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Natural Rights ARE a myth

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I accidentally stumbled across this review of "The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays" by L.A. Rollins and I almost threw up (lately it happens to me that I feel physically bad when I read something so ugly...) But in the end I had to admit something from a philosophical point of view: There are no "natural" rights simply because a right is "a moral o legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way" according to the dictionary.

And if the same dictionary defines natural as "existing in or caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind" then very concept of "rights" belongs to the province of ethics in the country of rationality: Human concepts: constructs of the human mind

Which is astonishing is how people like Rollings dismiss human constructs as irrelevant and Rand's concept of "right to life" as childish. My chain of reasoning here would be: I am alive and my first moral right MUST be taking the proper actions to continue living wether other isolated individuals or the society at large recognize or not this inalienable right...

Anyone have read this book to know the review of an Objectivist about it?

Edited by Tonix777
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Human beings exist within, and are caused by nature. As a conceptual beings, it is necessary to discover epistemologically, ethically, and politically the requirements for life. As a moral principle upon which a proper foundation of social interaction can be laid, the argument for the right of self-defense was laid by Cicero back in 52 b.c. I would have to conclude that Rollins, indeed, is writing a myth. For more insight, search for Cicero and Pro Milone.

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And if the same dictionary defines natural as "existing in or caused by nature, not made or caused by humankind" then very concept of "rights" belongs to the province of ethics in the country of rationality: Human concepts: constructs of the human mind.

This is a classic example of the false dichotomy between the intrinsic and the subjective. Either a right is a thing intrinsic in reality, wholly independent of human consciousness, or it is a subjective and arbitrary construct of the human mind. What's missing here is any concept of the objective -- of facts as identified by consciousness.

The principle of individual rights is an identification, in conceptual form, of certain facts in human nature and their implications for human survival in the presence of other men. Those facts and their implications exist whether we identify them or not, but the principle is not simply the facts. It is our grasp of the facts. Rights aren't intrinsic because we have to identify the facts on which the principle is based; they aren't subjective because we have to identify the facts on which the principle is based.

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This is a classic example of the false dichotomy between the intrinsic and the subjective. Either a right is a thing intrinsic in reality, wholly independent of human consciousness, or it is a subjective and arbitrary construct of the human mind. What's missing here is any concept of the objective -- of facts as identified by consciousness.

The principle of individual rights is an identification, in conceptual form, of certain facts in human nature and their implications for human survival in the presence of other men. Those facts and their implications exist whether we identify them or not, but the principle is not simply the facts. It is our grasp of the facts. Rights aren't intrinsic because we have to identify the facts on which the principle is based; they aren't subjective because we have to identify the facts on which the principle is based.

Well... I think that difference is not necessarily dichotomy. And a construct of the human mind is not necessarily arbitrary, it can be an objective and intelligent product of the reason correctly identifying the facts of reality as in the case of Rand's concept of human rights to life liberty and property

For anyone interested in the text of "The Myth of Natural Rights" by L.A. Rollins I just found a blog HERE that apparently has the basic text. Interesting to read specially because Rollins tries (unsuccessfully in my opinion) to refute Rand in this topic

Edited by Tonix777
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Most theories of "natural rights" have been fatally flawed. In fact, I've never seen a correct account. I don't know if Rand is considered a natural rights theorist or not.

I don't believe Rand ever spoke about "natural" rights. Her ethics is about "man's" rights, starting from individual rights and going to political rights.

Previous link from A is A is absolutely useful in understanding Rand's position

On the other hand the very concept of "natural right" is a contradiction in itself, since rights are not natural, they are created by men to live in society.

Rand's enlightening ideas start founding these political rights is the basic individual needs/rights of man to survival qua man, the needs/rights that everyone should defend even using force if necessary in order to live properly

Problem with Rollins essay is the lack of precise definitions, I am planning a more detailed critique of it soon, paragraph by paragraph in order to evidence its flaws

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"Natural right" refers to "the nature of man"; rights are those conditions which the nature of man requires, in order to him to exist qua man. Those conditions are not man-made, they are metaphysically given by the nature of man. What is man-made is the conceptual system of politics to the effect that man has a right to dispose of the product of his mind as he sees fit, etc.

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The amount of water and sunlight a plant needs to flourish is determined by the nature of the plant, not the florist...the way to treat an animal is determined by its nature, not its owner...the way to treat human life, including the way one treats oneself, if it is to survive and be happy, is determined by man's nature, not society nor its government. Nature, reality, is the only standard for right and wrong, good and evil, life and death.

Primal Spark.blogspot.com

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Furthermore, one could contest the rights of the good (good by the standard of human life) but then one would hopefully be fought by the same. Denial of rights as an intellectual matter is pointless, since no rights equal war.

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...

On the other hand the very concept of "natural right" is a contradiction in itself, since rights are not natural, they are created by men to live in society.

...

Rights are not created by men in order to live in society. Rather it is only when rights are correctly identified by men (and codified into law) that they are able live successfully in a group ("society"). The job of government is to recognize rights, codify the principles in sound law and uphold that law. Essentially the government's job is to protect the rights of individuals against the initiation of force. That is why the government cannot be permitted to initiate force and cannot be successfully funded by a coercive method such as taxation. That is why the countries in the world today are all in debt, some worse than others.

Laws and legal systems have yet to be fully integrated with and supportive of the protection of men's actual rights. Men do still need to correctly identify that which is a right. The concept of rights has been corrupted by bad philosophy and bad laws, which support the erosion of real rights in order to provide power to some and unearned livelihoods to others.

And so I would ask you all: is property only a natural right? Or is it also an acquired right, in the sense that a man acquires the right to property by exerting effort to bring it into being, and/or by trading his mental/physical efforts for money (i.e., a job) which enables him to buy property from someone else, or some combination of the two?

Because consider how nowadays there is constantly whining about the right to education, the right to housing, and so forth, as if such things ought by right to be supplied to every citizen regardless of costs, ability to pay, etc. The muddying of the waters in respect of property rights has happened precisely because the concept of earning the right has been left out, with property having been treated as though it were a natural right to which all men should by law be decreed to have. Property items such as an education, health care, housing, food, support funds etc have been transmogrified from that which is earned by the individual via effort and voluntary trade with others, into those things which belong to the category of natural rights and which should therefore somehow be supplied by the government. In that sense, I see property as having been open to such interpretations, and thus having proven susceptible to corruption.

The fact is, one does not naturally have a right to a given apartment, or the services of a doctor or schoolteacher. Having the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness do not dictate the means by which a man is to acquire the things he needs in order to live. Having a natural right to property could, I suppose, be stated to be the right to keep what he earns and to spend it as he sees fit. So in that sense it is a natural right, since a man needs property in order to live. But property also lends itself to being thought of as an acquired right in the sense that one acquires the rights to goods and services ("property") by making efforts, doing the work, earning property and entering into voluntary trades/contracts to mutual benefit with the owners of other property: the landlord, the doctor, the teacher, etc.

Thoughts, comments, criticisms?

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RayNewman123, AllMenAreIslands, DavidOdden

I think we need to clarify some definitions first:

The word "Rights" has two different meanings as noun:

1-That which is morally correct, just or honorable

2-A moral o legal entitlement to have or obtain something

Objectivism goes more for the definition #1 as it "ought to be" and based in a particular approach about what is "morally correct"

On the other hand the other 95% of the World goes more for the definition #2 where rights are whatever government/society happen to say. These are the rights and specially obligations that are imposed over us by law = at a point of a gun, in any specific society if we want to live in that society

It is clear also that there are negative rights = real rights, that are these rights we have for others NOT-TO-DO some things against our life, liberty and property (property being the right to own the product of our own mind and effort). These are the ancient rights that most men since immemorial times had to defend using physical force when and if necessary, and are now protected by law in modern western societies

The false modern rights or positive rights are these based in the alleged obligation of society (other men) to provide me goods and services like home, food, healthcare, etc.

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The word "Rights" has two different meanings as noun:

1-That which is morally correct, just or honorable

2-A moral o legal entitlement to have or obtain something

Objectivism goes more for the definition #1 as it "ought to be" and based in a particular approach about what is "morally correct"

On the other hand the other 95% of the World goes more for the definition #2 where rights are whatever government/society happen to say.

That is actually not true. Most people do understand that "rights" refer to "freedom of action", not "entitlement to an object". You probably got the wrong impression because the idiots who say that "rights" refers to material entitlements are noisy and more noticeable. But they are still a minority. Besides, it's not important what ideas the majority have, what matters is what it true.
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The false modern rights or positive rights are these based in the alleged obligation of society (other men) to provide me goods and services like home, food, healthcare, etc.

This is how a few of my friends who are "educated" in political science (at WLU), define rights. After awhile of arguing against this thinking, I have to retire from the discussion because they can't or refuse to understand anything from a natural or individual rights perspective.

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This is how a few of my friends who are "educated" in political science (at WLU), define rights. After awhile of arguing against this thinking, I have to retire from the discussion because they can't or refuse to understand anything from a natural or individual rights perspective.

Perhaps that is because 'positive rights' stem from 'divine rights', and postulate a master/servant relationship - and elitists, being the sheltered they are, consider themselves as heirs to the 'divine rights' notion... <_<:lol:

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That is actually not true. Most people do understand that "rights" refer to "freedom of action", not "entitlement to an object". You probably got the wrong impression because the idiots who say that "rights" refers to material entitlements are noisy and more noticeable. But they are still a minority. Besides, it's not important what ideas the majority have, what matters is what it true.

The ideas that the majority have are not important to your personal pursuit of the truth, but they are important in communicating your ideas to others. If the vast majority of society understands the definition of a word to be different than the manner in which you use it, that is important to know.

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On the other hand the very concept of "natural right" is a contradiction in itself, since rights are not natural, they are created by men to live in society.

Not created, discovered. In dealing with abstractions that makes all the difference between what is arbitrary and what is objective.

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The ideas that the majority have are not important to your personal pursuit of the truth, but they are important in communicating your ideas to others. If the vast majority of society understands the definition of a word to be different than the manner in which you use it, that is important to know.

Even more: I live in the US and the Government take part of my income to pay for other people's alleged right to food, shelter, healthcare, etc. and if I refuse to pay I go to jail. So I better know

I personally think that men-created reality (society's rules, laws, legal rights, obligations, etc.) is as important as natural reality, A is A and one have to learn to deal with both

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This is how a few of my friends who are "educated" in political science (at WLU), define rights. After awhile of arguing against this thinking, I have to retire from the discussion because they can't or refuse to understand anything from a natural or individual rights perspective.

I think the root of the problem here is that modern political science treats rights as subjective -- they are viewed simply as a class of legal claims upheld by the government, given priority over other claims because the legislature or the judiciary has decided to do so. If that is what you think a right is, then the distinction between 'negative' and 'positive' rights, and the idea that the former are legitimate and the latter not, is just incomprehensible. A 'right' is just a grant of privilege by the state, and the notion that there are some types of privilege the state should extend (like the right to free speech) and others the state should not extend (like the right to free health care) is a mere arbitrary policy preference.

Again, as I said earlier in the thread, what's missing here is the understanding of rights as objective -- as an identification by men of certain facts about human nature and their implications for survival in the presence of other men. I don't know whether Rand's theory would be classified as upholding "natural rights", but it certainly upholds rights that are factually-based, absolute, and applied to individuals.

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A 'right' is just a grant of privilege by the state, and the notion that there are some types of privilege the state should extend (like the right to free speech) and others the state should not extend (like the right to free health care) is a mere arbitrary policy preference.

Given that rights are objective (not intrinsic, not subjective) in man's nature (natural rights), the government's purpose is to ensure everyone recognizes this fact? To enforce this rule?

Sheesh, having swayed between objectivism and anarcho-capitalism, it's definitely still a struggle for me to see how one can allow this group to be the only one that can legitimately use force to arbitrate disputes. On the bright side, discussions like these show me how important Law (how the state should operate) as a subject is! Fascinating.

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Given that rights are objective (not intrinsic, not subjective) in man's nature (natural rights), the government's purpose is to ensure everyone recognizes this fact? To enforce this rule?

A proper government, yes, to ensure that our rights are not violated, and retaliate with proper force determined by objective law when they are. The quote you referenced was khaight showing an example of the common subjectivist conception of rights held by todays western countries. Head over to the middle east to see how cool the intrinsic theory is. The intrinsic/subjective dichotomy is alive and well, and whats really interesting is how easy it is to spot which side people are on, it permeates every aspect of their belief structure.

j..

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