CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Today in the United States many of us will be voting to decide who will lead our nation in many key legislative and executive posts, up to (most obviously) the Presidency.

Rather than discuss politics, though, I thought I would open the comments for visitors to talk about how inalienable human rights (or the inalienable rights of any persons) are understood to be constituted within various worldviews.

I'm less interested in what those rights are supposed to be, than in how (or whether?) a claim of "inalienable rights" can be true within various worldviews: if X is true about fundamental reality, then inalienable rights can-or-do (or cannot?) follow from that truth, how?

Also, I would rather respondents make a positive case (even if briefly) for their own positions first before critiquing someone else's position.

Due to hassles back here at home base, I'm not likely to be checking in constantly on this thread, but I did want to start it while I was passing through.

JRP

16 comments:

Just a comment to sign up for comment tracking. {g}

JRP

I suggest, tentatively, that human beings have the property "value" in a similar way to how e.g. material bodies have "mass" or certain subatomic particles have "charge". As a Christian, I understand this as following from the fact that human beings are made in God's image.

I thought about it for a while, and here goes:

A "right" is a principle that defines how a human being is legitimately entitled to act and what he or she is legitimately entitled to expect in a social context. It defines the scope of conduct that an individual can engage in free from any coersion by other individuals.

All rights are therefore inalienable by definition. Bear in mind that we are not talking here about WHAT those rights are. Rather, what makes them inalienable. You cannot say a particular human being has a right to something and then deny it to another human being (i.e., you can make the horrific claim that a slave is not a human being, but you cannot say that if a slave is a human being, that he does not have certain rights that other human beings have).

Rights, as we conceive them, are what make us human and a right's inalienability is the vehicle by which we acknowledge the humanity of others.

Okay, back to election results now.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Oh, and just in case it hasn't sunk in, yet: YOU LOST!

The deleted comment, incidentally, was the same "YOU LOST" (in case it hadn't sunk in yet) but with a lot of direct profanity that insulted women and homosexuals. Not-incidentally, it had nothing to do with discussing how a claim of "inalienable rights" can be true within various worldviews.

For what it's worth, Gol, I wasn't supporting either Obama or McCain. As far as this election went (and the last one, too, for that matter), I was a political agnostic. {g} There are however several Cadrists, including some you like to insult on a regular basis, who were hoping for an Obama win; as were a number of my friends, including the person I love the most in the world. I may not trust Obama, but she didn't lose, so I'm happy for her happiness anyway. {s!} (Not least because I know very well that she isn't happy for herself, but for the people she thinks will be helped by Obama's win.)

Actually pertinent comments to follow next.

JRP

{{All rights are therefore inalienable by definition.}}

Just for clarity's sake, I take it you're referring to the part of the definition where you talked about rights defining "the scope of conduct that an individual can engage in free from any coersion by other individuals"?

If so that raises the question of whether rights under this definition either don't exist or aren't inalienable in relation to groups who might coerce. (Though since groups are typically groups of individuals, maybe the same principle is supposed to apply?)

Not critiquing against it; just looking for more detail. {s!}


Also, I didn't notice anything about how a claim of inalienable rights can be true within any particular worldview. Though admittedly, it might not be problematic procedure to start with the 'what' and move on to the 'how' later.

JRP

Matt,

also for purposes of looking for more detail: If God exists and makes us in His image, how would our property of "value" follow from that being true? God has a similar property of "value", therefore we would also do so as entities made in His image? (Whatever it means to be "made in His image"?)

Also, supposing the rights of persons to be directly (proportionately?) dependent upon the "value" of the person, how are those rights and/or that value inalienable per se if God exists and makes us in His image?


Not opposing or critiquing against the idea; just nudging for more detail. {s!}

JRP

Oh, and just in case it hasn't sunk in, yet: YOU LOST!

Not me! I won. But you know the fact that you were for the side I was far did make me think about the idea that maybe my side is wrong after all. But then I realized, naw, that guy is so confused he could easily be a republican too.

"Rights, as we conceive them..."

Who's "we"? We "birth" them? So it sounds like it depends on the group who is talking about rights, and the rights as they conceptualize their set of rights. And as long as a "right" can be in dispute, it doesn't sound very inalienable at all.

As a practice, no right is inalienable. History and many governments around the world have shown this to be true. Rights are only inalienable if the standard is unchangeable. It embodied Jefferson's belief that a rational Creator had a concept of man in mind and man retains that concept no matter what temporal authority decrees. If you kill the transcendent form, you kill the ideal.

Jason,

Thanks for the nudge. The idea is that God is the being of maximal value (along with power, knowledge and goodness), and we ourselves have some value by virtue of those aspects of God's nature which we share (i.e. have in common) – sharing aspects of God's nature is what I understand by being made "in his image" (exactly which aspects and to what degree is a question which will have to be partially postponed). Further questioning as to how we have this property is probably going to draw a blank from me, I'm afraid. How is it that electrons have negative charge? Er, it belongs to their nature.

There are a couple of important problems with the mass/charge analogy, though. Firstly, value can't be detected in the same way that those properties can. Secondly, treating (e.g.) massive bodies as if they aren’t massive will get you into practical difficulties, while treating beings of intrinsic value as if they’re valueless will get you into normative difficulties*. That’s how I understand "rights": as a set of descriptions of the ways in which human beings must be treated in order to recognise their instrinsic value. To violate someone's rights is therefore to treat someone as if they didn’t have the value they, in fact, have. These rights are inalienable because human beings possess them just by virtue of being human beings – it's no more possible to remove a human being’s human rights than it is to remove a material body’s mass. As you say, just what rights these are is another question.

* If God will ultimately judge everyone, then this could get you into practical difficulties as well, of course.

Adude,

{{As a practice, no right is inalienable.}}

This leads to the interesting question of whether, given that persons in principle have inalienable rights, are those rights actually being undone or revoked by various temporal authorities in practice?

Which is to be distinguished, of course, from the position that persons do not have inalienable rights at all.


{{And as long as a "right" can be in dispute, it doesn't sound very inalienable at all.}}

This seems a little like saying that if there are disputes about biology (for example), then it doesn't sound as though there are objective facts about biology to be disputing about. Clarification?


{{Who's "we"? We "birth" them? So it sounds like it depends on the group who is talking about rights, and the rights as they conceptualize their set of rights.}}

Good observation! Yet not necessarily against what Lifeguard was trying to say. (I'm unsure whether LG was trying to give a "how" to how "inalienable rights" obtain or exist or derive or whatever.)

LG, would you more-or-less agree with Dude's (brief) assessment about how rights are derived? (I seem to recall that you might, though I might be misrecalling... I declare 'misrecalling' to be a real word. {g}) If so, what about his (apparent?) dis-affirmation of the rights being inalienable in principle?


Also, would either of you care to link your positions up with your worldview beliefs about the characteristics of fundamental reality?

JRP

Matt,

{{These rights are inalienable because human beings possess them just by virtue of being human beings – it's no more possible to remove a human being’s human rights than it is to remove a material body’s mass.}}

I may have misunderstood your meaning here: because while I can see that in one sense you're appealing to the law of noncon (a human being cannot both have the property of value and not have the property of value, insofar as the property is somehow intrinsic to personal existence per se); on the other hand it seems very obvious that a material body may have its mass removed and/or changed while still remaining some kind (even some relevant kind) of material body. Ditto with our power and knowledge as persons; values (uh... terminology blip here? {g}) that may increase or decrease in our history as persons.

Is the analogy breaking down here (and if so, why)? Or did you mean to be affirming that our value may increase and decrease like our body mass, knowledge or power? (And if so, how does that fit with the rights being inalienable? Or are some rights inalienable and some not?)

JRP

"Secondly, treating (e.g.) massive bodies as if they aren’t massive will get you into practical difficulties, while treating beings of intrinsic value as if they’re valueless will get you into normative difficulties*."

Very well said, Matt. Misjudging physical properties results in a denial of mastery or power. However kingdoms have long ignored these the normative "realities". Greek, Roman, and Germanic polities struggled with a nascent forms of these rights, and they are recognized fully only in the 18th century (if that is accurate) in protest to the actions of a body of elected representatives partially fulfilling these goals.

Ignoring these "realities" seems not as inevitably calamitous as never properly being able to compute the flight of a cannonball. On the other hand, achieving this power allows minorities to control situations so they suffer less from the denial of the normative rules.

Just to answer your question, Jason, I'm a quasi-fundie Christian, socialist-sympathetic, traditionalist who believes in the primacy of the societal compact.

Jason,

OK, bad analogy. Perhaps if we switch to my other example it will make things clearer. An "electron without charge" just isn't an electron, and my proposal is that the same applies for "human being without value" - both descriptions are contradictions in terms.

I didn't mean to suggest that the value of a person is proportional to their power or knowledge; that's not what I think. I think that value is a(n intrinsic) property of human beings - and God - in addition to these. This value is the same for all human beings by virtue of their humanity, and so the rights I'm thinking of are the same for all human beings at all times in history and at all stages of their lives, in the same way that all electrons anywhere and ever have the same charge. (Now some high-level physicist is going to tell me this isn't the case! :s)

Dude,

Certainly, denying these normative truths has gotten certain societies into practical difficulties in the past, as well. The Bible speaks a lot of God judging unjust kingdoms and other authority structures.

Matt,

I understand your point about God's judgment and justice. I'm just trying to leave God out of the equation.

I'm looking at it through a sort of survival and capability model--a Darwinist model of sorts. Definitely as societies have long survived with ethics less than what we would think of as ideal, there's not as big a selection pressure on normative misjudgments. That which survives asserts itself as a viable case in point.

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