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The right to one's life: where does it come from?

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I think a big difficulty in thinking of rights as Objective is the idea of rights as a "claim" to a "duty" rather than a "claim" in ones one values and one's self.  Rights as claims to "duty"
 are so prevalent in main stream society it is hard not to conflate these to some degree.  One claims to something or some action "from" others, the other excludes interference by others.  One is claiming a positive right TO something, the other merely claims a right FROM something, namely interference.

 

Essentially rights are not a claim on anything of anyone else, but an affirmation of what is one's own.  Rights to life and property are not a claim on anyone else by the dying or the destitute.

 

 

The above conflation is why I prefer to think of rights as principles of fact based in ethics and identity, not claims. 

 

Rights represent and summarize the facts of man and reality which define the kind of action I can morally take, i.e. rationally in my self-interest, given the totality of the context, in regard to a value possessed by another man - and essentially it is do nothing to alienate the man from his values without his permission. 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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SL said:

I agree that all political realities are social. That is not the basis of the difference here. Yes, the social presupposes the individual but the question is how to formulate the moral action of individuals within a social context without denying the individual nature of values and moral principles.

If rights are a species of the genus moral principles, then the definition, the genus and differentia, the to's and from's of the definition has to reflect that.

Edit: basically I am arguing that what we mean by "rights" in a political context is a narrowing of what is right in an ethical, individual context. It is simply a matter of extending to others what one grants to ones self.

Edit:

Society is nothing but the individuals comprising it.

Rights are nothing but the limiting of the values one is able to pursue in the presence of the values of others??? The presence of other valuing agents limits what is a moral choice for the individual given productive actions having secured certain values already??

Trying to formulate an essential principle....

 

I like this.

 

The main reason I distinguish Rights (although based on moral principles) from morality itself is because of the language surrounding rights do not easily allow it.

 

My morality, has a sole beneficiary and it is me.  Each of my actions is moral to the extent it serves my interest, long term, rationally ...  I can identify what I will call my rights in a social context, from morality and that acting in accordance with my rights is acting in accordance with my morality.  The problem is the concept of your rights has longer chain to derive in my morality, i.e. as a moral principle which is in my rational self-interest.  So I can call these principles, my moral "recognizing your rights" principles... because these principles are moral FOR ME to pursue ( I avoid killing your etc.) 

 

So to say your "Rights" are not just based on morality but ARE morality is somewhat tangles when morality IS each for the self-sovereign.

 

 

As a side note: "extending to others what one grants to oneself" that is not a simple matter as it must be analysed... WHY would one want to do it?.

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Rights represent and summarize the facts of man and reality which define the kind of action I can morally take,...

The issue with putting it that way is that a person can act immorally and yet be completely within their rights. So, using the term "morally" in the description can lead someone to think you are saying that one does not have the right to perform an immoral action.

Edited by softwareNerd
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The issue with putting it that way is that a person can act immorally and yet be completely within their rights. So, using the term "morally" in the description can lead someone to think you are saying that one does not have the right to perform an immoral action.

 

But you completely left out the rest of the sentence (which in its entirety is the way I put it)...

 

 

The freedom and choice to perform an immoral action in a non-social context has nothing to do with rights.  Cognitively speaking I do not know what relevance a right CAN have when it is a non-social context. Like a fact which tells you how some machines work when they are turned on... you can think about them when it is off, and since they are facts of reality they are always true... but when it is off they are inoperative principle... they literally are not applying at the moment.

 

In the same way a man can formulate what his rights are when alone on a deserted island i.e. formulate from his understanding of man and reality what moral principles would be relevant to a social interaction, but absent the social interaction, the issue is not present.

 

It is like saying you have the right to think or breathe, or more bluntly like saying you have the right to being left alone... when you am alone... or telling a tree you have the right to your cup of water.  These are true only the sense that you mean at that moment IF you were in a social context those principles would come into play.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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Plasmatic:

 

I'm still trying to formulate my gripe surrounding the language, the dialogue, etc. which accompanies discussions of Rights and cause what I can only describe as a thin but repulsive epistemological morass over an otherwise valid concept. 

 

"Rights" discussions even on this website are riddled with an odor of intrinsicism if not mysticism itself.  It's as though Objectivism's students have succeeded in dispelling Platonic reality, Mysticism, and intrinsicism from their minds in most realms, and while partially succeeding in respect of the concept morality, they have the most difficulty with the subject of Rights.  Of course popular culture, religion, and altruism in the west have all but effectively crippled anyone who has been brought up here... and the journey of recovery and discovery is long and arduous... so I understand.  I just wish I could identify the problem better so I could provide more direct and persuasive argumentation... to, in my small way, help correct the errors.

 

I can't quite put my finger on it.  Do you have the sense of what I am getting at?

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But you completely left out the rest of the sentence (which in its entirety is the way I put it)...

I did not mean to misrepresent your meaning. I stopped where the parenthetical part began. I agree with you that rights are only conceivable within a social context.

In addition, a good description of rights should make clear that one can act immorally toward others and still be well within one's "political rights" even if one strays beyond one's "social rights".

Edited by softwareNerd
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I did not mean to misrepresent your meaning. I stopped where the parenthetical part began. I agree with you that rights are only conceivable within a social context.

In addition, a good description of rights should make clear that one can act immorally toward others and still be well within one's "political rights" even if one strays beyond one's "social rights".

 

On the premise that rights are simply the rights of man, how do you differentiate between what you call "political rights" and "social rights"?  Are these particular labels for subsets of the rights of man? 

 

Can you think of an example of an act towards another person that would be immoral (i.e. not in the self interest of the actor) which violate some rights of the another person (your so called "social rights") but not violate other rights of the another person (your so called "political rights")?

 

You last post seems foreign and strange to me and I am having difficulty understanding what you mean.

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Are these particular labels for subsets of the rights of man?

On the forum, when we speak of rights, we're usually speaking of a legal context. Not legal in the sense of  a particular set of laws, but in the sense of "ought to be legal". I used the term "political rights" to signify these (i.e. rights which one ought to have and which ought to be enforced by a good legal system).

With this context, I could lie to someone, and it could be immoral to do so, but it may not violate a political right (i.e. a right that ought to be a legitimate legal right).

Thus far, I assume you agree.

I edited my post to distinguish "political" and "social" rights because there's a second context, not typical on the forum, but quite common otherwise...

 

Consider when someone says: "he had no right to lie to me". They often do not mean this in a legal/political way, but more broadly as a social expectation. Given our relationships and understanding with other people, we have certain legitimate expectations of them, even though these are not (and should not be) legally enforceable. These two concepts of "right" are closely related (unlike the concept of right in "right vs. wrong"). Possibly, one is a sub-set of the other.

Edited by softwareNerd
Added a "not"
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Call them social "expectations" and not rights and I can see what you are getting at.

 

 

I think it is quite clear that one can act in breach of his/her morality without violating the rights of others... dishonesty is a good example as are many other kinds of actions which are ill advised, self-defeating, and piss people off.

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SL said:

I'm still trying to formulate my gripe surrounding the language, the dialogue, etc. which accompanies discussions of Rights and cause what I can only describe as a thin but repulsive epistemological morass over an otherwise valid concept.

I think that is partly because Oist literature has some ambiguity on this. I see what we are doing here as trying to untangle and reintegrate some things that are left hanging. You appear to see this as only imprecision-misintegration in the participants here?

I do see the reason why you want to differentiate rights from ethics. I do see the need to conceptualize clearer formulations on this issue as well. I think we both are clearly trying to preserve the primacy of the individual as the beneficiary of ethics and politics.

Another thing to keep in mind is that selfish people are focused on their interest, so they usually are stronger and most integrated in those areas because they have done the most work there. I think this is natural given an anti-duty mindset. I have very little motivation to dig into the finer points of esthetics for this reason. (And I spent much of my young life doing art. Had some work displayed at the local art museum before I got out of High School )

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Call them social "expectations" and not rights and I can see what you are getting at.

...

 

The problem is they are rights it terms of right behavior qua man.  That is why you can't delimit a right (behavior) to life to a social context; it is just as necessary to preserve life on a desert isle.  Yes, the language often gets in the way of distinguishing right behavior from legal rights, but the fundamental behavior is the same.

 

Both softwareNerd and Harrison express the same distinction in the form of security to practice morality:

 

In some languages, there are two different words for the two different concepts that are both labelled "right" in English.

Understood correctly, and with the elaboration that follows, people have a right to do what is wrong.

They have a right to do anything that is wrong as long as it does not wrong someone else (in other words until it infringes on someone else's rights).

 

They're two different ways of looking at the same thing. You have the right to do what's right.

...

 

Calling them "social expectations" doesn't help because you're still explicitly using a social only context.

 

EDIT:  The tangible distinction between having a right to life on a desert isle and Manhattan is, on the desert isle you don't need the security to practice behavior that is right for the preservation of your life.

 

It's also worth noting that the legal right is disposable whereas the individual right is inalienable.  That is in fact essential to recognizing the moment when your government begins working against you and needs to be altered or abolished.

 

You never lose your right to life.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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I did and think we are copacetic on the issue of natural vs civil rights.  I'm less certain that asserting a natural right to life clarifies the issue to StrictlyLogical, et al, who are dismissive of any right not delimited to a social context.  If I could change the language, I'd ditch the word right and then continue the discussion as behavior in terms of moral vs criminal.  At least then we could agree that moral behavior (individual) is antecedent to political behavior (political)... perhaps...

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The problem is they are rights it terms of right behavior qua man.  That is why you can't delimit a right (behavior) to life to a social context; it is just as necessary to preserve life on a desert isle.  Yes, the language often gets in the way of distinguishing right behavior from legal rights, but the fundamental behavior is the same.

 

Both softwareNerd and Harrison express the same distinction in the form of security to practice morality:

 

 

 

Calling them "social expectations" doesn't help because you're still explicitly using a social only context.

 

EDIT:  The tangible distinction between having a right to life on a desert isle and Manhattan is, on the desert isle you don't need the security to practice behavior that is right for the preservation of your life.

 

It's also worth noting that the legal right is disposable whereas the individual right is inalienable.  That is in fact essential to recognizing the moment when your government begins working against you and needs to be altered or abolished.

 

You never lose your right to life.

 

I'm not calling rights "social expectations", I'm repeating SNs  own words describing his concept "social right" (which he distinguished from political rights): I accept his wording  "social expectations" as they are not rights.

 

I've had similar arguments with you before regarding this.  What you call rights are a reification, a mystic and intrinsic invocation which is some way is based on what I call rights.  I am almost certain we cannot understand each other as we are living in two different universes.

 

 

Rights are principles, not things you possess.  They are in their essence recognition of the facts of reality you can refer to when deciding what to demand from a social context, and what to persuade others is in their self interest.  They do not exist in another dimension, nor do they attach to you like paint to a house.

 

I don't even know what we are disagreeing upon anymore because we are talking about two completely different concepts.

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"You have a right to do what's right"

But you also have a right to choose many immoral actions!

Yes (good point) but which ones?

You have the right to do any number of things that don't influence anyone else in any meaningful way. You have the right to amputate your own finger, but not your neighbor's; to burn down your own house, but not your neighbor's; to kill yourself, but not your neighbor.

However, what about those actions which do meaningfully impact other people?

You don't have the right to kill your neighbor, unless they ask you to. However, if your neighbor is dying, you don't need any permission to rescue them (unless they explicitly prohibit it); you have the right to save them. And even if it's later discovered that they didn't want to be saved (as in the Incredibles) you can't be held liable for acting on the assumption that they wanted to live long and to prosper.

To prolong a life without permission is acceptable; to end one without permission is not. There's no lack of meaningful implications to that.

---

It's a very complex and nuanced subject but that's the right question to ask. To "have the right to do what's right" is only true in a certain sense, which I'd assumed obvious to every other student of Capitalism (which was not a safe assumption).

I'll elaborate shortly.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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"Rights" discussions even on this website are riddled with an odor of intrinsicism if not mysticism itself.

Let's concretize it.

What would it be like to live in a world where there was no such thing as "property" or "consent"; where anybody who was hungry might just walk into your house and raid your fridge, with full moral authority (and probably some good old argumentum ad baculum)?

That would affect how you'd shop for groceries, wouldn't it? There'd be no point in holding onto anything you couldn't immediately use. Of course, given what "shopping" would mean in a world without "property", you wouldn't want to pass up any opportunity to grab what you *might* use tomorrow (it may not stay there long, if you leave it).

It'd change the way you'd build houses. If anybody could take your house apart whenever they needed some lumber, it wouldn't make any sense to build anything more than what you'd absolutely need (although, again, if you don't raid your neighbor's house then somebody else will - and you might never have a chance to use those materials).

Without any concept of "rights" it actually makes sense to live in miserable little hovels, fighting and killing each other over table scraps (as they did in the Dark Ages and many people still do in the third world) - the only other way to deal with people is to sacrifice your efforts to their laziness; your virtues to their vices.

---

If there weren't any objective rules for social interaction (if nothing was off-limits) then the only choice available to a self-respecting Egoist would be between an isolated life of hermitage or to subjugate everyone around him through guile and brute, violent strength. You can see this portrayed in fictional characters like Gail Wynand ("I chose to rule") and, in reality, by every single person that's currently clamoring for a "bigger piece of the pie" (anybody's pie).

I don't know about you but I have no desire to subjugate anybody and I refuse to be a subsistence farmer.

The question, then, is what kind of behavior would be required for human beings to coexist in peace?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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Let's concretize it.

What would it be like to live in a world where there was no such thing as "property" or "consent"; where anybody who was hungry might just walk into your house and raid your fridge, with full moral authority (and probably some good old argumentum ad baculum)?

That would affect how you'd shop for groceries, wouldn't it? There'd be no point in holding onto anything you couldn't immediately use. Of course, given what "shopping" would mean in a world without "property", you wouldn't want to pass up any opportunity to grab what you *might* use tomorrow (it may not stay there long, if you leave it).

It'd change the way you'd build houses. If anybody could take your house apart whenever they needed some lumber, it wouldn't make any sense to build anything more than what you'd absolutely need (although, again, if you don't raid your neighbor's house then somebody else will - and you might never have a chance to use those materials).

Without any concept of "rights" it actually makes sense to live in miserable little hovels, fighting and killing each other over table scraps (as they did in the Dark Ages and many people still do in the third world) - the only other way to deal with people is to sacrifice your efforts to their laziness; your virtues to their vices.

---

If there weren't any objective rules for social interaction (if nothing was off-limits) then the only choice available to a self-respecting Egoist would be between an isolated life of hermitage or to subjugate everyone around him through guile and brute, violent strength. You can see this portrayed in fictional characters like Gail Wynand ("I chose to rule") and, in reality, by every single person that's currently clamoring for a "bigger piece of the pie" (anybody's pie).

I don't know about you but I have no desire to subjugate anybody and I refuse to be a subsistence farmer.

The question, then, is what kind of behavior would be required for human beings to coexist in peace?

 

You are not being direct re. the problem of intrinsicism or mysticism.  We all know how to derive the content of rights, what facts they depend upon and what consequences obtain when people do not act in accordance with rights.  My point is that what needs concretizing is exactly what rights are.... unambiguously... their metaphysical status within the hierarchy of concepts and in the frame work of metaphysics, ethics and politics.

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...

I've had similar arguments with you before regarding this.  What you call rights are a reification, a mystic and intrinsic invocation which is some way is based on what I call rights.  I am almost certain we cannot understand each other as we are living in two different universes.

...

 

* from Star Trek *

Riker: "We've had this conversation before."

Picard: "And we'll have it again."

 

 

Very little time right now, but I want to expand just a bit on post #65

 

"Rights are principles..." ~ agreed

"...not things you possess." ~ meh, here is where language may be getting in the way.

 

Again (and sorry to keep inserting this), from Ron White:

"I had the right to remain silent... but I didn't have the ability."

 

Here's the point: without the ability to act a certain way, rights are irrelavent;  they are at best a permission to do what you have the ability to do. 

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My point is that what needs concretizing is exactly what rights are.... unambiguously... their metaphysical status within the hierarchy of concepts and in the frame work of metaphysics, ethics and politics.

What kind of behavior would be required for human beings to coexist ... ?

:thumbsup:

I will need some time to post the full, Harrisonesque dissertation.

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Continued from post #69

 

We should be able to agree that the metaphysical status of rights is ability, such that rights are principles of things you possess in the form of abilities.  And those abilities are in fact defined according to physical laws, which, unlike government, are quite beyond the scope of man to alter.

 

The right to life is right according physical laws you do possess.

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So in summing up, if you accept the physical laws that define physical reality, you must also accept the inalienable rights of behavior they imply are necessary to exist.  Such is the difference between inalienable (reality) and disposable (man made) rights.  Which is why I disagree that rights are not things you possess.  The ones that matter are written in your DNA.

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DA said:

So in summing up, if you accept the physical laws that define physical reality, you must also accept the inalienable rights of behavior they imply are necessary to exist. Such is the difference between inalienable (reality) and disposable (man made) rights. Which is why I disagree that rights are not things you possess. The ones that matter are written in your DNA.

Huh?

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I'm essentially saying all rights are principles of laws that are both physical and political.

 

The social context is misleading because whether a man is on a desert isle or Manhattan, there's always a social context.  The issue isn't whether he has company at any particular moment, he is always aware of the existance of others and that informs his choice of actions qua man.  So a better delimitation for rights are their relationship to rules (or laws) of behavior that are necessary to exist.

 

Physical laws cannot be altered, therefore are inalienable to existence.  Social laws are altered all the time, therefore are disposable to existence.  Both sets imply rights of behavior, but we possess the former in the knowledge of our own existence and what is required by us to exist, i.e., what is right in principle to exist.  The latter (social/political) doesn't add to what we already know, it only allows a degree of security, and in cases where that "security" works against us, we alter or dispose of it.

 

The metaphysical status of rights that StrictlyLogical is asking for are the physical abilities we possess that are necessary to exist which also imply a right to use them to exist.  That is the source of your right to life.

 

EDIT: I'm still working this out, and welcome any challenges to my premises.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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