotomizes himself, so the death of his body after that is morally meaningless.

If a woman has the right to sell her long, beautiful brown hair, then she has the right to sell her kidney -- or her cornea -- or her bone marrow -- or her ovaries. In short, there is no part of her body -- including her beating heart -- that she does not have the right to sell.

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If you want to establish that relinquishing one's right to life is immoral, I think you can make the argument.

But if you are trying to establish that it is not possible to relinquish one's right to life, I'm  not seeing it.  It is possible and it can be done.

This is a moral/practical dichotomy.

While it is possible for someone to relinquish one's life, it doesn't follow that one can reliquish their right to life. One's life, and one's right to life, are two different things entirely.

One can, in fact, relinquish one's life and allow someone else to kill them. But one is not giving up one's right to one's in the process. The right ceases to exist when one dies, but one has it to themselves up to the instant of death, and it belongs to no one else. It is an error for one to think otherwise.

If virtue is acting to achieve ones values, and morals are guides for that action, then there can be no contradiction between morality and virtue. The alternative to consider here is not to pursue what "works" or what is "ideal" (in the sense that most people mean the word), but to realize that in this case as all others, the ideal is the practical. For an in-depth explanation, see Chapter 9 of OPAR, and integrate into the current context of this thread.

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Excuse me, but I say right to one’s own body.  Right to life implies . . . at whose expense?

No, you specfically referred to one's body as property, and property rights come from the right to life -- not the other way around.

My position is that the right to one’s own body is based on the Lockean principle of first occupation and first use.
I'm not familiar with that, but it doesn't seem to make sense. There is no way for anyone else to occupy your body, so the principle has no application here.

In other words, the proper owner of each human body is the mind that originally occupies it.

Yes, but not because no one else has occupied it. It is so because the body in question is the bio-matter which ultimately gives rise to the consciousness within. One body, one consciousness.

If I am not allowed to have someone destroy my body, then it follows that I myself have no right to destroy my body, which in turn would mean that my body belongs not to me.  To whom does it belong, then?

No no. You also are mixing up actions with rights. You can in fact have someone take your life, but in the process you cannot give up your right to your life. Right has a very specific meaning. The person who has someone else kill them and thinks they have given up their right is mistaken, and dies committing an error.

You do not have any rights with respect to yourself or your own body at all. Ever. You do not possess the right to be killed by yourself, and more importantly, you do not possess the right to not be killed by yourself. Rights are a negative obligation on others. There is no such thing as a moral right to oneself.

Edited to fix missing word in last paragraph.

Edited by TomL

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I have one final thought here. If you've agreed with me up to here -- that a man can give up his life but not his right to it, then here's why being the other man is morally murder.

If you take the fool up on his offer, but he still has a right to his life because he can still think and act to further his life up to the instant of death, then he can choose to exercise that right up to the millionth of a second before he dies -- and if he does, you've killed a man with a right to his life that didn't want to die.

How can you ever know that's not exactly what happened in the instant before his death?

I, for one, could not kill someone even if they wanted me to, because I know what that makes me. (I'm not talking about an emergency situation where the person is dying or life as man qua man is no longer possible, but a normal, healthy person).

Edited by TomL

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Also note the drastic difference between having a perfectly healthy, viable human ask you to kill him, and a mortally wounded or ill person asking you to end their state of living death.

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No, you specfically referred to one's body as property, and property rights come from the right to life -- not the other way around.

Either an individual’s person (body) is his property or it is not. If a human body is the property of the occupant (the consciousness within), then the occupant may dispose of it as he wishes, including placing it in the hands of someone who will administer a lethal injection.

I'm not familiar with that, but it doesn't seem to make sense.  There is no way for anyone else to occupy your body, so the principle has no application here.

In theory, a surgeon could imprison a person, remove her brain and insert someone else’s. By the Lockean principle of first occupation, we say this is illegitimate because the original occupant is the only legitimate owner. But we do not have to resort to such a science fiction hypothetical. A fetus can occupy a woman’s body. Our position that a woman may rightfully abort the pregnancy is based on the premise that she is the exclusive owner of her womb and may legitimately eject anything or anyone inside her.

Yes, but not because no one else has occupied it.  It is so because the body in question is the bio-matter which ultimately gives rise to the consciousness within. One body, one consciousness.

Then, if you wish, the consciousness owns the body. But clearly they are separable. Otherwise, people would not be able to donate blood, bone marrow or internal organs.

No no.  You also are mixing up actions with rights.  You can in fact have someone take your life, but in the process you cannot give up your right to your life. Right has a very specific meaning.  The person who has someone else kill them and thinks they have given up their right is mistaken, and dies committing an error.

Then, if you wish, I retain my right to life until I breathe my last breath. I retain my right to life until the chemical that I have ordered a doctor to inject me with makes my heart stop beating.

You do not have any rights with respect to yourself or your own body at allEver.

Then people who donate blood or body organs are acting illegitimately? “Is man a sovereign individual who owns his person, his mind, his life, his work and his products -- or is he the property of the tribe (the state, the society, the collective) . . . ?” -- Ayn Rand, "What Is Capitalism" It is clear that Rand and the Objectivist philosophy recognize ownership of one’s person.

You do not possess the right to be killed by yourself, and more importantly, you do not possess the right to not be killed yourself.  Rights are a negative obligation on others.  There is no such thing as a moral right to oneself.

If "you do not possess the right to not be killed yourself," then there can be nothing immoral (rights violating) about your hiring someone to kill you.

Edited by Tom Robinson

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I have one final thought here.  If you've agreed with me up to here -- that a man can give up his life but not his right to it, then here's why being the other man is morally murder.

OK, we're finally talking business.

If you take the fool up on his offer, but he still has a right to his life because he can still think and act to further his life up to the instant of death, then he can choose to exercise that right up to the millionth of a second before he dies

A contract is an obligation. You cannot exercise your rights in contradiction to a contract you voluntarily signed.

If an employer hires you, he cannot exercise his right to his property by deciding he doesn't want to pay you after all. Once he promised to pay you (and you did the job), you are due the money. The last time he can change his mind is the moment before he signs the contract; it is then that he has to weigh the consequences because he will have to live with them whether he likes them or not. Once the contract is signed, he can practically consider the money to be out of his wallet, provided that the employee lives up to his part of the contract.

It is the same with the fool who enters a deathmatch contract. Once he signs, he is a dead man walking, unless he defeats his fellow fool.

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Either an individual’s person (body) is his property or it is not.  If a human body is the property of the occupant (the consciousness within), then the occupant may dispose of it as he wishes, including placing it in the hands of someone who will administer a lethal injection.

Disposal of the body is not the same thing as disposal of one's life, becuase life as man qua man is more than a beating heart.

Then, if you wish, the consciousness owns the body.  But clearly they are separable.  Otherwise, people would not be able to donate blood, bone marrow or internal organs.
No, they aren't! How will take the consciousness out of man's body while keeping both intact? If you separate them, they will both die. Removing parts of a body, especially replenishable parts such as blood and marrow, or redundant organs is not the same thing as telling someone its OK to kill you.

Then, if you wish, I retain my right to life until I breathe my last breath. I retain my right to life until the chemical that I have ordered a doctor to inject me with makes my heart stop beating.

What if he injects the chemical and you change your mind? What you cannot give up or stop is the ability to change your mind!

If "you do not possess the right to not be killed yourself," then there can be nothing immoral (rights violating) about your hiring someone to kill you.

A typo. I meant to say "you do not posses the right not be killed by yourself.

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OK, we're finally talking business.

A contract is an obligation. You cannot exercise your rights in contradiction to a contract you voluntarily signed.

A man's life is not money. It can never be the object of trade, or there is slavery -- whether it is self-inflicted or not. It is immoral for the other person (the one who will be doing the killing) to agree to such a "contract".

The right to life in particular is fundamental, and is the only fundamental right. All other rights are its consequences or corollaries. It is fundamental and immutable because the facts of reality which give rise to it (reason & volition) are immutable -- one cannot "turn off" one's mind. One can choose to dispose of one's own property by selling it, trading it, or smashing it because it is the product of the mind, not the mind itself. The property itself may go away, but not the ability to create more. The mind itself is not an object that the mind can use for trade -- once the mind trades itself away, there is nothing left and nothing further is possible for man.

There is nothing ethically wrong for a man to want to die and even for him to want someone else to do it. But in the abscence of an emergency, it is morally wrong for anyone else to execute that wish. Anyone who does so defaults on his own right to life.

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The right to life gives one the right to property, which in turn gives one the right to execute a trade. So, if one trades away the right to life, one has traded away the right to property, and the right to execute a trade over that property -- including one's body. It is self-contradictory to attempt to trade one's life, because one's life makes trade possible.

If a person were able to give up their right to life and the contract were enforcable at that instant before death, then the contract also ceases to become enforcable at the same instant, because the person no longer has a right to any such contract.

"Contract" presupposes "right to life", and cannot exist in its abscence.

Edited by TomL

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