Where Do Rights Come From?

Discuss morality and ethics in this message board.
Featured Article: Philosophical Analysis of Abortion, The Right to Life, and Murder
Post Reply
User avatar
Marvin_Edwards
Posts: 485
Joined: April 14th, 2020, 9:34 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Contact:

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 30th, 2020, 5:29 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 28th, 2020, 7:38 pm

Again, what you're describing is a convention, a customary way of doing things. A rule. Your argument for the rule is basically that (a) it is the convention and (b) that it settles issues of property without violence.
No, Marvin. The argument for that rule is a moral one, which I've articulated several times: property first possessed is held righteously, because it was acquired without inflicting loss or injury on anyone. That is what "rightful" possession means. Why do you ignore that argument?
I'm not saying that the "first possession" rule is immoral. It can certainly produce a moral result in many limited issues of property ownership. But it can also produce an immoral result in other matters, such as racial discrimination. It allows a restaurant owner to post a "Whites Only" sign in his window. Allowing that kind of racial discrimination in places that serve the general public is immoral.

Why is racial discrimination in housing and in employment and in restaurants immoral? Because everyone, equally, needs a home, a job, and a place to eat on their lunch break. To be deprived of these necessities of life is a physical harm. If the black man must go across town to find a place to serve him lunch, when all his fellow employees can simply go across the street, then he suffers an injury every day. To deprive him of a home is to make him homeless. To deprive him of a job is to make him destitute.

And to offer him these things only upon the condition that he lives where you say, and eats where you say, and works as you say, is to make him a slave.

We don't tolerate that kind of thing in America anymore. Why? Because it is an unnecessary harm. And an unnecessary harm is immoral. The harm is easily remedied by a civil rights law that makes such racial discrimination illegal. And that's what we did.

Yet you claim that the restaurant owner's "right", to choose who he serves lunch to, somehow trumps the black man's right to eat across the street rather than going across town.

Your position, that allows racial discrimination to go unfettered, is immoral.

Your rule, that says a restaurant owner can choose not to serve black people must either be modified to eliminate this unnecessary harm, or it must be discarded.
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
Yes. To the extent those restrictions are aimed at preventing harms to others they are morally defensible. That restriction applies to the exercise of all rights.
And yet you continue to insist that racial discrimination is harmless.
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
... placing such a sign, or refusing to do business with certain people, does not inflict loss or harm on anyone. It merely offends some people's sensibilities.
Really?
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
...I also refer to myself as an "American." That, too, merely expresses a matter of fact --- that I was born and raised in a certain part of the world. It imposes no obligations or carries any moral implications either.
So, if America were a colony of England, and King George sent troops to quell the revolution, you'd have no obligations to anything other than your own property?
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
Now you seem to be assuming that I need someone's permission to remain here, and that I must agree to some hypothetical "contract" to secure that permission. ...
Damn right.

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 1920
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Sculptor1 » May 30th, 2020, 5:36 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 28th, 2020, 7:38 pm

Again, what you're describing is a convention, a customary way of doing things. A rule. Your argument for the rule is basically that (a) it is the convention and (b) that it settles issues of property without violence.
No, Marvin. The argument for that rule is a moral one, which I've articulated several times: property first possessed is held righteously, because it was acquired without inflicting loss or injury on anyone. That is what "rightful" possession means. Why do you ignore that argument?
But there are exceptions to that convention. One of the primary exceptions is "eminent domain", which is the right of the state or nation to buy your property, whether you choose to sell it or not, at a fair price, in order to provide a public good, such as a highway. According to Wikipedia, this concept dates back at least to 1066 AD, when William the Conqueror claimed ownership of all land. So, this too has a long history of precedence in common law. And it is noted in the 5th Amendment of the U.S. constitution as part of the Bill of Rights, that when private land is taken for public purpose the owner will be justly compensated.
Wrong again. Per US constititutional law eminent domain does not equate to, or presume, that the government is the owner of all land. If it were the owner, it would not need to compensate anyone for using it. You don't need to pay anyone to use what is yours. Moreover, the purposes for which the government can seize land are limited to "public use." The owner of property may use it for anything he wishes (subject to the "do no harm" constraint).
The law implies that the right to one's own land is limited to the will of the government. I find it puzzling that you can't see that.
The fact is that the government gets first and last dibs. Compensation is all very good, but the choice is with the power, not the individual. "Ownership" is more like custodianship which can be arbitrarily terminated with a fee from the government, in the amount determined by the government.

GE Morton
Posts: 1664
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by GE Morton » May 30th, 2020, 9:25 pm

Sculptor1 wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 5:36 pm

The law implies that the right to one's own land is limited to the will of the government.
Oh, no. That "will" is constitutionally limited to takings for "public use" --- a restriction largely observed until the Kelo decision, and exercised judiciously.
Compensation is all very good, but the choice is with the power, not the individual. "Ownership" is more like custodianship which can be arbitrarily terminated with a fee from the government, in the amount determined by the government.
Not "arbitrarily." The government must be prepared to defend any seizure in court. And as I mentioned to Marvin, if it must pay for what it takes, it cannot already be its "owner."

Governments in the US, for the most part, resort to eminent domain reluctantly, because they know they'll be faced with costly lawsuits. They're much more likely to "make an offer he can't refuse."

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 1920
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Sculptor1 » May 31st, 2020, 6:04 am

GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 9:25 pm
Sculptor1 wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 5:36 pm

The law implies that the right to one's own land is limited to the will of the government.
Oh, no. That "will" is constitutionally limited to takings for "public use" --- a restriction largely observed until the Kelo decision, and exercised judiciously.
In other words OH YES. Since all government activity is technically for "public use" then what I say is correct.
Compensation is all very good, but the choice is with the power, not the individual. "Ownership" is more like custodianship which can be arbitrarily terminated with a fee from the government, in the amount determined by the government.
Not "arbitrarily." The government must be prepared to defend any seizure in court. And as I mentioned to Marvin, if it must pay for what it takes, it cannot already be its "owner."
Ownership is contingent on the will of government, since the government can, at all time, seze the land.

Governments in the US, for the most part, resort to eminent domain reluctantly, because they know they'll be faced with costly lawsuits. They're much more likely to "make an offer he can't refuse."
Reluctance is a weak emotion. Nothing more than a media spin.

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 3348
Joined: August 23rd, 2016, 3:00 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Bertrand Russell and WVO Quine
Location: NYC Man

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Terrapin Station » May 31st, 2020, 8:56 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 5:29 pm
We don't tolerate that kind of thing in America anymore. Why?
Because enough people with the power to enforce it (whether just legally or socially) now feel, sometimes via various forms of persuasion, that it's not an acceptable thing to do.

That's always the answer when it comes to those sorts of questions

User avatar
Marvin_Edwards
Posts: 485
Joined: April 14th, 2020, 9:34 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Contact:

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:56 am
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 5:29 pm
We don't tolerate that kind of thing in America anymore. Why?
Because enough people with the power to enforce it (whether just legally or socially) now feel, sometimes via various forms of persuasion, that it's not an acceptable thing to do.

That's always the answer when it comes to those sorts of questions
Exactly. All practical rights arise by agreement.

GE Morton
Posts: 1664
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by GE Morton » May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 5:29 pm

I'm not saying that the "first possession" rule is immoral. It can certainly produce a moral result in many limited issues of property ownership. But it can also produce an immoral result in other matters, such as racial discrimination. It allows a restaurant owner to post a "Whites Only" sign in his window. Allowing that kind of racial discrimination in places that serve the general public is immoral.
You're begging the question there. A restaurant owner who places a "Whites Only" sign in the window is clearly not "serving the general public." He is serving whites only. Who a restaurant owner opts to serve is his decision to make, not yours. You may decide with whom you will do business, but not with whom others must do business. Declaring that Alfie's restaurant "serves the general public" is gratuitous, and presumptuous on your part.

Now, of course, if the restaurant owner is indeed acting immorally, then others are entitled, and perhaps obligated, to intervene. But if he is, then you'll need to articulate the moral principle or rule he is violating, and present some sort of rational defense of that principle or rule. I take the purpose of moral principles and rules to be prohibiting acts by agents in a social setting which inflict loss or injury on other moral agents, and redressing any violations that may occur. Since Alfie inflicts no loss or injury upon Bruno by declining to do business with him, you'll need some other principle justifying a "moral" rule that would force him to do business with Bruno. What is that justification? What is that moral principle?

But you say . . .
Why is racial discrimination in housing and in employment and in restaurants immoral? Because everyone, equally, needs a home, a job, and a place to eat on their lunch break. To be deprived of these necessities of life is a physical harm. If the black man must go across town to find a place to serve him lunch, when all his fellow employees can simply go across the street, then he suffers an injury every day. To deprive him of a home is to make him homeless. To deprive him of a job is to make him destitute.
Well, first, no one has any a priori duty to meet other people's needs. You have no duty to feed and house your neighbor, and he has no duty to feed or house you. You might acquire such a duty by entering into some sort of contract with him, or perhaps as a result of some injury you've inflicted upon him, but you don't have any such duty a priori.

And you're mis-using the term "deprive." I don't "deprive" you of a lawn mower by refusing to let you use mine. I don't "deprive" you of food by refusing to buy your groceries. I only deprive you of something by taking something you already (legitimately) possess, or preventing you from taking morally permissible actions to secure something you desire. Forcing someone else to give you that thing you desire is not a morally permissible action.

The new moral principle you appear to be invoking to justify forcing Alfie to serve Bruno seems to be that everyone has a duty to meet others' needs and satisfy others' desires. You'll need some powerful arguments to justify that principle (which quickly leads to a reductio ad absurdum). No doubt this presumed duty derives from that imaginary "social contract" of which you're enamoured. I hope that by now we have put that myth to rest.
And to offer him these things only upon the condition that he lives where you say, and eats where you say, and works as you say, is to make him a slave.
Now you're mis-using the term "slave" (and parroting a common Leftist sophistry). A slave is someone forced to work for another's benefit. If anyone is a slave in the situation under discussion it is the restaurant owner, since he is the only person forced, per your argument. Are you proposing a Newspeak definition of "slave"?

No person has any duty to offer anyone anything. If someone chooses to offer something, he may attach any conditions he likes. No one who freely accepts those conditions is a "slave;" neither is a person who finds those conditions unacceptable and refuses the offer. No force is involved in either case.
We don't tolerate that kind of thing in America anymore. Why? Because it is an unnecessary harm.
We've covered this. A "harm" is a reduction in someone's welfare; some act that causes damage.

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/harm

No damage is done to a person refused service at a restaurant; he has sustained no injury and no loss. He is as healthy and wealthy when he walks away as when he approached. Are you also inventing a new definition of "harm"?
Yet you claim that the restaurant owner's "right", to choose who he serves lunch to, somehow trumps the black man's right to eat across the street rather than going across town.
No person has any "right" to enter upon another's property, or eat another's food without invitation or permission, Marvin. Other than, perhaps, an arbitrary fiat "right" conjured from thin air by a lawgiver. But he has no right in the sense of that word understood in the liberal tradition, and in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (which does not, of course, mention any such "right").
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
...I also refer to myself as an "American." That, too, merely expresses a matter of fact --- that I was born and raised in a certain part of the world. It imposes no obligations or carries any moral implications either.
So, if America were a colony of England, and King George sent troops to quell the revolution, you'd have no obligations to anything other than your own property?
Correct; I would not. However, under the circumstances of 1776 I'd most likely find it in my interest to join in the revolution.
GE Morton wrote:
May 30th, 2020, 11:56 am
Now you seem to be assuming that I need someone's permission to remain here, and that I must agree to some hypothetical "contract" to secure that permission. ...
Damn right.
Is that supposed to be some sort of moral argument?

User avatar
Terrapin Station
Posts: 3348
Joined: August 23rd, 2016, 3:00 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Bertrand Russell and WVO Quine
Location: NYC Man

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Terrapin Station » May 31st, 2020, 2:59 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
if he is, then you'll need to articulate the moral principle or rule he is violating, and present some sort of rational defense of that principle or rule.
Since all moral stances ultimately come down to people simply feeling that some interpersonal behavior should or shouldn't be allowed, the above is disingenuous.

GE Morton
Posts: 1664
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by GE Morton » May 31st, 2020, 6:32 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:59 pm

Since all moral stances ultimately come down to people simply feeling that some interpersonal behavior should or shouldn't be allowed, the above is disingenuous.
Not on a philosophy forum. The aim of moral philosophy is to undertake a rational analysis of moral concepts and to develop a rational basis for moral principles and rules.

"Feelings" are the province of psychology. Moral philosophy is not moral psychology.

GE Morton
Posts: 1664
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by GE Morton » May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm

Exactly. All practical rights arise by agreement.
I don't think you appreciate the implications of these "practical rights" you extol.

The role of rights in the liberal tradition, from which all governments in the West are descended, is to set limits to the powers governments may exercise. That was the aim of the English Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the US Bill of Rights, which legislators in several of the states demanded be added to the proposed Constitution as a condition for its ratification; they realized that popular majorities were just as capable of tyranny as monarchs. But if rights are to fulfill that role they obviously cannot be under the control of the very governments whose powers they are intended to limit; that would be appointing the fox to guard the henhouse. Instead, they were conceived to have a timeless, objective moral basis, well defined and understood in common law, transcending all transitory popular whims and political controversies, and beyond the power of any government to alter.

I'm not sure what you take these "practical rights" to be. But from your other comments I'm guessing they are "rights" that are conjured into existence by politicians, in response to popular whims or such "practical" concerns as placating some interest group whose votes or money those politicians need to remain in power.

If those are to be the only rights recognized and enforced by government then tyranny is not far off --- at which time people will exercise their real rights, which include, as Jefferson said, the right to "throw off" government which "becomes destructive of these ends."

Real rights have a moral basis. Moral considerations always trump pragmatic ones.

User avatar
Felix
Posts: 3106
Joined: February 9th, 2009, 5:45 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Felix » May 31st, 2020, 8:12 pm

GE Morton: "Governments in the US, for the most part, resort to eminent domain reluctantly, because they know they'll be faced with costly lawsuits."

Get real, you think some small land owner with property near the southern U.S. border that Trump wants to run his Wall through is likely to have the financial resources to fight the U.S government in court?! Especially since eminent domain law can be used to override environmental regulations that protect public health and safety.

GE Morton: "Well, first, no one has any a priori duty to meet other people's needs."

So? One does not even have an a priori duty to meet one's own needs!

GE Morton: "The aim of moral philosophy is to undertake a rational analysis of moral concepts and to develop a rational basis for moral principles and rules."

History has clearly demonstrated that reason alone is insufficient to form a just and humane moral philosophy for such cannot be based on logical do's and don't alone.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

GE Morton
Posts: 1664
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by GE Morton » May 31st, 2020, 9:28 pm

Felix wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:12 pm

Get real, you think some small land owner with property near the southern U.S. border that Trump wants to run his Wall through is likely to have the financial resources to fight the U.S government in court?! Especially since eminent domain law can be used to override environmental regulations that protect public health and safety.
Perhaps not. But many land owners along the southern border are not small --- they are owners of very large ranches, and would be more than able to challenge a taking in court. But some of them are likely quite willing to sell the government some land for a wall.
History has clearly demonstrated that reason alone is insufficient to form a just and humane moral philosophy for such cannot be based on logical do's and don't alone.
Oh, on the contrary. What history has clearly demonstrated is that the lack of a rational moral code, and reliance on "moral codes" that are are a hodgepodge of prejudices, superstitions, "gut feelings," envy, avarice, and indoctrination results in oppression, slavery, pogroms, gulags, wars, and genocides. Those are all justified by appeal to some amalgam of specious, non-rational moral beliefs.

User avatar
Marvin_Edwards
Posts: 485
Joined: April 14th, 2020, 9:34 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Contact:

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » June 1st, 2020, 5:46 am

GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A restaurant owner who places a "Whites Only" sign in the window is clearly not "serving the general public." He is serving whites only. Who a restaurant owner opts to serve is his decision to make, not yours. You may decide with whom you will do business, but not with whom others must do business. Declaring that Alfie's restaurant "serves the general public" is gratuitous, and presumptuous on your part.
You wish to grant the restaurant owner the right to discriminate based on his ownership of the restaurant. No such right exists. For example, I'm sure you will agree that the restaurant owner has no right to serve contaminated food to his patrons. Neither his ownership of the food nor his ownership of the restaurant convey any right to harm others.

Refusing to serve the black customer is a harm. If the black customer must go across town to get lunch, when all his coworkers can simply go across the street, he is is physically harmed. He has to hurry to get across town. Or, perhaps he will not eat. Or, perhaps he will be unable to work anywhere except in a neighborhood where restaurants have a "Blacks Only" sign in the window.

Requiring the restaurant owner to serve all customers, regardless of race, does no harm to the restaurant owner.

So, the morality of the case is simple. Requiring all restaurants to serve all customers, regardless of race, reduces harm to black persons and improves their opportunities to work in all neighborhoods, while causing no harm to anyone else. The classic win-win situation. Therefore, it is morally superior to a rule that permits restaurant owners to discriminate by race.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Now, of course, if the restaurant owner is indeed acting immorally, then others are entitled, and perhaps obligated, to intervene. ...
Good. Then we should be close to an agreement.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
But if he is, then you'll need to articulate the moral principle or rule he is violating, and present some sort of rational defense of that principle or rule. I take the purpose of moral principles and rules to be prohibiting acts by agents in a social setting which inflict loss or injury on other moral agents, and redressing any violations that may occur.


The moral principle is that your right to own a restaurant does not include the right to inflict loss or injury on other moral agents, and refusing to serve black customers inflicts a loss of their opportunity to eat lunch where his coworkers eat, across the street. And instead injures those opportunities by requiring the black person to eat and work across town.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Well, first, no one has any a priori duty to meet other people's needs. You have no duty to feed and house your neighbor, and he has no duty to feed or house you.


We're not asking the restaurant owner to hand out free lunches. We're simply requiring him to serve lunch to the black customer on the same basis as any other customer.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
The new moral principle you appear to be invoking to justify forcing Alfie to serve Bruno seems to be that everyone has a duty to meet others' needs and satisfy others' desires.
The moral principle is that one may not discriminate by race when offering public accommodations like selling goods and services, selling homes, offering employment, etc. When a community is allowed to exclude all black persons from working, living, and even buying lunch in their area, then they are forcing them to live, work, and eat somewhere else. One may not exercise such control over the liberty of someone else.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A slave is someone forced to work for another's benefit. If anyone is a slave in the situation under discussion it is the restaurant owner, since he is the only person forced, per your argument. Are you proposing a Newspeak definition of "slave"?
When one race can control where another race lives, works, and eats, well what would you call it?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A "harm" is a reduction in someone's welfare; some act that causes damage.
And that is exactly what happens when racial discrimination is permitted. People of one race are allowed to control the opportunities of another race. It goes by the name "white supremacy" and it is definitely harmful in a great many ways, including lower wages, substandard schools, disproportionate incarceration, higher unemployment, reduced access to health care, and on and on and on.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
No damage is done to a person refused service at a restaurant; he has sustained no injury and no loss. He is as healthy and wealthy when he walks away as when he approached. Are you also inventing a new definition of "harm"?
Nope. Same old definition. Are you simply blind to the harm done?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
No person has any "right" to enter upon another's property, or eat another's food without invitation or permission, Marvin.
And no one is suggesting that a black man may enter your home and eat your food without invitation or permission. But if you operate a restaurant, you must treat the black customer the same as you treat the white customer. Are you unable to distinguish a home from a restaurant?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Other than, perhaps, an arbitrary fiat "right" conjured from thin air by a lawgiver. But he has no right in the sense of that word understood in the liberal tradition, and in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (which does not, of course, mention any such "right").
Which "liberal tradition" do you refer to, the tradition of slavery or the tradition of liberty and equal opportunity for all?

User avatar
Sculptor1
Posts: 1920
Joined: May 16th, 2019, 5:35 am

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Sculptor1 » June 1st, 2020, 6:36 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
June 1st, 2020, 5:46 am
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A restaurant owner who places a "Whites Only" sign in the window is clearly not "serving the general public." He is serving whites only. Who a restaurant owner opts to serve is his decision to make, not yours. You may decide with whom you will do business, but not with whom others must do business. Declaring that Alfie's restaurant "serves the general public" is gratuitous, and presumptuous on your part.
You wish to grant the restaurant owner the right to discriminate based on his ownership of the restaurant. No such right exists. For example, I'm sure you will agree that the restaurant owner has no right to serve contaminated food to his patrons. Neither his ownership of the food nor his ownership of the restaurant convey any right to harm others.
Actually this right existed for decades in many states; and some would say that it still does. The right to refuse service and deny entry is still strong. More recent laws have made it illegal to refuse on the grounds of race, but this still happens, though is very difficult to prove. Whilst it is easy to legislate, it is hard to enforce on a daily basis.

Refusing to serve the black customer is a harm. If the black customer must go across town to get lunch, when all his coworkers can simply go across the street, he is is physically harmed. He has to hurry to get across town. Or, perhaps he will not eat. Or, perhaps he will be unable to work anywhere except in a neighborhood where restaurants have a "Blacks Only" sign in the window.

Requiring the restaurant owner to serve all customers, regardless of race, does no harm to the restaurant owner.

So, the morality of the case is simple.
Arguments against it muddy the waters though. Notions of racial purity, miscegenation, and the simple social mixing that leads to mixing of the races genetically - all moral arguments mobilised to establish Jim Crow and Apartheid elsewhere. And when it comes to Israel building walls and turning a blind eye to summary execution of Palestinians by the IDL, clearly these things are not so clear. So where do these rights come from; when they are denied to some to the advantage of others.

GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Now, of course, if the restaurant owner is indeed acting immorally, then others are entitled, and perhaps obligated, to intervene. ...
Good. Then we should be close to an agreement.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
But if he is, then you'll need to articulate the moral principle or rule he is violating, and present some sort of rational defense of that principle or rule. I take the purpose of moral principles and rules to be prohibiting acts by agents in a social setting which inflict loss or injury on other moral agents, and redressing any violations that may occur.


The moral principle is that your right to own a restaurant does not include the right to inflict loss or injury on other moral agents, and refusing to serve black customers inflicts a loss of their opportunity to eat lunch where his coworkers eat, across the street. And instead injures those opportunities by requiring the black person to eat and work across town.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Well, first, no one has any a priori duty to meet other people's needs. You have no duty to feed and house your neighbor, and he has no duty to feed or house you.


We're not asking the restaurant owner to hand out free lunches. We're simply requiring him to serve lunch to the black customer on the same basis as any other customer.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
The new moral principle you appear to be invoking to justify forcing Alfie to serve Bruno seems to be that everyone has a duty to meet others' needs and satisfy others' desires.
The moral principle is that one may not discriminate by race when offering public accommodations like selling goods and services, selling homes, offering employment, etc. When a community is allowed to exclude all black persons from working, living, and even buying lunch in their area, then they are forcing them to live, work, and eat somewhere else. One may not exercise such control over the liberty of someone else.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A slave is someone forced to work for another's benefit. If anyone is a slave in the situation under discussion it is the restaurant owner, since he is the only person forced, per your argument. Are you proposing a Newspeak definition of "slave"?
When one race can control where another race lives, works, and eats, well what would you call it?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
A "harm" is a reduction in someone's welfare; some act that causes damage.
And that is exactly what happens when racial discrimination is permitted. People of one race are allowed to control the opportunities of another race. It goes by the name "white supremacy" and it is definitely harmful in a great many ways, including lower wages, substandard schools, disproportionate incarceration, higher unemployment, reduced access to health care, and on and on and on.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
No damage is done to a person refused service at a restaurant; he has sustained no injury and no loss. He is as healthy and wealthy when he walks away as when he approached. Are you also inventing a new definition of "harm"?
Nope. Same old definition. Are you simply blind to the harm done?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
No person has any "right" to enter upon another's property, or eat another's food without invitation or permission, Marvin.
And no one is suggesting that a black man may enter your home and eat your food without invitation or permission. But if you operate a restaurant, you must treat the black customer the same as you treat the white customer. Are you unable to distinguish a home from a restaurant?
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 2:52 pm
Other than, perhaps, an arbitrary fiat "right" conjured from thin air by a lawgiver. But he has no right in the sense of that word understood in the liberal tradition, and in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights (which does not, of course, mention any such "right").
Which "liberal tradition" do you refer to, the tradition of slavery or the tradition of liberty and equal opportunity for all?

User avatar
Marvin_Edwards
Posts: 485
Joined: April 14th, 2020, 9:34 pm
Favorite Philosopher: William James
Contact:

Re: Where Do Rights Come From?

Post by Marvin_Edwards » June 1st, 2020, 6:57 am

GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm
Exactly. All practical rights arise by agreement.
I don't think you appreciate the implications of these "practical rights" you extol.
Well, let's be clear about what we're talking about. Agreements follow from moral arguments. Moral arguments compare the benefits and harms to everyone that will likely follow from choosing one rule over another. The rules implicitly define rights. For example, the rule against theft implies the right of property.

We agree to respect and protect certain rights for each other. The means of protecting these rights are by the laws we create and enforce. As Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independents, "to protect these rights, governments are instituted". We constituted a government in order to protect certain rights for each other and to create an independent nation.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
The role of rights in the liberal tradition, from which all governments in the West are descended, is to set limits to the powers governments may exercise.
No. Some of our rights do limit the powers of government. But most of our rights affect what one person may and may not do to another person. The right to life is protected by laws against murder. The right to property by laws against theft. Some rights are regulated, like the right to drive a car on public roads. Speed limits restrict how fast we can drive on different roads. And so on.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
But if rights are to fulfill that role they obviously cannot be under the control of the very governments whose powers they are intended to limit; that would be appointing the fox to guard the henhouse.
Well, the thing is that we are both the foxes and the hens. There is no government that is not us. We elect the legislators. We elect the president. Each of us gets an equal say in who represents us in making the laws that define and protect our rights.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
Instead, they were conceived to have a timeless, objective moral basis, well defined and understood in common law, transcending all transitory popular whims and political controversies, and beyond the power of any government to alter.
If they were timeless then we'd still be ruled by kings and slavery would be legal. Our rights do have an objective moral basis, though. They are morally based upon what rights we agree will produce the best results for everyone. We all desire liberty, so we are moved to avoid creating unnecessary laws. But when a new law is necessary to reduce a significant harm or provide a commonly desired benefit, we are free to create new rules and the rights they imply.
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
I'm not sure what you take these "practical rights" to be. But from your other comments I'm guessing they are "rights" that are conjured into existence by politicians, in response to popular whims or such "practical" concerns as placating some interest group whose votes or money those politicians need to remain in power.
That is sometimes the case. So we must choose our legislators with care. We are both the foxes and the hens, or, as Pogo reminded us, "We have met the enemy, and he is us".
GE Morton wrote:
May 31st, 2020, 8:04 pm
Real rights have a moral basis. Moral considerations always trump pragmatic ones.
Ironically, all moral considerations are pragmatic ones. Moral considerations are all about consequences. And we must consider the long-term consequences as well as the more immediate ones.

Post Reply