Rights are not objective

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Norsefire, May 29, 2009.

  1. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    This is a kind of spin-off thread from my "Why limit ourselves" thread, except dealing with the broader issue of rights.

    Rights. Human rights, civil rights, etc

    We grant ourselves rights because it is an important part of establishing and maintaining civility. However, that's just it....we grant ourselves rights. Rights are what we determine they are.

    Nobody has an "inherent right", an objective right, to anything. Nobody has the right to life...and yet everyone does, from a certain viewpoint.

    My point is, rights are what we make them. They are not objective aspects of the universe, they are subjective aspects of human society.

    Just saying someone has a "right to life" doesn't stop someone from killing them. That is because that right isn't objective, it isn't anything of actual substance. It's a mere perspective.

    And this is simply the reality of things. It's rough, yes, and we can all wish it were different, but let's face reality here. We don't live in a land of candy and kisses. What does "might makes right" actually mean?

    It simply means that actual influence, actual strength, is what determines right. Because there is no alternative. That's reality.
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  3. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    Hence functioning justice is backed up by strength
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  5. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Yes. And without that strength, it would lack substance. That's my point. It is strength, might, that determines right.

    Justice, then, is customizable. And in this case the Nazis were not "wrong". They simply customize their brand of "justice" and, as there was backing by the people, that's that.

    It is our own power to determine morality.
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  7. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    yet the pen is (sometimes) claimed to be mightier than the sword

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  8. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    That is strength in and of itself. Influence.
  9. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    If that was the case philosophical ethics would write white .... as opposed to being the underling foundation of any even partially civilized community
  10. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Of course they hold value. My point is simply that you must understand that they only hold value and power because we give them value and power. It's rather like money... worthless except for the fact that we give it worth.
  11. lightgigantic Banned Banned


    then feel free to discuss the wielding of power divorced from notions of value

    I'm not sure how you propose to begin such a discourse though ....
  12. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

    To the original thread:

    This is the problem of representation. You say that money, rights, values do not belong objective universe/nature. What if you consider money as a representation of human effort under certain economic rules and system (the outcome is today's civilization with its good&bad madallion)?
    Human rights and values are also representations of actual relations within human societies. When the representation does not work, new alternatives can be or can not be created. Nature works with many representations in physical universe. Just check out living organisms.
    We have somehow differenciated from the rest of the nature, since our representations are not coded into DNA and do not restricted to survival in a jungle: We have created our own universe of human knowledge, and alongside some rules. Humans are the directors in their evolution rather than actors. This is an existencial privilage which was gained throughout thousands of years with try and fail system.
    However, human universe and its "non-physical" elements are not less important than the realities of non-human nature. We are not what we are just because of the nature, and very few of our daily life routines, believes, motives are derived or originated from nature. Mostly humans do not live in the same universe with the rest of the nature. They live in human universe. Even the food we eat do not grow in the wild fields, it was domesticated mutation provided by agricultural revolution. Now we can live in outer space. What has nature got to do with this?
    Basically, the power of principles, values, rights are bigger than the power of the sun. Human beings can formulise and symbolise the natural mechanisms in mathematical format. Redefine the reality with art and words. Their aim is not to return their caves, but to live in a fantastic human reality until the end of time against all bets of nature. Human reality is nothing but a human vision in an imaginary world. So words still rule everything.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member



    That depends on your precise definitions of "inherent" and "objective".

    Of course. No society - no rights. The same could be said for mathematics, philosophy or politics.

    That depends. Laws can certainly influence behaviour, as can fear of punishment and adherence to social conventions.

    No, you're wrong. Rights can and do exist in the absence of ability to enforce those rights. Rights exist when they are recognised, not when they are enforced.
  14. Crunchy Cat F-in' *meow* baby!!! Valued Senior Member


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  15. Saven Registered Member

    This person has the right of it. Many of you have (and this includes the wayward OP) have somehow bought into the belief that if something does not have physical presence that is observable with your eyes, then it somehow does not exist.

    Well, that's a whole lotta nonsense, as JamesR has just demonstrated. Mathematics exists... because we made it. It not having physical dimensions doesn't change that. The same holds true for rights, morals, and all other such ideas. They exist, whether you adhere to them or not. Them's the brakes, folks.
  16. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    Whether or not a right (or law, or whatever) continues to exist when no one is actually willing to obey or enforce it really just comes down to semantics.

    If everyone agrees that you have the right to own property, but when I start forcibly taking your property no one is willing to stop me, does your right to own property still exist? It all depends on whether you define 'rights' as 'ideals that some people believe in' or 'ideals that are enforced.' Either one is a potentially acceptable definition. But I think most people here would agree that an unenforced right is useless, even if it exists.
  17. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    The actual quote is "Under the rule of great men the pen is mightier than the sword." Implying that under the rule of petty men, or no rule at all, the pen might be of little use. People always like to leave the first part off.
  18. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    As in, "existing independently of human perception"

    Absolutely...and that would fall under enforcement, through might.

    Absolutely they can exist, and be totally useless. That is why "might makes right"
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    True, This! —
    Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
    The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
    The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
    But taking sorcery from the master-hand
    To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
    The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
    States can be saved without it!

    Though Bulwer's phrasing was novel, the idea of communication surpassing violence in efficacy had numerous predecessors.

    Certainly doesn't appear to be suggesting greatness is synonymous with brute force .......
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Semantics (n.): the study of the meaning of language.

    So, yes. It seems that whether a right exists is a semantic question. And so...?

    Yes. For example, consider the wrongful expropriation of land for "war veterans" by the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe. Despite the fact that this was an act carried out by a government, the international community in general regarded this as a breach of rights.

    I defined it above, more or less.

    Right (n.): an interest recognised by law or custom in some intangible thing.

    I disagree. For example, the UN Declaration on Human Rights has been enormously influential, in spite of being highly idealistic and unenforceable except by choice of member states.
  21. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    There are, of course, plenty of people who believe that rights exist objectively. In such a view a government may not recognize them, but still they exist. As more of a legal realist I have never believed that. To me, a "right" is nothing more than a convention to which a given society has agreed to generally adhere regarding what an individual may do, or what he may object to if done to him.

    I see them as very similar to rules of social etiquette in a way, save that with a "right" society usually considers the rule more fundamental to maintaining the social order the typical member of society wants to maintain. To me, it would be "impolite" to not invite me to my own daughter's wedding. I can imagine a society in which a father had a "right" to be at his daughter's wedding.

    In certain cases, as with the "right to live" it is difficult for me to imagine a stable society that does not recognize it on some level. In my mind's eye I see such a society descending into chaos. Yet those societies existed and they do not decay in the way I kind of want them to.

    So is there a "right to life" that transcends whatever the local society has to say about such a right? It seems to me that the question is bound up in notions similar to the question "Is there a God?" or "Was Plato right and our world contains shadow objects that are mere reflections of real objects?" In a Platonic universe, one imagines rights could well objectively exist, but there is no proof of them.
  22. wise acre Registered Senior Member

    When push comes to shove no one believes rights are merely subjective. In refined discussions of ideas, they often assert this, but out in their private lives and public lives, just like everyone else they believe in objective ethics.

    Oh, that man raped my child. It was not wrong 'per se' but we as a society have created certain ethical rules in order to......and therefore .....

    I don't know why people give so much weight to what they think is true very restricted contexts like philosophical discussions.

    Should I believe what people say when waxing philosophical or should I believe what they say and do in the VAST MAJORITY of their time alive?
  23. ogdred Registered Senior Member


    It appears that there is an implied premise built into your argument; that by definition rights are things which cannot be violated.

    For example, you claim that the existence of murder disproves the existence of an "inherent" right to life.

    Using this definition your argument is fairly strong. So strong, in fact, that it limits discussion. I wonder, though, if we are all in agreement about this definition. Is it in fact true that if rights were objective then they could not be violated--similar to the laws of physics (I am aware that some believe that even the laws of physics may not be steadfast, but let's just roll with popular opinion on this one)? It seems that this definition would also argue against the existence of a universal morality. I would guess--correct me if I'm wrong--that you're a moral relativist as well.

    I also can't help but bring up (and maybe this is nit-picking) that your definition of "objective" is a bit of a conversation killer as well. Isn't it rather difficult as humans to make claims about that which is "independent of human perception"?

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