rights revisited

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Hereandnow
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rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 9:28 am

I wrote this as a response to Dachshund who thinks there are no such things as natural rights. I think he wrong on this and I believe that the following is actually the way a true defensible argument on this matter runs.

The matter can be easily put: Rights are ethical in nature. If you have a right to something because you deserve it, then you deserve it because there is some justification that imparts desert. We are so used to talking about rights without thinking about justification that the term has become loose and distanced from its truer, more substantive nature.

No ethical justification, no right--not in the authentic sense, and the reason for this is that without justification the word becomes divested of its meaning, it becomes ethically arbitrary. Take having the right to citizenship in a country: we use the term to designate this kind of thing all the time. But it is more like a game rule than a true right, like the "right" to take the queen when she is moved in the path of a rook. It is this extension of the ethical term, or, the broad use to include non ethical contexts for its use that muddies the water when we talk about true ethical rights. But let's be clear here, rights to things without ethical justification have no meaning beyond the mere pragmatics of a rule.

When we talk about human rights in the "natural rights" sense, we are not referring to a pragmatic rule that grants a right; it's about justification, or rather, the lack of justification, and it goes like this: no one is equal to anyone else when it comes to talents, gifts, beauty, charm, social standing and so on. Obviously. So an cursory look at rights sees only the inequality, but these are given in their origin. You may be a genius, but where is the basis for deserving this? All that you produce is qualified by your genius, and you reap great rewards, there is no ethical part to this as you did nothing to deserve, or, have the right to, all that you took in. And if you were born into wealth, this would be equally ethically arbitrary, for being born into something has nothing of deserving the advantages you receive.

You should be able to see where this is going. We are thrown into a world where the advantages and outrageous fortune are given to us without any basis in a justified right to what we get. Einstein did nothing to deserve his genius, the Hiltons did nothing to deserve being born into wealth, and so on. If there is no desert, there is no right, either. Thus, without the obvious advantages figured in to the inequality of rights, there is no longer a basis for judging one better endowed with rights that another. The assessment of rights as humans becomes altogether equal: we are equal in that there is no ethical basis for inequality, for the observed inequalities are distributed in an ethically arbitrary way. If you try to divest the concept of a right from its ethical mooring, all that remains is a rule that CALLS what you have a right, but this carries no weight, has no moral aspect, and as such, anything can be devised as a right, for right emerges out of pure say so, caprice, fiat.

In a nutshell.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 10:53 am

I don’t think your use of “deserve” is applicable. You seem to regard the term “derserve” as meaning something quite alien to me.

It is almost like you’re saying no-one derserves to be alive, which although obvious in your strange use of the term “derserve” what I believe you are actually saying, or rather should be saying, is no one “asks” to be born. This is not the same as whether you “derserve to be born” which to my understanding is a plain misuse of the term “derserve”.

In a nutshell.
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 10:58 am

The strange thing is my qualm above isn’t something relevant (as far as I can tell) to what you conclude in the last paragraph?

People have “rights” determined by the governing body. Where the question of “natural rights” comes into play is rather a different affair for I would need a better understanding of what is meant by “natural rights” beyond the term “Do what thou wilt.)
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 11:02 am

There seems to be, as I’ve noted before, a kind of hardline altruism in your words (or rathe undelying them?)
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 11:59 am

Burning Ghost:
It is almost like you’re saying no-one derserves to be alive, which although obvious in your strange use of the term “derserve” what I believe you are actually saying, or rather should be saying, is no one “asks” to be born. This is not the same as whether you “derserve to be born” which to my understanding is a plain misuse of the term “derserve”.
But the matter should no no further than allowed by the argument. I don't say there is no desert in being alive, I simply say that when you look closely at being alive, being here, there is no identifiable right that endows you with your apparent place int he world. Such a thing would be like a soul in need of purging, or God's great plan for us all, or the Hindu justification for caste divisions grounded in karma. Such things are metaphysics, plain and simple, and i do not do this. I call it an absent premise, for all I see is what is there to be seen: a distribution of gifts and afflictions, and no basis at all for any of this, for the only basis that would be available is, say, hard work and sacrifice, but this kind of thing CANNOT be conceived in isolation from the natural and social endowments was has to make sacrifices in the fist place. One may word like the devil to be rich and ground his wealth's justification in this, and this reasoning works for most, but most are not doing philosophy which looks to basic questions,and here the basic question is, that wealth is without undoubtedly the result of original endowment or capacity to produce wealth, and this gift is not ethically justified. The having of it is ethically arbitrary.

Altruism has nothing to do with it. It is an apriori argument that rests entirely on the concepts 'desert' and 'right'. You [erhaps take issue with the term 'natural' here. This is more an argument against inequality in the distribution of rights in that it divests legitimacy from any claim to a superior naturally given right.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by MrE » August 30th, 2018, 12:16 pm

Need you to define what you mean by "natural rights" and "justification".

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 12:28 pm

Hereandnow -

I’m just aware that we’re talking past each other here. Not quite sure where, but the “natural” aspect seems to be at least part of the issue. Give me some time to rethink and rephrase my thoughts. I do think the term “ethically justified” is likely the bigger issue for me in whatever it is you’re saying.

To go further if there is a sense of “justification” at all - which there is because we talk about it- then what is it? I am always suspicious of possible entanglements between the terms “desert” and “fair.” Just deserts needn’t be fair, in fact they seem to me to be essentially not “fair” in part as a necessity to distinguish work for reward from no work for a demand of a reward (if you catch my drift?)
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Eduk » August 30th, 2018, 1:42 pm

What are the ramifications that people are actually arguing about? A lot of what people are saying seems to me a matter of semantics, definition and interpretation. Even to the point that I lose track of what side people are arguing for or against.
Can someone give me an example which highlights their outlook?
For example there are no natural rights therefore I should be able to enslave people for my personal desires. Or there are natural rights so Hitler and gandhi are the exact same? Not sure if anyone is arguing for either position?
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 2:02 pm

I didn’t see MrE’s post H&N but it seems there’s a common misunderstanding ...

Eduk -

I’ve clashed (no better word for it) with hereandnow before about what is “just” and concepts surrounding wealth and privilege. There is a disparity between us about what constitutes “work” and “reward” and who derserves what.

My general view in this area is that people are not equal in situation or ability. Those who suffer the misfortune of existence don’t “deserve” a better life at the cost of others. Some glide through life more easily and I don’t see how employing an idea that such people should be dragged down simply because they are “better” or more “successful” in whatever area.

That is not, as far as I can tell, the main issue here though! The issue here is more about a question of underlying natural primciples. No doubt basic human empathy plays a part this and some kind of argumentation involving relativism ... we’ll see. I need to stew over hereandnow’s words and offer up possible reiterations and see what response I get.
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 2:29 pm

MrE
Need you to define what you mean by "natural rights" and "justification".
A natural right is one that is not contrived but part of the conditions handed to us by, if you like, nature. We are all different in our "natural" endowments, for example. Equal rights is what is left when the basis for unequal rights is undone, for all are equal when no one is unequal. Justification: S is justified to have a right to something if S deserves it (otherwise the right is simply pragmatic and arbitrary). How do we measure desert when the only visible evidence is the deeds one does, and these are bound up with given virtues and vices that have no apparent justification at all to the having. The only way would be to resort of metaphysics, and this would be no grounding at all, a fiction.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 2:38 pm

BG: I’m just aware that we’re talking past each other here. Not quite sure where, but the “natural” aspect seems to be at least part of the issue. Give me some time to rethink and rephrase my thoughts. I do think the term “ethically justified” is likely the bigger issue for me in whatever it is you’re saying.

To go further if there is a sense of “justification” at all - which there is because we talk about it- then what is it? I am always suspicious of possible entanglements between the terms “desert” and “fair.” Just deserts needn’t be fair, in fact they seem to me to be essentially not “fair” in part as a necessity to distinguish work for reward from no work for a demand of a reward (if you catch my drift?)
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Right, I do see the reservations. Look at it like this, if you will: Pull back for the human world and see how the misery and the blisses are so unequally distributed. It is reasonable to ask, what is the justification for this? There is only pragmatic justification, the kind that says, well, if we tried to impose the leveling of human conditions to conform to equality, then the whole thing would collapse. Quite true (see communist USSR). But just because it "works' not to impose equallity does not mean inequality is ethically justified; it is pragmatically justified only. That big honcho sitting on billions bragging about how he deserves it all due to hard work fails to see that the only reason he is allowed to amass so much is the that it is permitted and has nothing to do with an analysis of desert.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Fooloso4 » August 30th, 2018, 2:39 pm

Natural rights is distinguishes from legal rights, what is by nature and what is by convention. Ancient natural rights is a part of the concepts of natural law and human nature. Modern natural rights has to do with the sovereignty of the individual, that is, rights are not conferred by the authority of government or others. Men (I use the term for historical accuracy) are in this sense autonomous.

From this starting point what today are called libertarians claim that we have no obligations to others beyond not interfering with their rights.

The notion of the autonomous individual is sometimes referred to as “social atomism”. It is, in my opinion, an impoverished view of human nature and unnatural since it does not give sufficient consideration to that fact that we are by nature social animals.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 2:55 pm

Eduk:
What are the ramifications that people are actually arguing about? A lot of what people are saying seems to me a matter of semantics, definition and interpretation. Even to the point that I lose track of what side people are arguing for or against.
Can someone give me an example which highlights their outlook?
For example there are no natural rights therefore I should be able to enslave people for my personal desires. Or there are natural rights so Hitler and gandhi are the exact same? Not sure if anyone is arguing for either position?
The upshot of the failure to establish true justified inequality is that common belief that matches work to desert is overthrown in assessing and justifying the distribution of wealth and advantages, and social/economic fat cats have to revisit their arguments for justifying their unequal share.

Of course, talk about Hitler his ilk, and their right to start a war to make Germany great again, uses people as a means rather than as ends, and since their is no ethical justification that sets one apart from the other to permit this, the argument fails.

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Re: rights revisited

Post by Burning ghost » August 30th, 2018, 3:02 pm

Hereandnow -

I’m still sturggling to pin down more precisely what you mean when you say “ethically justified.” If you could focus on that term I think I’d be able to offer a counter argument.
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Re: rights revisited

Post by Hereandnow » August 30th, 2018, 3:13 pm

fooloso4
From this starting point what today are called libertarians claim that we have no obligations to others beyond not interfering with their rights.
A sticky wicket, for one would have to explain how one's rights can be disentangled from another's. Like Mill's harm principle (which I think is intuitively spot on), do no harm, but then, there are those pesky implicit harms, passive harms, moral environment changing harms, and so on. Just by living and thinking there are those who would have me banished for my thoughts which are interfering with their rights by propagating ideas they believe to be wrong. But that would be interfering with my rights.

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