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Cheating vs. Rights

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CF, From this post, I gather that you're saying that a cheating boyfriend is being immoral, but the law will not enforce his agreement. Are you also saying that the law ought not to enforce this type of agreement (assuming it was made in the typical BF-GF way, and not some special hypothetical)?

From my one law class (Contract Law 101), I remember that typical agreements between friends could not be enforced. If I remember right, the implied/explicit nature was not the primary philosophical issue (though it would be an important part of the practicality of enforcement). I think the two things that make them non-enforceable in the common-law view are: the notion that the parties to the agreement had no intention to be legally bound; and, secondly, the vagueness of the consideration. (This latter is what prompts the $1 payments for things that are actually gifts.)

Traditionally, a "promise to marry" has been recognized as a special case, where the offer and acceptance were considered adequate consideration to make the promise legally enforceable (not by forcing the marriage, but by requiring compensation). However, this too has changed. In the U.S. today, most states will no longer enforce such a typical promise to marry.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Thanks for those links. I'm not sure I agree with their terminology, though; if you're going to call something a contract, then by the nature of that fact it is going to be binding. I think a "non-binding contract" is a contradiction in terms. What I would call the "employer's offer of continuity ... [etc.]" is simply a statement of intent. You can express to anyone what you think you intend to do based on your situation at the moment, but as your situation changes, you may change your mind. But as soon as you've made a binding representation (i.e. a promise) on what you're going to do, you have no right to go back on it.

Well, this is what the debate is on. (Or would be, if they weren't debating with strawmen.) Certainly, there are sexual relationships where fidelity is not implied. But there are also some very serious relationships where, although the couple are not married, they almost see themselves as if they were, or are even on the verge of considering marriage. Would you agree at least with the possibility that both parties may see an implied promise of fidelity in that kind of a relationship?

I don't know whether to agree with you or not because I have no idea what you mean by 'promise'. There is an exchange of values and mutual valuing going on, much subject to revision as a couple get to know each other. When it is time to commit to a promise of fidelity, I suggest getting married because that is what marriage is and what it is for. Short of marriage the relationship can end at any time for any reason due to a good faith revised evaluation of the value of the other person, or even due to meeting someone else. That is what dating is for, time to gain certainty in evaluating the significant other. This evaluation is always in your full context, including comparison with all the other people you know.

Or, better still, to eliminate the confusion caused by the promise being merely implied, suppose that there is a specific couple that I know. I sit down with them and ask both, "Would you say that your relationship is an exclusive one?" The girl says, "Why yes, absolutely, Steve is the only man in my life." Then I look at Steve and he says, "Sure, although we're not yet sure we want to marry, I wouldn't date anyone else without talking it over with Laura first. I owe that to her." Suppose even that Laura asks Steve, "Is that a promise?" and he says "Yes." So, in this admittedly rather manufactured scenario, we have an explicit promise of fidelity for the duration of the relationship. (Note that we have no promise whatsoever of the continuation of the relationship--that is something entirely different from fidelity.)

My position is that in this scenario,

1. Steve has not made an enforceable promise;

2. therefore, Laura has no basis on which to seek legal restitution if Steve breaks his promise;

3. nonetheless, Steve has made a binding representation (since all promises are by their nature binding);

4. therefore, if Steve dates someone else without talking to Laura first, he is cheating ; and that

5. Steve has no moral right to do so, as no one ever has a moral right to cheat innocent people.

What does 'binding' mean? Bound by whom or what? The only alternatives I can see are being bound by your own sense of right and wrong (morality) and being bound by law. Clearly Laura can't do any binding. She is not your moral code nor is she the law. The only way to make sense of your statement "all promises are by their nature binding" is as morally significant. So all promises are morally binding, but only some are also legally binding.

Violating an implicit contract is not a form of force.

Lieing is what this thread is really about. Is lieing a form of initiation of force? Only if material goods are exchanged. Intangible spiritual values can't be literally stolen. If you think you are in love, you are in love. When you don't love anymore, then you aren't.

The only thing 'lost' is time. Good luck getting a court to appraise the monetary value of the time devoted to your love life, or that the SO's discovery of a purported better value than you was not in good faith.

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CF, From this post, I gather that you're saying that a cheating boyfriend is being immoral, but the law will not enforce his agreement.

Yes, and what makes the issue contentious is that I am also saying that he is being immoral by infringing the moral rights of his girlfriend--the same moral rights that, in enforceable cases, also serve as the basis for the law.

Are you also saying that the law ought not to enforce this type of agreement (assuming it was made in the typical BF-GF way, and not some special hypothetical)?

Well, the law ought only to enforce agreements where the fact of the agreement having been made can be established in a court of law to the appropriate standard of proof. Since the typical boyfriend-girlfriend relationship is far from meeting such standards of proof, yes, I do hold that the law ought not enforce it.

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I don't know whether to agree with you or not because I have no idea what you mean by 'promise'. There is an exchange of values and mutual valuing going on, much subject to revision as a couple get to know each other. When it is time to commit to a promise of fidelity, I suggest getting married because that is what marriage is and what it is for.

But there are many couples today that live in a sort of pseudo-marriage, perhaps because they think that marriage is "old-fashioned" and for some reason they want to avoid old-fashioned stuff--or for whatever motivation, it does not matter, the fact is simply that some couples may not follow your suggestion to get married but still, by mutual agreement, live in a relationship that has all the key features of a marriage except for the formality. This does not give them legal enforceability, but when you're really in love with someone, you will typically trust him 100%, so the last thing you will worry about is whether you'll be able to go to a court if he cheats on you. You simply don't expect him to cheat on you at all. Now, supposing that the girl is tragically mistaken and her boyfriend does cheat on her, then he is in violation of said mutual agreement, and he is not within his (moral) rights. And I am saying that, although those moral rights are not enforceable in this case, they are the very same kind of moral rights that, in enforceable cases, serve as the basis of just law.

Short of marriage the relationship can end at any time

Again, please distinguish between infidelity and the end of the relationship. The relationship may well continue after the girlfriend has found out about the infidelity (i.e., if she is so much in love with him that she simply forgives and forgets), and the relationship may easily end even if there is no infidelity on either party's part (they may simply get bored of each other, or realize they are not really compatible as far as their senses of life are concerned, etc.) So the two things are completely independent of each other.

What does 'binding' mean? Bound by whom or what? The only alternatives I can see are being bound by your own sense of right and wrong (morality) and being bound by law.

I pretty much agree, although I'll note that your own sense of right and wrong and the law both ought to be objective, i.e. based on reality--on the same reality. Now, you will know more about the reality of your own relationships than a court of law will, so you will recognize more of your agreements as binding on you than the court will. You know that you have made a promise to your girlfriend and, in morality, you are bound by it. Since the court does not know about the promise, all they can say is: "Well, lady, if you could prove to us that he made that promise, we would enforce it, but since there is no way for you to prove it, we will not enforce it. Next time, you might want to have him put it into writing, and then you can come to us for enforcement."

The only way to make sense of your statement "all promises are by their nature binding" is as morally significant. So all promises are morally binding, but only some are also legally binding.

I think you have just pointed out the root of the disagreement that started this whole thread. I hold that there is no distinction between something being morally binding versus legally binding, there is only a difference in enforceability--while David prefers to call all actions legal that do not violate enforceable rights.

Somehow like this:

ME							  DAVID						   e.g.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morally OK & rightful Morally OK & legally OK Being productive
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morally wrong, but still Morally wrong, legally OK Taking cocaine
rightful
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morally wrong, unrightful, Morally wrong, legally OK Cheating on girlfriend
but unenforceable
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morally wrong, unrightful, Morally wrong & legally wrong Violating written contract
actionable by law[/code]

Note how I am saying "unrightful" in both lines at the bottom and only claim a difference in enforceability, while David says "legally OK" in the case I call unenforceable and "legally wrong" in the case where I see enforceability.

On the other hand, I make a distinction between something like taking cocaine, which does not break any promise or violate any other social relationship (i.e. right) on the one hand, and cheating, which does so, on the other. What started the discussion was David saying this sort of action "should be legal," which I found odd since I think the law should not [i]approve[/i] of it as rightful (as it approves of taking cocaine), but simply not enforce it because of lack of enforceability.

Lieing is what this thread is really about. Is lieing a form of initiation of force? Only if material goods are exchanged. Intangible spiritual values can't be literally stolen.

Oh, I think we really ought to discuss copyrights on another thread. :D

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Note how I am saying "unrightful" in both lines at the bottom and only claim a difference in enforceability, while David says "legally OK" in the case I call unenforceable and "legally wrong" in the case where I see enforceability.

On the other hand, I make a distinction between something like taking cocaine, which does not break any promise or violate any other social relationship (i.e. right) on the one hand, and cheating, which does so, on the other. What started the discussion was David saying this sort of action "should be legal," which I found odd since I think the law should not approve of it as rightful (as it approves of taking cocaine), but simply not enforce it because of lack of enforceability.

I think there is a slight difference in your idea of the role of government should be and mine (and I believe David's and the dissenters'). You seem to believe that the government can act against violations of morality when it affects others and is objectively proveable. I believe that the government should only act against initiations of force (direct physical force or violation of a contract). I have a related post on my blog here.

The problem with your claim is that the government would be the one initiating force if it were to act as you believe it should.

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Again, please distinguish between infidelity and the end of the relationship. The relationship may well continue after the girlfriend has found out about the infidelity (i.e., if she is so much in love with him that she simply forgives and forgets), and the relationship may easily end even if there is no infidelity on either party's part (they may simply get bored of each other, or realize they are not really compatible as far as their senses of life are concerned, etc.) So the two things are completely independent of each other.

They are independent but can and should be linked by the girlfriend's rational actions. Terminating the relationship is the only moral and legal way the girlfriend can informally 'enforce' the presumed fidelity agreement in the absence of cause for any formal legal action. She can do this because it is not force. If she chooses not to enforce the agreement that nullifies the agreement.

I think you have just pointed out the root of the disagreement that started this whole thread. I hold that there is no distinction between something being morally binding versus legally binding, there is only a difference in enforceability--while David prefers to call all actions legal that do not violate enforceable rights.

Note how I am saying "unrightful" in both lines at the bottom and only claim a difference in enforceability, while David says "legally OK" in the case I call unenforceable and "legally wrong" in the case where I see enforceability.

Enforceability is not a trivial distinction. In fact, enforceability might be the conceptual common denominator of law. A law which is unenforceable is a contradiction.

On the other hand, I make a distinction between something like taking cocaine, which does not break any promise or violate any other social relationship (i.e. right) on the one hand, and cheating, which does so, on the other. What started the discussion was David saying this sort of action "should be legal," which I found odd since I think the law should not approve of it as rightful (as it approves of taking cocaine), but simply not enforce it because of lack of enforceability.

Very curious of you to interpret actions which are not illegal as 'approved by law'. The law does not forbid using cocaine so that encourages cocaine use and suggests it is a moral thing? The law is a finite set of rules but the scope of all human action is practically infinite in comparison. The law cannot be said to have an opinion on every act upon which it is silent.

The law is not a moral code or even a subset of a moral code. Law is not derived deductively from ethics. There is much practical, inductively derived wisdom in law which has no basis in ethics. For example, there is no ethical basis for driving on the left or right side of the road but there is an ethical basis for getting everyone to drive on the same side of the road. Much law is procedural and has no basis other than the benefits (sometimes merely supposed benefits) of uniformity and regularity.

So there are moral, legal and rightful acts? I do not see why rightful is a useful concept. Taking cocaine and lieing to your girlfriend are both wrongful acts, not rightful. You should have the freedom (right) to do both. The social distinction between taking cocaine and lieing is in no way essential.

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You seem to believe that the government can act against violations of morality when it affects others and is objectively proveable.

Of course not. For example, taking cocaine can affect others, and it can be proveable, but the government still has no legitimate role in preventing it.

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A law which is unenforceable is a contradiction.

But I am not saying there should be a law against cheating on your girlfriend. I am saying you have no right to do so, but the law cannot enforce it. Is a right that is unenforceable a contradiction?

(Side note: This will obviously be different under the right kind of government, but in our mixed economies, we have all kinds of dumb laws which are unenforceable and have never been meant to be enforced, at least not consistently.)

Very curious of you to interpret actions which are not illegal as 'approved by law'. The law does not forbid using cocaine so that encourages cocaine use and suggests it is a moral thing?

Check my table. :P

The law cannot be said to have an opinion on every act upon which it is silent.

I maintain that the law ought to have a potential opinion on every act. If not enough facts are proven to the required standard, the law cannot say anything other than "case dismissed"--but a good legal expert, when presented with a hypothetical where all the relevant information is given, ought to be able to tell about any act whether or not the actor is within his rights.

The law is not a moral code or even a subset of a moral code.

It should be based on an objective moral code, and for all ordinary-life situations, it ought to be a subset of it, too.

There is much practical, inductively derived wisdom in law which has no basis in ethics. For example, there is no ethical basis for driving on the left or right side of the road but there is an ethical basis for getting everyone to drive on the same side of the road.

The government has no business telling people which side to drive on. By right, that is entirely the decision of the road owners. The government is only enforcing their property rights when requiring people to drive on the side chosen by them.

I do not see why rightful is a useful concept.

For the same reason individual rights are a useful concept. When we identify rights, we also want to identify which actions are within those rights and which actions are not.

Taking cocaine and lieing to your girlfriend are both wrongful acts, not rightful.

They are both morally wrong, but taking cocaine does not infringe the rights of any other individual, while lying to your girlfriend does. Lying is a form of force (specifically, of fraud), while taking cocaine is not.

(But again, lying to your girlfriend is not the same thing as cheating on your girlfriend, much like cheating is not the same as breaking up. In this case, I don't really mind the change of subject, though; in fact, let's make it lying to your mother, so that it's completely unrelated to sex ... perhaps that will help cool tempers down.)

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Of course not. For example, taking cocaine can affect others, and it can be proveable, but the government still has no legitimate role in preventing it.

Then I am at a complete loss to understand what distinction you are trying to make between your position and David's or Grames'.

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They are both morally wrong, but taking cocaine does not infringe the rights of any other individual, while lying to your girlfriend does. Lying is a form of force (specifically, of fraud), while taking cocaine is not.

Does a person have a right to the truth? As far as the sexual exclusivity of BF/GF relationship, it is largely a matter of trust. Perhaps it should fall more under the lines of caveat emptor.

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Does a person have a right to the truth?

One has a right not to be defrauded, yes. I think lies fall under the category of fraud, although I know that David disagrees with that.

Then I am at a complete loss to understand what distinction you are trying to make between your position and David's or Grames'.

I think the table in this post sums it up pretty well.

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One has a right not to be defrauded, yes. I think lies fall under the category of fraud, although I know that David disagrees with that.

I think the table in this post sums it up pretty well.

So you are saying some acts are immoral because they involve an initiation of force, yet they fall outside the law.

Yes, that is a feature not bug.

Law should be objective (lowercase 'o'), which means there needs to be material signs, traces, and clues resulting from the unlawful act which can be used as evidence of harm. Hurt feelings don't leave tangible evidence and so are (or should be) outside the scope of the law.

The private act of doing drugs is a purported 'victimless crime', but some immoral acts are social and so do have victims. Yet immoral acts are not illegal unless there is material harm.

Drug laws are opposed because they violate individual rights, girlfriend protection laws are opposed because material harm cannot be demonstrated. The reasons are different but the results are the same: both are legal. I think this is what CF thinks is a problem, but it's not.

Edited by Grames
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I am not sure I entirely follow you in the last post, but let me address it to the extent I understand it. (So I apologize in advance if I seem to be taking some of your sentences out of context--the reason is that I don't know what the context was meant to be.)

Law should be objective (lowercase 'o'), which means there needs to be material signs, traces, and clues resulting from the unlawful act which can be used as evidence of harm.

Agreed.

Hurt feelings don't leave tangible evidence and so are (or should be) outside the scope of the law.

They definitely are, although they are also outside the scope of rights. Rights always pertain to existential values, not to feelings. Some of the posters have been mentioning the cheated girlfriend's hurt feelings, but they are completely irrelevant to this thread.

While I wrote the above, it occurred to me that perhaps the reason why people keep bringing feelings into this is that they think that all that infidelity affects is the girl's feelings. That is definitely not so; some counter-examples that quickly come into my mind are: The unfaithful boyfriend may carry some sexually transmitted virus from his date to the girlfriend, such as H.I.V.--which could then cause the girlfriend's death. This is as literal an existential effect on her life as it gets. Or, on a less dramatic scale, it could simply be that the affair causes his energies to be exhausted and he cannot satisfy the girlfriend as well as he could if she were his only one. Or maybe he's losing time that he would have spent on building his career, and is thus able to buy fewer gifts to her. And so on...

But all this does not matter. When you have a right, you don't have to explain in what way a violation of that right affects your life. Having a right to something means that you have a right to it, PERIOD. No further justification on your part is necessary. If a wealthy man has twenty cars and one of them is stolen, could the thief rightly argue that "Well, it must have hurt his feelings to have his car stolen, but he was not using it anyway, so his life was not affected in any material way, so his case is based on nothing but emotion" ? No, because the man's case is based on his right of property in his car. Once he has satisfied the court that he was the car's owner, there is nothing further for him to explain. The fact of ownership alone is sufficient for us to say that the thief's action was unrightful.

Similarly, when you have been made a promise, the fact of that promise alone gives you a right to the thing promised. A moral right; one which may or may not be enforceable depending on how well the promise is documented--but a right nonetheless. You need not explain why you want the thing that was promised--whether it's your emotions, your transportation needs, your health, etc.--all you need to say is that you've been promised it, and we know you have a right to it, just like all the car collector needs to say is that he owns the car, and we know he has a right to it.

The private act of doing drugs is a purported 'victimless crime', but some immoral acts are social and so do have victims. Yet immoral acts are not illegal unless there is material harm.

Drug laws are opposed because they violate individual rights, girlfriend protection laws are opposed because material harm cannot be demonstrated.

Are you saying I oppose them for these reasons, or are you saying that you oppose them for these reasons? (Or that Objectivism opposes them for these reasons, or that they should be opposed for these reasons? ... You see, I've been trying, but the passive mood really tricked me here ...)

As for me, I think that taking drugs may be a "social act" and may have victims, but it does not violate any rights, so there should be no law against it. Cheating on your girlfriend (if it's really cheating, i.e. in violation of your "terms of relationship") does violate her rights, but the typical "terms of relationship" are not enforceable (and the enforceable ones are covered under the laws for written contracts anyway) so there is no point in having a law against it.

It's not about not being able to demonstrate "material harm" ; it's not being able to show the contract. If you had a written contract, on whatever subject, you could hold the other guy responsible for not doing whatever he said he would do in the contract--you would not need to explain why you suffered material harm from his non-performance. If he signed a contract saying he would bark at the moon, you could just go to a court and ask for an injunction making him bark at the moon; you would not have to explain what difference it makes to you if he does or does not bark at the moon.

The reasons are different but the results are the same: both are legal.

Let's put it this way: The results are the same: you can do both without worrying about legal consequences.

(That's what the immoral guy worries about anyway, isn't it? He could care less whether I say he's within his rights or not. "I do it and no go to court, Mister? Thank you, that all I want, you have great country!" ... and he does it and is happy. "Rights" is just a concept in my mind and does not affect his enjoyment of his coke, nor his slut.--But if we move now from what he cares about to what I care about, I should very much care about the contents of my mind, shouldn't I? My ideas affect what I want to enjoy--my life--more than anything else.)

I think this is what CF thinks is a problem, but it's not.

I don't think there's any problem. :P

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David and I had a very similar discussion in another thread called "Free speech vs libel" in the Questions about Objectivism Forum here: http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...st&p=171970

Here the example is cheating, there we discussed lying and torturing your dog. In other threads I have argued that one doesn't have the right to live in a dictatorship nor does one have the right to be a slave.

So you can see I tend to side with Capitalism Forever, though David and others here do make compelling arguments so I continue to think about the issue and I have been on the lookout for evidence to support their conclusion. To that end I found this bit in the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard in the article entitled "Immigration and Individual Rights" by Craig Biddle last paragraph pg. 13:

In a civilized society, whether or not a person is legally free to take a particular action depends on whether he has a right to take the action. If the action will violate the rights of others, then he does not have a right to take it; if the action will not violate the rights of others, then he does have a right to take it. There is no middle ground here: Either a person has a right to take a given aciton, or he does not. And if he does, he morally must be left free to do so.

This is fairly strong evidence to support the other side though I still don't think it settles the issue. Rather, it moves the issue to a correct definition of Rights.

I argue that since rights are derived from ethical action, I don't see how they can refer back to something that is unethical and that if you want to discuss unethical action, then the only thing to say about it is that you are allowed to do it as long as you don't interfere with someone else's rights. This is a summation of my position so please, before someone starts arguing with me I request that you first read my entire explication in the aforementioned thread, it is a short 3 pager.

Edited for further explanation: Leaving it there might lead to trouble so let me add that there may not be a difference in practice between the two positions just in theory. That while this may seem trivial to some, I believe that Rights are sanctions to moral action and that they must always be described as such. So, while I would say that a person doesn't have the right to torture his dog, that he does have the right to dispose of his property as he sees fit and that I have no right to stop him. That a BF has no right to lie and cheat, but that he does have the right to exercise his own judgement. That a person has the right to live, but that he doesn't have the right to live in a dictatorship -- otherwise dictators could claim, legitimately, that their citizens were exercising their rights.

As to this thread, I think it might be helpful to reenlist the hypothetical of the BF/GF and add a twist that softwareNerd implied: a promise of marriage. Let us say the BF proposes marriage to the GF and gives her a diamond engagement ring which she accepts. Though no date has been set, they are both clear that this is not only a promise to marry but also a promise to be monogamous. If the BF cheats, is she entitled to keep the ring? If she cheats, can she keep the ring? Let us say that no one cheats but before a date is set the BF decides, for whatever reason, that he doesn't want to go through with it, can he get the ring back?

I would also like to mention, as a practical (and ethical) matter that whenever I get involved with someone I do like to make it verbally explicit what page we are on. So at the beginning of a relationship, no pressure, (though even then I do like to know if she is seeing anybody else). After some time and I think we are getting serious then I like to discuss things and express my desires for the relationship and get some verbal agreement that: yes, this is an exclusive relationship. But of course I like to make most things explicit anyway. (Literally and figuratively :P )

Edited by Marc K.
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In what comes below I have changed the order of the quotes so I could make the point about objectivity before using it in a later paragraph.

Rights always pertain to existential values, not to feelings.

Cheating on your girlfriend does violate her rights, ...

What existential values are at stake? Contracting an STD is material harm, and is a violation of rights on that basis alone. Her other expectations are not rights.

It's not about not being able to demonstrate "material harm" ; it's not being able to show the contract.

It's about objectivity. Written contracts make objective what are otherwise subjective intentions and expectations. Objectivity is the reason for the material harm standard, so a written contract is a suitable substitute for an actual harm.

Similarly, when you have been made a promise, the fact of that promise alone gives you a right to the thing promised....

No, rights are inalienable and cannot be promised away, or even contracted away. A man can promise to be faithful, but he still has the right to be unfaithful. His right to be unfaithful is truly inalienable. If a particular girlfriend has been cheated on she literally has no recourse at all. She could decide to end the relationship, but she always had that inalienable right she now merely has a new reason to exercise it. (The same goes for any half-measure.) Because of the absence of any objective harm (material harm or abrogation of a marriage contract) she has no rights that have been violated.

Exception by means of physical force, real rights are truly inalienable. Because we know there is no conflict between rights, any asserted right that conflicts with a real right is false.

Now, the question arises how can someone have the 'right' to do something that is not 'right'. All rights derive from the right to life, and the corollary right to act. If one wants to live, then one must take the rational and objectively correct actions to keep and further one's life. But there is an epistemological problem here: who knows enough to decide what is a rational and objectively correct action? There is no such entity as an omniscient and perfectly rational final authority. Everyone is their own judge of what is best for their own life, and that judgement is finite and fallible. The freedom to think has a corollary freedom to act, with one exception. Every man is alone inside his own mind but he shares the world with others; therefore one's freedom to act ends where another's right to life begins. The freedom to do wrong derives from a general freedom to act, which derives from the total freedom to think.

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So, while I would say that a person doesn't have the right to torture his dog, that he does have the right to dispose of his property as he sees fit and that I have no right to stop him.

Well, if the dog is his property and he has a right to dispose of it as he sees fit, then that means he has a right to torture it, doesn't it? What makes you say he doesn't have a right to torture it? It's his, and that should be the end of the matter.

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Grames, I was hoping you would enlighten me a little with regard to your previous post. As you see, I tried to guess what you meant, but I am still not sure my interpretation is correct.

What existential values are at stake?

The fidelity. As I said, the simple fact that it has been promised to her gives her a moral right to it.

Contracting an STD is material harm, and is a violation of rights on that basis alone.

If the boy knew that he got the virus and intentionally transmitted it to her, then yes, we have a case of murder. But it is much more probable that he did not know about it, in which case he cannot be held responsible for it.

It's about objectivity. Written contracts make objective what are otherwise subjective intentions and expectations. Objectivity is the reason for the material harm standard, so a written contract is a suitable substitute for an actual harm.

Right, if you want to go to court, you will need some objective evidence. But the girl does NOT want to go to court. All she wants is to be able to say, "My rights have been violated."

She does not want money. She does not want the relationship to continue. She does not want some god to undo her boyfriend's unfaithfulness. She does not want the slut to die. She does not want her feelings to be mended. She does not want a replacement boyfriend. All she wants all I want is for you to agree that, given the Objectivist concept of "right" and the related concept "violation (of rights)," the boyfriend's action is subsumed under "violation of rights."

No, rights are inalienable and cannot be promised away, or even contracted away. A man can promise to be faithful, but he still has the right to be unfaithful. His right to be unfaithful is truly inalienable.

Inalienable rights cannot be contracted away, that is for sure. But the only inalienable rights Objectivism recognizes are the right to life and the other basic rights derived from it, such as the right to liberty or the right to property. There is no inalienable right to be unfaithful. As long as you undertake no obligation to the contrary, you may sleep with whomever you please--but as soon as you promise to be faithful to a certain woman, you have no more right to sleep with whomever you please.

This is no different from how it works with monetary obligations. If you have $100, you may spend it in whatever way you please, as long as you undertake no obligation to the contrary. If you sign a contract that involves your paying me $10, you no longer have a right to spend the $100 as you please: you can only spend $90 as you please, and you have to pay me $10. Your right to property as such is inalienable and you cannot sign it away, but your rights to the specific items of property--such as specific amounts of money--are subject to the obligations you undertake. They are not inalienable; they are tradeable.

If a particular girlfriend has been cheated on she literally has no recourse at all.

As I said, stop worrying about the recourse. She wants no recourse.

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Well, if the dog is his property and he has a right to dispose of it as he sees fit, then that means he has a right to torture it, doesn't it? What makes you say he doesn't have a right to torture it? It's his, and that should be the end of the matter.

An animal is a living thing.

Torture is "the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty."

An animal is not capable of reason and can not give a confession or information, nor can it comprehend revenge.

Torture of an animal can only therefore be for punishment or for cruelty.

Torture as punishment is ineffective. (We can debate this later if you like...)

Therefore torture of an animal can only be for cruelty.

If you can provide proof as to why cruelty can be seen as Pro-Life (from an objectivist definition of pro-life, not relating to abortion), I'll agree that you have the right to torture any animal you own.

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If you can provide proof as to why cruelty can be seen as Pro-Life (from an objectivist definition of pro-life, not relating to abortion), I'll agree that you have the right to torture any animal you own.

While torturing an animal is normally not a rational thing to do and therefore not moral, since it does not violate the rights of anyone else (animals do most emphatically NOT have rights), one can rightfully do so.

Saying that something is rightful does not imply moral approval, just "legal approval."

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An animal is a living thing.

Torture is "the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty."

An animal is not capable of reason and can not give a confession or information, nor can it comprehend revenge.

Torture of an animal can only therefore be for punishment or for cruelty.

Torture as punishment is ineffective. (We can debate this later if you like...)

Therefore torture of an animal can only be for cruelty.

If you can provide proof as to why cruelty can be seen as Pro-Life (from an objectivist definition of pro-life, not relating to abortion), I'll agree that you have the right to torture any animal you own.

Medical research on animals definitely falls under the definition of torture( and according to you that automatically means cruelty), and it is also "Pro Life", (meaning that past research saves millions of human lives every year, and future research will save millions more no doubt). Quad era demonstratum, my friend.

So now you face a conundrum: you can either come out in favor of the right to torture animals, or admit that you're full of crap, as evidenced by your silly made up definitions and logic.

Any time you try to make up your own "objective" philosophy, designed to suit your personal feelings( in this case the feeling of disgust most of us have at the sight of a tortured animal), your arguments are gonna be pretty easy to counter.

As you don't seem to be a PETA fanatic, there are three options for you here:

1. be a pragmatist, and allow animals to be slaughtered for food, or tortured for medical research, but put someone who tortures animals for fun, like Michael Vick, in jail.

2. Be a relativist, and say that bullfighting is OK in Spain, eating cats is OK in China, but in the US people should go to jail for doing that. An extreme for of relativism would I guess be to say animals should have the same rights humans have, just because they are alive--even though they obviously are nothing like us)

3. You can be an objectivist, and say that animals are private property, which is not to be interfered with by anyone.

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While torturing an animal is normally not a rational thing to do and therefore not moral, since it does not violate the rights of anyone else (animals do most emphatically NOT have rights), one can rightfully do so.

Saying that something is rightful does not imply moral approval, just "legal approval."

But a living being is alive, and while it has no rights in the sense of rational negotiation with other beings, as a living being it has as much right to live as any other living being. That is, it is alive, its life is a means to its own end, just as our life is a means to our own end.

Animals, by and large, don't kill other animals for no purpose. It may be defensive (territory threatened), or for food, or an instinctive execution of hunting patterns (well fed house cat killing a mouse), but random killings for no purpose just don't happen.

An animal being property doesn't make it a non-living thing. The pointless torture of an animal is an assault on a life that cannot defend itself. I think a strong argument exists that no living being has the right to hurt another living thing, regardless of rationality, for no purpose other than that of selfish, non-life sustaining pleasure.

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Grames, I was hoping you would enlighten me a little with regard to your previous post. As you see, I tried to guess what you meant, but I am still not sure my interpretation is correct.

You have done well. If I write ambiguously leading you to take the wrong path then it is up to me to followup with a correction. I have none to make so far.

The fidelity. As I said, the simple fact that it has been promised to her gives her a moral right to it.

I agree fidelity is existential and can be a value, but no one can ever have a right to it. There can no such thing as a moral right to a value that someone else has to provide. Constructed contractual rights are not rights in the same meaning that individual moral rights have in the Lexicon and to use the term right interchangeably in the two senses is to commit the fallacy of equivocation. First, individual rights are moral principles deriving from the metaphysical nature of man while contractual rights derive from a man-made contract. Second, individual rights only refer to action while contractual rights can specify items of property. Thirdly, violations of individual rights are always criminal matters while violations of contractual rights are always civil matters. Fourthly, individual moral rights have logical precedence over contractual rights, meaning they are inalienable and cannot be contracted away, and are always victorious in any supposed conflict.

If the boy knew that he got the virus and intentionally transmitted it to her, then yes, we have a case of murder. But it is much more probable that he did not know about it, in which case he cannot be held responsible for it.

I am not a lawyer, but intention is not required to establish responsibility in general so there are other charges and civil actions that could be brought if murder does not apply.

Right, if you want to go to court, you will need some objective evidence. But the girl does NOT want to go to court. All she wants is to be able to say, "My rights have been violated."

She does not want money. She does not want the relationship to continue. She does not want some god to undo her boyfriend's unfaithfulness. She does not want the slut to die. She does not want her feelings to be mended. She does not want a replacement boyfriend. All she wants all I want is for you to agree that, given the Objectivist concept of "right" and the related concept "violation (of rights)," the boyfriend's action is subsumed under "violation of rights."

Even if she does not go to court, the absence of objective evidence is our clue that she has no basis for claiming her rights were violated. I will not agree.

If she wants the effect then she should enact the cause. If she wants to be able to say, "My rights have been violated", then she should get married.

Inalienable rights cannot be contracted away, that is for sure. But the only inalienable rights Objectivism recognizes are the right to life and the other basic rights derived from it, such as the right to liberty or the right to property. There is no inalienable right to be unfaithful. As long as you undertake no obligation to the contrary, you may sleep with whomever you please--but as soon as you promise to be faithful to a certain woman, you have no more right to sleep with whomever you please.

This is no different from how it works with monetary obligations. If you have $100, you may spend it in whatever way you please, as long as you undertake no obligation to the contrary. If you sign a contract that involves your paying me $10, you no longer have a right to spend the $100 as you please: you can only spend $90 as you please, and you have to pay me $10. Your right to property as such is inalienable and you cannot sign it away, but your rights to the specific items of property--such as specific amounts of money--are subject to the obligations you undertake. They are not inalienable; they are tradeable.

As I said, stop worrying about the recourse. She wants no recourse.

Your monetary example does not apply to the case of infidelity to a girlfriend because the presence of a contract makes objective the mutual obligations and rights. Abrogation of the contract by one party can be disputed in a civil court. Defiance of the civil court's finding is a criminal matter and leads to retaliatory force against the contract flouter on the basis of a violation of the moral right to property.

Being unfaithful is a specific action protected under the general right to liberty. Infidelity is an abrogation of the marriage contract, but note that there is no way infidelity can be a criminal matter. Only defiance of the divorce settlement can be a criminal violation of the moral right to property. The right to be unfaithful is inalienable in the presence of an actual contract forbidding it, so it certainly remains an inalienable right in the absence of a contract.

What the girlfriend wants is irrelevant. The fact that she has no recourse is yet another clue that she has no basis for claiming her rights were violated.

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Even if she does not go to court, the absence of objective evidence is our clue that she has no basis for claiming her rights were violated.

Objective evidence always presupposes somebody's context of knowledge. In the court's context, there is no objective evidence. But in the girl's context, there is: she heard him promise to be faithful with her own ears.

She knows that the boyfriend undertook an obligation to be faithful, but the court does not know it. Thus, she knows that her rights have been violated, but the court does not know it. And if we know that he entered the obligation--because we hypothesize that we do--then we can say that her rights have been violated, but since we also know that the court does not have this information, we know that they can't say with certainty that her rights have been violated, therefore they'll dismiss the case.

Your monetary example does not apply to the case of infidelity to a girlfriend because the presence of a contract makes objective the mutual obligations and rights.

Suppose that we don't sign any written contract, we just make a verbal one.--For example, my friend asks me if I can lend him $10 until tomorrow, and I say yes, sure, but I definitely need it back by tomorrow please--and I hand him the money.

  • First of all, do you agree that my friend has undertaken an obligation to pay back the $10 by tomorrow?
  • If yes, is the obligation an objective one?
  • Is it binding?
  • Do I have a (contractual) right to the $10?
  • If he failed to return the money, would he be in violation of my rights?

It is clear that if he doesn't return the money, I cannot go to a court or have any legal recourse at all, since I cannot produce any objective evidence that he owes me the money. The court is not in a position to say that my rights have been violated, since they don't have enough information. However, can't I, who have heard him make the promise with my own ears, say objectively that he owes me the money and it is a violation of my rights for him to keep it?

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