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I don't like that fruit.

Like is an emotional reaction. Why do you not like it? What is the root of your reasoning? It's to your own benefit to ask yourself these questions and understand why you do not like it.

I understand very well why I don't like Objectivists, I've endured them for many years. In general I get along much better with ex-Objectivists.

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[...]

Rand stated clearly that a child cannot exercise these rights, but she also stated (quite correctly, in the same paragraph) "both the adult and the child have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

[...]

Many Objectivists treat children as if they were different animals from adults. This is simply more "premise with feet" thinking. Since Rand certainly understood that a child is merely one state of a human being and not a different species, she was very comfortable in saying (p. 3): "The government must protect the child, as it would any other citizen."

[...]

Now notice in your questions and arguments that this is precisely the right you exclude. You focus solely on the rights of the adult. And here we come to the contradiction. If both parties (adult and child) have fundamental rights and the government exists to protect those rights, what happens if those rights collide on a definitional level?

Michael:

1: You are wrong in ascribing to me any argument that makes a distinction between child and adult rights. Please reread everything I have written on this topic here and back on RoR if you are not sure about this. It has always been my position, like Rand's, that there are just human rights that encompass both child and human. This is why I do not make a distinction, in principle, between the case of aiding a helpless baby in the woods and that of aiding an injured adult along the side of the road, or aiding hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a severe famine or the aftermath of a tsunami or a hurricane. So when you state that my arguments lead to a contradiction resulting from a failure to focus properly on the issue of rights, you will have to be much more specific in your analysis to make your point clear.

2: You appear to be confusing the concept of positive and negative rights. When Rand spoke of human rights, she clearly articulated that these were all negative rights which proscribed arenas of freedom of action for individuals and impose no obligation on others other than to refrain from intervening in or abridging those freedoms. On the other hand, positive rights are things which impose obligations on others, and Rand was opposed to them categorically. A positive right such as a right to health care immediately implies that there is a burden to create, administer and/or pay for this product placed upon some person or group at the expense of another person or group who is to receive the benefits. Rand rejected all positive rights as being tantamount to slavery. When you speak of the right to life as applied to a child, you treat it as though it were a positive right which imposed an obligation on others. Now, I think this is an interesting topic in so far as it relates to the relationship of a child to its parents or guardians, and while I would argue that the obligations in those relationships stem more from implied (contractual) promises to a level of duty and care rather than from the springing into being of a new class of positive rights, there can be no justification for the idea that the right to life of a child imposes any obligation or duty upon a stranger, any more than the right to life of an adult does. The right to life, like the right to liberty, the right to pursue happiness, the right to property, and so on, is a negative right which states that another person may not act to limit or eliminate the life of another. If you approach the subject from this perspective, then all of the confusion and contradictions you perceive in you post above vanish.

3: You are making some sort of distinction between an adult's and child's life based upon the abilities they possess to provide for their own needs. You state that because a child is helpless to fend for itself and provide for its own basic requirements of survival, it's (positive) right to life imposes an obligation upon others to maintain that life. If that is so, and given our shared premise that the same rights apply to adults as to children, then doesn't it follow that any adult in peril for their life also imposes an obligation upon everyone else to maintain that life? In fact, this is exactly the implied altruistic principle behind every program from food stamps to welfare to national health care. The argument is that there are an overwhelming number of adults that are incapable of providing for their own basic survival and that they will suffer needlessly and ultimately die unless aid is given. So such aid is not left up to the individual to decide upon base upon their personal moral consideration. Instead, this obligation to aid others is imposed upon us by force and under penalty of the law. Now, I doubt that you support these programs, but they are a direct and logical consequence of the argument you appear to be making for offering aid to helpless children, and if you are going to continue to argue that it is justified to impose these legal obligations on others in the name of children, then I cannot imagine what defense you can possibly mount against all of the other income redistribution programs promulgated by way of the identical argument.

4: Rights don't collide on a definition level so long as you define them properly. The introduction of the concept of positive rights however does inevitably lead to all sorts of collisions and, ultimately, to the destruction of all of our proper negative rights. The positive-rights-based welfare state had resulted in a steady erosion of our original constitutional rights to our property and our freedom to think and act in accordance with our own thoughts and beliefs in pursuing our own happiness. We have become, in part, slaves to the state, eliminating our right to liberty. It is because some of us see this connection so clearly, that we have argued with you against your position. It is my hope that once you also see the connection, you will be able to reexamine the issue and come at it from a different perspective.

5: Just to repeat myself for the sake of clarity, under most normal circumstances I'm sure that the majority of people, including myself, would not hesitate to aid an abandoned child, a critically injured individual along the side of a road or a friend who found themselves down on their luck for a time. There are a great number of people that demonstrate daily their willingness to aid complete strangers in trouble through their donation of blood to the red cross or of money to relief funds for Katrina, 9/11, and worldwide disasters. I'm sure that there are some morally depraved people in the world that just might walk past an abandoned baby in the woods. What I can't understand is how this example generates such a passionate sense of moral revulsion in a world where you can pick up any paper and see stories of innocent people killed in drive-by shootings, people's lives wrecked by some over-zealous prosecutor bent upon making a name for themselves, and so on. There is a lot of injustice out there and it is good that we do not become numbed to its impact on others. However, let's not toss out the (abandoned) baby with the bath water with knee-jerk reactions to bad situations that will ultimately lead to many more problems than they were intended to address.

Regards,

--

Jeff

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Fine, but I certainly wouldn't take the seat-of-the-pants discussions that occur on these forums as anything resembling Objectivism, which is supposed to be a rational, systematic philosophy that provides a comprehensive world view useful for living on earth. Most of what I see here is based more upon emotional responses than careful reasoning.

(Boy, nothing pushes more buttons here than the abandoned, starving, crying baby in the wolderness who, BTW, is certainly dead and gone by now.)

Yes, that's Objectivism, which supposes to know too much about human being.

--Brant

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I don't like that fruit.

Like is an emotional reaction. Why do you not like it? What is the root of your reasoning? It's to your own benefit to ask yourself these questions and understand why you do not like it.

I understand very well why I don't like Objectivists, I've endured them for many years. In general I get along much better with ex-Objectivists.

Well, I understand why too. Strange that you frequent places where you have to endure so much, but then you must get some value from it. I think our conversation is done as you clearly don't see the situation as being different and I don't think I'll convince you. Debates serve the purpose of checking one understanding and learning things. To me this last response suggests that you consider emotions to be valid tools of reason. I disagree. I check my emotional reactions to things and always question from where they arise and how, if they are incorrect, I may correct them. It's how I stopped making bad decisions in relationships.

Rather than listening to your short ripostes and comments about enduring those Objectivists who obvioulsy just don't get it I think we should stop wasting one anothers time. That way things won't devolve to a level of nastiness and epithet. :-)

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Fine, but I certainly wouldn't take the seat-of-the-pants discussions that occur on these forums as anything resembling Objectivism, which is supposed to be a rational, systematic philosophy that provides a comprehensive world view useful for living on earth. Most of what I see here is based more upon emotional responses than careful reasoning.

(Boy, nothing pushes more buttons here than the abandoned, starving, crying baby in the wolderness who, BTW, is certainly dead and gone by now.)

Yes, that's Objectivism, which supposes to know too much about human being.

--Brant

Out of curiousity, who in this debate considers themselves an Objectivist? I know Dragonfly doesn't. How about any of you others. Note that I don't care if any of you are or aren't. I've never met another Objectivist face to face, so all my friends are not. :-)

How about you Barbara? You certainly have the longest exposure to the philosophy of anyone here. Do you consider yourself an Objectivist? If not, what parts of the philosophy do you disagree with or find wanting given your involvement during much of it's development?

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Jeff,

I should have quoted you before when saying that you are excluding the child's rights. Sorry. I was specifically thinking about this post:

[...] for what both Michael and I believe to be the legitimate province of the law [...]

Barbara:

Can you please explain under what principle you believe that the requirement for Good Samaritan laws fall under the justifiable purview of the government. I'm particularly interested in an analysis that ties these laws to the issue of rights and wonder if you see the case of helping a child as being different from that of helping an adult. In other words, should a situation involving extending aid to a child impose legal obligations on an individual that would not exist if an adult were to be in a similar situation?

Regards,

--

Jeff

Here you make a huge distinction, or at least question, regarding the differences. And the insinuation is that the rights of the adult helping the other are at issue. The child (or the adult to be helped) is merely some kind of catalyst that imposes a condition on the other adult, not an individual human being holding rights as a separate entity. That is my impression. But rather than go into "I said you said," (and I am more than happy to concede the point) can we agree that both the adult and the child (or the adult to be helped) in the example have individual rights? If so, then the discussion becomes one of the nature of rights. And that nature must fit both individuals in the situation, not just one, to be logically consistent.

As far as positive and negative rights goes, as I stated earlier, I have mulled over ALL the arguments that have been presented during this discussion. The positive and negative rights angle was argued ad nauseum in very loud and at times obnoxious terms, and very clearly, and very often, as I am sure you are aware if you read the threads. (Usually this has been right before talking about all the starving babies in Africa and enslaving producers to feed them. :) ) So you must be aware that I am familiar with positive and negative rights. While I appreciate your explanation for the sake of younger readers, for me it was not needed. Anyway, rather than rehash what they are, I prefer to assume we both know.

I am vastly more interested in stepping outside the box (as I have done) and asking whether this construct actually derives from human nature, since it is an all-inclusive metaphysical-type of political ultimatum that is proposed. I have come to the conclusion that the positive/negative rights model does not derive from human nature in terms of all-inclusive scope, but it does for the vast majority of situations involving adult freedom. This is because of a conflict with the definition of human nature. (I am still speaking of the Objectivist viewpoint here, i.e., rational animal.)

I think this issue falls into the same kind of complicated crack where the Objectivist principle of delegating one's right to self-defense to the government falls (without actually delegating it). There is no oversimplification where one can apply a single principle and no longer think about looking to see what is going on. The principle can hold in the mind of one person while a life of another person goes out of existence in a very stupid manner. What's the value in that? Principle qua principle?

I don't have time to write at this moment, so let me be brief. I fully believe that rights, to be valid, must be derived from human nature, not simply from positive or negative use of force and action. I find the positive/negative rights premise elevated to a metaphysical level, then applied wholesale to all situations, to be inverting conceptual fundaments. This is a form of the stolen concept fallacy when discussing human values (ethics), then rights.

That's just the logic. There is a lot more.

Michael

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Out of curiousity, who in this debate considers themselves an Objectivist?

Ethan,

I am an Objectivist. That might not be what you mean by the term, though. The following posts are self-explanatory.

I use the term "Objectivist" in the same way someone calls himself an "Existentialist" or "Kantian" or "Marxist," which means a person interested in, and highly influenced by, the ideas found in the bodies of thought designated by those words. Built into this concept is that fact that individuals exist and they are different from one another, thus there will be some differences of ideas between the author and the person interested/influenced.

I would suggest that there be some kind of term set for Rand-ordained Objectivist and non-Rand-ordained Objectivist, but there are so few of the first (there is only one I know of) that it is not really necessary for general understanding.

I have difficulty with phrases like "Objectivism establishes..." or "Objectivism says..."

They sound good until I start thinking about them, but then I come up against a problem.

I have to detect what the author of a statement like that means by "Objectivism." This means many different things to many different people.

I merely consider it to be a body of thought. It was given initial form in the works of Ayn Rand and those she designated. Those works definitely represent a "closed system" because she died and could not designate anything else. They are a closed system of works. But they do not constitute a closed body of thought.

A closed body of thought is practically a contradiction by definition if reality as the arbiter is one of the principles. There is a term for a closed body of thought that precludes correction by reality, though. It is called dogma.

To some people, Objectivism is dogma. When these people say "Objectivism says...," I start looking for someone else to talk to. :)

I have always wondered how a body of ideas can be property.

Can there be thought trespass? For instance, do you go to jail if you think the ideas without permission from the owner—or if deceased, the heir to the ideas?

:)

The ultimate control game is to tell someone, "You can think my ideas, but you can't say in public you do so unless I let you."

I call myself philosophically an Objectivist because of everything I have read, Objectivism best fits the philosophical bill. However, there are some areas I believe are incomplete because an incomplete concept of human nature was dealt with. (I only find Objectivism to be wrong in some areas where it tries to be complete - yet I mostly find such partial subjects to be correct if looked at as partial. Thus the wrongness is not in the concept but the scope.)

...

What I am trying to say is that the choice to call myself an Objectivist is to identify my basic philosophical thinking with a specific body of thought and acknowledge the source, nothing more. Just like most Christians do with religion (think of all the varieties).

It is not to proclaim myself as a part of any organized movement. For the organized movement, I am best described as a Renegade Objectivist.

...

The public I target is the "silent contingency" of Objectivism - people like you [Rich Engles] describe who read Rand's works and go about living their lives as best they see fit without becoming involved in any Objectivist movement. I was that way and silent for decades. Now I am that way and public.

I have no doubt many of those in the "silent contingency" would like to call themselves "Objectivists" philosophically, but they are either revolted by the antics of all the personality clashes they see between people who raise that banner, or they simply don't want to bicker with the nasty folks and, in the big picture of their lives, it's just not important.

Here on OL they can call themselves Objectivists, or Objectivism-friendly, or however they wish to call themselves. They will be taken seriously without hostility.

I am an Objectivist.

Michael

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You mean that each individual must judge for himself if it is ok to kill his neighbor?

Yes, certainly. It's part of moral life, deciding what to do with the neighbors. Some people need killing. It's legally justifiable in certain situations (defense of another, stopping an escaped convicted murderer, stopping looters and arsonists, in time of war, revolution, etc).

W.

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The problem with the example of the baby in the woods is that it is rather farfetched. Therefore I prefer another example illustrating the same issue: suppose you're driving on a lonely road and suddenly you see someone lying at the roadside, severly injured (for example a fallen motorcyclist). If you don't help him (by giving first-aid, calling emergency services) he will probably soon die, so his life will depend on your action. Should you be legally obligated to help? [....]

Of course this doesn't mean that we should be help anyone who might be in distress or starving anywhere, that is a straw man argument which has no relation to this situation.

The question of whether we're obligated to help starving children everywhere isn't a "straw man argument" as pertaining to the original scene. Instead, it's the slippery slope down which any attempt to argue positive rights for children promptly heads. What you're doing is to divide the original problem, that of a child in an emergency situation, into its two components and then to address just the emergency component and forget the issue of a-child-too-young-to-fend-for-itself, which is the core issue producing the inflamed arguments.

You've changed the scene to a circumstance involving an adult in clear and present danger, instead of a circumstance involving a young child, thus a person inherently dependent on others for sustenance. Someone who's old enough to be riding a motorcycle is someone old enough (and able-bodied enough) to find food for him- or herself in non-emergency circumstances, not someone who's so young he or she will die in normal circumstances (lying in a nice safe crib in a nice safe house, say) if food isn't provided by a caretaker. It's the special needs of young children to have their food provided if they're going to live which I think is Michael's main concern.

Michael keeps talking about the child's right to life. It's this sort of talk which sets my danger signals flaring, and I think those of others here. The implication is that the child has a positive right to be kept alive, to be fed. The question immediately arises: fed by...whom? Just anyone? Any adult whatsoever? You, for instance? Please answer me this: Would you approve of a law requiring you to pay X percentage of your income specifically to provide a fund for feeding the children of indigent and/or irresponsible parents? Or make it more personal: Suppose you had nextdoor neighbors who weren't feeding their children. Would you approve of a law making it your obligation to feed those children yourself? (Never mind that in effect there are such laws, because part of one's tax income goes to "social services." I'm asking if you'd approve of such laws in principle.)

I answer "No" to both questions. If that makes me a moral monster according to your standards, I guess this just goes to show that Objectivists have no hegemony on moral monstrousness. ;-)

Ellen

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Ellen,

The original example was merely to feed the child and take him to safety—not assume long-term care for him. The rebuttal to that has been that it would be perfectly legal for an adult with plenty to sit days in the wilderness in front of an abandoned child and watch him starve to death, all the while eating at will right in front of him. It would be legal, as the argument goes, but people would call him bad names for doing that. They use harsher language, but that's all it amounts to.

But since you brought it up, I am not against the government providing facilities to care for abandoned and/or abused childred in orphanages as wards of the state until a proper home can be found or until they grow up, whichever comes first. I prefer privately funded orphanages, but in the absense of those, I believe that it is a proper government function to provide such care to ensure the child's right to life.

If that makes me an altruist and enslaver of mankind, make the most of it.

Michael

EDIT:

The implication is that the child has a positive right to be kept alive, to be fed.

That's not just an implication. That's stated very clearly by Ayn Rand herself.

btw - Do you have any opinion about the derivation of rights, or do you prefer to accept the positive/negative rights model as a predigested metaphysical given that needs no thought?

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EDIT:
The implication is that the child has a positive right to be kept alive, to be fed.

That's not just an implication. That's stated very clearly by Ayn Rand herself.

I think not. She says that the parents of a child have the obligation to care for the child as best they can -- or try to find someone else willing to care for the child if they can't. I do not recall her saying anywhere that I have an obligation to care for other people's children. I accept no such obligation no matter who might tell me I have it.

btw - Do you have any opinion about the derivation of rights, or do you prefer to accept the positive/negative rights model as a predigested metaphysical given that needs no thought?

Laughed at loud at the way you asked that -- those are the only alternatives you can think of? (And what you might mean by "predigested metaphysical given" I couldn't say.)

Ellen

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Galt's strike of the men of the mind starved children by the tens of thousands, so the text of AS is clear enough on this point. The moral question for Dagny, Hank and the rest of us was: Is it in our (yours, mine, anyone's) self-interest to feed the children of savages or drug addicts or bureaucrats or recently laid-off factory workers? Ellen had every right to say no.

However, we face two very serious, substantial and expanding problems of political economy that have already discounted and threaten to mothball the moral clarity of Atlas Shrugged. Bear with me a minute while I try to describe the two problems.

First, the world today is extremely wealthy and growing wealthier everywhere on autopilot. I'm not unmindful of the financial trainwreck on Wall Street, but no one is going to starve as a consequence of cheap money or bail-outs of credit default swap (CDS) insolvencies. I can't even say CDS without laughing, because it's patently silly that non-bank fund speculators insured each other's good credit to a sum equalling world GDP, over $45 trillion, and worse that money center banks loaned them the money to do it. By the time it's all unwound and cleaned up, average Americans will have lost a quarter of their life savings, primarily home values and pension funds. Everything will be darker. Unemployment and cost of living will double, but no one is going to starve. As George Bush is fond of saying, the US economy is strong and resilient. Bankers and brokers will be more closely regulated. It doesn't matter a hoot whether John Galt takes out Ellis Wyatt and Ken Dannager. The worldwide diffusion of knowledge, technology, capital and skilled labor is so enormous that the kleptocrats in Russia and China are doing just fine. India is a powerhouse in steel production and cars. Brazil is a robust energy and food giant. There is zero possibility today of 'a strike of the men of the mind' because there are thousands of Wyatts and Dannagers and Reardens. Take out one by moral persuasion and five more pop up in his place, all equally able to keep the transnational industrial pot boiling. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are both busy feeding the hungry and curing the sick. Such is the character of today's billionaires.

Nor it is possible for Ragnar to sink anything without being spotted by military spy satellites and whapped by a cruise missile. Francisco can't blow up his own docks, drain his bank accounts, or waste money mining in Mexico. And certainly Midas Mulligan can't set up shop somewhere secretly. As I said in previous writing: "Let's quit pretending that Galt's Gulch in Colorado makes a whit of sense today. I know. I lived in Colorado. You can't sneeze there, without six Federal employees noting the time of day and wind direction. The film production of Atlas Shrugged should have gone forward in the 70's -- when folks still used trains and worked in steel mills, and when it was halfway plausible that Mulligan could build an airstrip without an environmental impact study and public hearings."

That brings us to the second, more serious problem that threatens to kill off Randian rational self-interest entirely. Ellen remarked that taxes are levied for the unearned support of practically everyone in 'need' or want or idleness (or fecklessness in the case of bankers and brokers). It is important to reflect that over 50% of global GDP is controlled and disbursed by government. When the recent Wall Street shenanigans are mopped up, the US will join our global brethren in that terminal spiral of government control. It will be ordinary and seamless, you won't feel any different. There will be elections and balloon drops and bombing raids and Security Council resolutions and Olympic games, as usual. But the opportunity to re-argue liberty and justice will have been eclipsed by majority rule, by global consensus, by actuarial logic and demographic trends. We are entering upon an Age of Rules, and rule Number One is no one starves, unless they attempt to avoid or interfere with tax collection to feed the hungry.

Sorry Ellen. You don't get to ask what's right or best any more. Game over.

W.

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Sorry Ellen. You don't get to ask what's right or best any more. Game over.

W.

That was a classy bit of writing, Wolf. Applause. I think I will still continue to ask what's right or best all the same. No harm in asking!

Ellen

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Sorry Ellen. You don't get to ask what's right or best any more. Game over.

W.

That was a classy bit of writing, Wolf. Applause. I think I will still continue to ask what's right or best all the same. No harm in asking!

Ellen

___

You're right. Never give up. There is a solution, however steely. My time is gone, but another will follow, someone much greater. In the meantime, you and others are doing the right thing to keep alive the virtue of selfishness (Raimondo).

W.

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Ellen,

The original example was merely to feed the child and take him to safety—not assume long-term care for him. The rebuttal to that has been that it would be perfectly legal for an adult with plenty to sit days in the wilderness in front of an abandoned child and watch him starve to death, all the while eating at will right in front of him. It would be legal, as the argument goes, but people would call him bad names for doing that. They use harsher language, but that's all it amounts to.

But since you brought it up, I am not against the government providing facilities to care for abandoned and/or abused childred in orphanages as wards of the state until a proper home can be found or until they grow up, whichever comes first. I prefer privately funded orphanages, but in the absense of those, I believe that it is a proper government function to provide such care to ensure the child's right to life.

If that makes me an altruist and enslaver of mankind, make the most of it.

Michael

EDIT:

The implication is that the child has a positive right to be kept alive, to be fed.

That's not just an implication. That's stated very clearly by Ayn Rand herself.

btw - Do you have any opinion about the derivation of rights, or do you prefer to accept the positive/negative rights model as a predigested metaphysical given that needs no thought?

Michael,

I think Ellen has the right of it. Rand had no intention to suggest that the child's right to life was a positive right that required action by people other than the parents. Again, I don't know of anyone who would willingly abandon the babe in the woods. I think that private organizations would be more than capable of handling any wayward children.

Can you agree with that?

Edited by ethan dawe
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Ellen,

I have no idea what you mean by rights except the predigested positive/negative form you use without qualification. Better stated, I have no idea on what basis you derive your concept of rights.

But I have a question.

Would you (and the others) define an infant as bearing the right to life and the capacity to exercise it?

Rand didn't. She said it had to be cared for. She wrote very little about orphanages and what I was able to find was not pertinent to the present discussion. (I will find quotes on infant capacity and right to hold rights later.)

Or would you define an infant as bearing the right to life and not having the capacity to exercise it? Or would you define an infant as not bearing the right to life? Or would you define the right to life in a manner that is meaningless to the survival of an infant?

Once again, I find myself looking at a definition of human nature THAT INCLUDES CHILDREN, and everybody blanks that out and jumps to the rights and/or obligations of other adults. The simple fact is that once the definition of human nature and the rational basis of rights are established, it is easy to deal with the rest and the other adults. According to this manner of discussion, however (blanking out definitions when inconvenient), no rational proposal will ever occur and the problem will continue to inflame Objectivists and Objectivism-friendly people.

Everybody gets upset, too, because they know deep down that a fundamental contradiction exists and they are afraid it will be used for bad purposes, but they have no real logical answer, just rhetoric. So they prefer to pretend that it doesn't exist and shout down anyone who points to it.

Meanwhile the march of government controls continues. The people who promote government controls have no problem at all with this definitional contradiction existing. They relish it and make fun of Objectivists and libertarians because of it. Unfortunately, in this case they have logic on their side because, by default, the Objectivist/libertarian side refuses to even acknowledge the issue.

I, for one, intend to keep probing.

The issues on the table are the following:

Is being an infant a part of human nature?

If so, which part?

Are rights an ethical-social concern or directly a metaphysical one?

Do rights derive from human nature and ethics or some logical construct based on adult action?

Does ethics include infants?

Is an infant a rights-bearing human being?

Is an infant a citizen of a country?

Does lack of biological connection cancel the right to life of an infant?

There are some more, but those are pretty good starting points.

Michael

Note to Wolf: I am against the force-taxation model of paying for the government, but that is not my concern right now. I am at the metaphysical level of defining human nature. I will get to that later. But I think it is in my self-interest to feed the children of savages or drug addicts or bureaucrats or recently laid-off factory workers if the infants cannot be fed and are removed from those environments and live within the jurisdiction of my country. I don't hold that an infant loses his rights because of who his parents are. I do not think it is in my self-interest to see starving children wandering the streets. I have already seen that in Brazil. Drug dealers love them and get them hooked on crack as just one problem.

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Ethan,

As I stated above, I reject the postive/negative categorization of rights in the manner it is used by Objectivists and libertarians because of a problem in defining human nature.

So to answer your question on your terms, which is based on the postive/negative categorization of rights on a metaphysical level, I have no answer.

Human nature is what exists ar root. Not postive/negative rights. That categorization comes later in analyzing human conduct and it is merely one form of categorization.

Michael

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Ethan,

As I stated above, I reject the postive/negative categorization of rights in the manner it is used by Objectivists and libertarians because of a problem in defining human nature.

So to answer your question on your terms, which is based on the postive/negative categorization of rights on a metaphysical level, I have no answer.

Human nature is what exists ar root. Not postive/negative rights. That categorization comes later in analyzing human conduct and it is merely one form of categorization.

Michael

Michael,

Rand was talking about positive and negative rights. You can't quote her and then claim she meant some other type of rights. You have specifically quoted her on the childs "right to life." What do you mean by a right then? What is your definition? The negative rights in Objectivism are just identification of what we are as human beings. What is it in our nature that puts an obligation for our well-being onto another? Furthermore, if you were right, and babies had this right that causes obligations, then we WOULD be obliged to deal with all the unwanted babies of the world, wouldn't we? Then, by continuation, the governement would justifiably be able to require us to pay for any and all of them?

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What do you mean by a right then? What is your definition?

Ethan,

You haven't been reading me correctly. I have been constructing the definition from the ground up and I have stated clearly I do not have the answer. And I have essentially been asking you these questions. All I get is recycled jargon, not concepts.

I reject recycled jargon. This is too important.

Michael

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What do you mean by a right then? What is your definition?

Ethan,

You haven't been reading me correctly. I have been constructing the definition from the ground up and I have stated clearly I do not have the answer. And I have essentially been asking you these questions. All I get is recycled jargon, not concepts.

I reject recycled jargon. This is too important.

Michael

Okay, let's throw away Rand's comments and all that has come before this and start fresh with what you've said.

You have stated clearly a conclusion that the child has a right to life. If you are building this from the ground up, and have come to this conclusion, the process of building it should give you the answer. Please explain your process so I can see how you have arrived at the child having a right to life.

Ethan

Edited by ethan dawe
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I have no idea what you mean by rights except the predigested positive/negative form you use without qualification. Better stated, I have no idea on what basis you derive your concept of rights. But I have a question. [....] would you define an infant as bearing the right to life and not having the capacity to exercise it? Or would you define an infant as not bearing the right to life? Or would you define the right to life in a manner that is meaningless to the survival of an infant?

Michael:

This will be my last post on this topic as I am not interested in getting dragged down this rabbit hole again. It appears that you and I think and analyze in radically different modes and I do not believe that I can formulate any argument that will be understood as I intend it. Your responses to my previous arguments torture my meaning into something unrecognizable. Let me conclude with the following:

In your quote above you show that you do not really understand what is meant by positive rights and negative rights. No one, whether an adult or a baby, has any guarantee that they will live. To live, whether you are and adult or a child requires considerable effort and any attempt to guarantee something like a "right to live" places an obligation on someone to provide for all of those requirements. On the other hand, a right to life of the negative kind is a prohibition against others from taking your life. It says absolutely nothing about how you will go about your responsibility of sustaining yourself. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, this is precisely what Rand meant whenever she talked about human rights, which she clearly stated were all of the negative kind and was clear on this distinction between the act of living and the right to life. The reason that you don't find much discussion in her writings about special cases for children is because she didn't see any special cases that required philosophical examination. Issues about what to do with abandon children are a practical matter that certainly needs to be considered, but they are technical in nature and do not require any new philosophical foundation in order to be addressed.

Once again, I find myself looking at a definition of human nature THAT INCLUDES CHILDREN, and everybody blanks that out and jumps to the rights and/or obligations of other adults.

This is why I'm through with this discussion. On this topic you fail to comprehend what others and I have repeatedly articulated with great clarity, explaining exactly how rights pertain to children, and then turn around and insult us by saying that we are blanking out. I'm sure you think you are simply making your point in a forceful way with statements like this, but it really is very insulting to expend great effort to bring clarity to this issue, only to have it all dismissed as being the product of willfully irrationality.

The simple fact is that once the definition of human nature and the rational basis of rights are established, it is easy to deal with the rest and the other adults. According to this manner of discussion, however (blanking out definitions when inconvenient), no rational proposal will ever occur and the problem will continue to inflame Objectivists and Objectivism-friendly people.

I completely disagree with your analysis that Rand's ethical formulations are lacking in this area and need further philosophical development by you or others in order to address the issue of human rights in a comprehensive way. The concept of rights is a principal that does rest on a foundation of a proper understanding of human nature and it can and has been rationally developed by Rand on that basis. I acknowledge that you are uncomfortable with the consequences of Rand's formulation in so far as it deals with children that are unable to fully meet their own needs for survival. Sobeit. There are also a lot of adults that are truly incapable of providing for their own survival. There are handicapped people who find themselves seriously limited from birth or later in life due to accidents or illnesses. There are people with mental disabilities that make it impossible for them to function on their own at even a minimal level. Often the elderly find themselves in need of assistance in order to perform even the most routine of daily tasks. On occasion, even a healthy adult can find themselves in a position where their survival may depend on the actions and benevolence of others. And so it goes. That's life. If you are going to posit a redefinition of rights that formulates that a child has a right to live, then this right must apply to all of us as well, and you will need to include these cases in your theory. I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts. In the meantime, some of us find Rand's formulation comprehensive and useful and do not think that there is an unaddressed philosophical problem with the treatment of children, so long as you apply the Objectivist formulation of ethics properly.

Everybody gets upset, too, because they know deep down that a fundamental contradiction exists and they are afraid it will be used for bad purposes, but they have no real logical answer, just rhetoric. So they prefer to pretend that it doesn't exist and shout down anyone who points to it.

So, are you stating that the comments that Ellen, Ethan, Wolf and I have made in this thread constitute "shouting you down"? If not, then I suggest staying on topic and stop bringing up bad behavior of others from long ago. You are using this as a red herring to simply avoid addressing the points we raise here.

Human nature is what exists ar [sic] root. Not postive/negative rights. That categorization comes later in analyzing human conduct and it is merely one form of categorization.

OK, but so what. I believe that most of us challenging you do agree that children are humans; that all humans have the same set of rights; that a proper derivation of rights rests on an accurate examination of human nature; that human development includes phases where individuals are not competent to provide for their own means of survival and must rely upon the assistance of others. But where I would guess that many of us disagree with your approach is in the attempt to equate a need with a right. Yes, children must rely upon adults to provide for their physical, psychological and emotional needs during their maturation, but these needs no more magically translate for them into a right than does any need of an adult. A is A. Needs are needs. Rights are rights. When you wave your hand and dismiss the distinction between positive and negative "rights", what you are specifically doing is dismissing the distinction between needs and rights. No one here, other than yourself, is suggesting that the derivation of human rights somehow rests upon a more fundamental concept related to the distinction between positive and negative rights. What I am doing is simply using the distinction between positive and negative rights to point out where a properly derived theory of rights starts and stops. This is what Rand did. There is no fundamental error in this argument and the distinction I am making is a proper application of Objectivist ethics. It is you who is muddying the waters by conflating the concepts of "needs" and "rights" similar to the confusion introduced with the concepts of a "right to live" versus a "right to life".

You are concerned with how to justify the protection of the life of an infant or child during their formative years. That's great. It is easily addressed by observing that the nature of a child is to be helpless in fending for itself. Therefore, anyone who chooses to give birth to a child or anyone who voluntarily agrees to adopt a child, assumes responsibility for the care and development of that child. Call it an implied contract if you like. If you don't like the terms of the contract, no one is forced to accept it, so long as birth control, abortions and the ability to give up a child for adoption remain available to all. If you do accept the terms, then it is your obligation to provide the level of care appropriate for normal human development. Of course this level of care rest atop a clear respect for the same human rights that we all share. The terms of the contract require that you feed, cloth, shelter and educate the child until they are prepared to accept these responsibilities for themselves. These are the minimal actions required to support the life of the child. However, should the guardian fail in these responsibilities, this does not automatically transfer a duty to do so to any other individual. Is the result of that failure bad. It surly is, but then again, there are all sorts of human failures occurring daily with disastrous results, and none of these automatically transfer a duty to another disinterested party - at least according to Objectivist ethics and politics. When guardians abuse or fail to care for their children, it is the proper function of the government to step in and protect the child, just as they should step in and protect an adult from similar abuse or from breach of contract.

As individuals, we may not like some of the bad results we see in the world and decide to do something about this, either individually, or by joining together to create institutions that can better address the problems. Great. That's why most of us would assist in making sure an abandoned baby was taken care of, and that's why some of us donate time or money to charities, donate blood, contribute to aid and relief organizations, etc. All of this activity falls within the proper framework of the Objectivist ethics and it's formulation of rights. But if you are unsatisfied with a world of that type and wish to enforce, by law, a duty on all of us to be responsible for the wellbeing of all children in what - our vicinity?, line of sight?, neighborhood?, community?, city?, world?, or maybe the Hillery Clinton definition of village? - well, you have been warned that you are heading over a precipice and it is a slippery slope on that ride down into hell. I'm not going with you. And if you think that you are going to reformulate Objectivist ethics so that you can justify making that step, don't try. Rand is not going there either.

And now, if you will excuse me, I would rather go out into the woods and actively look for a baby in distress than continue banging my head against this wall.

Regards,

--

Jeff

Edited by Jeffery Small
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Great post, Jeff.

Michael, it all comes down to, "Does the need of one person constitute a claim against another?" With the baby-in-the-woods example, you are saying Yes. Most of us say NO! It doesn't mean we would leave the baby to starve.

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Thanks Laurie and Ethan.

Regards,

--

Jeff

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