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Merge: Rights, Life

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freefrag
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How do you guys get unalienable right to life from man's rational faculty? That always seemed like an arbitrary jump. Or does the reasoning go something like this? The best way for a man to use rational faculty is to say that other men also have it and that it is in everybody's interest to choose a political system that allows that.

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The Readers' Digest answer is that rights derive from three facts about man:

1) Reason (the rational faculty) is our basic means of survival.

2) The initiation of physical force negates, paralyzes or destroys our capacity to reason, i.e. our basic means of survival.

3) When we live in societies with other men, those other men can initiate physical force against us.

Putting those together yields the conclusion that the initiation of physical force must be banned if men are to live as men - our individual rights must be respected.

The first two facts need inductive validation (which I'm not giving here), but that is the gist of the argument. For those validations, I recommend reading Dr. Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand".

Mark Peters

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What gives infants the right to life?

Read Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, for an introduction to the basis for individual rights. If you don't have access to Objectivist literature, check out my essay on capitalism.

The short answer to your question is that man has rights because he is a being with the capacity for rational thought, even when he is not currently capable of it, just as you aren’t when drugged or asleep.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi there.

I'm a German and I've been trying to understand the essence of "the right to life" as mentioned on Captitalism.org.

Capitalism.org says:

There is only one fundamental right -- the right to life -- from which all other rights, including the right to liberty, the right to property and the right to pursue one's own happiness derive.

Now what exactly does that mean, right to life? Isn't that simply the right to be ALIVE?

If so, how do rights like liberty, the right to property etc. derive from that fundamental right?

I mean, you can certainly be alive without being free, without property and being totally unhappy. I don't see how the right to life alone can ever be sufficient to derive everything else.

Greets

Bobby66 :D

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Right to life is more than simply the right to be alive. It means the right to live (or not live) your life in any way you see fit. Any restrictions on your property rights or liberties infringe upon you basic right to life.

For example, if someone dictates to me what I can and can't do with my own property, they are encroaching upon by ability to live my life in the way I desire.

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Hi there.

I'm a German and I've been trying to understand the essence of "the right to life" as mentioned on Captitalism.org.

Capitalism.org says:

Now what exactly does that mean, right to life? Isn't that simply the right to be ALIVE?

If so, how do rights like liberty, the right to property etc. derive from that fundamental right?

I mean, you can certainly be alive without being free, without property and being totally unhappy. I don't see how the right to life alone can ever be sufficient to derive everything else.

Greets

Bobby66 :D

I would change that to "the right to live your own life", meaning the right to make your own decisions, to achieve your own accomplishments, to make your own mistakes, to earn your own money, to own your own property, etc. without someone else making those decisions for you. Anything else is slavery, because your own life is the greatest good, and nobody else should be allowed to take that from you or dictate how you should live it.

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I would change that to "the right to live your own life", meaning the right to make your own decisions, to achieve your own accomplishments, to make your own mistakes, to earn your own money, to own your own property, etc. without someone else making those decisions for you. Anything else is slavery, because your own life is the greatest good, and nobody else should be allowed to take that from you or dictate how you should live it.

That's very Objectivist response for someone who has just discovered Objectivism :D.

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Rights are always properly rights to actions, not to things. So, the right to life means that you have a right to your own life, to support it, maintain it, use it, and, if you desire, dispose of it as you see fit, PROVIDED that it does not infringe upon the same right of others. In order to have rights yourself, you must recognize that others also have the same rights.

The right to life is primary because one cannot have rights unless one is alive. The two derivative rights (liberty and property) are corrolary; a human being that wishes to live must have the freedom to act in order to sustain that life (liberty) and, since man must sustain his life by production, he must be able to use and dispose of the products of that production (property).

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That's very Objectivist response for someone who has just discovered Objectivism :D.

Thank you. :)

I have just discovered that there was a term for the philosophy I believed in, that being "Objectivism".

Although I have never read anything by Ayn Rand, many of my interests led me in that direction, or, to put it better, my own reason allowed me to see the truth. ;)

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Explain it to those who are so ready to relinquish their own right to life. Ayn Rand called it "The Sanction of the Victim".

I was just asking where we rationally derive rights from and how a right as the right to life differs from a simple will to life, this will to life being nothing but a consequence of the experience of life. So the question is, isn't a "right" just a demand of the will (we want it to be a "right", because we like it), a fiction that can never be proven, but only be put down to human desire of "self-justification"?

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So the question is, isn't a "right" just a demand of the will (we want it to be a "right", because we like it), a fiction that can never be proven, but only be put down to human desire of "self-justification"?

What rational reasoning would you use to justify why someone else would have a greater "right" over your life than you yourself? How would you determine (which is also exercising control over your "right" to life) who should have a greater "right" over your life than you yourself? Why would you see sacrificing yourself obediently to others as something more fundamental?

In order for a person to live life qua man, one has to be able to dictate his own course of action for existence and happiness as long as those actions do not involve initiating force against others. This allows each person to rise or fall according to his own ability and effort, to avoid being a burden or parasite to others while they pursue their own life by their own means. For life to be "fair", one must accept things like the trader principle where parties freely exchange values for mutual benefit rather than some people looting others for their efforts.

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What rational reasoning would you use to justify why someone else would have a greater "right" over your life than you yourself?  How would you determine (which is also exercising control over your "right" to life) who should have a greater "right" over your life than you yourself?  Why would you see sacrificing yourself obediently to others as something more fundamental?

What rational reasoning could I use to justify the existence of such a thing as a "right" in the first place. It is obvious, that a will to life exists in every man's brain. Therefore it makes sense for everyone to create a rule named "right to life", so everyone can be sure of being able to live one's life. The creation of this rule "right to life" is of everyone's interest. It is a conventional decision.

But that doesn't explain the "right to life" as something absolute, something somehow given from above.

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I was just asking where we rationally derive rights from and how a right as the right to life differs from a simple will to life, this will to life being nothing but a consequence of the experience of life. So the question is, isn't a "right" just a demand of the will (we want it to be a "right", because we like it), a fiction that can never be proven, but only be put down to human desire of "self-justification"?

To answer your question of where rights come from: forming a society gives inestimable benefits to the members of that society, but only under the assumption that life is better for each and every one of the members of that society with the society than without it.

This is why we have rights and government. Rights are moral principles dictating and sanctioning a man's action in a social context. Governments exist to enforce these rights.

Now how do we know what the rights of people are, that is, what determines these rights? The answer is the nature of human beings. Because humans have no automatic knowledge about the world, they have to use their minds to produce that which they need to survive. This entails an individual's freedom to observe the world and use it for his purposes, as well as keeping the fruits of his mind and effort, as well as that which was secured through voluntary trade.

If you allow in a positive right to life (that is, a "right" to be alive), you are in essence declaring that everyone is entitled to food, water, shelter, and goodness knows what else. The problem is that these things aren't in general freely available to everyone-- someone must produce them. These producers then in effect become slaves to others by virture of their "right to be alive"

However, these producers are in a society for a reason: to benefit themselves by (1) learning from others who are willing to teach them, and (2) collaborating wth others to mutual benefit. The second society turns one of its members into a slave, it is a society that has inverted its original purpose, and now acts as an agent of slavery, not of benefit.

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To answer your question of where rights come from: forming a society gives inestimable benefits to the members of that society, but only under the assumption that life is better for each and every one of the members of that society with the society than without it.

This is why we have rights and government.  Rights are moral principles dictating  and sanctioning a man's action in a social context.  Governments exist to enforce these rights.

Now how do we know what the rights of people are, that is, what determines these rights?  The answer is the nature of human beings.  Because humans have no automatic knowledge about the world, they have to use their minds to produce that which they need to survive.  This entails an individual's freedom to observe the world and use it for his purposes, as well as keeping the fruits of his mind and effort, as well as that which was secured through voluntary trade.

If you allow in a positive right to life (that is, a "right" to be alive), you are in essence declaring that everyone is entitled to food, water, shelter, and goodness knows what else.  The problem is that these things aren't in general freely available to everyone-- someone must produce them.  These producers then in effect become slaves to others by virture of their "right to be alive"

However, these producers are in a society for a reason: to benefit themselves by (1) learning from others who are willing to teach them, and (2) collaborating wth others to mutual benefit.  The second society turns one of its members into a slave, it is a society that has inverted its original purpose, and now acts as an agent of slavery, not of benefit.

It seems we were just making our replies at the same time. Anyway that's just all I could say to explain the existence of rights. But the fact remains that there seems to be no such thing as a "right" prior to man creating it as a rule, as far as we can tell.

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It seems we were just making our replies at the same time. Anyway that's just all I could say to explain the existence of rights. But the fact remains that there seems to be no such thing as a "right" prior to man creating it as a rule, as far as we can tell.

Well, if you mean that there's no evidence of intrinsic rights in the sense that there is some ultimate metaphyscial source of man's rights which exists without necessity of validation, then that's correct. None of man's conceptual knowledge is gained in this way. We must observe reality in order to learn the truth, it is not handed to us from above, nor can it be mystically intuited.

However, just because there isn't a magical book containing man's rights somewhere, that doesn't mean that man's rights are subjective-- just being whatever people decide that they are on a whim. People's rights are what they are to serve a crucial purpose-- to delineate how men are to interact in a society so that society is to be a benefit to each of its members, that is, if it is to be a moral society. In order to do this, we must use reason to discover the nature of man (which is objective) and determine what these moral principles are.

At its root, your question may be epistemological.

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It seems we were just making our replies at the same time. Anyway that's just all I could say to explain the existence of rights. But the fact remains that there seems to be no such thing as a "right" prior to man creating it as a rule, as far as we can tell.

No, there is no question of rights without man and a society in which he lives. These preconditions don't mean that it is an arbitrary rule created by men on whim. That would be similar to saying that, if there were no coconuts, no one would need to learn how to harvest them.

Men do not create rights from whole cloth, they discover them by understanding their own nature and how they function in society.

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The creation of this rule "right to life" is of everyone's interest. It is a conventional decision.

But that doesn't explain the "right to life" as something absolute, something somehow given from above.

Others have stated as well that it's not simply (or whimsically) a creation of a rule, but more an observation of reality in how man qua man must exist in a society.

I have more to add to this after I consider how to put it into words properly.

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Well, if you mean that there's no evidence of intrinsic rights in the sense that there is some ultimate metaphyscial source of man's rights which exists without necessity of validation, then that's correct.  None of man's conceptual knowledge is gained in this way.  We must observe reality in order to learn the truth, it is not handed to us from above, nor can it be mystically intuited.

But isn't that the semantics attached to our usage of the term of "right": "some ultimate metaphysical source of man's rights which exists without necessity of validation", isn't that the "truth" we are actually trying and hoping to find out in the end, but which we will at best be bound to believe in, but never will know for sure.

However, just because there isn't a magical book containing man's rights somewhere, that doesn't mean that man's rights are subjective-- just being whatever people decide that they are on a whim.  People's rights are what they are to serve a crucial purpose-- to delineate how men are to interact in a society so that society is to be a benefit to each of its members, that is, if it is to be a moral society.  In order to do this, we must use reason to discover the nature of man (which is objective) and determine what these moral principles are.

At its root, your question may be epistemological.

Well, "discovering the nature of man", doesn't that just simply mean "observing man's actions in order to find out his intentions so we can apply some reasonable automatic control to enable man to achieve his most obvious objectives"? And how are these human actions being motivated in the first place? Aren't human actions initially based "on a whim"? I mean, what else should they be based on in the first place? And if so, what's wrong about saying that rights are rules created to enable everyone to act on his own whim, whim being the cause and the point of declaring rights?

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No, there is no question of rights without man and a society in which he lives.  These preconditions don't mean that it is an arbitrary rule created by men on whim.  That would be similar to saying that, if there were no coconuts, no one would need to learn how to harvest them.

Now whats wrong about that coconut simile?

Men do not create rights from whole cloth, they discover them by understanding their own nature and how they function in society.

...they "discover them" meaning nothing but "they find their usefulness in society", isnt' it?

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I was just asking where we rationally derive rights from ...
Sorry I misunderstood you. I thought you meant how do we explain to people who do not want to give us the right to life.

I see that you are actually asking a deeper question. You are asking if rights are axiomatic (i.e. "obvious") or if they can be derived from other ideas and concepts. Correct?

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Sorry I misunderstood you. I thought you meant how do we explain to people who do not want to give us the right to life.

I see that you are actually asking a deeper question. You are asking if rights are axiomatic (i.e. "obvious") or if they can be derived from other ideas and concepts. Correct?

Yeah, that's my question.

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What rational reasoning could I use to justify the existence of such a thing as a "right" in the first place. It is obvious, that a will to life exists in every man's brain. Therefore it makes sense for everyone to create a rule named "right to life", so everyone can be sure of being able to live one's life. The creation of this rule "right to life" is of everyone's interest. It is a conventional decision.

But that doesn't explain the "right to life" as something absolute, something somehow given from above.

Rights dont exist independently of humans, nor are they given from up high - they are entirely a product of human invention and would not exist without us. But this doesnt mean that they are subjective or not based on actual facts. The equator is, in a way, a 'human creation' and doesnt exist outside us (there isnt really a line running around the earth) and the same applies to numbers and money. But in another sense these concepts are objective in that they are based on aspects of reality which exist whether we recognise them or not. The grounding for rights is that they constitute the bare essentials required for humans to live. Regardless of whether you believe there is a right to life and liberty, it remains a brute fact that these things are essential for human survival, hence the decision to explictly codify them in a set of rights.

Edited by Hal
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