Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Requesting critique concerning the concept of Rights

Rate this topic


Caynob
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi, I have been studying philosophy for some time now, and have taken a liking to Objectivism. On the concept of rights for Obj though, I have need of some clarification and critique

From my conversation with other objectivists outside of this forum, whenever I asked where do individual rights come from, all answers I got followed under something along this line:

 

"Because we are men, A is A, therefore I have ___ right". (right is innate)

 

And this is where I run into a problem, while the sentiment is nice, such reasoning without further clarification simply sounds dogmatic. And the Lexicon so far is of no help since it seems to reinforce that line of thought too.

 

Since all other pieces of Objectivism sounds pretty rational to me, here is my current take on the concept of rights, and where I am looking for critique:

 

To start from the source, my personal definition:

Rights  -  definition: a cateogory of actions recognized by the members of a society that an individual of that society can undertake without intervention (force/coercion) from other members.

 

-Rights is a core attribute of a society; rights to society is like shape to a building.

-If a lone person is to live out by him/herself on a planet, then there is no rights, as there is no other individuals, no society.

-Society is a man-made entity, and like all man-made entity (plane, car..etc.), depending on it's quality it can either be beneficial to human life or be destructive towards it.

-Individuals are the building block of a society, and given the nature of humans (relys on the facility of reason and productivity to survive), a society constructed with the individual rights outlined in Obj would be stable and prosperous, as it is in sync with human nature.

-A society constructed that lacks the obj individual rights, or constucted with rights not aligned with human nature (e.g. right to steal), goes against the nature of its building block, and will be unstable and destructive in the long run.

 

The above are my thoughts on the concept of rights from long time thinking after my dissatisfaction with the simple dogmatic sounding answer. I am aware that even on Lexicon there are quotes that goes something like "there can be no right to (steal)", and that is what's causing me trouble and making me feel as if I might be missing something. Does the concept of right exist when there is no society? Does it make more sense to say: If a society, a group of individuals, delgate to themselves the right to steal from each other, then that society is destructive towards human life, as opposed to the statement, "there can be no right to steal".

 

Hopefully I can get some quality clarification and critique here.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.aynrand.o...dividual_rights

 

Morality says, “If you want to live and attain happiness, perform these actions.”

Politics says, “If you want a society in which life and happiness are possible to every individual, preserve everyone’s freedom to perform these actions.”

 

If it is moral to pursue your own happiness, your own self-interest, and your own life, then you should possess the freedom to pursue these goals without interference from others.

 

 

Oh okay, this clears it up a bit, so Obj rights are "if..then" conditionals instead of been innate. Also it seems there are two classes of rights: morality-class rights and political-class rights.

 

So then I assume when Obj makes statement such as "there’s no such thing as one person’s right to rob, enslave, or murder his neighbor", it's talking about moral right and not political, that such actions are anti-life and therefore ammoral by obj standard. And since a morality-class right has to be moral, such anti-life actions cannot be considered moral rights.

 

However on the other hand, it is physically possible for a society to have political rights that are amoral, e.g. right to steal, by government decree.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does the concept of right exist when there is no society?

 

No. Rights only exist in a social context. They are a way of saying, "this is the right way we should act toward one another, based on the truth of objectivist ethics that apply for each of us individually." If there are no "others," then rights are a non-issue.

 

Does it make more sense to say: If a society, a group of individuals, delgate to themselves the right to steal from each other, then that society is destructive towards human life, as opposed to the statement, "there can be no right to steal".

 

Yes, essentially. Although I wouldn't say that "society" is destructive toward "human life." I'd say something more like, the person stealing is destructive to the life of the person being stolen from.

 

The way you can look at it is like this: Let's say Bob thinks he's the only person on the planet, but one day he comes across Frank. And Bob says to Frank, "Hey, it's destructive to my life and my ability to live and survive and thrive if you use force against me, by trying to enslave me, or steal from me, or kill me, or whatever." And Frank replies, "You're right. And likewise, it's destructive to my life if you do those same things to me." So in their society, they form rights which are based on the objectivist ethics that they each hold for their individual lives and ability to survive and thrive.

Edited by secondhander
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh okay, this clears it up a bit, so Obj rights are "if..then" conditionals instead of been innate. Also it seems there are two classes of rights: morality-class rights and political-class rights.

 

Ethics are derived from Man's volitional nature as actions that are proper to self-determination.  They are innate, although I prefer the term inherent because Man's life is defined by choice, and ethics is inherent to choice.  Man's will, specifically Man's free-will, identifies him as a moral animal with his ethics objectively apparent in every deliberate action.  To the degree that Nature's Man behaves in a manner that is genuine and appropriate to what he is, his actions are proper, i.e., ethically good...

 

"You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need it most. Let him try to claim, when there are no victims to pay for it, that a rock is a house, that sand is clothing, that food will drop into his mouth without cause or effort, that he will collect a harvest tomorrow by devouring his stock seed today—and reality will wipe him out, as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and that thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it." ~ ARL, Morality

 

The "if...then" aspect of rights has to do with recognition...

 

"The only 'obligation' involved in individual rights is an obligation imposed, not by the state, but by the nature of reality (i.e., by the law of identity): consistency, which, in this case, means the obligation to respect the rights of others, if one wishes one’s own rights to be recognized and protected." ~ ARL, Individual Rights

 

Essentially, Nature's Man has natural rights that are inherent, self-evident and objectively visible in his behavior; A citizen retains natural rights (mortally inalienable), but is obliged to recognize and avoid conflicts (transgressions) against other citizens.

--

edit:  for clarity, I don't identify myself as an Objectivist, however I do agree with most of Ayn Rand's statements on the issue of individual rights.  Furthermore, I consider all rights to be ethically reciprocal; the reference to 'consistency' in my 2nd citation being one of several instances in Ayn Rand's work that tacitly supports this conclusion.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're on the right track, already.

Rights are derived from morality; rational selfishness. Oist morality dictates that everyone should act for their own, objective benefit; to simultaneously preserve and enjoy their own life through perpetual growth and improvement.

All rights are derived from the right to live, which means the right to live morally. The right to live morally logically follows from the fact that nobody objectively benefits from murder, theft or rape.

It's immoral for any man to eat tomorrows stock seed, squander his resources on junk or to burn down forests without reason. These are sins of the same moral category as the initiation of force, but as for severity, there aren't enough resources in the world to equal an innocent person.

So when multiple people attempt to live rationally selfishly, none of them gain from violence. Their goals aren't in any way exclusive. In fact, their goals aren't simply able to coincide; they always do, necessarily.

This makes the initiation of force necessarily evil and the prohibition of force good; hence the right to life.

---

Rights are ultimately inherent in men, because the reasoning above applies equally to everyone, everywhere. But it's crucial to understand why.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PS:

Rights refer to social morality; the ethics of group interactions, which is called "politics".

There is only one valid moral code; all others are poor imitations at best, and at worst, antimoral excuses. (how many people who have never heard of rand live selfishly every day, by simple common sense? How many people actually, consistently live altruistically?)

Thusly there is only one valid political code and one valid right. All other rights are different applications of the right to live morally.

A government could absolutely grant its citizens the "right" to murder and steal, with impunity. I could also grant myself the right to immortality and a portion of the platinum mines on the moon, declare night to be bright and day to be dark and wear my underwear outside of my pants. None of this has any effect on the objective reality involved.

---

You're correct; Oist politics is conditional. Specifically it depends on morality, which is also conditional (on human nature).

And if the requirements of human life ever change then morality will change to suit it. Until then the only correct answer is reason, selfishness and liberty.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to comment
Share on other sites

All rights are derived from the right to live, which means the right to live morally. The right to live morally logically follows from the fact that nobody objectively benefits from murder, theft or rape.

It's immoral for any man to eat tomorrows stock seed, squander his resources on junk or to burn down forests without reason. These are sins of the same moral category as the initiation of force, but as for severity, there aren't enough resources in the world to equal an innocent person.

So when multiple people attempt to live rationally selfishly, none of them gain from violence. Their goals aren't in any way exclusive. In fact, their goals aren't simply able to coincide; they always do, necessarily.

This makes the initiation of force necessarily evil and the prohibition of force good; hence the right to life.

 

Is this really the correct reasoning?

 

The right to life comes from reality (i.e. man's nature). Reason is his means of survival, life demands constant self-generated action, and material goods (such as food, shelter, etc) are necessary to survive. Nature doesn't provide life or the material goods necessary to survive. He needs to produce them and because he produced it, he has ownership over its use or disposal (i.e. property rights). Now, this moral principle extends into politics. The government's sole purpose is to protect man from the initiation of physical force. The initiation of force negates man's ability to use his mind rationally, i.e. negates his means of survival. So, objectively it is in every man's self interest to have a government to protect him from the initiation of physical force so that he is free to use his mind and enjoy the property that he has earned (through production or trade).

Edited by thenelli01
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man's primary property is his own life, and by defending it, he demonstrates his right to it.  I believe rights in general are only relevant when being challenged; one simply does as one pleases unless someone objects.  Rights in this context may be said to be natural rights derived from being Nature's Man.  Therefore whatever actions are proper to Man are ethically good.  If Man cannot defend his life, whatever possessions he has acquired are up for grabs.

 

The natural benchmark for a moral animal is survival, without which nothing else is possible; survival is good, and flourishing is great.  In terms of expressing a natural right to life, the statement, "I chose to live, and here I am," pretty much covers it.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man's primary property is his own life, and by defending it, he demonstrates his right to it.  I believe rights in general are only relevant when being challenged; one simply does as one pleases unless someone objects...If Man cannot defend his life, whatever possessions he has acquired are up for grabs.

 

Not in a civilized society. This is why we have government.

Edited by thenelli01
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not in a civilized society. This is why we have government.

 

We have government for security, but neither life nor choice depend on it for survival.  In fact, ones survival may be threatened by government, in  which case one relies on ones ability to live autonomously while continuing to defend ones life as a right to property. 

 

edit: Governments are useful for dealing with transgressions of the right to life, so long as ones right to life is secured equally by law.  Criminals aren't alienated from their right to life so much as legitimately transgressed against by a society that not only values life, but recognizes the value of punishing transgressors in kind.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose that "nobody objectively benefits from violence" isn't as direct as "violence objectively harms anyone" but the former is simply the converse of the latter; you positively rephrased my negative.

Your explanation is superior but I don't think they're actually different approaches.

But "violence harms everyone" isn't sufficient to justify a government; only that nobody should hurt anyone else (which is the basis of rights and the reasoning in question).

A government isn't relevant until you understand that we live with some dangerous people, that the initiation of force necessitates retributive force and (somehow) that individuals can't be trusted with such responsibility (for some reason).

---

Not to imply that you don't understand such; only to emphasize its hierarchal relation to rights.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose that "nobody objectively benefits from violence" isn't as direct as "violence objectively harms anyone" but the former is simply the converse of the latter; you positively rephrased my negative.

Your explanation is superior but I don't think they're actually different approaches.

But "violence harms everyone" isn't sufficient to justify a government; only that nobody should hurt anyone else (which is the basis of rights and the reasoning in question).

 

I never used the word violence, so why do you insist on misquoting me?

 

And, my point was that the concepts of murder, theft, and rape presuppose the concept of the right to life, so how could it possibly be logically derived from those concepts? The right to life comes from reality (i.e. man's nature), not from observing the negative consequences of murder, theft and rape. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fine; coercion is objectively bad.

Force is mass times acceleration; i think violence is more precise (not to mention that athletics, which don't involve coercion, do involve all sorts of force). But it's really just semantics.

Thenelli01: i had no intention of misrepresentation. I can't currently use the quote function or scroll back to your post while typing, so i was paraphrasing as best i could.

Did i actually distort your comments, aside from the particular words used to convey them?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only selfish basis for such would be consequential; the effect of respecting rights, or not, on ones own life.

I believe that's about what i showed, thank you very much.

 

Sure, I agree with you on that point, I think. Rights are derived from man's nature. In a social context, it is objectively selfish to respect and protect the rights of others because, among other reasons, it leaves the individual free to use his mind and enjoy the fruits of his labor (i.e. survive and pursue happiness). A society that didn't respect rights is the type of society that D.A. was alluding to before: An uncivilized society where everyone's life and property is up for grabs. 

Edited by thenelli01
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, thank you, and that's exactly right. Although i think it goes even further than that and merits more thought than I've given it yet. Something concise occurred to me:

If you rob a fisherman, you'll eat for a day. If you trade with a fisherman, you'll eat for life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...