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Thursday, August 22. 2019
This is more inquiry than commentary. Interested to see what people think.
The idea of human rights as myth, in my estimation, is really about using them in a myth-making manner. They are ideals to strive for, and protect. Basic moral goods that apply universally, and from which other 'rights' (perhaps better defined as legal rights) or duties may grow from.
I'd had a conversation about universal human rights with a Progressive who considers them to be a myth or social construct. Only useful or meaningful if they are enforced. I took a different view. I feel they are real things, existing as useful concepts whether they are enforced or not. In fact, I pointed out, enforcing them is the incorrect term. Protecting them, or efficiently allowing their application, is more to the point. But even if they are not protected or applied, they are real nonetheless. Which is why so many people have fought for them over the years, and why nations which do apply them efficiently see so many wonderful benefits to their society.
His next question was "what makes them real? How can you justify a right to a free attorney but not a right to free medical care?" I replied that was a logical fallacy. There is no right to a free attorney, that's just a SCOTUS ruling. That has no bearing on this discussion (though I'm open to other ideas that you may have in comments).
So what are basic human rights? To me, they are real things. Things you are endowed with at no cost, upon birth. The right to free speech, for example. The right to associate with whomever you like. The right to believe what you want. The right to worship as you see fit. These cost nothing. They do not impact others' rights, or other people (physically or directly) in any limiting fashion. What are typically known as "Natural Rights" - a thing Progressives don't believe in because, to them, everything is a social construct and open to manipulation.
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How can you justify a right to a free attorney but not a right to free medical care?" I replied that was a logical fallacy. There is no right to a free attorney, that's just a SCOTUS ruling.
I would have framed the answer differently, maybe in a way that would have revealed your more fundamental answer. I might not have been any quicker to come up with this in the moment, though.
The right is not to a free attorney. (Proggies seem to have a hard-on for getting things without cost). The right is to have your actions, if claimed to be criminal, judged in an open and transparent court that follows certain procedures. We, as a society via the USSC, have decided that ensuring the protection of that right by the intervention of a specially accredited individual is worth compelling (and funding) a minimal provision of those services to anyone who lacks the means to pay on their own.
As you point out for other Natural Rights, there is no cost to the right to a fair trial. There's a cost to the social structures (judges, juries, attorneys) that we've built up to protect that right. The social structures are not the right. This is a distinction from a 'right to health care' which can only be provided by compelling somebody to perform the services we define as health care for you. We, as a society, have determined that we will do that in some cases, i.e. emergency room care for the indigent, but similar to the provision of an attorney in a criminal case we also don't provide free legal services to everyone who wants a will drawn up.
Quote from book "Finding Purpose in a Godless World", by Ralph Lewis, p. 208:
"...morality can be considered a natural characteristic emerging from traits that are built on instinct and emotion and shaped by reason, evolving in an intensely social context. Humans certainly also have natural tendencies toward violence, cruelty, and selfishness, but prosocial, cooperative factors have had an overall advantage over the antisocial factors in terms of evolutionary adaptation, both biological and cultural. Cooperation and compassion have taken an especially strong lead over violence and cruelty in modern educated democratic secular societies, compared with most of human history...."
Yes. They exist as surely as we do, and are natural or inherent. While it is true that all experience is necessarily subjective based on our bodily encasement of our consciousness, and our uniqueness. You can't download into me and literally feel my life and vice versa. We have arrived at real and natural rights by using the common denominators in our subjective experience. We have long since deduced that other humans are conscious and feel similar to how we feel. We can put ourselves in the shoes of others by virtue of our own experiences and with our imagination. We can decide if something is so terrible, so agregious, that it shouldn't happen to anyone, ourselves included. Take for example "ye shalt not kill". Because being murdered is an unhappy experience for probably just about everyone, don't murder and conversely the right not to be murdered. A right to life, can be recognized as a real and natural right. There is a primary or fundamental relationship. There are some things, like freedom and life that are so fundamental that they are essentially black and white in terms of a natural right. It gets murky as we explore things that we don't agree on universally, especially if they are secondary or tertiary support of a basic right, or even further away. And also when the pay off for infringing on someone else's rights is very large. I think slavery is a good example of something that takes little effort to realize the wrong of it but the pay off has been so big that it happens. Basic income and Health care are good examples of things that are secondary or tertiary in supportive of life vs fundamental. Right to life yes, but if through reasonable effort you can secure an income to live on, even if you don't like that standard of living, then basic income is not a right because individuals still have self determination and choices in the matter. Choice and self determination in terms of being murdered or enslaved, not so much. We also have social nets in recognition of lack of choice through infirmity re: income, health care, etc. We can recognize that letting people starve that are infirm is akin to murder; depraved indifference to human life. Basic income vs being a barista and living in Mom's basement, not so much. As for the right to a free attorney or anything else like that, encoded in law, we come up with systems to manage fundamental rights and those that infringe upon them (criminal law) and in doing so there are some practical mechanics that have nothing to do with natural rights what so ever except as part of an over arching management system for verification and punishment of breakers of the natural right. To even ask about "the right to an attorney" as in the same category as a fundamental right shows a want of criterial thinking IMHO.
1. The Jewish Bible posits a view of humans as beloved children created in the image of One G-d, where:
"image of G-d" = free will + awareness of capital-G Good and capital-E Evil =>personal worth and responsiblity.
One G-d => fundamental equality and brotherhood of all humans.
The Jewish Bible - focused on moral and spiritual development - describes this new vision and the society that springs from it in terms of obligations.
2. The US Consitution and other Englightenment statements of "natural rights" are inextricably built on the Jewish concept, despite the professed agnosticism/deism of those thinkers. We moderns have only to flip on the TV to see that these supposedly "natural" rights are invisible, even risible, to non-Western cultures.
Because they were concerned with political power, they described exactly what the Bible describes - but in terms of rights - often negative rights, that is, the right to be left alone by the powerful.
The two descriptions - obligations and rights - complement each other. I believe this is what the founders of the US meant when they said that the Constitution was only suited to a moral people.
3. We are now in the midst of a neo-pagan revanchist campaign to roll back the Judeo-Christian concept of humanity.
This inevitably leads to weakening of Western democracy - not just because of a strategoc decision by Marxists to target religion, or the family. You quite literally can't maintain the political rights without obligation to the Judeo-Christian view of humanity that underpins them.
Natural law is a product of western Christian culture. It would not exist but for the Christian religion which is a religion based on free will...not force. As the west moves away from its Christian base we can observe the crudeness and force being applied to maintain a sense of civic law and provide free stuff in return for votes.
From the basis that if you are all alone there is no individual rights problem, it would seem that the issue of rights or
not comes up only in a social context. But I think the question should be, Is it in the interests of society as a whole to support the notion of basic human rights? And if not basic human rights, then what exactly do we support? We have tried hereditary monarchies and various authoritarian models and they don't work anywhere near as well as a constitution based on human rights.
I think human rights exist to the extent that organized society exists. Without an organized society, be it a tribe or a country under one government the only right we have is what we can take for ourselves. In other words strength and the ability to acquire and protect what you want is our 'natural' human right.
When you posit the "right to an attorney" you are mixing Natural Rights with Civil Rights.
Civil Rights are rights given to you by the society you live in. In this case, based on what society believe is the fair thing to do. Give you help in a court from someone who knows the rules there.
Natural Rights start with the idea that you have a right to life, and therefore, the right to do the things you need to which are necessary to live.
The Right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (That last was originally Property, but the Anti-slavery Founding Fathers, did not want to give the Pro-Slavery Southern Democrats the argument that Slaves were property.)
You have the Right to Life
The Right to do things necessary to live.
No-one has the right to take your life.
You own yourself, and therefore the fruits of your labor.
All of those Rights are balanced by the fact that you have no right to harm other people.
I assure you all that the universe is not made of quarks, leptons and natural rights.
Natural rights are a class of things which are useful shared beliefs. In fact, they are so useful, that they are best considered sacrosanct and inviolable. They are a class of beliefs that so important we need to treat them as absolute, larger than life entities.
Is this a fiction? Well, yeah, but it is an extremely beneficial fiction. Not unlike the shared fiction that pieces of paper with faces on them have intrinsic value. As long as we all share the belief that they do, then the system works.
So which natural rights should be considered sacrosanct? Well, we can argue about that, but they will only work as rights if we share the belief and the importance of having this belief.
One final point is that admitting something is a social construct isn’t the same as showing it is JUST a social construct. Going back to the example of money, which clearly is a social construct, it is also clearly an extremely beneficial one. It serves a purpose, making it easier for billions of people to interact and coordinate their activities. The same can be said about natural rights.
In summary natural rights are real. They are social constructs (real social constructs). They are useful, and they are made more useful when considered inviolable and sacrosanct.
I read that as Leprechauns. For a moment, the universe of my mind was full of them. Surely the time the vision existed was equivalent to some short lived isotope. Are either any less real? I agree with what you are saying about fundamental fundamentals. The building blocks of life precede biomass. We keep pulling on the thread to try to get to the first stitch in the chain of interdependence. Interestingly, Robert Lanza thinks that consciousness is the secret sauce in the fabric of the universe, but not in an I can ignore gravity because I feel like it kind of way. It is an interesting take on the double slot experiments. Could it also be consistent with the religious view?
I do disagree with your premise that sharing the belief makes it true or valid. Murder is fundamentally wrong, even if I really wants that pot o gold and get away with it and totally enjoy the benefits of the gold. I still took the most precious, irreplaceable thing the Leprechaun had.
Karen, I didn’t say they were true. I said they were social constructs, albeit, like money, extremely useful ones.
I guess I also agree that just sharing a belief doesn’t make it valid. But the money example shows the usefulness of it. Another useful social construct is to drive on the right side of the road. To prove it is a social construct, just go to England. Here they have another useful social construct, called driving on the right.
The thing which makes people flip out about the human construct of natural rights is that they are so important that they are best seen as inviolable and above question. That makes them prone to outlandish misunderstanding.
Sorry Bulldog, but you're way off the mark. There is no such thing as a "Right." That's why we have the term "Liberty" instead of "Freedom." It's the understanding that everything has an opportunity cost. You can't be a man and a woman at the same time (yet.) Nor are the there any "Natural Rights." Everything in life is dependent upon context. If we lived in a very poor country, then Down's babies would be euthanized at birth; because society couldn't afford to support any non-workers. For those people, it would be the moral thing to do.
The other rights which you mentioned all fall in the same category. The right to free speech is contingent upon social stability; during a civil war, like we have now, the right to free speech is revoked. That's why I can't call a black person a bad name. The right to associate with whomever you like is also not universal. When a white woman bears a mixed-race child, she is forcing that child onto a group of people who don't want it. In other words, she is committing an act of aggression. She's not asking to be left alone; on the contrary, she's asking other people to modify their moral code, to match her beliefs. And she's using the child as a weapon.
The right to believe what you want is also not a natural right, because what a person believes has a strong impact on what he does. So if I believe that killing babies, and then chopping them-up and selling the parts is moral, that doesn't make it true. I would get thrown in jail. A person's beliefs must be reasonably congruent with the society in which he lives. Otherwise, he's delusional. Sure, I can believe in Santa Claus without hurting anybody, but the more my beliefs digress from the beliefs of other people, the more alienated society will become. There is a social cost.
And finally, you mention the right to worship as one sees fit.
This is a very important point, because the act of worship binds people together in a very special way. Allow me to illustrate:
Imagine that you could take a child, and teach it to cook Italian food, speak Chinese, play Swedish games, and count in Hebrew. Would that be good for the child? Of course not. All of those cultural elements are incongruent. So what you would get is a very confused child. That's not good. By the same token, a child's religious education must be congruent with the society in which he or she will grow-up. You can't take fifty children with fifty different cultures and place them all in the same "Church" because they will all get confused. They need congruence; in the classroom, and in the Church, and in the home. For that reason, in my opinion, there should not be a wide variety of religions in America. This is an English speaking, Christian, Anglo-Saxon country. Learning American culture takes many years of study; and when done right, results in a group of people who know and love each other, who trust each other, and who are infused with a beautiful heritage of which they can be rightfully proud. Religion is part of that. Believe me, Nigerians don't sing "Silent Night." That's why they shouldn't be here.
What you describe is a social construct, or that rights only exist with enforcement, as my Progressive friend believes.
However, your decision to hold your tongue because of societal rules, or even actual legal restrictions, doesn't diminish your natural right to say something.
Thus the right itself exists naturally. What is unnatural is the removal of that right by law or society.
And the rest of your description doesn't add to the discussion except to say that "If you're not like me, you don't belong." and I really don't agree with that in any format.
Bulldog: Saying that "If you're not like me, then you don't belong" is an unfair generalization. I never suggested that all members of society must be the same. I am saying that there is a limit to the amount of incongruence which a society can tolerate. The society which we have today is very incongruent.
We're all legally required to say that we love homosexuals; even if we don't. And that we like Feminism; even if we don't. And that we're glad to have illegal Mexicans for neighbors; even if we aren't. It's enforced incongruence on a massive scale. People's true feelings don't matter at all. The truth has become illegal.
People naturally want to live in a society which values heritage, history, family, culture, neighborhood, and of course, virtue. Right now, Americans are forced to value none of those things. It's illegal.
Some very good ideas here. I would add C S Lewis's view of the Tao in The Abolition of Man. There are some shared values in the best thinkers worldwide, even if they are not universally observed (or even admired) in those societies. Whether they are installed by God, developed in the minds of the wise, or simply learned by trial-and-error as "good rules" may be unanswerable, but their existence is important.
It should be noted that there are many societies which observe the rules of tribal advantage over all others. the higher rules are remote to the thinking of people day-to-day. Natural rights may exist in these places, but they are sickly. In the West, especially in America, we rate them higher, even to the point of foregoing tribal and individual advantage to secure them for all. You will not find many places in history where anyone has ever given up privileges and advantages solely on the basis of being convinced it is just.
Any rights derive from God and the fear of God (in the Judeo-
Christian Biblical sense of awe and respect). That's what our country's founding documents say, right?
Get rid of God and you have no accountability, no boundaries and no rights. You have Auschwitz, you have Pol Pot, you have the Katyn Forest Massacre. The stronger will kill or oppress the less powerful.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is getting closer and closer to that point. Part of rights is recognizing there is Truth. There is no Truth in the U.S. any more.
The whole notion that something is a "Social Construct" and we can dismiss it as negligible and toss it aside is to me a false notion. Humans are social animals and our entire survival strategy is social behavior/culture. As social humans we invent tools, ideas, behaviors, rituals, laws, buildings, dams, power plants, sewer plants to further our survival.
If we mean a social construct is not an instinct -- Okay. But human instincts are mild and few. Sex may be an instinct but it is surrounded by social construct behaviors, signals, clothing, rituals, etc. That does not make those any less important than the basic instinct to mate.
Natural Rights may be a social constructs but important ones, effective ones, beneficial ones. But they are not to be dismissed as simply fantasy inventions of social humans.
"True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to to [sic] alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge."
-- Cicero, De Re Publica , book 3.
My take on the difference between a natural right and a civil right is a thought experiment. Reduce the situation to two people living on an island that produces just enough resources for the two of them to survive. Would you still have the ability to make a just claim of the right on the other person. So the right to speak you r conscience and worship your god (or not ) as you wish? Yes. The right to free healthcare or a minimum standard of living? Well the coconuts may grow on trees, but the fish certainly don't. You may have the right to not have the other interfere with your ability to gather enough for yourself, but you do not have a right to demand that the other gather them for you.
If one of you is better at fishing and the other is better at climbing trees, you have the right to exchange two coconuts for one fish one week, and two fish for one coconut the next, depending on how abundant fish and coconuts are at any given time - that is the right to freely exchange and trade.