What is a right?

Homepage Forums Politics What is a right?

This topic contains 43 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  _Robert_ 1 week, 3 days ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 44 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #24484

    Unseen
    Participant

    I always say that there are only two kinds of rights: legislated and imaginary.

    I’m using the word “legislated” to represent a wider concept of a commitment made by a legitimate entity empowered to create rights and with the wherewithal to enforce those rights in case they are abridged.

    Any other kind of non-imaginary right would seem to be irrelevant.

    Christians will say that rights are God-given and if you believe in God, he certainly has the legitimacy and power to create rights as well as the power to enforce them in case they are abridged. Yet, puzzlingly, he never ever deigns to do so.

    It would seem to follow from my discussion that if we have so-called “human rights,” they’d have to come from some entity like the U.N., though that body seems largely powerless to enforce said rights, and on those rare occasions when it tries, the results aren’t very impressive.

    Many people believe (or would like to believe) that humans are born with “inalienable rights,” which are rights which can’t be taken away. And yet, very clearly, there are no such rights in any practical and real sense.

    If you believe in such rights, where do you think they come from? Who bestows the or how are they bestowed? And most importantly, who or what is ready to guarantee them?

    #24485

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I think that rights are both given by others and asserted by the self.

    Michael Tomasello in “A Natural History of Human Morality” says

    who counts as a person? The short answer is that, within a given culture, a person is someone whom others recognize as a person within the public arena.

    Rights are related to personhood.  We give rights to those we see as a person, because they are a person.  Kant said that people should be treated as an end in themselves rather than as a means to something else.  Why do we feel he is right?  You could say, again, it’s the Golden Rule:  empathic concern and self-other equivalence.

    #24486

    Davis
    Participant

    Theoretical rights aren’t irrelevant. Activists in countries without human rights still use a template to fight for them (even if they never arrive). Frequently activists in developing countries aspire (and sometimes citizens) towards a set of high level human rights which could only be realised in one’s fantasies and yet some are. It’s a case of setting the goal post very high and then accepting the miracle that any of them were. These templates of human rights are not necesarily based on other countries or the UN declaration of human rights. The UN declaration is not actually legislated. Countries agreed to legislate it in their own way. Developed countries did it and improve those rights towards a very high standard that the UN declaration represents, while some, and only some, countries slowly implement UN declaration rights as a guide. The UN declaration is not in itself a legislated document nor is it implemented as is everywhere. And yet it is not irrelevant…that’s hardly the case. Since the declaration of human rights, these rights don’t just pop up organically and naturally as though it is an obvious end. It comes from citizens using a list of rights, inspired by other countries, activists, the non-legislated UN declaration and even from philosophers like John Rawls and Michael Waltzer. And even if some rights are not legislated, they can be defacto observed in some countries. For example in Montenegro they are hoping to join the European union. To do so you need a minimal standard of human rights (hopefully better than that standard). They have not fully implemented them and even then the judiciary doesn’t properly reinforce it. And yet society, media, politicians act as if those rights are there. Social media, newspapers, commentators and politicians still show outrage when a human right is violated even if it is not legislated. A de facto human right. In other words, legislated is just one factor in the efficacy of human rights. How many countries have legislated human rights yet do not remotely respect them? Russia comes to mind. Just as important to being legislated are if they are enforced, if they are respected by most people, discussed and inspire outrage and if those rights are aspired towards by citizens. The American contitution heavily borrowed theories of rights by John Locke, written 100 years before the American constitution was even concieved of. John Rawls wrote about a set of human rights far ahead of his time. Those rights weren’t legislated when he wrote them and yet they weren’t irrelevant. How many countries have realised some of those rights over the years? How many people who drafted constitutions and bills of rights tooked towards Rawls, Waltzer, Hanna Arendt and as even modern day drafeters write writes similar to how John Locke formulated them.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by  Davis.
    #24495

    Dennis
    Participant

    Interesting question. I just finished Francis Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay. He argues that rights basically arose from our biology, and are focused on protecting property and preserving that property for offspring. Organizations which grant more rights to constituents, in a Darwinian sense, have a superior chance of surviving than those that don’t. His work shows that such an evolution is slow but over time models which favor absolutism in one form or another die off. It’s a powerful explanation IMHO.

    #24496

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    I was under the impression that the Declaration of Human Rights was made after the second world war, to help prevent people from feeling aggrieved enough to start another world war.

    #24497

    Unseen
    Participant

    Interesting question. I just finished Francis Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay. He argues that rights basically arose from our biology, and are focused on protecting property and preserving that property for offspring. Organizations which grant more rights to constituents, in a Darwinian sense, have a superior chance of surviving than those that don’t. His work shows that such an evolution is slow but over time models which favor absolutism in one form or another die off. It’s a powerful explanation IMHO.

    The only thing that gives a so-called “right” reality is enforceability by those who have promulgated it. For example, the U.N. can declare human rights, which is nice, but then do you really have that right if when some force takes it away from you the U.N. turns its gaze away? It turns out, that right wasn’t “inalienable.”

    #24498

    Unseen
    Participant

    I was under the impression that the Declaration of Human Rights was made after the second world war, to help prevent people from feeling aggrieved enough to start another world war.

    Maybe if some entity were there to actually guarantee those rights…

    #24499

    Dennis
    Participant

    Yup. Goes without saying.

    #24500

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    It turns out, that right wasn’t “inalienable.”

    But the right to the right, is seen as inalienable by anyone who believes in human rights.

    #24501

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Presumably, what constitutes human rights would be different according to one’s broad culture.

    #24502

    Unseen
    Participant

    It turns out, that right wasn’t “inalienable.”

    But the right to the right, is seen as inalienable by anyone who believes in human rights.

    When a Christian claims to solve the creation of the universe by saying “God made it,” the atheist asks, “Who made God?” Likewise, when you talk about maybe not having a right but nevertheless having a right to a right, I can ask where THAT right came from?

    #24503

    Unseen
    Participant

    It turns out, that right wasn’t “inalienable.”

    But the right to the right, is seen as inalienable by anyone who believes in human rights.

    When a Christian claims to solve the creation of the universe by saying “God made it,” the atheist asks, “Who made God?” Likewise, when you talk about maybe not having a right but nevertheless having a right to a right, I can ask where THAT right came from?

    What a right is, is perplexing enough. A so-called “inalienable right” sounds kind of unicornish or leprechaunish.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 2 days ago by  Unseen.
    #24505

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    when you talk about maybe not having a right but nevertheless having a right to a right, I can ask where THAT right came from?

    It’s a human instinct to wish to treat others ethically, and it is an instinct shared by all living things, each to seek in its own way to thrive/survive/reproduce maximally.  So, in humans we often use the Golden Rule to change places between two people, based on the self-other equivalence of people within fixed roles, and a sense of equal and mutual deservingness.

    What a right is, is perplexing enough.

    A right is an expectation by the self, and a commitment by others towards the self, to treat the self with the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them, in accord with their need to thrive and survive maximally.

    #24506

    Davis
    Participant

    It’s a human instinct to wish to treat others ethically,

    Then why are most of of tribesmen in the interior of Brazil, remote Africa and Papua New Guinea agressive if not violent to all outsiders who enter their territory…including unarmed women and children? Perhaps you mean treat those within their family unit, perhaps within their community and maybe within their culture ethically? Because otherwise human history proves you completely and utterly wrong.

    and it is an instinct shared by all living things, each to seek in its own way to thrive/survive/reproduce maximally.

    This is as false as any statement can be. Carnivorous and parasitic beings are completely uninterested in any kind of ethical treatment of other beings unless it serves their selfish interests (of course all of this being done without any agency). When a wolf slowly kills a cow by eating its innards or when a worm slowly kills a dog by eating it from the inside…the only “thriving” involved is their need to stay alive…and there is nothing remotely ethical about any of this unless by ethics you mean harm anyone in your way to continue obsessively and endlessly replicating DNA. There may be more of a kind of ethics within a family of a social animal…however thriving is not always the motive or result. Even within species animals don’t hesitate to pointlessly kill another even if it serves no purpose towards what you call “thriving” Spend a week under water and in a forrest and you’ll be pretty hard pressed to find morality or ethics there.

    So, in humans we often use the Golden Rule to change places between two people, based on the self-other equivalence of people within fixed roles, and a sense of equal and mutual deservingness.

    You keep bringing up the Golden Rule and yet a casual survey of human civilization finds that this golden rule only comes up in those rare times and rare places where a civilization is relatively safe, free and prosperous. And even that is no guarantee. No. The golden rule was not well observed for almost every civilization that had some kind of pen and some kind of paper. That kind of treatment exists in their fairytales, not in their chronicals or literature. The golden rule may function as a useful concept in philosophical ethics and morality and in wishful thinking literature…it is not by any means a human instinct. It isn’t. No way.

    A right is an expectation by the self, and a commitment by others towards the self, to treat the self with the maximum benefit and minimum harm available to them, in accord with their need to thrive and survive maximally.

    No. The end goal of Human Rights is not to survive maximally. And no they are not a result of utilitarianism. It is rooted in respect for others and protection of the vulnerable and marginalised from the powerful and the opressive. Yes…a result of some human rights is an ability for people to choose their labour, have freedom in life decisions and human rights documents may talk about thriving but no, it is not about an equation that balances benefit and harm. It’s about human respect and dignity, a set of minimal protections and privileges and some people’s protections. When any human right is introduced it can create incredible difficulties for some and it does not necesarily make things better for most people.

    #24507

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I think you’re alluding to something like this: The realest rights are those legislated, with judicial oversight of due process on a per-incident basis when contested, and then enforced by an enforcement authority.

    Unfortunately in past history and present, religion has played all these roles, and much of Islam in particular still employ very top-down or vigilante approaches to asserting their religious belief or the pretense of it, undemocratically. Outsiders and protesters (e.g. say, atheists) can claim “human rights” are violated in these cases, perhaps even going to war over them, whether or not such claims are strictly, grammatically true.

    Should the definition of “rights” depend merely on authorities in power and/or democratic determinants?

    Then there’s the wished-for “rights” painted on signs, sung about, and campaigned for, and sometimes they become law and then practiced in reality. Or sometimes they don’t. Do women charging men with abuse have a right to be heard? Sans such rights, do they deserve to be heard? Should patriarchies get away with ignoring charges of woman abuse and child abuse that lack evidemce?

    Well, that seems to depend on the people in power deciding which “rights” should apply, while citizens in a democracy can only protest and/or adjust their votes.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 44 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.