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Ethan,

There are way too many conclusions in your approach and I don't have time to keep repeating myself. You want me to show you what I can't because I have not reasoned that far. What part of "I don't have the solution" was difficult to understand?

I keep saying things like rights do not exist on a metaphysical level, that I am simply looking at the metphysical and epistemological (human nature) level at this stage, and you keep asking things like how the "positive/negative right thing is wrong."

Maybe it will be clear from another angle. Here is the basic logic. If rights do not exist on a metaphysical level, it doesn't matter whether they are positive or negative. They don't exist in that category. So they can't be right or wrong. There is no right or wrong for something that doesn't exist.

What I reject is replacing a definition of human nature (metaphysical level) with a positive/negative rights model and I see Objectivists do this all the time. Like you are doing here.

Metaphysics = human nature

Politics = rights: positive, negative, high, low, orange, purple or whatever flavor you like

They are different categories of philosophy. Politics rests on metaphysics and the other two branches (epistemology and ethics).

Is that much clear?

Michael

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Rather than babies in forests, neither of which Objectivish types generally seem to be particularly fond, can we try another situation which might be more Objectivist-friendly and which more clearly outlines the lack of cost, effort, inconvenience or long-term, unchosen obligations to another human in an emergency situation?

Let's say that a man named Wesley is visiting an industrial facility which contains huge machines, some of which shred large pieces of metal. As his tour guide is instructing him about some of the machinery, Wesley sees a worker get hit by a large pipe that has fallen from above. The plant foreman, who has been standing next to a control panel, sees the accident as well and runs to help the victim. As he's running, he points back to Wesley and the tour guide and yells, "Don't move! Stay right where you are for your own safety and for everyone else's!"

Wesley happens to be inside of a little room which contains the control panel that the foreman was monitoring before the accident, and the tour guide happens to be just outside of the room. When the foreman reaches the accident victim, he looks up and realizes that a fuel line has burst, which is why a part of it fell and hit the worker. He punches an emergency button near him which triggers an alarm, shuts down all fuel-driven machines within the plant, and automatically closes and seals the door to the control room in which Wesley is standing (the system was designed to isolate the control room and its inhabitants from being exposed to hazardous liquids, gasses or fire). So, Wesley is now locked in the control room, and his tour guide and everyone else are locked out.

When the alarm sounds, the plant's brilliantly creative and heroic owner, Hank, who is standing near a metal shredder which was not automatically shut down because it is powered by electricity rather than fuel oil, turns to look at what is happening. When he does so, his clothing snags on the track which feeds scrap metal into the machine. He's being dragged into the machine, and he starts yelling for help. No one can get to him in time to either free him from the track or to push the emergency stop button on the machine. The only chance is for Wesley to hit the master electrical shutdown button in the control room in which he's locked. There are only a few seconds left in which to act.

Everyone is screaming at Wesley to push the large red button right in front of him. He looks at it. He places his hand over it. Then he pulls back and says, "Fuck all of you. Like your individualist boss over there, I've just decided that I'm not obligated to care for another human being. I don't accept duties or unchosen obligations, and this situation is just a slippery slope which will lead to a society in which I am forced to expend all of my time and money caring for hapless industrialists, their workers and their stupid, arrogant children." With a smug grin, Wesley lets Hank get pulled into the machine and ground into bits.

1) Does this scenario change things? Should there be no legal repercussions to Wesley's intentionally avoiding putting forth the minimal effort of pushing a button to save another human being while incurring no cost or risk of harming himself?

2) If, after Hank is ground to bits because of Wesley's intentional lack of action, one of Hank's employees eventually gains access to the control room in which Wesley is locked, and beats the hell out of him, breaks his nose and jaw, blinds him in one eye and permanently damages one of his arms, should the worker be charged with violating Wesley's rights?

3) If the worker is charged and found guilty of assaulting and crippling Wesley, would the judge who is hearing the case be immoral if he was so disgusted with Wesley that he threw out the verdict or imposed a fine of one cent?

J

Edited by Jonathan
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Ethan,

You want me to show you what I can't because I have not reasoned that far. What part of "I don't have the solution" was difficult to understand?

I was under the impression that you had concluded that babies had a right to life that required action by those able no matter how related. Is that not true?

What I mean is, you have argued against others here and asserted that something is so. Now, if you just have a hypothesis that that is the case, that's one thing. That's fine. If you start telling other people they are wrong and that you don't accept their view I would assume that you had a conclusion or proof. Maybe not. You say you're still working this out. But you also claim others are blanking things out and are insistent that a child has a right that extends to a requirement on unrealated people. I'm just reacting to your claims. I'm doing so in good faith and with what I think is clear reason. Perhaps the others here can say if I'm making myslef clear or not.

E.

Edited by ethan dawe
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Rather than babies in forests, neither of which Objectivish types generally seem to be particularly fond, can we try another situation which might be more Objectivist-friendly and which more clearly outlines the lack of cost, effort, inconvenience or long-term, unchosen obligations to another human in an emergency situation?

Let's say that a man named Wesley is visiting an industrial facility which contains huge machines, some of which shred large pieces of metal. As his tour guide is instructing him about some of the machinery, Wesley sees a worker get hit by a large pipe that has fallen from above. The plant foreman, who has been standing next to a control panel, sees the accident as well and runs to help the victim. As he's running, he points back to Wesley and the tour guide and yells, "Don't move! Stay right where you are for your own safety and for everyone else's!"

Wesley happens to be inside of a little room which contains the control panel that the foreman was monitoring before the accident, and the tour guide happens to be just outside of the room. When the foreman reaches the accident victim, he looks up and realizes that a fuel line has burst, which is why a part of it fell and hit the worker. He punches an emergency button near him which triggers an alarm, shuts down all fuel-driven machines within the plant, and automatically closes and seals the door to the control room in which Wesley is standing (the system was designed to isolate the control room and its inhabitants from being exposed to hazardous liquids, gasses or fire). So, Wesley is now locked in the control room, and his tour guide and everyone else are locked out.

When the alarm sounds, the plant's brilliantly creative and heroic owner, Hank, who is standing near a metal shredder which was not automatically shut down because it is powered by electricity rather than fuel oil, turns to look at what is happening. When he does so, his clothing snags on the track which feeds scrap metal into the machine. He's being dragged into the machine, and he starts yelling for help. No one can get to him in time to either free him from the track or to push the emergency stop button on the machine. The only chance is for Wesley to hit the master electrical shutdown button in the control room in which he's locked. There are only a few seconds left in which to act.

Everyone is screaming at Wesley to push the large red button right in front of him. He looks at it. He places his hand over it. Then he pulls back and says, "Fuck all of you. Like your individualist boss over there, I've just decided that I'm not obligated to care for another human being. I don't accept duties or unchosen obligations, and this situation is just a slippery slope which will lead to a society in which I am forced to expend all of my time and money caring for hapless industrialists, their workers and their stupid, arrogant children." With a smug grin, Wesley lets Hank get pulled into the machine and ground into bits.

1) Does this scenario change things? Should there be no legal repercussions to Wesley's intentionally avoiding putting forth the minimal effort of pushing a button to save another human being while incurring no cost or risk of harming himself?

2) If, after Hank is ground to bits because of Wesley's intentional lack of action, one of Hank's employees eventually gains access to the control room in which Wesley is locked, and beats the hell out of him, breaks his nose and jaw, blinds him in one eye and permanently damages one of his arms, should the worker be charged with violating Wesley's rights?

3) If the worker is charged and found guilty of assaulting and crippling Wesley, would the judge who is hearing the case be immoral if he was so disgusted with Wesley that he threw out the verdict or imposed a fine of one cent?

J

I would act to save Hank by pushing the button. But.....

1) No he is not legally required to act.

2) Yes, he could be charged for assaulting Wesley.

3) If the judge ruled thus and confirmed that his ruling was based on thinking Wesly should have acted then it would be open to appeal.

What if Wesley went to hit the big red button and accidently hit one that casued a bunch of other workers to be injured or killed? Then he get's to court and say's he tried to do the right thing but was in error or confused? What if he claims that but the judge thinks he did it becasue he hated Hank and the other workers? What if What if What if.

Scenrios like these tell you nothing.

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I was under the impression that you had concluded that babies had a right to life that required action by those able no matter how related.

Ethan,

That is a bit broad since there are situations and situations (here come the starving babies of Africa again to enslave us all! :) ), but that is more or less how it started—with emphasis on the less. This was in response to an affirmation that it was morally OK for a baby to starve to death under the situations we were discussing at the time and that, even though the baby could die in an easily preventable situation, this was perfectly moral for all non-related adults under any circumstances whatsoever. (The term used in addition to moral was "sovereign.") Later in the online discussions, people said it was legal but not moral and they would shun any person who did that, etc., etc., etc.

I disagreed and still disagree for those situations. (A hell of a lot of good shunning does for the dead kid, who was supposed to have a right to life and his death was easily preventable.)

This bothered me, so I looked at some definitions back then and I did not like what I saw. For instance, individual rights are derived from ethics, which are based on man's survival—which means is his rational mind, which can only function effectively if he has freedom of action. But a baby, by definition (not by opinion), cannot survive as an individual. It needs others as its own survival mechanism.

There is a big honking conflict right there.

Debt-wise, we were all babies once. But we are now adults and we already got ours, whether we have repaid that or not. So it is easy to look at the situation of others (infants), see a state we will never have to face again in our lives, and think only about our needs at our stage of life to exclusion of all else. That limits ethics and rights to adults. (I pursued this line of reasoning at one time, but it does not deal with enough fundamentals. Still, it is useful for illustrating a double-standard that needs to be addressed.)

I could go on and an and a lot of discussion has ensued since then, so I started looking into the roots of the matter. I have a personal value, but I decided I wanted to take a look-see and verify if it was valid on a philosophical level.

So let's be clear about what I claim. On a personal level, I hold that reasonable care in our country has to be assured for a child to survive and this care comes from somewhere, basically the parents or legal guardians, and lacking them, the government, and lacking that in an emergency (and depending on the emergency and extenuating circumstances at that), whichever adult is near. That's on a personal level. I haven't reasoned all that out, just merely speculated on some things that were thrown at me.

Now on a philosophical level, I am at the beginning and I do not propose anything at all so far, except that man is a rational animal. (I agree with that part of Rand's formulation.) I am looking at the metaphysical level and human nature. Only that. At this level, does man have rights? I don't know. I ain't got there yet. Does a baby have rights? I don't know. I ain't got there yet. And so on.

At the roots level—the philosophy level, I suspend all personal values and all arguments thrown at me. I start looking at man's nature from a blank slate and see where it leads. I am not afraid of slippery slopes, cliffs or anything else if a concept is properly grounded. A clear meaning that corresponds to reality doesn't not allow for misunderstanding, only disagreement. As the saying goes, A is A. You can like it or not like it, but you can't deny it and claim to be rational.

Now, how do we know if A is A? By observation and by corroboration through others observing the same thing, and testing and logic. So let's start by observing.

Here's a good one for you. I have discovered (surprise, surprise!) that all individual human beings are categorized as the same species and that there are fundamental characteristics in common to all members of that species in addition to rationality.

But that does not enter into Objectivist ethics. Why not? Are we rational animals or are we rational rationals? :) And if it were to enter into Objectivist ethics, what part would enter?

That's something to think about and that is the kind of thing I am looking at now. I have left my personal values behind at this moment. There is plenty of history and plenty of science to look at to observe people in general and come to some basic conclusions. That's what Rand did to come to her conclusions.

Here's another for you. Look at the genus. Do you think man is an animal as a fundamental part of his nature? If not, I would be interested in hearing why. If you do, I would be interested in hearing what you consider to be an animal. Whatever you conclude would have to be applied to human beings after that in your thinking, regardless of what you think about rights or society or love or hate or art or the moon or Santa Claus right now. That's the way concepts are built up and that's the way I do it.

Are you really interested in this? If you are, let's do it and see where it leads. I am not interested in repeating over and over everything that has been discussed so far, though.

If you are not really interested, that's OK, too. As I said, this is my baby and I will eventually write a theoretical paper on it. I am sure I will have no problem publishing it.

Michael

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3) If the judge ruled thus and confirmed that his ruling was based on thinking Wesly should have acted then it would be open to appeal.

Really? A victim of assault can appeal a verdict or sentence which was issued against his attacker? Is the attacker then to be tried a second time for the same crime?

There are many situations in which sentencing is left to a judge's discretion. The question I asked, which you did not answer, is "Would the judge who is hearing the case be immoral if he was so disgusted with Wesley that he threw out the verdict or imposed a fine of one cent?"

What if Wesley went to hit the big red button and accidently hit one that casued a bunch of other workers to be injured or killed?

Then that would be a different scenario. I asked readers to address the scenario that I outlined.

Then he get's to court and say's he tried to do the right thing but was in error or confused? What if he claims that but the judge thinks he did it becasue he hated Hank and the other workers? What if What if What if.

Wesley wasn't driven by trying to "do the right thing." He wasn't in error of confused. He knew that Hank would die if he took no action. He wanted Hank to die. The point is that Wesley is not bashful about admitting to his intentions. He knows that your ethical system will let him get away with allowing Hank to die when it would have cost nothing and imposed no hardship to simply press a button and save him. Rather than making excuses, Wesley flaunts his choice to not act and to intentionally allow Hank to die.

Scenrios like these tell you nothing.

They tell you nothing when you change them so that instead of being required by law to briefly and effortlessly save a person's life one is expected to expend all of his time and resources feeding and caring for all other people of the world.

J

Edited by Jonathan
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There are many situations in which sentencing is left to a judge's discretion.

Jonathan,

Believe it or not, this is one of the glories of our governmental system. I mean a judge's discretion as part of the checks and balances model aimed at justice, not the power to enforce his whims. This discretionary power within the limits where it exists is an acknowledgment that we are not omniscient and that context can drastically alter the meaning of an action.

I have lived under a society built around Roman law (Brazil), where there are some checks and balances (at least some lip service), but basically the structure is paternalistic and a person is often presumed guilty before innocent. You wouldn't believe the number of "Negative Certificates" that need to be issued to get anything done (basically, these are Certificates of Good Standing or Compliance with some law or other).

I believe this flexibility in USA law has direct bearing on children's rights, emergencies and so forth—and it is a very good thing—since the context changes are so unstable.

Michael

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Scenrios like these [J's in his post #127] tell you nothing.

They tell you how incredibly complex a scene J can come up with. (LOL) And how even farther-fetched a scene than the original babe-in-the-wilderness conjecture.

Seriously, J, what do you think the example you've spun offers by way of illumination on the central question on the table, which is that of whether a child is entitled to care by anyone other than the child's parents?

Ellen

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We don't live in isolation, we live in a society. If our law makers pass a law then we have to deal with it, like it not. It doesn't matter if you say it infringes upon your rights or not because your rights only have meaning within the context of the society you live in. One minute you have them the next minute you don't - such is the human situation. Unless you believe in God, then you could entertain the concept of "God-given rights".

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Rights are normative by definition. They belong to politics, which sits on ethics, which is the normative branch of philosophy.

Michael

Rand asserts this, does not prove it. There is no necessary connection between rights and ethics.

"A moral principle never reaches beyond itself. Its ethical arms are too short, extending no farther than one man's soul, one man's purpose and lifespan. We have to look elsewhere for political guidance, because the thing at issue is a nation of laws and not of men." Defacto Anarchy

"The concept of 'wrong' is fundamental to the administration of justice. It's not an ethical term, but a logical and judicial one, implied by due process. No man should judge his own cause (True or false, right or wrong?) If false, courts would not exist; you'd have a right to conduct your affairs any way you please. If it's true, that no man should judge his own cause, then judicial procedures must be objective and fair. Anything less would be wrong as a matter of legal principle." Principles of Internet Law

"I hereby certify that the law cannot catch or deter a clever evildoer. That's not the purpose of law, which exists first as a means of restraining mob violence, ignorant prejudice, and statist tyranny. If we apprehend a callous predator from time to time, that's laudatory. But ending systemic, wholesale injustice is far more urgent, especially the heavy lifting of securing constitutional rights, which are few in number -- no summary punishment, fair trial by jury, no perjury, no secret evidence, and the right of appeal to ensure fundamental fairness." The Rule of Law

W.

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Debt-wise, we were all babies once. But we are now adults and we already got ours, whether we have repaid that or not. So it is easy to look at the situation of others (infants), see a state we will never have to face again in our lives, and think only about our needs at our stage of life to exclusion of all else. That limits ethics and rights to adults. (I pursued this line of reasoning at one time, but it does not deal with enough fundamentals. Still, it is useful for illustrating a double-standard that needs to be addressed.)

I could go on and an and a lot of discussion has ensued since then, so I started looking into the roots of the matter. I have a personal value, but I decided I wanted to take a look-see and verify if it was valid on a philosophical level.

So let's be clear about what I claim. On a personal level, I hold that reasonable care in our country has to be assured for a child to survive and this care comes from somewhere, basically the parents or legal guardians, and lacking them, the government, and lacking that in an emergency (and depending on the emergency and extenuating circumstances at that), whichever adult is near. That's on a personal level. I haven't reasoned all that out, just merely speculated on some things that were thrown at me.

Now on a philosophical level, I am at the beginning and I do not propose anything at all so far, except that man is a rational animal. (I agree with that part of Rand's formulation.) I am looking at the metaphysical level and human nature. Only that. At this level, does man have rights? I don't know. I ain't got there yet. Does a baby have rights? I don't know. I ain't got there yet. And so on.

At the roots level—the philosophy level, I suspend all personal values and all arguments thrown at me. I start looking at man's nature from a blank slate and see where it leads. I am not afraid of slippery slopes, cliffs or anything else if a concept is properly grounded. A clear meaning that corresponds to reality doesn't not allow for misunderstanding, only disagreement. As the saying goes, A is A. You can like it or not like it, but you can't deny it and claim to be rational.

Now, how do we know if A is A? By observation and by corroboration through others observing the same thing, and testing and logic. So let's start by observing.

Here's a good one for you. I have discovered (surprise, surprise!) that all individual human beings are categorized as the same species and that there are fundamental characteristics in common to all members of that species in addition to rationality.

You are on solid ground, Michael. All men were babies and infants.

W.

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Rand asserts this, does not prove it. There is no necessary connection between rights and ethics.

Wolf,

I haven't entertained this line of thought because I have been using the Objectivist model of concept formation applied to philosophical divisions. But, hell yes. If we are going to check premises, why not check that one as well?

Only good can come from checking premises. Truth comes from checking premises.

That's a biggie for me, though. I will have to mull it over a good bit before writing about it.

Michael

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Without going into detail now--I don't have time--"rights" implies "wrongs" implies morality is at the heart of these politics. Wolf, you are making "rights" arbitrary and disposable for lack of moral suasion. If I were to physically assault you it would be immoral first rights violating second, schematically speaking, but all one integrated package.

--Brant

Rand asserts this, does not prove it. There is no necessary connection between rights and ethics.

Wolf,

I haven't entertained this line of thought because I have been using the Objectivist model of concept formation applied to philosophical divisions. But, hell yes. If we are going to check premises, why not check that one as well?

Only good can come from checking premises. Truth comes from checking premises.

That's a biggie for me, though. I will have to mull it over a good bit before writing about it.

Michael

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Wolf, you are making "rights" arbitrary...

Maybe so. That's for you and others to judge. Here's how I arrived at my position:

Law needs a first principle. Let's skip the historical answers, all of which were pretty lame: divine right of bishops and kings, innate human depravity, social utility, majority rule, unity, categorical imperative, class war, stability of tradition, pacifism, stepwise negotiation and compromise.

I thought it made sense for law to aim at justice. After 20 years of deliberation, I concluded that justice was the armed defense of innocent liberty (Freeman's Constitution) and that this entailed liberating the legal profession. "Attorneys are freemen, too, you know." (The Rule of Law)

The essential and defining purposes of legal practice are to defend the innocent and to ameliorate wrongful acts. Call it a duty, to ourselves and others.

As you perhaps may already know from reading some of my other essays on government, I am not a big fan of "duty." Jefferson's right of revolution specifically exempts you from any and all responsibility imposed by tradition, legislation, or peer pressure. At this juncture, we are not talking about your right to do nothing. We are instead discussing the origins of jurisdiction and the sworn duty of lawyers and judges. Just as an agent promises to faithfully obey the instructions of his principal, and a principal is bound by the actions of his faithful agent, lawyers voluntarily assume a duty of care and confidentiality when they undertake to legally represent a client. Judges assume a larger duty of care, without the protection and flexibility of secrecy, when they are appointed to the bench as "lawyer for the community."

It takes a special type of person to command the confidence of the public in any capacity -- especially as a guardian of law and order. I am not referring here to extant terrestrial governments, but rather to the prospect of a laissez faire jurisdiction, based on earned respect and diligence. Benjamin Franklin devised a pretty good procedure for the selection of judges, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It's a pity that he wasn't taken seriously. He suggested that lawyers should elect judges, because they will almost certainly choose the most successful and most reputable of their number, in order to divide his lucrative law practice among themselves.

Principles of Internet Law

Adversarial due process is not very mysterious. At the base of it, no man should judge his own cause. (Federalist No. 10)

Men are incapable of confessing openly that they want to escape justice. Friend or enemy of due process, we declare with one voice that our conduct is fair and honorable, with malice toward none. The claim is usually false. In simple, 18th century language: Men are not angels. Our protestations of innocence and truth are frequently exaggerated and unwarranted. That's why we need courts of justice, with compulsory production of evidence, cross-examination, and felony penalties for perjury. Men lie. We also remember wrongly, forget, etc. Evildoers should not be allowed to judge their own innocence. Nor is it sane or wise to treat accusation as proof, condemning someone without fair trial of fact.

Defects in The Freeman's Constitution

So, the bottom line is that 18th, 19th and 20th century U.S. lawyers and judges evolved objectively fair rules of evidence and, as I indicated earlier, they are particularly opposed to summary punishment, secret evidence, perjury, torture and whatnot -- i.e., statist tyranny. It kinda went kablooey post 9/11, but that's irrelevant. The whole nation went kablooey post 9/11.

Most everything I believe to be correct is summarized in this paragraph from an Opinion of Counsel I wrote at LFC.

Virtue (rationality, honesty) is important for lawyers, doctors, engineers and other professionals, of course. Reason, purpose, self esteem are values worth seeking in any walk of life, although I sometimes wonder about bankers and accountants. Fiduciaries can be extremely dull people. Just kidding.

:lol:

Edited by Wolf DeVoon
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[....] Benjamin Franklin devised a pretty good procedure for the selection of judges, during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. It's a pity that he wasn't taken seriously. He suggested that lawyers should elect judges, because they will almost certainly choose the most successful and most reputable of their number, in order to divide his lucrative law practice among themselves.

Principles of Internet Law

;-)

Deep-probing material in the whole post, Wolf, and...well-written. I selected the above excerpt to emphasize only because it brought a smile at Franklin's savvy.

Ellen

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The definition of "rights" I like best, as succinctly carving out the territory, is one George Smith often uses (he didn't originate it; I don't know who did): "enforceable moral claims." This makes clear that rights are a subcategory of moral claims, not co-extensive with moral claims (i.e., there are lots of moral claims that aren't rights) -- specifically rights are the subcategory of moral claims which can be insisted on forceably, which can be en-forced.

Ellen

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The definition of "rights" I like best, as succinctly carving out the territory, is one George Smith often uses (he didn't originate it; I don't know who did): "enforceable moral claims." This makes clear that rights are a subcategory of moral claims, not co-extensive with moral claims (i.e., there are lots of moral claims that aren't rights) -- specifically rights are the subcategory of moral claims which can be insisted on forceably, which can be en-forced.

This means there is a gun in your hands or the hands of your agent, but tells us nothing about rights as such or differentiates between moral and immoral. You are begging the question not only about what is a "right," but what is "moral." As for rights being a subcategory of morality it is more lucid to say they are derived from morality for subcategory implies rights are below morality which in turn is below epistemology is below metaphysics making Objectivism appear top heavy. I prefer to see metaphysics as the base with rights on top of the other categories or laid out horizontally: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, rights showing the natural progression.

--Brant

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The definition of "rights" I like best, as succinctly carving out the territory, is one George Smith often uses (he didn't originate it; I don't know who did): "enforceable moral claims." This makes clear that rights are a subcategory of moral claims, not co-extensive with moral claims (i.e., there are lots of moral claims that aren't rights) -- specifically rights are the subcategory of moral claims which can be insisted on forceably, which can be en-forced.

This means there is a gun in your hands or the hands of your agent, but tells us nothing about rights as such or differentiates between moral and immoral. You are begging the question not only about what is a "right," but what is "moral."

You're correct that the difference indicated between a "right" and any other moral claim is that a "right" is being defined as a claim which is legitimately (hence the word "moral") defensible by force. With a "right," you can say "no" at gun point unlike with other moral claims. [Edit: Or in the case of "positive" rights, if such are considered to exist, you can insist on "yes" at gun point.]

It isn't "begging the question" you state since it isn't any attempt to answer that question, only to define the general category. Suppose one were to define "morality" as a code of values to guide one's behavior, would you call that "begging the question" because it doesn't state which code to use? It's naming the nature of the category not telling you the specifics of what goes in the category. Rand's definition of a "right" as "a moral principle defining and sanctioning man's freedom of action in a social context" (quoting from memory) would be just as much "begging the question" according to you. It's a longer-worded way of carving out the same category as the definition I like best carves out; the shorter version has the virture, along with brevity, of specifically identifying that a "right" can be defended by force, unlike other moral claims.

Furthermore, it would be incorrect to attempt to answer the question you indicate in a definition. To specify a particular theory of "rights" in defining the category -- just as to specify a particular theory of morality in defining the category -- would be to commit the fallacy of the frozen abstraction and would in fact be begging the question of how to validate any particular theory of the specifics.

Logic 101 ;-) (Well, not quite that basic, but pretty basic.)

As for rights being a subcategory of morality it is more lucid to say they are derived from morality for subcategory implies rights are below morality which in turn is below epistemology is below metaphysics making Objectivism appear top heavy. I prefer to see metaphysics as the base with rights on top of the other categories or laid out horizontally: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, rights showing the natural progression.

There you're addressing Michael's posts not mine.

Ellen

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Edited by Ellen Stuttle
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I consider Rand's definition of a right to be deficient that way too. It is correct to indicate the category, but more is needed. I myself don't have a better definition off hand, only descriptions.

--Brant

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I consider Rand's definition of a right to be deficient that way too. It is correct to indicate the category, but more is needed. I myself don't have a better definition off hand, only descriptions.

--Brant

Brant, would you mind paying attention? Indicating the category is what a definition does. A definition which would include a particular theory would be a loaded definition. The definitions given -- Rand's longer version and the shorter version I like best -- are not "deficient" because they don't spell out the specifics of a particular theory of rights. Your definition might be "deficient" because of not being actually a definition; I don't know. You'd have to state it. But please try to grasp the point that a definition isn't supposed to do what you're asking for, which is to answer the question, What IS a correct moral claim?

Ellen

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Scenrios like these [J's in his post #127] tell you nothing.

They tell you how incredibly complex a scene J can come up with. (LOL) And how even farther-fetched a scene than the original babe-in-the-wilderness conjecture.

Seriously, J, what do you think the example you've spun offers by way of illumination on the central question on the table, which is that of whether a child is entitled to care by anyone other than the child's parents?

Ellen

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I wanted to alter the scenario so that it represented the loss of a person whom Objectivists would likely value very highly, as opposed to an abandoned infant, which they might see as nothing more than an annoying thing which is not fully human or rights-deserving, and I wanted to make the life-saving action or "unchosen obligation" to be as brief and effortless as possible, thus the mere pressing of a button (no taxation or other imposed financial commitment, no possibility of long-term care, etc.). I also wanted the person who avoided saving someone to have a sort of Hickman-like defiance -- fully conscious of his decision and proud of the fact that he intentionally allowed the Objectivist hero to die.

Judging by the responses, apparently those here who oppose the idea of positive rights are consistent in their views.

Also, I asked about the consequences of someone who beats the hell out of a Wesley, because I've heard opponents of positive rights in the past say that in such situations they would probably kick the creep's ass themselves and face the legal consequences, which, to me, is not consistent. I think it's pretty silly for someone to say, in effect, "I don't want to sully the legal system with laws which require people to take actions in emergency situations, but I'm totally in favor of me or other private citizens beating the piss out of someone who refused to take the type of action that would be required by the laws that I oppose."

The same is true of Objectivists or libertarians who allegedly oppose animal rights yet would be willing to physically intervene if they saw someone torturing an animal (which was owned by the torturer). I think that if you're not willing to physically prevent people from slicing up an inanimate object because you claim to respect private property rights, but you are willing to stop them from slicing up living puppies that they own, then you support animal rights to some degree regardless of your not wanting the official legal system to be able to take the actions that you're willing to take yourself. As I see it, there's no difference in principle between wanting a government to prevent, or to retaliate against, certain actions (or lack of actions) and taking matters into your own hands and using force in response to the same actions (or lack of actions).

J

Edited by Jonathan
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I consider Rand's definition of a right to be deficient that way too. It is correct to indicate the category, but more is needed. I myself don't have a better definition off hand, only descriptions.

--Brant

Brant, would you mind paying attention? Indicating the category is what a definition does. A definition which would include a particular theory would be a loaded definition. The definitions given -- Rand's longer version and the shorter version I like best -- are not "deficient" because they don't spell out the specifics of a particular theory of rights. Your definition might be "deficient" because of not being actually a definition; I don't know. You'd have to state it. But please try to grasp the point that a definition isn't supposed to do what you're asking for, which is to answer the question, What IS a correct moral claim?

whimper, whimper, whimper.

--Brant

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But please try to grasp the point that a definition isn't supposed to do what you're asking for, which is to answer the question, What IS a correct moral claim?

Ellen,

Heh.

Try selling that to the orthodox Objectivist crowd (or the orthodox libertarian crowd, for that matter).

Michael

Re "the orthodox libertarian crowd," what crowd is that (the description being oxymoronic)?

Re "the orthodox Objectivist crowd," however, they'd agree if they're reading their Bible -- i.e., AR -- correctly. Here is her definition of "morality, or ethics": "a code of values to guide man's choices and actions--the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life." Does she say "morality, or ethics" is what Objectivism holds to be the correct code? No, she does not. First she carves out the general category and then goes on to discuss her views on deriving a correct code.

And here is AR on "the fallacy of the frozen abstraction" to which I referred:

[The quote, as edited, is picked up from the Lexicon; what's left out with the ellipsis is the words "and which"; likewise the bracked "e.g." is an alteration for grammatical not substantive reasons.]

A fallacy which may be termed 'the fallacy of the frozen abstraction'...consists of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs--[e.g.,] substituting a specific ethics (altruism) for the wider abstraction of "ethics."

"Collectivized Ethics," VOS, 104; pv 81.]

.

True, Rand herself committed this very fallacy in other contexts. See Roger Bissell's writings on that subject. Nonetheless, she's right in saying that making such a substitution is a logical error.

Ellen

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Ellen,

I have been saying for a long time that Rand used more than one meaning for words, often in the same essay.

Morality is one case, where in terms of cognitive meaning, it is merely a branch of philosophy. Then she will blast something for being immoral, which means not according to the correct morality (or wrong, evil or whatever), which means a choice of value judgments of good and evil suddenly became part of the concept. (She usually means Objectivist morality in these places.)

There are many cases of this in Rand's writing with many terms.

Rather than say she contradicted herself, though, or that she committed the fallacy of this or that, I prefer to glean the meaning from her context. If you do that and accept the fact that a word can have strictly a cognitive meaning in one context, but involve normative judgments in another, (or accept the fact that dictionaries exist and words can have more than one meaning), she does not contradict herself at all in these places. If you accept that, you can say she was a bit sloppy in her rhetoric at those places, or that she played for emotional impact over clarity of meaning, but that is all.

With Rand, as with others, where possible I try to read her according to the principle of charity:

In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity is an approach to understanding a speaker's statements by interpreting the speaker's statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, rendering the best, strongest possible interpretation of an argument. In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies or falsehoods to the statements of others, when there is another coherent, rational interpretation of the statements.

That's my choice. Others prefer to blast Rand wherever they can. (I am do not wish to imply that you do here, so I am stating explicitly that this is not my intention.)

Michael

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