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Beings that Lack Rational Capacity

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ragingpanda
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PREMISES: Please, consider my attempt to sufficiently describe the Objectivist position before tackling the issue.

--A: The human mind cannot conceive of square circles. As such, for the human mind, A must always be A.

--B: The concept of value arises only where there is life. As such, the standard of value for each living being is its own life, the value that makes all other values possible.

--C (from A, B): The human being is a living and rational being. As such, she must act in her rational self-interest, utilizing her rational faculties to pursue her values, chief among which is the preservation and enrichment of her own life. It is irrational to exchange a value for a lesser value or a non-value. As such, self-sacrifice is irrational and should never be practiced by the human being.

--D (from A, B, C): Since A is A, something cannot be both right and wrong at the same time and in the same sense. As such, the human being acting in her rational self-interest must adhere to a rationally derived, objective system of ethics.

--E (from A, B, C): The human being exists in a hostile world, lacking fangs and claws and other naturally occurring physical instruments of defense. As such, her only bulwark against the forces threatening her life is her mind, the use of which allows her to be productive. By being productive, the human being is able to preserve and enhance her life. As such, the human being must utilize her mind and be productive.

--F (from A thru E): Since it is rational to be productive, the human being acting in her rational self-interest must act to maximize her productivity. She would be more productive if she were secure in her person, liberty and property. As such, she ought to develop mechanisms that would provide such security.

--G (from A thru F): The human being ought to develop a concept of rights and enter into an enforceable social contract. Under the social contract, the human being may avail herself of the privilege to use force to defend her life, liberty and property.

--H (from A thru G): A rational human being may not utilize the social contract in violation of A through F.

ISSUE: Beings that Lack Rational Capacity

--I (from A through H): A human being that lacks rational capacity has values only to the extent that a living being has values; his only value is his life. A human being that lacks rational capacity is incapable of making rational choices and is, therefore, incapable of acting in his own rational self-interest. A human being that lacks rational capacity cannot contract and, therefore, cannot be said to have rights (which arise by virtue of contract).

Hypo 1: Bill attacks Jimmy, the child of Jim. Jim calls the cops and has Bill arrested.

--Jim violates no premise. He is acting rationally and in his rational self-interest to defend something of value to him, his child. He is acting ethically, according to the maxim that no one may arbitrarily, without cause and due process, deprive him of a value that he has produced and that he has not willingly contracted away (in this case, his child).

Hypo 2: Bill attacks Timmy, the child of Tim. Jim calls the cops and has Bill arrested.

--Jim violates no premise. By acting to defend the child of Tim, a fellow party to the social contract, Jim is acting rationally and in his rational self-interest to defend the integrity of the social contract, which, in turn, serves to defend his own life, liberty and property. He is acting ethically, according to the maxim that no one may arbitrarily, without cause and due process, deprive him of a value in which he has investment that he has not willingly contracted away (in this case, the protection of his own rights under the social contract).

Hypo 3: Bill attacks Billy, the child of Bill. Jim calls the cops and has Bill arrested.

--Jim appears to violate premises B and C. While he is not engaging in self-sacrifice, Jim does not appear to be acting in his own rational self-interest. Billy is not Jim’s child. As such, Billy’s life holds no inherent value for Jim, and Jim cannot be defending something of value to himself by defending Billy. Jim is a rational being and Billy is not. As such, Jim’s status under the social contract is different from that of Billy, and Jim cannot hope to defend his own rights under the social contract by defending the rights of Billy.

--Jim appears to violate premises A, D and H. Since A is A, it cannot both be right and wrong for Jim to violate Bill’s rights in order to defend something of value to Bill from Bill. If Jim cannot concede that it is right for him to call the cops and have Bill arrested where Bill destroys Bill’s own valuable piece of china, then Jim is acting irrationally. If he can, then Jim has assumed an inherently unethical position, one that is not governed by a rationally derived system of ethics, that a rational human being may arbitrarily deprive another rational human being of life, liberty or property. Thereby, Jim effectively dispenses with the concept of rights altogether and deprives the social contract of purpose.

Conclusion: The analysis in Hypo 3 yields some undesirable (or desirable, depending on one’s political biases) results: abortion, animal abuse and child abuse may not be prevented so long as such acts are perpetrated against a being that lacks rational capacity by the parent or owner of that being. I have checked and re-checked my premises. I am at a loss. I hope that I have come to the right place. Please, troubleshoot my premises. Below is my feeble attempt at retribution. I do not find it satisfactory. Feel free to consider it in your responses.

Alternative Analysis to Hypo 3: Clearly, I have an aversion to intellectual honesty.

--Jimmy, the child of Jim, would, if he did not lack rational capacity, have an interest in defending the integrity of the social contract. His status under the contract would be identical to that of Billy. Jim, acting as Jimmy’s representative, could act to defend Billy from Bill. Of course, by doing so, Jim would be defending Jimmy’s interest as against himself. Jim may still be acting in his own rational self-interest, however, provided that he believes that it would be in his best interest to be restrained, even in violation of his right to liberty, in the event that he proceeds to attack his own child.

--This alternative analysis may give rise to some absurd results. For example, abortion could not be defended on grounds of privacy and personal liberty of the mother. Also, Michael Vick would have been rightly imprisoned on grounds of animal abuse. Also, the hippies from Whale Wars would be justified in attempting to deprive Japanese whalers of their bounty.

Notes:

1) I shorthanded premise A.

2) The social contract under premise G could only support a representative form of government (a government that acts as a physical manifestation of the will of the people).

3) Nothing in the Hypos calls for scrutiny of Bill’s actions (I realize that Bill is a jerk). Please, focus on the actions and rights of Jim.

4) Comprehensive responses will be appreciated.

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Conclusion: The analysis in Hypo 3 yields some undesirable (or desirable, depending on one’s political biases) results: abortion, animal abuse and child abuse may not be prevented so long as such acts are perpetrated against a being that lacks rational capacity by the parent or owner of that being.
As far as Objectivism goes, there ought to be no legal prevention of abortion or animal cruelty. In an emotional sense, I guess this might be "undesirable" in examples where the perpetrator is acting immorally; but, Objectivism does not ask the law to ensure that men act rationally, as long as they do not violate the rights of other individual human beings. Actually, it is highly desirable, in principle, that the government not dictate rationality.

The forum has quite some discussion on the topics of abortion (longest topic here) and animal rights (here and here, <plug>including a response I wrote in one of those thread</plug>.

So, from an Objectivist's point of view, we're left with this question: how do we justify the rights of a minor child vis-a-vis their parents, if the child is at a stage in life where they are not fully rational? This topic too has been discussed (longest thread here).

I'm not sure which of these three is your primary stumbling block, because this thread will then quickly become a repetition of one of those older threads.

Briefly, Objectivism says that individual human beings should have rights. Therefore, animals and fetus are out and kids and lunatics are in.

The notion of rationality is a part of the observed facts that goes into the conclusion that individual human beings should have rights; it is not the whole story. One might guess that if we meet space aliens who can think, then we should recognize their rights, but there is no way we can really say so, until we understand their complete nature.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I have skimmed the linked threads. I am definitely concerned with the last issue you've cited (concerning the enforcement of the rights of children under a social contract based on Objectivist ideals), but the thread addressing it is 26 pages long and contains a lot of tangential debate. Since I went through some trouble in putting together my original post, I feel as if a new, more specific thread concerning the subject is warranted.

I ought to note that, for purposes of this thread, the term "child" refers to a human being who is incapable of exercising his rational faculty in a meaningful way. While I feel that the issues of abortion and animal rights are directly related to this issue, neither is the focus of my original post and, I ask, that neither be the primary focus of any replies.

Briefly, Objectivism says that individual human beings should have rights. Therefore, animals and fetus are out and kids and lunatics are in.

The notion of rationality is a part of the observed facts that goes into the conclusion that individual human beings should have rights; it is not the whole story. One might guess that if we meet space aliens who can think, then we should recognize their rights, but there is no way we can really say so, until we understand their complete nature.

Your conceptualization of rights as transcendent and independent of the rational faculty seems flawed. It's as if you are arbitrarily assigning rights to human beings without any justification. A human being does not have rights by virtue of the fact that she is born biologically human. Neither does she have rights because she is rational. Rights arise when she, a rational and living being, encounters other rational and living beings and enters into an enforceable social contract with them in order to most efficiently promote her own values, chief among which is her own life. Since beings that lack rational capacity cannot contract, children cannot be party to the contract and, therefore, cannot be protected.

The "sleeping man" example cannot apply, because, presumably, the sleeping man has contracted for the protection of his rights prior to going to sleep and has rights by virtue of that fact. A child has never had rational capacity and, as such, could not have contracted for the protection of his rights prior to losing his ability to exercise his rational faculty.

Edited by ragingpanda
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Here's your problem. You're trying to subsume Objectivism under social contract theory. There is no social contract in Objectivism. You need to discard this idea.

A human being does not have rights by virtue of the fact that she is born biologically human.

Yes, she does. This is the key insight you're missing. The reason why this is true has something to do with the fundamental nature of what a human IS.

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How much research have you done on Objectivism? By that I mean how much of the source text have you read before asking your questions? The reason I ask is that if you haven't read any of the non-fiction essays, such as "The Virtue of Selfishness" or any of the Tara Smith books, you'll keep coming up with questions on particulars for days on end and not have gotten anywhere, if you haven't had a chance to research and understand the principles. Start by the principles, they will be your guide when addressing specifics. Do not concern yourself with social contracts at this stage (you'll eventually see there is no such thing under Objectivism), but first begin with the objectivist metaphysics and epistemology, the nature of the individual and reality- right now you're trying to discern the proper interactions of a crowd without having properly defined what the little creatures that are interacting are in the first place.

How's that?

What's that?

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How much research have you done on Objectivism? By that I mean how much of the source text have you read before asking your questions? The reason I ask is that if you haven't read any of the non-fiction essays, such as "The Virtue of Selfishness" or any of the Tara Smith books, you'll keep coming up with questions on particulars for days on end and not have gotten anywhere, if you haven't had a chance to research and understand the principles. Start by the principles, they will be your guide when addressing specifics. Do not concern yourself with social contracts at this stage (you'll eventually see there is no such thing under Objectivism), but first begin with the objectivist metaphysics and epistemology, the nature of the individual and reality- right now you're trying to discern the proper interactions of a crowd without having properly defined what the little creatures that are interacting are in the first place.

Ok. Why are ya'll replying to my question with more questions? I came to this forum for answers. I understand that there's a lot out there to read. What is it that I'm supposed to learn about rights? According to Rand, are they inherent? How is this conceptualization of rights rationally justified? What is it that I'm missing? Tell me and we can debate it.

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Ok. Why are ya'll replying to my question with more questions? I came to this forum for answers. I understand that there's a lot out there to read. What is it that I'm supposed to learn about rights? According to Rand, are they inherent? How is this conceptualization of rights rationally justified? What is it that I'm missing? Tell me and we can debate it.

Register on the ayn rand institute website, and go to the registered members paged. Theres like 5000 30 or 50 minute audio clips or interviews about more things than you can imagine, one of them deals with where rights come from etc. A lot of these are by Ayn Rand herself not the others.

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Ok. Why are ya'll replying to my question with more questions? I came to this forum for answers.

It's called the Socratic Method. We could TELL you the answers, but you wouldn't UNDERSTAND them and hence you wouldn't KNOW them. Most of the people around here know enough about how people learn things to know that you have to figure out a lot of this stuff yourself via reading and chewing ideas. THEN you will KNOW it.

I understand that there's a lot out there to read. What is it that I'm supposed to learn about rights? According to Rand, are they inherent? How is this conceptualization of rights rationally justified? What is it that I'm missing? Tell me and we can debate it.

The answers to these questions depend on what you mean by "inherent" and "rationally justified". For instance, Objectivism rejects epistemological intrinsicism, by which it rejects out of context absolutes. Rights are a product of the nature of human beings *given a certain context*. They are not inherent in human beings outside of that context. So you need to go discover what that context is. Rights are ultimately based on the requirements for human survival. That is how they are rationally justified. But in order to understand that, you need to know enough about the Objectivist epistemology to know what we mean by "rational" and "human survival".

This forum is not a place to ask other people to do your thinking for you, and certainly not one to go seeking a debate unless you want to use the debate forums. They may point you in the right direction if they're feeling generous. But doing the legwork is always up to you.

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Hypo 3: Bill attacks Billy, the child of Bill. Jim calls the cops and has Bill arrested.

--Jim appears to violate premises B and C. While he is not engaging in self-sacrifice, Jim does not appear to be acting in his own rational self-interest. Billy is not Jim’s child. As such, Billy’s life holds no inherent value for Jim, and Jim cannot be defending something of value to himself by defending Billy. Jim is a rational being and Billy is not. As such, Jim’s status under the social contract is different from that of Billy, and Jim cannot hope to defend his own rights under the social contract by defending the rights of Billy.

What social contract? There's no social contract, a contract is a voluntary agreement between two parties.

Jim, Bill, Jimmy and Billy, in your hypotheticals, are all individuals, with the exact same rights. It's in Jim's interest to call the cops, if he wishes to preserve a society in which everyone's rights are protected. Everyone includes Billy, and Billy's rights include not being abused by his father.

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What is it that I'm missing? Tell me and we can debate it.

What people are suggesting is that you take some effort to do your homework and learn it from source material before you start questioning the material with what may be a half-baked understanding. This is a quite reasonable request.

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