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#68637 07/23/08 01:50 PM
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Ardy Offline OP
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I contend that all "rights" are an invention of the human mind. TO the extent that they exist at all, it is as a social/political agreement between people concerning establishment of a baseline of mutual respect and deference. At it's core, the concept of rights is little different than the golden rule--- treat other people as you would wish to be treated. That axiom, as well as concepts of human rights, constitute a useful basis for human political society--- but do not exist or pre-exist outside the mutual agreement of any given social grouping. And further, the nature of what would be agreed as a right would change depending upon the specific characteristics of the social group that is making the social contract. And finally, such rights cannot be considered "inalienable" since there are always situations where a society considers an individual has lost his rights (IE a criminal). And if rights can be removed in some circumstances, they are not inalienable.


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Ho-Hum, we've been over this ground before:
Quote
Criticism: The concept of inalienable rights was criticized by Jeremy Bentham and Edmund Burke as groundless. Bentham and Burke, writing in the eighteenth century, claimed that rights arise from the actions of government, or evolve from tradition, and that neither of these can provide anything inalienable. (See Bentham's "Critique of the Doctrine of Inalienable, Natural Rights", and Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France"). Keeping with shift in thinking in the 19th century, Bentham famously dismissed the idea of natural rights as "nonsense on stilts".
The signers of the Declaration of Independence deemed it a "self evident truth" that all men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights". Critics, however, could argue that use of the word "Creator" signifies that these rights are based on theological principles, and might question which theological principles those are, or why those theological principles should be accepted by people who do not adhere to the religion from which they are derived.[snip]
FWIW, this correspondent is inclined to agree with the views of the late, great the Hon. Edmund Burke M.P.

Last edited by Harv3; 07/23/08 05:42 PM. Reason: Quote length, Comment
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If it is so ho-hum, Harv3, why does it continue to provoke such intense debate? Do you have an opinion? Or were you just looking for an opportunity to belittle someone?

Also, MOD COMMENT, check your quote length. Editing is in order.


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NWP. the quote length by Harv3 is actually fine. I am posting this for the benefit of all because Wikipedia, which he quoted, specifically says there is no copyright to its material.


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Originally Posted by Harv3
this correspondent is inclined to agree with the views of the late, great the Hon. Edmund Burke M.P.

I guess this constitutes an agreement?

And, Harv, FWIW, I started this tread when I realized that the separate discussion of group rights really goes back to the fundamental question of what exactly are rights. Without some agreement on that subject, you cannot carry on a meaningful discussion as to whether groups can have, or cannot not have rights. In my point of view, once one agrees that rights are a social/political human construct, it is then clear that society can define rights as applicable to groups... or not.


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Originally Posted by Ardy
Originally Posted by Harv3
this correspondent is inclined to agree with the views of the late, great the Hon. Edmund Burke M.P.

I guess this constitutes an agreement?

And, Harv, FWIW, I started this tread when I realized that the separate discussion of group rights really goes back to the fundamental question of what exactly are rights. Without some agreement on that subject, you cannot carry on a meaningful discussion as to whether groups can have, or cannot not have rights. In my point of view, once one agrees that rights are a social/political human construct, it is then clear that society can define rights as applicable to groups... or not.
Well, yes. smile

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No.

Well, yes actually.

And, again, no.


Firstly: No, logically speaking, implicit in the meaning of the word 'right' is what 'ought to be' in contrast to what is possible: i.e., it is possible for someone to kill me, but they 'ought not to', if we want to recognize that I have the 'right' to live. Does a lion have any more right to live, than a gazelle? If I need a kidney to live, and you have what I need, can I take it?

However, although the term 'self-evident', as used, is self-contradictory (if it truly was self-evident, it would not need to be stated, or debated)... but the primacy of the concept as the basis for our society leads to the conclusion that, for one to be a member of this society, one must accept the primacy of this rule - that not only are certain rights in existence, they are unalienable and, contradiction notwithstanding, 'self-evident' to the extent that it is assumed that it is invioable and not a matter for debate, at least not if you desire to be a member of the society.

So, yes, within this society, Individual Rights DO exist, are unalienable and invioable, if not strictly 'self-evident'.

Thirdly, does the government create these rights?

No... these Rights are created by the People; first, those who agreed to recognize them and enumerate (some of) them in the writing of the Constitution; and also by all those who choose to participate in, and benefit from, the resulting society. The government is charged with seeing that these rights are continued to be recognized, as well as separating out those who do not recognize them, thus preserving the idea that these individual rights do 'exist', within the society. The government does not create the rights but only enforces them - and is indeed restricted by them.

At least, in theory.

My opinion, obviously. I am not a constitutional scholar, this is just how my understanding of these principles has crystallized, after reading and talking about it - much of it from this forum.


Last edited by Reality Bytes; 07/24/08 01:30 PM.

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Ardy Offline OP
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The opinions that you express are shared by many people. Never the less, IMO the logic used to arrive at your opinions is the reverse of a proof. By this I mean that IMO you start out with assumptions about what you believe to be true about rights.

Yes, of course rights are what "ought" to be. But our conception of rights has as its baseline assumptions what we as a society think "ought " to be. And as such, rights are a construct of our society rather than a reflection of anything necessarily pre-existing and transcendent. Our "right" to live is meaningless without society: there is no meaningful right to live if you are floating alone in shark infested waters.


"not a matter for debate, at least not if you desire to be a member of the society." The statement clearly assumes that the concept of rights is a specific social contract underlying an individual society. The fact that it is not a matter of debate within that society implies nothing regarding the pre-expedience or transcendental nature of rights.... only it implies certain "rights as comprising a fundamental part of the foundation of a particular society.

"So, yes, within this society, Individual Rights DO exist, are unalienable and invioable, if not strictly 'self-evident'." I agree that individual rights do exist ad a part of our society. But obviously, those rights are alienable if I should choose to violate the norms of the society... if I do not pay my taxes, I can lose my liberty.

"Thirdly, does the government create these rights?" I did not propose that government creates rights... I proposed that rights are a social agreement within which government operates. ... This is approximately what you also say in your next paragraph.

So in closing, it seems to me that you may misunderstand what I am saying. Mostly I do not disagree with what you are saying about rights. Rights do exist, but they are not pre-existent, they are a mater of our mutual social agreement.


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Originally Posted by Ardy
...And further, the nature of what would be agreed as a right would change depending upon the specific characteristics of the social group that is making the social contract...
Then there can be no question that the modification of the social contract would not prohibit the (re)introduction of slavery or the arbitrary defenestration of homosexuals, is there?

Quote
And finally, such rights cannot be considered "inalienable" since there are always situations where a society considers an individual has lost his rights (IE a criminal). And if rights can be removed in some circumstances, they are not inalienable.
I suggest that those incarcerated have not lost a right but merely the ability to exercise it.


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Originally Posted by Ardy
...Our "right" to live is meaningless without society: there is no meaningful right to live if you are floating alone in shark infested waters.
Nor is there one if you are attacked by a single shark while swimming off of a beach crowded with people and staffed by lifeguards paid by some state agency.

The argument is a straw man. Heinlein used the same type in his exposition of the justification for the particular social system described in Starship Troopers.

The "inalienable rights" concept of Jefferson et al. was not intended to be argued in opposition to a force of nature; it was argued in opposition of the authority of the state - however constituted - to arbitrarily and/or unnecessarily deprive the person of the ability to exercise his liberty.


Life should be led like a cavalry charge - Theodore Roosevelt
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