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Minors: Rights And Children

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There is only choice and the full, clear recognition of a principle obscured by the notion of "duty": THE LAW OF CAUSALITY.

Your actions have consequences which affect you -- that is all. This gives no warrant for anyone to impose any additional "consequences" on you. Such as, taking care of a child.

What I said here is not quite right. A consequence may properly be mediated by another person IF he is acting according to the Objectivist ethics. For example, if you attack another person and he ethically defends himself, then the damage inflicted on you by his defense is warranted. Or, on the positive side, if you offer a trade, and he accepts.

However, I contend that it is not ethical for anyone to force the parents to support their child in the example I gave in my previous message. What selfish purpose would it serve for them to do so?

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Many of you have mentioned that having a baby implies a contract or trusteeship.

In the case of the contract:

Should parents have to register their pregnancies with the government in order to enter into this contract? What would the terms of the contract be?

Does the government (a collection of individuals granted special powers by members of a group) have the right to force someone into this contractual agreement? If so, is there something offered in return for the parents' values being transfered? If the parents don't sign the agreement, should they be forced to abort the pregnancy?

Should the child be assessed a contract enforcement fee? Does this violate the idea that nothing that you do before birth can be held against you?

In the case of the trusteeship:

Who gets to be the trustee? How are the terms of the trust established?

Does the government have the right to force the parents to create the trust fund? If the parents refuse, must they terminate the pregnancy?

Should the child have to pay the trustee for his services?

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Many of you have mentioned that having a baby implies a contract or trusteeship.

In the case of the contract:

There are a ton of problems with implied contracts between mother and child, particularly IMO when these implied contracts are supposed to take place before birth. I don't particularly hold the implied contract idea, so I won't presume to answer the questions :)

I have one to add, though. If no one else is willing to take care of the newborn child, does that mean the mother has to? If creating the child obligates the mother to search for a guardian, doesn't that mean she's obligated to be the guardian if no one else is willing?

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There are a ton of problems with implied contracts between mother and child, particularly IMO when these implied contracts are supposed to take place before birth.
No, there is not one single contract between a mother and a child (at least not until the child becomes of age). The concept of contract has a specific meaning, which is not at all applicable to the mother-child relationship.
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My belief is that if it were truly unbearable, he would just die.

However, I must admit that since I have neither been dead nor in "unbearable" pain, I do not know for sure which is worse. Certainly, if someone felt that he had to commit suicide to escape his pain, I would not presume to stop him.

Perhaps unbearable was not the best word. I will change it to "extreme" pain.

Your position was that no state of existence is worse than nonexistence, is that right? What confuses me about this is that I just don't have a very hard time imagining an existence that was so bad, with no hope of change, that death would be the preferred choice. Think about terminal illnesses and such, especially for people who don't have pain relieving medication.

Please note that I'm not suggesting that miserable existences are the norm, that suffering is to be dwelt upon, or any such thing. I'm merely offering this against your assertion.

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Your position was that no state of existence is worse than nonexistence, is that right? What confuses me about this is that I just don't have a very hard time imagining an existence that was so bad, with no hope of change, that death would be the preferred choice.

Yes. I think that what makes pain terrifying is that warns us of the possibility of impending disability or death. Could the fear of death be worse than death itself? I do not see how it could. So I think that choosing death over pain is giving in to a self-delusion about the nature of death.

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The nature of each entity is taken into account.

The nature of man is that he must live by his own effort, neither sacrificing others to himself nor sacrificing others to himself. This is an established fact. Man qua man can survive so long as his rights are respected. These rights are something that other men respect because they themselves have chosen to survive qua man and due to the law of non-contradiction they must respect the rights of others.

The nature of a child is that it is a dependant organism that cannot survive on its own. Child qua child CANNOT survive. The only way a child can survive is if a man supports the child through his efforts. This is also an established fact.

From these two facts, you draw the conclusion that a children have the RIGHT to be supported by men. That's a non-seqitor as far as I can tell. I see only that they need it and that men can choose to give it. Not that they are obliged to.

But I am not drawing the conclusion merely from those two facts. I am drawing the conclusion with reference to, and in the context of, the derivation of the concept of rights, and the purpose of that derivation. This is an aspect of my argument that no one seems to address, so I must be doing a lousy job of expressing it.

As I argued in posts 11, 46 and 61, I see no justification for the notion that the nature of an adult is a relevant and compelling reason to define that being's rights, but the nature of an infant is not. Why is it justified to derive rights in one case and not the other? Isn't that an inconsistent and selective application of the concept of rights?

Given the following: "Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival." (Lexicon. pg 213) Why, then, is it proper to define those "conditions of existence" for adults, but improper to define them for children?

Let's try a concrete example: Suppose that a dying alien race shot their offspring across the cosmos to earth. (i.e. superman!) For the purpose of this example, their young are exactly like humans: utterly helpless, but they will grow up into adult beings which are capable of reason and independant survival.

Would you say that humans would be initiating force against the space babies if they didn't choose to "adopt" them?

No. The humans would have no obligation to the space babies. The only people children can invoke their rights against are the people that brought them into existence. I fully agree that there are no "unchosen obligations".

Then you agree that the issue of how the state is financed is not material to this argument? That something is either a proper function of the state or not and it doesn't matter for this discussion how the state is financed?
Yes, I agree completely

Ah, but you forget: the state would act to enforce the contractual rights of the child. The state would in fact force the parents to care for the child.
I am not familiar with your concept of a child's contractural rights. Is it explained in another of your posts? I was away from my computer for a few days and have not had time to read all the posts in this thread.
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Since this is now the Children's Rights thread, let's keep this conversation on topic and start another thread on the "Which is worse, extreme pain or death?" question.

The extreme pain or death question goes to, more generally, whether there exists any state of existence which is worse than non-existence. It was said (not by me) in essence that bringing a child into the world was inherently helpful because of that. In other words, that bringing a child into the world could not be considered "harm." One of the questions we're trying to figure out is when one "harms" a child. Seems on topic to me.

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No. The humans would have no obligation to the space babies. The only people children can invoke their rights against are the people that brought them into existence. I fully agree that there are no "unchosen obligations".

I am not familiar with your concept of a child's contractural rights. Is it explained in another of your posts? I was away from my computer for a few days and have not had time to read all the posts in this thread.

Fascinating!

My position is that the parents, and only the parents, are legally responsible for their children. Nobody who did not choose the obligation could be said to have it. I originally stated this as the child having the "contractual" right to material sustenance from its parent, but others have pointed out that "contractual" may not be the proper term.

The way that you're defining the child's rights, I believe, leads to unchosen obligations. If a child has the universal right to exist qua child, then that means that someone must provide this material sustenance. In the absence of the parent, if the child has such a right, then anyone who does NOT provide the child with care... whether or not they chose this obligation... is initiating force against the child by depriving it of its "right."

That is, I believe, consistent with what you have argued so far. If not please correct me.

I disagree with that position. Allow me to provide an example:

Let's take a common mythical creature: the vampire. Supposing that a being existed that must kill humans by draining their blood in order to survive. (supposing that it had to in fact kill in this process) You could derive its rights in the same way as a human or a child, since it can reason and has volition. Does this mean that, as a parasite by nature, vampires have the right to exist and kill men?

No.

At least, not in any way that HUMANS should recognize. Remember that rights aren't intrinsic. Humans recognize the right to exist qua man because THEY desire to exist qua man. It would be contradictory not to, and contradictions are contrary to existence qua man, so to speak.

Existing qua parasite (be it child or vampire) is NOT something that non-contradiction requires that men recognize. There is no contradiction in denying a life-form its mode of existence if it conflicts with your own. We do this to animals all the time.

Therefore, the child's rights qua child exist only in relation to those who CHOSE this obligation. (its rights qua man exist in relation to all men, of course)

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Could the fear of death be worse than death itself? I do not see how it could.

One is painful, the other is not. Fear, pain, etc. are felt by a living human, and they hurt. Death (the state of death, not the process of dying, during which one is still alive) is not felt. It is a state of not only not feeling, but not existing as a human any more.

Whether one chooses to continue in extreme pain or to die, I think we would both agree that neither state is the normal state of humanity. Life's overriding theme is learning, and doing, and having fun, not suffering. Unfortunately for some people, they are in such pain that life as a human is no longer possible. Sure they might have eyes and ears and can still do math, but their pain is so intense it can not be shut out.

It seems to me that your question could fairly be rephrased, "Could pain be worse than nothing?". The answer to that is obvious to me. If life as a human, with no suffering or a manageable amount of suffering, is no longer possible, I think it's pretty silly to prolong it. Staying alive to hurt so bad you can't do anything else? :dough:

Perhaps we have reached an impasse. I'm going to step back from this particular discussion for a little bit, reassess both of our arguments, and see if I can get a better idea of where the dispute is. Also, see my post to donnywithana above for how this subject fits into the broader topic at hand.

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The only thing that disgusts me more than jrs' posts is that they were allowed to be on this forum. A question for the admins: What exactly is the policy for advocates of disturbing views? Would you tolerate someone saying child sex should be legal? Are you willing to take the risk of having someone stumble onto this forum only to receive a backwards view of Objectivism?

Just thought I'd register my disgust. If the policy here is as lenient as I think it is, I don't see the point in posting here anymore.

-Zach Oakes

Moderator's note: This post led to a discussion on what is allowed on the forum. I have split it off into another thread (link).

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Therefore, the child's rights qua child exist only in relation to those who CHOSE this obligation. (its rights qua man exist in relation to all men, of course)
If you are saying that the child has the right to material support from the parents, and only from the parents, because they, and only they, chose to have the child, then we are in agreement.
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If you are saying that the child has the right to material support from the parents, and only from the parents, because they, and only they, chose to have the child, then we are in agreement.

I agree that this is a desirable conclusion, but I still can't figure out why it's rationally correct. I understand that the child needs this right in order to exist qua child, but need is not a value, and can not be exchanged for one (material support).

Are we agreeing that this rule should be broken for children? Would the Objectivist community (ARI, etc) support this idea?

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I agree that this is a desirable conclusion, but I still can't figure out why it's rationally correct. I understand that the child needs this right in order to exist qua child, but need is not a value, and can not be exchanged for one (material support).

Are we agreeing that this rule should be broken for children? Would the Objectivist community (ARI, etc) support this idea?

No, need is not a value. Nobody has agreed to break any rule. Where do you see that either of us has deviated from the principles of Objectivism? Perhaps if you point it out specifically, I could clear up your misunderstanding.

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From where does this alleged "principle that adults are responsible for their actions" come? Give a citation to Ayn Rand or Leonard Peikoff.

So much for responsibility and obligation -- Kaput.

Your actions have consequences which affect you -- that is all. This gives no warrant for anyone to impose any additional "consequences" on you. Such as, taking care of a child.

JRS, did you not read the entire article? In the same article that you quoted from above, Miss Rand has this to say about the attitude of a rational, moral man regarding responsibility:

"He does not act without considering – and accepting – all the foreseeable consequences of his actions. Knowing the causal efficacy of his actions, seeing himself as a causal agent (and never seeking to get away with contradictions), he develops a virtue killed by Kantianism: a sense of responsibility.” (page 101 Emphasis in the original.)
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The only thing that disgusts me more than jrs' posts is that they were allowed to be on this forum.

(I believe) initially jrs's argument was that a mother can (should be legal to) abandon her child in some situations. It's been a couple of pages back, so I could be wrong :o That's not to say he hasn't said some other odd things :P

I don't think anyone's advocated the right to outright kill children; in fact, I'd stake that everyone here is opposed to that. The question was whether child abandonment should ever be legal, and if so, under what circumstances, if I recall correctly.

Personally, I think it (child abandonment) a valid (albeit possibly offensive to some) question.

Specifically, one argument was that abandonment should be illegal once a parent/guardian has accepted the "responsibility of guardianship." I'm not even sure if jrs disagreed with that, but I do know that the major question was when has a person legally accepted "responsibility of guardianship."

By "responsibility of guardianship" I mean "obligation to either be guardian to the child or seek someone else to be guardian."

One response to that (which I disagree with) was that a mother has accepted responsibility of guardianship by choosing to birth the child.

So everyone's up to speed :)

Taken as a whole, I don't think it's that disgusting :wacko:

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No, need is not a value. Nobody has agreed to break any rule. Where do you see that either of us has deviated from the principles of Objectivism? Perhaps if you point it out specifically, I could clear up your misunderstanding.

I don't see how you came to the conclusion that a child has the right to material support from its parents. I would argue that because need is not a value, and material support is, then it would be the parents' choice whether or not to provide the support.

Was I wrong in characterizing this as a rule?

Now, there was discussion about taking responsibility for one's actions, and I just wanted to throw in my two cents. I think that what Rand was saying was that responsibility can only be derived from something one has done. In this sense, she's saying that it would be unethical to have a child without wanting to take care of it. I'd say that we can all agree with that.

However, she doesn't seem to be implying that one should be forced to take responsibility. I think that's what this discussion is about.

I think the question we're trying to answer is, can we force someone to take responsibility for having a child? To say yes would imply some sort of agreement between the parents and child which doesn't in fact exist. To say no seems ghastly, and essentially implies that it should be legal to starve a child to death.

It all seems to connect to the reason this thread was started, which stems from abortion. Does a parent have the right to kill a fetus or not? Just because the fetus has left her womb, and parasites sustainence from her in a different way, has the mother's dilemma actually changed?

Objectivism seems to have come up with a solution to the question of abortion which seems satisfactory, but because a human is largely a parasite until it reaches adulthood, the situation gets gummy when one says "parasites don't have rights." It works fine with a cellular structure sucking blood from a uterine wall, but gets a little iffy when applied to a snot nosed brat forking down his unearned Happy Meal.

To go back to the responsibility thing, is it any worse to starve a child to death because you don't want to take responsibility for having it than having an abortion because you aren't willing to take responsibility for having sex without the intention of having a child?

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Neither Oakes nor anyone else of whom I am aware has provided any proof that my position on this issue is false or that my argument is invalid or that either my position or my argument is repugnant to Objectivism. If Oakes has such a proof, let him make a rational argument.

Actually, I think AisA (in the very least) has provided a strong argument against your position, whether you are aware of it or not, or whether you agree or not. In fact, quoting from the same article you previously quoted, he's validated the idea of "responsibility" that you wanted to throw out as an alien term.

To further AisA's comments, I'll include more from that same page;

Accepting no mystic "duties" or unchosen obligations, he is the man who honors scrupulously the obligations which he chooses. The obligation to keep one's promises is one of the most important elements in proper human relationships, the element that leads to mutual confidence and makes cooperation possible amongst men.
- PWNI pg. 101.

Clearly, Ayn Rand and Objectivism recognize the idea of responsibility (when chosen), and the following through of chosen obligations, not JUST being wiling to assume the consequences for failing to follow through on one's responsibilities and chosen obligations. She goes further than just saying one should honor their obligations, she indicates it's virtuous.

That said, I think there is a strong argument behind the idea that if a woman has carried a child 9 months and chosen NOT to abort it during that time, that she has chosen to have the child, and that she has accepted the responsibilities and obligations that come with bringing a helpless rational human being into the world. The more I read of Viable Values by Tara Smith, the more I'm convinced that it would be rather whimsical, not rational, for a woman (in most contexts) to carry a child in her body for 9 months, only to refuse to provide minimal support to that child once it's born, or at least find someone who would provide that support.

In my opinion, the only remaining issue to work out is whether her omission to act in support of the child would constitute a violation of the child's rights, which would then bring in the state to protect the child's rights. AisA has also provided a strong argument to support that the child would have a right to that minimal support by the parent based on it's nature (that being that every human being is born in a helpless condition and cannot survive without minimal assistance), in the same respect that an adult's rights are based on his nature.

As to Oakes' ultimatum, you should notice that at least one moderator and one admin have participated in this thread, and speaking for myself (as the moderator), as one who largely disagrees with your position on this topic and has argued such, I haven't (nor has the admin) attempted to squelch you. In fact, softwareNerd and I have both already stated in response to his post why we wouldn't censor you based on his argument. In other words, you needn't worry about appeals to emotion or "blackmailing".

Edited by RationalCop
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So much for responsibility and obligation -- Kaput.

As AisA correctly inferred, when I wrote this I had not yet read the entire article "Causality Versus Duty" in "Philosophy: Who Needs It" by Ayn Rand. I did not realize that Ayn Rand had different definitions for: "duty", "responsibility", and "obligation".

So while she categorically rejects the anti-concept "duty"; she retains some meaning for "obligation" and "responsibility" (which I will address below).

JRS, did you not read the entire article? ... Miss Rand has this to say about the attitude of a rational, moral man regarding responsibility:

He does not act without considering -– and accepting -– all the foreseeable consequences of his actions. Knowing the causal efficacy of his actions, seeing himself as a causal agent (and never seeking to get away with contradictions), he develops a virtue killed by Kantianism: a sense of RESPONSIBILITY.

I think what she means here is -- IF you want to achieve a goal, then you must be the means, i.e. you must do what is necessary to bring it about. And (as I said previously) your actions have consequences which affect you; so if they cause some undesirable effect, you have to endure that effect.

In our case, if the parents abandon their child, then they have to endure being separated from him; and, if he is not adopted, they have to endure his death and the loss of whatever value he might have created. BUT this does not mean that they have to be subjected to additional punishment by the state.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged Edition 1966) describes the difference as follows: "DUTY, OBLIGATION refer to what one feels bound to do. DUTY is what one performs, or avoids doing, in fulfillment of the permanent dictates of conscience, piety, right, or law: duty to one's country; one's duty to tell the truth, to raise children properly. An OBLIGATION is what one is bound to do to fulfill the dictates of usage, custom, or propriety, and to carry out a particular, specific, and often personal promise or agreement: financial or social obligations."

The difference is that duty is imposed upon you absolutely while obligation is contingent upon your choice of a goal. E.g. if you want to want to be trusted and known as a man of your word, then you have an obligation to keep your promises.

The only obligation which I can see having a bearing on our case is the promise that one parent might have made to the other parent to help raise their child. If they jointly decide to abandon it, then this is not applicable.

I don't think anyone's advocated the right to outright kill children; in fact, I'd stake that everyone here is opposed to that.

Yes. I am opposed to killing the child. That would be murder.

Specifically, one argument was that abandonment should be illegal once a parent/guardian has accepted the "responsibility of guardianship." I'm not even sure if jrs disagreed with that, but I do know that the major question was when has a person legally accepted "responsibility of guardianship."
A parent only becomes obligated to care for his child, if he makes a promise or contract to that effect, presumably with the other parent as a condition of conceiving the child.

That said, I think there is a strong argument behind the idea that if a woman has carried a child 9 months and chosen NOT to abort it during that time, that she has chosen to have the child, and that she has accepted the responsibilities and obligations that come with bringing a helpless rational human being into the world.

What is the strong argument?

The more I read of Viable Values by Tara Smith, the more I'm convinced that it would be rather whimsical, not rational, for a woman (in most contexts) to carry a child in her body for 9 months, only to refuse to provide minimal support to that child once it's born, or at least find someone who would provide that support.
If she knew that she would encounter this situation (a defective child and insufficient resources to also care for a replacement), then it might be more rational to have an abortion.

AisA has also provided a strong argument to support that the child would have a right to that minimal support by the parent based on it's nature (that being that every human being is born in a helpless condition and cannot survive without minimal assistance), in the same respect that an adult's rights are based on his nature.

No he has not. You appear to be assuming that one has a right to be given whatever one needs to survive. There is not and cannot be any such right.

... softwareNerd and I have both already stated in response to his post why we wouldn't censor you based on his argument. In other words, you needn't worry about appeals to emotion or "blackmailing".

Thank you.

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What is the strong argument?

If she knew that she would encounter this situation (a defective child and insufficient resources to also care for a replacement), then it might be more rational to have an abortion.

No he has not. You appear to be assuming that one has a right to be given whatever one needs to survive. There is not and cannot be any such right.

I will address this later because it will require more time than I have right now, I'm doing more reading and research on the issue, and I need to sleep. But I will say this:

I'm not assuming anything, I'm making logical and reasonable assertions based on what has already been said several times. Recognizing that repeating those assertions will serve no purpose, I'm not going to state them again at this point.

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The only obligation which I can see having a bearing on our case is the promise that one parent might have made to the other parent to help raise their child. If they jointly decide to abandon it, then this is not applicable.

Yes. I am opposed to killing the child. That would be murder.

A parent only becomes obligated to care for his child, if he makes a promise or contract to that effect, presumably with the other parent as a condition of conceiving the child.

Rights are moral santions to positive action. All human beings have rights but infants are unable to take the action required to realize their rights. Parents understand this and then, by choice, agree to be the guardians of their children's rights and take that required action on behalf of their children.

The agreement is between the parent and child. But since the child is unable to agree the parent must agree for the child thus making an agreement with herself -- in other words she accepts the responsibility of rearing the child.

If the parents choose not to accept that responsibility before the baby is born they may have an abortion. If they wait until after the child is born they cannot then agree amongst themselves to violate the rights of another human being. As with all other rights that people choose not to take responsibility for, they must rely on the private charity of others and hope that someone else is willing to accept that responsibility.

I apologize if I have repeated anything that has come before, but I wanted to lay out my principled argument and see which of those principles you disagree with -- so go ahead, do your worst.

p.s.

Is there a difference between killing a child and leaving an infant in the forest to fend for itself?

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p.s.

Is there a difference between killing a child and leaving an infant in the forest to fend for itself?

That depends one one relationship to the child.

A mother who carries a child to term (assuming abortion is legal and available in her country), does so with the full knowledge that this child is unable to care for itself. In carrying the child to term, she is obligating herself to provide that care. This isn't because a child has more rights than anyone else, it's because the mother is the one who put the child in the position of needing any support at all. If a woman knows that a child will not be taken care of, and gives birth anyway, then it is tantamount to murder. Because of this, if she has a child and does not make arrangements for someone else to be the caretaker, she is doing one of two things: intending to commit murder by abandonment, or implicitly agreeing to be the child's caretaker.

Any defects the child has are irrelevant. A parent has a chosen obligation (even if they don't recognize the choice, it's implicit) to be the caretaker of his/her child.

Now, if a parent agrees to be the child's caretaker, and then later abandons it in the woods, he is defaulting on his previous agreement to take care of the child. Knowing that this default will necessarily lead to the death of the child makes it murder. The parents actions have directly led to the death of the child.

If a stranger walks by and sees an abandoned child, he is under no obligation to help (although I wouldn't personally take kindly to someone who just left the child sitting there), and since he is not the person who has chosen to be the child's means of survival, he is not guilty of murder.

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