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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

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I'm starting research on my Senior Paper, in which I chose to focus on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Its understandable that these are the basic rights endowed upon any human who is born upon this earth, but why?

Why did the forefathers feel that liberty and pursuit of happiness should be guarenteed to any man on this earth?

I've been trying to clarify my answers through Human Right documents, but unfortunetly, I can't seem to cite any sources that explain WHY humans deserve life, WHY we deserve liberty and WHY every man has the right to pursue his own happiness.

Its such a fundamental topic that it befuddles anyone with a mind as to who would ask those questions.

Its fun, but considering a research paper has very little room for personal thought, its very frustrating. I just want to write my own personal thesis on why man deserves his rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
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Personally I think that the right to the pursuit of happiness is part and parcel of the right to life. I'd much rather have Life, Liberty and property be the recognized rights from which all other lesser entitlements flow.

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Personally I think that the right to the pursuit of happiness is part and parcel of the right to life. I'd much rather have Life, Liberty and property be the recognized rights from which all other lesser entitlements flow.

The pursuit of happiness really just comes with liberty. I think they used it more as a superlative in the list of "Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". It always bugged me that they left out property though. Locke came first; he didn't leave it out... why did the founders leave out the right to property in that list?

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Its understandable that these are the basic rights endowed upon any human who is born upon this earth, but why?

Why did the forefathers feel that liberty and pursuit of happiness should be guarenteed to any man on this earth?

I've been trying to clarify my answers through Human Right documents, but unfortunetly, I can't seem to cite any sources that explain WHY humans deserve life, WHY we deserve liberty and WHY every man has the right to pursue his own happiness.

I don't think you should answer the question by showing why humans deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but rather answer the question by showing that humans require LL&PoH.
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Be careful of using the word deserve, especially if you are referring to the Founders directly in your research. What the Founders were working from was the notion of Natural Rights, which has long historical roots but was really en vogue during the Enlightenment due to the contributions of thinkers like Locke (who would be worth reading, if I am understanding the intent of your studies correctly). None of the Founders would argue - even though many politicians like to manipulate their words today - that humans are born deserving life, liberty, or happiness. They believed they were born with the right to pursue them. They certainly wouldn't argue, for example, that a mass murderer deserved happiness just as much as anybody else. He may have been given the inalienable right to pursue it, but he severely screwed it up, by his own accord, in the process. It seems like a strange suggestion, but reading the Founders debates on the semantics of pivotal documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and even the Treaty of Paris (John Adams nearly fell to pieces over whether or not Americans should have the "right" or the "liberty" to fish in the waters off of south eastern Canada) will give you great insight into the philosophy they were working with. They understood how important that one little word could be. Read Thomas Jefferson's reactions to the phrases that were changed in the DEclaration of Independence and compare his drafts to the finished piece. Read John Adams reaction to the few changes that were made to his Constitution that he wrote for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (which still stands today, might I add). Understanding why they thought the words describing their principles were so important will help you understand what their principles were. Men are not born equal, but as John Adams would argue repeatedly, they are born equally free. Free to do what, you ask? To pursue such things as life, liberty, and happiness (and property, to be true to Locke's version) - but never, ever, to have these things given to them. Isn't it interesting that Jefferson very specifically chose the word happiness over property?

Edited by 4reason
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I'm starting research on my Senior Paper, in which I chose to focus on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Its understandable that these are the basic rights endowed upon any human who is born upon this earth, but why?

Why did the forefathers feel that liberty and pursuit of happiness should be guarenteed to any man on this earth?

I've been trying to clarify my answers through Human Right documents, but unfortunetly, I can't seem to cite any sources that explain WHY humans deserve life, WHY we deserve liberty and WHY every man has the right to pursue his own happiness.

Its such a fundamental topic that it befuddles anyone with a mind as to who would ask those questions.

You want to know how the Founders validated rights, rather than how Ayn Rand did. (Ayn Rand did it thoroughly via a systematic philosophy.)

John Locke is the father of rights, so if you want to find out how they were justified, then John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government is what you need to read. It's on the web here: http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm . It's a small book, but the reading may take some focused study. Warning, he does quote the Bible, but, the way I read it, the Bible is secondary to his major arguments, which are anchored in observations of nature. He will continually refer to "reason", which he calls "the law".

Its fun, but considering a research paper has very little room for personal thought, its very frustrating. I just want to write my own personal thesis on why man deserves his rights.

As others have pointed out, "deserves" is not the proper word. Rights are inalienable and arise from man's rational nature. Rights are a moral concept, which means that you need to understand how to validate morality.

Here is a quick overview of the derivation. Once you understand that life as a rational being is the standard, that your life is the ultimate value, and that man must use reason to survive, all of which are moral issues, then after that the political question can be asked and answered. The central political question is "How can man best live among man?". Note, you've already established that your life is your highest value before even getting to politics. Your desire to live and to be happy is the given going in.

So, in a social context you still need to be able to use your mind to exploit nature just as you would if you lived on a deserted island. For example, if you want to build a house, you need to design the house, find a place to put it, get the materials for it, and then work to build it. This takes time, effort and property. After that you will want to get the value out it by living in it.

What rights do is provide a sphere of protection around each individual so that he can use his mind, and be secure in his person and property so that he can live and do things like build houses. In other words, rights are made to protect man according to his rational nature. The freedom of each individual is maximized in a social context.

Thus the right to life is the starting point. It’s what you want to protect. The right to liberty means you are free to act over your person and property in pursuit of your life and happiness. Property refers to the fruits of your efforts, e.g. your house, land, etc.

Ayn Rand should be your first source. But, Tara Smith wrote a great book validating rights from every different angle. I can’t recall the name of it. I read it some time ago, and have lost it, but I’m sure someone here will know the title.

Hope that helps. <_<

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I was actually hoping for an Ayn Rand citation, but that was given to me by the first post.

:stuart: thank you very much for your help. I couldn't get those answers from

three different law firms, and two History majors.

<_< a rather frustrating journey, but I don't think I conveyed quite clearly what I meant beforehand. However, the question I meant to pose was answered in a very effective and concise manner.

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Ayn Rand should be your first source. But, Tara Smith wrote a great book validating rights from every different angle. I can’t recall the name of it. I read it some time ago, and have lost it, but I’m sure someone here will know the title.

Hope that helps. <_<

"Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist" by Tara Smith published by Cambridge University Press. Here is a link to it in the Ayn Rand Bookstore: http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CS01B

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"Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist" by Tara Smith published by Cambridge University Press. Here is a link to it in the Ayn Rand Bookstore: http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CS01B

No, that's her book on ethics. This book was published prior.

Here it is: Moral Rights and Political Freedom

Wow, it's expensive and I guess out of print, but it's a great book. Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Rights-Politic...h/dp/0847680274

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