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Natural Rights: A Counterpoint to Jon
Posted by: Dale Franks on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm not much of a philosopher, I've always been more of a concrete guy, more comfortable with reality than with airy-fairy notions of metaphysics. So, until recently, I never thought much of the whole idea of natural rights. And, when I did think about them, I regarded them much as Jon does. Over the last two years, though, I've taken a closer look at this issue, and I've come around to a much different view of natural rights.

It's difficult to give a complicated subject like this a blog length treatment that makes sense, but, to start, we have to first ask from where natural rights derive. Evolution, or God, or both, depending on your point of view, has endowed man with certain characteristics. Chief among these is that man values his own life, and his property. He does not accept that another may kill him, or take his property without his consent. In addition, I would also place reproduction into that same category, since no one willingly accepts that another person or agency should be able to deny him the ability to procreate.

When we talk about natural rights, what we are really discussing is a set of moral claims that arise directly from human natureSo, biology has conditioned us as part of our very nature, to assert at least three fundamental natural rights: The right to life, the right to property, and the right to produce offspring. These three things, at minimum, are the basic natural rights, because they are a universal part of man's biological and psychological makeup. Taken together, these three rights make up an overarching, and additional, natural right of liberty, that is, the right to exercise our natural rights without arbitrary interference.

What separates man from the animals is that, unlike them, man is a rational actor. Rather than acting from instinc, or in simple responses to immediate stimuli, we can plan rationally, guage the effects of our actions on others, and measure the harm or good that comes from our actions. Because we can do so, and exercise our will, then being a rational actor also makes us, automatically, a moral actor. So, when we talk about natural rights, what we are really discussing is a set of moral claims that arise directly from human nature.

We can, then, I think, immediately dispose of Jon's example of a man holding a gun to your head, and trying to defend yourself by denying the person the right to kill you. Three principles are intertwined here.

First, natural rights are, again, moral claims, they are not self-enforcing natural laws. No law of human interaction is self-enforcing, because in a world where humans exercise free will, humans can always pursue alternate actions. This means that moral claims, like legal claims, cannot enforce themselves on human beings. If it were otherwise, there could be no free will. But, having free will means that we are an inner-directed species, and so all claims, both legal and moral, must be enforced by external means.

The fact that moral or legal claims require external enforcement is irrelevant to the objective existence of the claims themselvesThe man with the gun in Jon's example may not believe there is a law against murder. He may not believe it applies to him. His unwillingness to beleive in or follow the law does not negate the existence of California Penal Code §187. The law against murder exists, and just because it isn't self-enforcing has no bearing on its existence. The fact that moral or legal claims require external enforcement is irrelevant to the objective existence of the claims themselves.

The second problem with Jon's example is that rights do not exist in a vacuum. Let's take another natural right, the right to procreate. Procreation is one of the most powerful, and fundamental human drives, and forms, therefore one of the basic natural rights. Yet, despite the fact that Jon is a handsome, strapping young man with undeniable sexual attractiveness, I dare say that there are a number of women who have denied Jon that right. Oh, I'm sure it's an extraordinarily small number, but it is above 0 nevertheless. The corollary of Jon's right to procreate, of course, is that Jon cannot force others to procreate with him. We all may be driven to procreate, but we are not naturally compelled to procreate with those whom we do not desire. Jon's right to procreate with those he desires is opposed by their right to do the same thing, and, in some cases, Jon is not the person they desire.

Although, I can't, for the life of me, understand why.

So, the rights of one person exist in tension with the rights of all other persons, which means that while the right exists in the generality, it may not be exercised in a particular case. This, again, means that natural rights cannot enforce themselves, because, in addition to the reasons given above, human judgment must be exercised to discern when a general moral claim can be exercised in a proximate case and when it may not, without violating the natural rights of others.

Third, in Jon's example, I daresay that, while the murderer feels no compunction about killing you, he suddenly gets quite irate if someone else decides to kill him. Because even the murderer does not willingly accept that some third party may kill him without his consent. It doesn't matter, you see, whether the murderer cares about your rights. What matters is that the murderer cares about his own rights. What makes the right to life a natural right is that every person is biologically programmed to believe, quite strongly, that he should not be killed. Whether he believes that about you is quite immaterial.

Again, we derive the concept of natural rights from the fundamental psychological and biological makeup of human beings. They are based on the universal urges to defend one's own life, property, and offspring (although, in many ways, the latter two can really be combined into one, as un-PC as it may be to say it). As such, natural rights do, in fact, inhere in human beings, and they do not do so as fuzzy metaphysical constructs, but derive from very real, universal, biologically implanted drives.

Civil rights may arise from natural rights, but they are not the same thingsAnother fundamental human characteristic is that we are social animals. We like to live in societies. The trouble is that, as soon as you get even a small group of people together, there's always someone who wants to cause trouble. Who isn't interested in respecting your rights, no matter how zealous he might be in the defense of his. It is for this reason, as the Founders said, that governments are instituted among men. The only reason government is necessary is to protect natural rights of the society's members from those who would otherwise violate them with impunity.

Note, that, as of yet, we only have a very basic social compact. We give certain powers—perhaps even unlimited powers—to the government, in order to defend our natural rights. Even a despotic government is often preferable to anarchy, in that some predictable protection of rights, such as criminalizing murder and theft, is better than none at all. So, we make a deal: We give the government the ability to punish rights violations, and in so doing, we agree that our rights will be forfeit to some extent if we violate the rights of others. We set up a sytem of laws and punishments in order to protect natural rights. And, as long as the government protects us from arbitrary rights violations to a greater extent than anarchy would, we keep the deal, or "social compact" we've created.

This is true even if the government is relatively oppressive. After all, if we can work, raise a family, and not excessively fear being killed through caprice of the government, that's a better deal than being mowed down by Scythian horsemen riding unimpeded over the steppes every couple of years or so. Once the Scythian horsemen have all been killed by the government, however, then that level of oppression may not, in fact, be better than living alone on the steppes. We might want to take another look at the government, because, even if it adequately protects our natural rights, we may wish to negotiate a less despotic social compact.

If all rights are negotiable, then there are no rights at all. Your only "rights" are whatever privileges you can wrestle from an otherwise omnipotent sovereignBut this is another point, I think, where Max and Jon go off the rails. In their discussion of rights, and the social compact, they make no discrimination between natural rights and civil rights. But this is an important distinction to make. Civil rights may arise from natural rights, but they are not the same things. We can rationally derive the idea that a government that allows free speech, and public audit by the citizens is a government that is less likely to violate natural rights, but it's perfectly possible (and, indeed, has been throughout much of history) that a government can do its utmost to protect the lives and property of its citizens, while refraining from overt interference in their personal lives, without allowing them free speech, or voting rights, or freedom of religion.

The purpose of government is to protect natural rights. The purpose of the social compact is to negotiate an acceptable level of civil rights with that government.

Where civil rights differ radically with natural rights is that, with civil rights, there can be a disagreement about whether or not they should exist. For instance, if you ask people, "Do you believe free basic medical care is a right?", you will get a lot more difference of opinion than you will if you ask, "Do you believe its OK for government officials to come to you house and kill you just to take your property?" What we think of as civil rights, therefore, are really, as Robert Heinlein defined them, as privileges, generally agreed.

Civil rights are negotiable. Natural rights, on the other hand, are not negotiable. They are fundamental incidents of our humanity, and no arbitrary violation of them can be legitimate.

Natural rights provide an unchanging yardstick for legitimacy that is built on the fundamental charateristics of human natureWhich brings me to another problem with Jon and Max's argument, and it's the most troubling, I think. If all rights are negotiable, then there are no rights at all. Your only "rights" are whatever privileges you can wrestle from an otherwise omnipotent sovereign. This denies that there is any moral claim whatsoever for life, liberty, or property on the part of anyone. It defines "moral" as whatever the society claims it to be, and denies that there are any transcendent moral laws that must be observed. In practice, it confers an automatic assumption of legitimacy to any government, no matter how oppressive. Moreover, at the other extreme, by making no differentiation at all between natural rights and civil rights, it offers no protection from a growing nanny state, by making anything we want a "right". Jon's and Max's argument guts any philosophical or moral argument for less intrusive, smaller, more limited government.

What natural rights do, on the other hand, is provide an unchanging yardstick for legitimacy that is built on the fundamental characteristics of human nature. No government that arbitrarily kills its people, takes their property, and imprisons them, can possibly be legitimate under natural rights theory. And that remains true even if a majority of the population votes to take the lives, liberty, and property of the remaining citizens. Such a government might be perfectly democratic, and faithfully enacting the "social compact" desired by a majority of its citizens, but it would nonetheless be deeply illegitimate.

By eliminating any transcendent moral restraint on government, Jon and Max's argument serves as a de facto legitimization of the worst kind of tyranny and despotism. I therefore reject it utterly.

Divider

Jon, who has read the draft version of this post, doesn't like the last line, because it's consequentialist. So what? I'm just making a moral judgement. And I only do that because I'm human.
 
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Hmm, I want to repost the comments I made in the other thread.

But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll say this: even though we all know there’s no transcendant force telling us how much a dollar is worth, we come to an agreement. Applying the same principle to something like rights is certainly troubling, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Your rights are enforced by your fellow man only if and when they agree that you have that inherent dignity. Think about that.
But whatever t is that you thnk makes those rights inherent, is the thing you’re going to have to rely on to save you when you’re outgunned.

That makes it more important that we be libertarians, because that society-wide contract — and everyone’s belief in it — is the only thing standing between you and those who would infringe those cherished rights.

Now, does that make our "rights" seem like mere privileges? Yes.
But they are extremely durable privileges that won’t be simply revoked unless the Constitution itself is destroyed — things we set down as near as we could to "in stone," founding a country based on the belief that these things are inherent in us.

I deny moral distinctions until objectively proven otherwise. The burden of proof is on the believer, not the skeptic. And yet, I am a limited-government man for the reasons I cited above. Without the belief that Something Else will enforce our rights, it’s all the more important that we protect and make eminent that compact.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
But whatever t is that you thnk makes those rights inherent, is the thing you’re going to have to rely on to save you when you’re outgunned.
Did you even read his post, Ornery? Do the terms "moral claim" not "moral guarantee" mean anything to you in the context of your comment above?

What he’s going to depend on is whatever is at hand to defend his life of which only he has a valid moral claim. And it is that claim which forms the basis of his right to offer such a defense. But he is not guaranteed success. Only the right to attempt it.
I deny moral distinctions until objectively proven otherwise.
Really? Then explain, in layman’s terms, the consequences of free will.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
If all rights are negotiable, then there are no rights at all. Your only "rights" are whatever privileges you can wrestle from an otherwise omnipotent sovereign.

I am an ally of Jon and Max on this issue. You have greatly overstated the implications of their position. I would put it this way:

A right is a claim on other persons that is voluntarily acknowledged and reciprocated among the persons associated with that claim. Rights therefore arise through political bargaining, where politics is understood as the process of group decision-making that pre-dates the creation of the state. The creation of rights does not require an "omnipotent sovereign." In fact, for a minarchist, the only role of the "omnipotent sovereign" is to protect rights that arise from private, voluntary, political bargaining. It just happens that Americans were lucky enough to live under a regime that (until the last 70 years or so) largely confined itself to that minarchist role and — at times — fostered the extension of rights to persons who had been deprived of them through state action (e.g., slaves).
 
Written By: Tom Anger
URL: http://libertycorner.blogspot.com
Your rights are enforced by your fellow man only if and when they agree that you have that inherent dignity. Think about that.
I did. I addresed that point specifically in the post. Perhaps you should think about that.

But again, briefly, The existence of the right doesn’t depend on whether person A thinks that Person B has a right. It depends on whether person A, ireespective of his feelings about person B thinks he has the right.

Everyone accepts they they, themself, have the right. It is from this universal self-acceptance of the right that we derive its existence.

You keep harping on enforcement, as if any human actions are self-enforcing in an environment of free will.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
A right is a claim on other persons that is voluntarily acknowledged and reciprocated among the persons associated with that claim.
Only partially. The right exists regardless of acknowledgment or reciprocation. That’s its power.

We execute people for not acknowledging a person’s right to life and killing them. We do that because we acknowledge that the person killed was the only one with a valid moral claim on his life.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Mr. Franks, I don’t see how you get from our desire to live to our right to live. You say that person A by nature believes he has the right to live, but that’s hardly obvious (and I’d suggest that it’s in fact false) — of course the natural man doesn’t want anyone else to kill him, but where from nature does he get the idea that anyone else should feel an obligation not to kill him?

If you’re simply arguing that these rights, though socially constructed, have as their basis the fundamental instincts that you mentioned, I can go along with that; but I don’t follow your apparent equation of the desire with the right.

Actually, I might find your logic easier to follow if you posted your own definition of the term "right", because my understanding of it is much like Tom Anger’s above — it’s senseless (to me) to speak of a right independent of a group of individuals that have constructed it.
 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
McQ -
Did you even read his post, Ornery? Do the terms "moral claim" not "moral guarantee" mean anything to you in the context of your comment above?

What he’s going to depend on is whatever is at hand to defend his life of which only he has a valid moral claim. And it is that claim which forms the basis of his right to offer such a defense. But he is not guaranteed success. Only the right to attempt it.
I confess I skimmed a few paragraphs, expecting to see what I saw in the comments on Jon’s post.

A "moral claim" is fine and dandy, but that and a buck will buy you a decent cup of coffee. Unless someone can point out an objective moral system... what’s the point?
What, indeed, is the difference between having only your own power to defend yourself, and having the "right" to defend yourself?

I then moved on to reassure Dale that even though rights might not objectively exist, there’re still reasons outside of moral distinction to support libertarianism, and that just because another opinion lacks moral grounding is no reason to "reject it utterly" as Dale did.
I deny moral distinctions until objectively proven otherwise.
Really? Then explain, in layman’s terms, the consequences of free will.
That’s just the thing. I’m a hard determinist too. I don’t beleve free will exists; that pretty much automatically puts me in "no moral responsibility" territory, but at least I’m consistent.

Of course, that also puts me in hot philosophical water in a movement named after the opposite side in the free will/determinism debate.
-=-=-=-=-
Dale -
Your rights are enforced by your fellow man only if and when they agree that you have that inherent dignity. Think about that.
I did. I addresed that point specifically in the post. Perhaps you should think about that.
You’re right; you did, and I apologize for belaboring the point. I just can’t see how you escape the consequences of that knowledge.

You seemed to understand where it was headed when you said:
If all rights are negotiable, then there are no rights at all. Your only "rights" are whatever privileges you can wrestle from an otherwise omnipotent sovereign. This denies that there is any moral claim whatsoever for life, liberty, or property on the part of anyone. It defines "moral" as whatever the society claims it to be, and denies that there are any transcendent moral laws that must be observed.
So, if you can’t prove that rights are non-negotiable by some objective means, why do you continue to argue?

It may just be that we have to deal with a world where there are no certifiably moral claims, and we’re operating on faith that the way we do things is the "right" way. The fact would remain that we have created a system of rights that we treat as inalienable, and we can decide to defend it without trasncendant backup. In fact, if I’m right, it means we’ve done this for over two hundred years here in the US without any transcendant reassurance but that which we believe in.

I mean, it’s absolutely true of money, and that mass delusion is useful.
Why can’t we believe that we have value because we chose to? Why reject that?
(Side note: that a decision was made does not conflict with my hard determinism. Choice and truly free choice are two dfferent things.)
But again, briefly, The existence of the right doesn’t depend on whether person A thinks that Person B has a right. It depends on whether person A, ireespective of his feelings about person B thinks he has the right.
Great. That doesn’t make any moral claims whatsoever. It recognizes that the right exists only in our minds. This doesn’t conflict with what I’ve said.

Where you and I diverge is:
Everyone accepts they they, themself, have the right. It is from this universal self-acceptance of the right that we derive its existence.
Two things:
1) Not everyone accepts that they have a right to life/liberty/property/pursuit of happiness. So it’s not universal. One person believing they don’t have a right to ther property would nullify the claim, or at least require serious exceptions to this supposed "law."
2) Just because something exists does not mean it necessarily has moral weight.
You keep harping on enforcement, as if any human actions are self-enforcing in an environment of free will.
Again, since I don’t believe in free will, and you’ve not proven it exists, that isn’t persuasive. Natural laws enforce themselves; they don’t require us to believe anything. I further think that it’s okay to give us some credit for deciding things have value by fiat, without making any moral claims. Moral claims carry no weight, so far as I’ve observed.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
This discussion is fascinating.

I think every person has a right to live until he does something that quashes that right, but I really can’t explain why I think this way. I’m not convinced that being born with the natural desire to live couple with conscious rationality gives me a right to live any more than a general consensus among my fellow humans that we have such a right does. I think either of these ideas are fine operationally, but at a fundamental level of detail they fail to satisfy.

I think a case can be made that animals, at least some of them, value their life and consciously seek to preserve it to the extent their intellect will allow. If true, then according to your thesis they have a right to life. The sticking point here, I suppose, is the meaning of ’value their life.’ You will probably say that they do not have free will and thus cannot really value their life above an instinctual level but I’d say at the very least that is unproven and perhaps not provable.
 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
I’m entirely too drunk to comment properly on this topic at this moment, but I have to add that any right that derives its existence from without (i.e. from society, or government, or "other persons") cannot be but an ephemeral right. A natural right MUST emanate from within (i.e. from the individual, whether from God, biology, chemical composition, or whatever floats your boat) regardless of the individual’s actual ability to protect that right.

Essentially, the great ongoing struggle of the last 230 years has been between these two competing formulations of rights: rights derived from without (Babeuf, Rousseau, French Revolution) and rights derived from within (Locke, Hume, Jefferson, the American Revolution). IMHO, we are getting to the crossroads where the competing visions of "rights" no longer have anything in common, and thus the struggle is intensifying and the rhetoric becoming ever more shrill. In the end, there will be those who decide that that rights are the samr for all, or that rights are whatever the prevailing majority decides it will enforce.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://
I’m really trying my best to understand your points here, but I feel as if an esteemed intellectual peer has suddenly told me he believes in fairies and voodoo. To again borrow from Sagan, I can only reject the Natural Rights hypothesis, be open to future physical data, and wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people share the same strange delusion.

Some specific criticisms...

1) Procreation requires the consent and participation of another person, which makes it exactly unlike life/liberty/property, which do not. Certainly, we have an interest that others don’t tell us what to do with our dangly bits, but I’m not aware of any asserted "right" to access other people’s nether-regions and I’m not sure why you would think they were at all equivalent.

2) I agree that man is biologically conditioned with the survival
instinct and with a drive to reproduce. (or, at least, to have a lot of sex) The existence of that drive does not create an "appropriate standard of behaviour" or a natural system of right and wrong. It simply means that man has a biologically driven interest in survival and reproduction.

3) What you are describing are natural human drives — motivations, volition, whatever — but it’s hard to see how you take the leap from "I have interests and free will to exercise those interests" to "nature decrees a certain kind of behaviour to be absolutely right, and another to be absolutely wrong".

That’s a leap you take without evidence.


4)
"The only reason government is necessary is to protect natural rights of the society’s members from those who would otherwise violate them with impunity."
Well, that’s just empirically false. Lots of governments have existed to do things other than protect natural rights. They’ve existed to protect kings, to protect countries, to protect cultures, to protect feudal systems, and lots of other reasons. It may be that, way back in the mists of time, some group of nomadic wanderers got together and said "hey, we could protect ourselves better if we became a tribe!", but that doesn’t change the fact that other governments have existed for other reasons.

In any event, your opinion on the necessity of government is just that — your opinion. Normative arguments are no substitute for physical evidence.


5)
"In their discussion of rights, and the social compact, they make no discrimination between natural rights and civil rights."
That’s because society generally doesn’t. Sure, some wild-eyed libertarians, objectivists and philosophers may do so, but society in general does not, except insofar as they appear to generally attach somewhat more importance to what we call negative rights than they do to positive rights.



6)
"Another problem with Jon and Max’s argument, and it’s the most troubling, I think, is that if all rights are negotiable, then there are no rights at all."
Of course there aren’t! Rights are, as you’ve said, a "fiction". A useful one, but a fiction nonetheless. Nature just doesn’t care that much whether Bob’s matter generates some energy that interferes with the matter in the general region of Joe’s head. It just IS.

It may violate your sense of right and wrong, but that’s wholly different than saying something is a "universal wrong".


7)
"This denies that there is any moral claim whatsoever for life, liberty, or property on the part of anyone. "
As I pointed out, I’m an anti-foundationalist. (which puts me solidly in the majority among the sort of people who think about this kind of thing) I don’t believe there’s any natural foundation for morality. I believe moral systems can be constructed to varying degrees of utility and rationality, but that doesn’t mean that nature recognizes them.



8)
"Jon’s and Max’s argument guts any philosophical or moral argument for less intrusive, smaller, more limited government."
That’s simply false. One doesn’t have to have an absolute foundation to have a preference or to construct a system of morality and act on it.


9)
"By eliminating any transcendent moral restraint on government, Jon and Max’s argument serves as a de facto legitimization of the worst kind of tyranny and despotism. I therefore reject it utterly."
That’s an appeal to consequences — a logical fallacy. In the follow-up in the post, you write that it’s a "moral judgement". Nonsense. You’re forming a conclusion on the implications of our argument. Your conclusion is logically fallacious. Even if it is a moral judgement, it’s a logically flawed one.

One of the reasons, I believe, that people insist on some absolute foundation for morality — be it God, Objectivism, etc — is the somewhat scary alternative: nature is amoral; nature just doesn’t give a shit what happens within the laws of nature. Frightened at the implications, people tend to argue things like "if there’s no absolute morality, then what Hitler did wasn’t
wrong!"

But that’s nonsense. What Hitler did just WAS. Nature didn’t really care one way or another. The only agents capable of making a moral judgement about what Hitler did are humans, and we did so. We don’t need absolutes to have preferences and judgements.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
We execute people for not acknowledging a person’s right to life and killing them. We do that because we acknowledge that the person killed was the only one with a valid moral claim on his life.
Uh-oh.
Now we will hear all about how "you can’t legislate morality"
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
"if there’s no absolute morality, then what Hitler did wasn’t
wrong!"

But that’s nonsense. What Hitler did just WAS. Nature didn’t really care one way or another.
To the contrary Jon.

Nature simply responded in ways that you don’t recognize as such. Nature, after all, doesn’t always react in immidiately understandable fashion. As an example, it took over 1700 years after the birth of Christ, for us to recognize something as comparatively simple the nature of gravity. More complex reactions would most certainly take longer to recognize.

The reaction is out there, recognized or not, just the same. The negative consequences of Hitler’s actions, (which even you will admit exist, given you recognize some of them,) will dog us for many generations yet, and in ways that we may not be able to identify for another 1700 years. When we get there, call me; we’ll have a barley pop or two.

This is not as some would characterize it, metaphysical claptrap, but rather, the reverse; a recognition that humans are not omnipotent.



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
"1) Procreation requires the consent and participation of another person,"
I’d like to see how you get around your ridiculous premise that society decides what rights are and the idea that society then can’t rightfully give men the right to rape women.
Of course there aren’t! Rights are, as you’ve said, a "fiction". A useful one, but a fiction nonetheless.
And as I’ve pointed out, they’re less of a fiction than the agreed upon equation that describes gravity. It’s also just as useful a notion, something that is part of the foundation of all that makes us better off than other societies, to the limited extent we still hold to it.

What you have is less useful, less explanatory, and more problematic idea.

You picked up a bad tool, put it down.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’d like to see how you get around your ridiculous premise that society decides what rights are and the idea that society then can’t rightfully give men the right to rape women.
Simple: I’ve never said that "society decides what rights are". Society can create safeguards and protections — or society can help implement interests by the accumulation and direction of power — but only individuals can make moral judgements. Society simply reflects those judgements.

I think I’ve been pretty clear on that point throughout.
And as I’ve pointed out, they’re less of a fiction than the agreed upon equation that describes gravity. It’s also just as useful a notion, something that is part of the foundation of all that makes us better off than other societies, to the limited extent we still hold to it.
"Natural rights" has no explanatory or predictive power. It does not explain why humans act. Biological motivations can explain "is"; "natural rights can only offer the subjective "ought".
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Henke wrote:
"Natural rights" has no explanatory or predictive power.
This makes a prediction:
The natural law of "human" rights states that intelligence, existing in circumstances of finite resources, as discretized into individual entities, has inhering to such entities certain moral claims such entities can rightfully make on the power to act with volition and to benefit to the ends the individual sees fit to pursue from the results of choices thereby made. A corollary is that that grouping of entities acting within each other’s potential scope of action, called a society, will tend to maximize each individuals ability to command resources towards the infinite, taken in the aggregate, although never reaching it, and this is true the more correctly the society apprises itself of what those inherent rights are, and organizes itself accordingly.
That may be my definition of natural rights, but I think it works. If it doesn’t, pick it apart logically.

Henke wrote:
"It does not explain why humans act. Biological motivations can explain "is"; "natural rights can only offer the subjective "ought"."
Natural rights aren’t intended to explain why people act, so that’s no test of their validity. Biological motivations explain the least part of the human "is" or human condition, chance, intelligence, learning, and volition explain the rest. There is nothing in the fact natural rights offer an ought that makes the concept invalid—Why would you think that follows?

"I’ve never said that "society decides what rights are""

Yes you did, although I suppose you can’t see that’s what you’ve done.

You wrote:
"I don’t believe I’ve said that "rights" are a "societal invention"; I believe they are the result of the social (evolutionary) human need to form beneficial cooperation strategies. That’s somewhat different."
And it isn’t different at all, you are saying that rights result from society. If you don’t think they come inherently from individuals, and you don’t think they come from society where do you think they come from? If you genuinely think they do not exist, then you are saying not that the Khmer Rouge had a right to raze the killing fleids, then instead you are saying it is morally the equivalent of raising flowers in them—that moral judegments canot be made, and between cultures/societes, no declarations of right and wrong can be made.

The ideas of natural right are inextricably tied to the ideas of what is rightful, what is morally correct. You’ve not justified any separation between the concepts. Without it, there is no right or wrong but what the might of society does, without it there isn’t any justification for the superiority of popular government in the modern (as opposed to Rothbardian) sense, and without it there cannot be any justification not agreeing that might not merely tends to make reality, but that it also makes what is rightful.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
It does not explain why humans act
... any more than Newton’s notes explain why you do not so much fly as plummet when you step off a cliff.

Does this mean Newton was wrong?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
That may be my definition of natural rights, but I think it works. If it doesn’t, pick it apart logically.
I don’t actually disagree with a lot of the positive aspects of that quote. It’s the normative ones I think are both unsubstantiated and unnecessary. Consider this revision...
[I]ntelligence, existing in circumstances of finite resources, as discretized into individual entities, has ... the power to act with volition and to benefit to the ends the individual sees fit to pursue from the results of choices thereby made. A corollary is that that grouping of entities acting within each other’s potential scope of action, called a society, will tend to maximize each individuals ability to command resources towards the infinite, taken in the aggregate, although never reaching it. [In the aggregate, societies maximize utility by not reducing each others choices with each others potential scope of action.
That makes the same prediction without resorting to normative arguments.
Why would you think that follows?
Because "ought" is a subjective judgement. Your "ought" is another’s "ought not".
you are saying that rights result from society.
No. No. No. I’m saying that this concept of "rights" results from the evolutionary cooperation strategies individuals devise as they learned to cope with social interaction and constraints. "Society" doesn’t form moral judgements; individuals do. But those judgements are the result of our evolutionary and individual development.
If you genuinely think they do not exist, then you are saying not that the Khmer Rouge had a right to raze the killing fleids, then instead you are saying it is morally the equivalent of raising flowers in them—that moral judegments canot be made, and between cultures/societes, no declarations of right and wrong can be made.
See, I’ve explicitly said exactly the opposite. I said it in this very thread. Reference: "One doesn’t have to have an absolute foundation to have a preference or to construct a system of morality and act on it." I can reach a conclusion without nature mandating a right and wrong.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon:
"It’s the normative ones I think are both unsubstantiated and unnecessary."
Also:
"That makes the same prediction without resorting to normative arguments."
And you haven’t explained why they are unsubstantitated or unnecessary, you have not shown that idea creates problems or unnecessarily complicates anything.
"Because "ought" is a subjective judgement. Your "ought" is another’s "ought not"."
And one’s right and one is wrong. You have to roll the dice and find out which only in the long run. That doesn’t make the theory of natural rights wrong, it is perfectly consistent with it.
"No. No. No. I’m saying that this concept of "rights" results from the evolutionary cooperation strategies individuals devise as they learned to cope with social interaction and constraints. "Society" doesn’t form moral judgements; individuals do."
Yes, but what you’ve said is internally inconsistent with the idea that natural rights do not exist, and it is inconsistent with the idea that some wrong things have always been wrong. If you say what is right and wrong for an individual to decide is based on the individuals experience in life or how your "evolutionary cooperation strategies individuals devise as they learned to cope with social interaction and constraints" have evolved to that point in history, then by the lights of a Roman magnate keeping his male slaves in an ergastulum and occaisonally passing out female slaves to them as rewards, owing to their individual experiences to date—how their societies had evolved—then the master had the right to keep the slaves in chains, and the male slave by all his life’s experience, by all their society’s evolution had to teach them, they could have at the women.

Yours is a self-justifingly grim world, I don’t see how you can’t see it.

When Christianity came to the Romans, it taught not to do such things because God said they were wrong, and that was an improvement. Later, essentially deist thinkers said not to do it, because God made it inherent in the nature of individual man, and that was a further improvement, because it implicitly dissasociated what was right and wrong from the differences between sects.

The last improvement, beyond which I think none have yet been made*, is to realize what it is right and wrong for individuals to do, what rights we naturally have, is dependent solely on the fact we are discrete intelligences existing in circumstances of needs and desires we can never fully statisfy, and that while we know we can always imagine more than can be done or had, we have the inherent right to satisfy those wants and needs as best we can without assymetrically or nonconsensually interfering in their right to do the same.

*The assertion made at Nuremberg is true, rights and the resonsibilty to act rightly cannot be bargained away in the "social contract", it is inalienable from the individual in every case. Whatever the social contract is, it isn’t really right to act in particular manner given up to government for it’s agents to then "impersonal" sole exercise.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Tom, you seem to be under the impression that being a relativist means never being able to say someone else is "wrong". You might want to read this post by Kenneth Taylor — it’s an attempt to correct this misimpression, aimed at a lay audience.
 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
Case 1:
We are strong. They are weak. Natural Rights? Nothing but words.

Case 2:
We are weak. They are strong. We have natural rights!

I’m only being partly facetious. My serious point is that interest is the mother of natural rights, not reason.
 
Written By: cllam
URL: http://
Dale:

I’m impressed. Sure, I could pick at a few things here and there, such as "social compact" and whatnot, but it’s not important, for now.

I’m impressed because you have independently examined your own thinking with regard to a very important issue, came away thinking differently, and had the integrity to fess up without trying to morph your old position into a new one like so many try to do. You didn’t quote a bunch of texts, but worked through the facts and implications on your own.

Good for you. Maybe perhaps now you understand better why this issue, above all else, really gets under the skin of natural rights individualists. Your last line is dead-on correct:
By eliminating any transcendent moral restraint on government, Jon and Max’s argument serves as a de facto legitimization of the worst kind of tyranny and despotism.
 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
Heh. Everybody likes an independent thinker when they reach the same conclusion. Independent thinkers who reach different conclusions, however, are abject morons.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It looks to me like he never previously took the time or attention to work through the arguments (facts and their implications) before. Natural rights are such that you don’t know how critical they are until you understand them, and yes, accept them. You accept them for the same reason that you accept that the sun rises every morning. Because they really exists. They are real.

Here’s the deal, Jon. I’ve read your posts and a lot of the comments:

1. I have yet to get the sense that you actually undersand the arguments people like McQ and Dale are making as concerns the basis of morality. Morality has a completely non-mystical basis. Look carefully at Bruce’s and Dale’s arguments. It is not anything like the "fire breating dragon in my garage" that you seem intent on characterizing it as (yes, that Carl Sagan clip is a favorite, one I have refeenced many, many times).

2. In light of #1, you are not being intellectually honest in this particular debate.

3. Until you understand the objective basis of morality, and that it has nothing to do with mystical claims, you’ll never understand the arguments they are making.


 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
Richard, I used to believe in natural rights. I argued for them long and hard. I eventually came to be dissatisfied with all the arguments that could be made on their behalf. That’s why I don’t believe in them.

I understand the evolutionary, biological basis for morality. That’s not mystical at all. It’s frustrating to see commenters (and my co-bloggers) tell me I’m misunderstanding the arguments or being intellectually dishonest when I’ve had to spend so much time correcting statements they’ve made that blatantly misrepresented what I wrote in extremely clear language.

In any event, as I’ve noted, values are subjective. We all share similar free will and natural drives. How we value those characteristics — and how we value their existence in others — is entirely dependent upon the person doing the evaluation. It’s the is/ought problem. Only an individual can choose an "ought" and their values are entirely their own.

Only you can tell me what your moral system dictates as right and wrong. I cannot gainsay you. But then, only I can tell you what my moral system dictates is right and wrong and nobody else can dictate my values to me. Etc, for everybody.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
In any event, as I’ve noted, values are subjective.
Quite true, in the sense that people value lots of different things and there’s no accounting for that. It’s not true in certain categories of actions, though, namely, actions that objectively advance or destroy one’s life.

See, you can’t honestly tell me that the set of values necessary to sustain and advance my life are arbitrary, as if, just because I love to read WWII hisory, I can choose that value to sustain me.

This is what I mean by objective. We have objective choices to make if we are to live, and that is morality.

Where this gets all mucked up is that most of what people think are moral issues are not. I’m talking about a relatively small set of "musts," that are objective. Once those are understood an accepted, it is a small and simplistic matter to understand rights and the corollaries.
 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
Quite true, in the sense that people value lots of different things and there’s no accounting for that. It’s not true in certain categories of actions, though, namely, actions that objectively advance or destroy one’s life.
Of course, one can choose to value something over one’s continued life.

What’s more, my innate survival instinct (i.e., volitional choice to take action to continue living and maximizing my utility) imposes no natural obligation to respect others survival and liberty. It’s "fair" to do so, but it’s certainly possible to construct scenarios in which violating another persons life/liberty would maximize utility moreso than avoiding doing so.

You can argue that it "ought not"; that people’s values "ought" to be different. But, again, that’s your subjective valuation. (I share it, but that’s my subjective valuation)
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"I understand the evolutionary, biological basis for morality."

What you think you understand is not possible. There are inherent contradictions in the concept that make it unworkable.
If you say what is right and wrong for an individual to decide is based on the individuals experience in life or how your "evolutionary cooperation strategies individuals devise as they learned to cope with social interaction and constraints" have evolved to that point in history, then by the lights of a Roman magnate keeping his male slaves in an ergastulum and occaisonally passing out female slaves to them as rewards, owing to their individual experiences to date—how their societies had evolved—then the master had the right to keep the slaves in chains, and the male slave by all his life’s experience, by all their society’s evolution had to teach them, they could have at the women.
If that doesn’t show the unwieldiness and perversity of the idea of "the evolutionary, biological basis for morality" to you, I suppose nothing will.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Of course, one can choose to value something over one’s continued life.
So why do you gloss over it? It’s important. And remember, one not only has the natural freedom to choose, one has the freedom to act. Moreover, you can’t deny that this choice is a natural one, and if it is, then the freedom to act is also natural. That’s natural and objective morality. And that’s really all there is to it.
...imposes no natural obligation to respect others survival and liberty.
You will, of course, agree that this in no way affects the fundamental choice you have already acknowledged. Since that fundamental choice is not affected in any way, and that choice is the foundation of natural rights, then the fact that others may not accept my rights in no way affect their real existence. You may claim that other’s disrespect of "my rights" makes "my rights" esentially useless, but that’s not the same as arguing that they don’t exist.
You can argue that it "ought not"; that people’s values "ought" to be different.
Why would I do that?

1. In the case of objective values, people will face the consequences soon enough if they don’t share them (like, they don’t value food, for instance).

2. In the case of subjective values, why should I care?

3. In the case that someone values doing me harm, I’ll just reach for my gun.

4. In the case of government violating rights, I do what I’m doing.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://www.uncsense.com
Wow. I still haven’t received a response to my second post.

Jon - I may have an even more extreme position than yours, but I think you’re coming through loud and (much more importantly) clear.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
You can’t start this sort of a discussion in the middle as is being done here nor can you give it the depth it needs in this sort of venue.

Key concepts and foundational arguments are missing from the discussion (at least on the pro natural rights side) and without them, it is not worthwhile to procede. That’s because, as we’ve seen, those who agree with their side understand completely what "their guy" is saying and it is "loud and clear", while the other side sees the same writing as a hopeless jumble of mixed concepts and poor arguments. That’s because each side understands their foundational arguments and unconsciously extend that knowledge to the argument presented. To them, then, it makes perfect sense and is "loud and clear". Meanwhile the other side is going "WFT is he trying to say with that bit of nonsense?"

You end up with "you haven’t proven that" or "that’s just an assertion" or "you’re just making that up" as a result.

Shorter verision? When the camps are this far apart and you start in the middle, this ends up being a giant waste of time which settles nothing.

Best to just have your say and be done with it.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
So why do you gloss over it? It’s important.
I have never glossed over either our free will. I’ve made it abundantly clear that I accept that we can construct moral systems and choose our actions accordingly. I’m not sure how much more clearly I can put it.
Moreover, you can’t deny that this choice is a natural one, and if it is, then the freedom to act is also natural. That’s natural and objective morality. And that’s really all there is to it.
I don’t deny that volition is a natural function — a necessity — of human existence. What I deny is that our freedom to choose creates an obligation to choose in a certain manner.
Why would I do that?
Because you’re asserting a "right" to your life. A right implies an obligation on other people’s part to respect that. It implies a standard of behaviour — e.g., other people may not take away your life. But if our volitional nature implies a freedom to choose, why does is X’s freedom to choose limited by your life and liberty? It’s certainly not limited by nature. You assert that you have a "right" not to be attacked by X, but if X does not recognize that right, then all you’ve got is an interest.

YOUR moral code may recognize "rights", but X’s may not. And at the end of the day, they both come down to personal interests, asserted and accepted....or not. If natural law is nothing more than the recognition that individuals believe it inappropriate to violate their own life/liberty, that’s an incredibly insipid observation. That’s just the survival instinct in an evolved volitional creature. It creates no obligation on other evolved volitional creatures at all — only on the creature responsible for acting on its choices.

McQ:
Key concepts and foundational arguments are missing from the discussion (at least on the pro natural rights side) and without them, it is not worthwhile to procede.
Perhaps so. That’s why I’ve asked you to define morality, moral sphere and moral claim.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Not going to do it, Jon. I gave you a book on this, you might want to try reading through it if you’re truly curious.

There’s nothing to be gained in this discussion but wasting time, and I’m just not interested. When the two sides are this far apart and have shown more interest in shooting at the other side than considering their arguments, it’s just not worth the time or effort.

To cite the old Python sketch, this isn’t an argument, it’s a series of contradictions.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Henke: "Only you can tell me what your moral system dictates as right and wrong. I cannot gainsay you."

Very well, then. My moral system dictates that you should be staked out in the front yard and set on fire because your ears are too big and your name starts with a ’J’.

I expect you to hold still when I come for you.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
I expect you to hold still when I come for you.

Why would he? He can’t prevent you from holding that belief, but that doesn’t mean he has to let you act on it. And fortunately for him, you and he are both members of a normative community that has agreed to co-operate in preventing such actions.
 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
"Why would he?"

He wouldn’t, unless he were a man of his words.
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Sigh. I guess McQ is right.
 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
I agree with Jon. I think there are no ideals that work in all situations and that choices are situational. I believe in might makes right.

All the "morals" and "rights" which are contructed are used to build power. Now after our forbears have provided us with power, we sit and debate what rights we have, to do so is the use of power. Free expression, the ability to live peacefully are both facets of our power and tools in maintaining our might. We have no natural rights and no natural morals.

In the past 10 years 2 million people have died in Zaire’s civil war in the pursuit of power, not natural rights or for morals. WW1 & WW2 fought for power. In WW2 the sides fought for power and the mightiest won, there were very few morals common between the 2 sides.


Regarding the freedom to choose a moral course:
So why do you gloss over it? It’s important. And remember, one not only has the natural freedom to choose, one has the freedom to act. Moreover, you can’t deny that this choice is a natural one, and if it is, then the freedom to act is also natural. That’s natural and objective morality. And that’s really all there is to it.
Jon denies glossing over it, but I think he does and moreover he is correct to gloss over it. I deny the choice is natural, it is situational at most. The choosing of a course is of secondary importance to what motivates you to choose. What you have is a natural motivation to empower yourself and yours, to make mightier. The choice is governed by whatever achieves this goal within your situational confinements and according to your risk analysis. There is no moral choice that applies across the board to all individuals, therefore there is no common/natural right.
 
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
There’s nothing to be gained in this discussion but wasting time, and I’m just not interested. When the two sides are this far apart and have shown more interest in shooting at the other side than considering their arguments, it’s just not worth the time or effort.
That’s why I asked you to step back to the first square and define morality, etc. I’m not taking shots at the other side. I find your position mystifying, but I’ve consistently tried to understand it and to address your arguments. The only "shooting" has been the charming Mr Sabotta’s "5 grams to the back of Jon Henke’s head".

As far as I can tell — and as I’ve noticed before when talking to Objectivists — you’re using very different definitions from those commonly accepted. Since you’re not operating on common usage, the burden is on you to explain what you mean by those words.

Unless, of course, you’d rather take the Billy Beck debate route.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Speaking of whom...
Henke: "Only you can tell me what your moral system dictates as right and wrong. I cannot gainsay you."

Very well, then. My moral system dictates that you should be staked out in the front yard and set on fire because your ears are too big and your name starts with a ’J’. I expect you to hold still when I come for you.
Billy Beck appears to have read to "gainsay you" and no further. (or has failed to grasp what he went on to read) The next sentence following that was "But then, only I can tell you what my moral system dictates is right and wrong and nobody else can dictate my values to me."

Apparently, Billy either didn’t read that far, or he thinks "nobody else can dictate my values to me" means "Billy can dictate my values to me".
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Doesn’t that work both ways, however?
Doesn’t he by that system get to choose, also, what his morality is? Nothing in what you said speaks to the morality of his killing you or for that matter, imorality... and that’s even with the next sentence included.

Your definition of morality seems model the best. Perhaps you can solve that by giving us your definition? What is morality?
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
(muddled at best)
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
"Doesn’t that work both ways, however?"

Obviously not.

Get it?
 
Written By: Biilly Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Who cares what Billy Beck’s morality says? We can’t dictate his moraity to him, but then, we don’t need to. If you actually read his posts, you’d understand that.

He said:
A right implies an obligation on other people’s part to respect that. It implies a standard of behaviour — e.g., other people may not take away your life. But if our volitional nature implies a freedom to choose, why does is X’s freedom to choose limited by your life and liberty? It’s certainly not limited by nature. You assert that you have a "right" not to be attacked by X, but if X does not recognize that right, then all you’ve got is an interest.

YOUR moral code may recognize "rights", but X’s may not. And at the end of the day, they both come down to personal interests, asserted and accepted....or not. If natural law is nothing more than the recognition that individuals believe it inappropriate to violate their own life/liberty, that’s an incredibly insipid observation. That’s just the survival instinct in an evolved volitional creature. It creates no obligation on other evolved volitional creatures at all — only on the creature responsible for acting on its choices.
What’s not getting through here?
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
Bithead, what’s muddled about it? It seems like he’s just acknowledging the obvious.

Consider the following statements:

- Different people have different ideas about what is and isn’t moral.
- We each consider all of our own moral standards to be binding on ourselves (that is, we feel personally obliged to attempt to follow our own standards, even if we don’t always succeed).
- Most of us have some moral standards which we don’t consider to be binding on others. That is, there are some acts that I might personally consider immoral, but even though I might disapprove of others who commit those acts (and might even try to convince them not to do so), I wouldn’t feel justified in actively preventing them from doing so.
- Most of us have some moral standards which we do consider to be binding on others, whether or not those others agree. For example, the idea that one shouldn’t kill or injure people or deprive them of liberty without good reason is a rule that most Americans would be willing to force on parts of the world where it doesn’t currently obtain.

I assume that you can agree with all four of these statements. The point of contention, as far as I can tell, is really the last one — how do we justify forcing others to follow our own moral standards?

There’s the religious or quasi-religious approach: these standards are "absolute truths", "inalienable rights", etc. By disobeying the standards, you’re breaking fundamental laws of the world. Of course, there’s no way to definitively prove this assertion.

There’s the consequentialist approach: even though you may not agree with my standards, I’m convinced that following them leads to good results. In this case, there’s still the problem that the other may not agree with the desirability of the results.

There’s the biological approach: these standards are an essential part of human nature, because of our natural desires and the inevitable conflicts between us. The limitation here is that this may explain what *is*, but it doesn’t explain why things *should* be that way.

There’s the statistical/cross-cultural approach: these standards are shared by a large percentage of the world, across multiple cultures, etc. Same limitation as the biological approach; also has to account for parts of history where that may not have been the case (e.g. slavery)

There’s the "just because" approach: I’m willing to coerce you into following these standards just because they’re tremendously important to me.

No doubt there are other approaches, and of course none of these are totally independent of the others.

As far as I understand Jon, he’s really arguing against the first approach, and against the others only to the extent that people are trying to turn them into the first one.


 
Written By: kenB
URL: http://
Billy;
Obviously not.

Get it?
Of course.... Why else would I ask the question?

And Ken, yes, I know.
The problem is, in the doing, he invalidates the work of the founders, and even leaving aside the question of the objective truth of the matter... that kind of foundational change cannot be done without doing serious damage.

That said, what I’ve been saying doesn’t properly fit into ANY of those arguments you’ve listed, though I suppose the consequentialist to be the closest... with this exception; I’m saying that there are things at work here that we simply do NOT have a good understanding of. It’s not overly smart, in my view to destroy something to find out how it works.

In the end, though I suspect this whole excersize... this entire discussion, isn’t about rights at all, but is, in the end, about Jon’s inability to mesh the concept of freedom with a God concept.

And with all that said, I’d like to pass along a link to soem interesting reading on the subject. I’ve not read it all the way through, nor diagnised it yet, but it touches on most of this discussion, and I found it popping up just now, rather timeley... He’s obviously a reader here.... and Jon there.

Here’s the link.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
The problem is, in the doing, [Jon] invalidates the work of the founders, and even leaving aside the question of the objective truth of the matter... that kind of foundational change cannot be done without doing serious damage.
Never ever leave aside the objective truth of the matter. I know fiat money is only worth something if someone else says it is, and I carry cash. It’s okay to admit that the creators of a good thing were a bit off in her reasoning, and be a loyal guardian of the inherited practice anyway.
That said, what I’ve been saying doesn’t properly fit into ANY of those arguments you’ve listed, though I suppose the consequentialist to be the closest... with this exception; I’m saying that there are things at work here that we simply do NOT have a good understanding of. It’s not overly smart, in my view to destroy something to find out how it works.
You’re honestly worried that Jon and I are going to legitimize tyranny, when we’re here trying to build up the same big libertarian/conservative tent that Dale and McQ are?

We don’t want to destroy rights themselves. Plenty of economists who understand the fiat nature of most money in circulation today use that money nonetheless. It works.
In the end, though I suspect this whole excersize... this entire discussion, isn’t about rights at all, but is, in the end, about Jon’s inability to mesh the concept of freedom with a God concept.
Why is it necessary to "mesh" the two? So he can take one thing no one can prove exists and use it to legitimize something he cares about?

This is about rights, not rights-and-God. The fact that we argue for liberty without needing to justify it with God indicates that it’s wholly unnecessary. And you make it sound like a handicap — his INABILITY to mesh God and freedom? What indication do you have thhat he was trying to mesh them in the first place? He seems pretty comfortable with his position, not like someone who tried and failed.
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
Franks,
But again, briefly, The existence of the right doesn’t depend on whether person A thinks that Person B has a right. It depends on whether person A, irrespective of his feelings about person B thinks he has the right.
No, rights are independent of individual opinions or feelings; A’s rights do not depend on A’s opinions or feelings about his own rights. He has a right to keep and bear arms, for instance, regardless of whether he thinks he does.

It’s quite unclear what you mean by a "moral claim". How do you get from the fact that there are some things all individuals value to a moral claim or right?

The premises of your argument seem to be:

1. Man has a specific nature.
2. As a consequence of that nature all men share certain values; there are some things, conditions and circumstances which all men value.

Granting these premises how do you get to the conclusion that men have a right to what they value?
 
Written By: John T. Kennedy
URL: http://no-treason.com

 
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