• DrOlsnesLea
    13
    As much as Natural Rights, here is one legal account of Human Rights in USA:

    "Human rights in the United States"

    "Treaties ratified"

    "The U.S. has signed and ratified the following human rights treaties:
    * International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (ratified with 5 reservations, 5 understandings, and 4 declarations.)[266]
    * Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
    * International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
    * Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    * Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees [267]
    * Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography [268]

    Non-binding documents voted for:
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights [269]"

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_the_United_States#Treaties_ratified

    To say that these legal rights have no impact is to have no sense of reality, IMO!
  • fdrake
    3.6k


    One other thing. The UK was still paying out its extant slave owner recompensation until 2015.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    That's just disgusting. I wonder how many British tax payers were aware of this prior to 2015?
  • VagabondSpectre
    1.8k
    It would be difficult without force to do so, as history shows. But you would need to convince them that the slaves were human just as much as the slave owners. Maybe force isn't always necessary, since the British slave trade was eventually abolished by those who opposed it in Parliament.Marchesk

    One of the issues with natural rights is that they're more or less only extant or operant if a given group of humans endorses and enforces them (where force as moral maintenance tends to be less necessary the more universally agreeable the status quo is).

    For example, it's true that the inherent subjectivity in my original appeal can be incorporated into a justification of slavery, but it's not as if we might accidentally reason our way into a state of slave-ownership (it takes force to create and maintain slavery, and at least in many cases it takes force to end it). In my view, natural rights are more like a post-hoc rationalization of the current way of things, and sometimes the way we want things to be (as persuasive appeals, they do have utility, but not at the extremes).

    Consider that you could go back in time and unambiguously demonstrate to slave owners that black people are people too; equals (and also women while you're at it). Even in accepting that they're greedily exerting force and oppression to exploit others, are we sure that the idea of universal natural rights would persuade them to relinquish their position of power?

    Instead, I advise a full spectrum of moral persuasion (make an inductive-cumulative argument rather than a deductive argument). Where persuasion fails, the threat of force sometimes becomes relatively more effective, with the last resort being the use of force itself. I realize the irony of advocating for the use of force to achieve moral ends, but sometimes our world creates situations where no agreement and cooperation can be made, and our perfect moral spheres breakdown into self-preservation without fail.

    Ultimately, humans are immensely swayable and occasionally unreasonable beasts, and because of the high stakes with which we play (against each-other), It is absolutely imperative that we exhaust each and every avenue of rational and emotional persuasion which can help us reduce mutual risk and maximize returns, because our seemingly inexorable return to violence and inconsiderate use of force (upon each-other) is always looming.

    Toward that end, my go-to tactic of moral suasion is basic but effective: appeal directly to the most fundamental drives and values that nearly all humans hold; the desire to be free and unmolested from and by others; to have the opportunity for movement and to thrive (to seek happiness); to go on living with future security. By building the case for non-aggression and cooperation that is based around these nearly universally agreed upon personal values, not only do we start with values that resemble natural rights, we inherently frame them in a way that is relevant to the context and circumstances individuals or groups must operate in (the constraints of environment). Nearly natural rights might not get the shiny sticker of ultimate objectivity from philosophy departments, but they are far more practical. In the case of the slave owner, I would indeed move very quickly to the threat of force (revolt and rebellion) if I failed to persuade them that freeing slaves and ending slavery from a place of cooperation was in their interests.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    Good response. I can get behind that. I don't think natural rights exist on their own, but they're a desirable ideal to aim for based on, "the most fundamental drives and values that nearly all humans hold", to quote you.
  • Valentinus
    772
    It may be worthwhile to look at the Strauss objection to Nietzsche claiming that "historicism" cancelled the specifically "human" as a measure of things. Strauss intended his argument to only indict Nietzsche but remains interesting if one looks at it more broadly. Is being human a part of a process or a quality that informs processes? Or something else not captured by either description?
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    Explain this and what it has to do with our subject, please.David Mo

    Imprimis, fairly early on in this thread, titled "Natural Rights," I noted that I felt the only rights that exist are legal rights. The conversation then devolved into whether there is such a thing as an immoral law. I took, and take, the position that it's inappropriate to refer to a law as immoral. You then claimed that the immorality of a law is what creates the right to oppose it, and made reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You also asserted that laws are prescriptive, apparently in support of your claim that laws can be immoral.

    Now laws which create legal rights and provide for their protection and enforcement are prescriptive in nature according to your definition. Therefore, or so it seems your argument goes:

    A law is a prescriptive act: it defines what can and cannot be done and what must be done. Therefore, if immorality refers to acts, you cannot separate the law from the acts, and the law that prescribes immoral acts is immoral.David Mo

    Taking as I do the position that it's inappropriate to characterize laws as immoral (or moral), I noted that there are very few laws, including those regarding legal rights, that address what is moral or immoral as they don't prohibit or allow or mandate actions that we would characterize as moral or immoral.

    Therefore, assuming for the sake of argument that your claim that laws may be immoral is correct, I point out that very few laws are of the kind you think can be said to be immoral.

    I hope that helps.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    384


    One of the issues with natural rights is that they're more or less only extant or operant if a given group of humans endorses and enforces them (where force as moral maintenance tends to be less necessary the more universally agreeable the status quo is).

    I feel like there are two issues here that are separate and need to be disentangled.

    A) Whether natural rights exist as a matter of actual truth.
    B) Whether we can enforce these natural rights or whatever we perceive them to be.

    We could have A and not B but we could also have B without A if we're just enforcing made up rights. "A" is a matter of philosophy while B is a matter of enforcement.

    If natural rights exist then we have is a rule: Do not do X. Like any other rule, it could be enforced or not. Normally we don't say a rule which isn't enforced in a certain instance "isn't a rule."
  • David Mo
    469
    that address what is moral or immoral as they don't prohibit or allow or mandate actions that we would characterize as moral or immoral.Ciceronianus the White

    Your answer does not clarify your concept of the law, which is what I was asking. That's why I'll clarify what I mean by law.
    I understand the word "law" in the legal sense. That is, as a part of a particular positive law. Positive law is a statute that has been established by a legislature, a court or another human institution and can take any form that the authors wish. Positive law is by definition institutional and written.
    To avoid confusion I will refer to moral standards as moral "norms". They are by definition neither institutional nor written.

    Legal rights are a very small part of the law.Ciceronianus the White
    Accordingly, I do not understand that you separate the law from the legal right. What is the function of the law other than to define, guarantee or promote legal rights?

    I noted that there are very few laws, including those regarding legal rights, that address what is moral or immoral as they don't prohibit or allow or mandate actions that we would characterize as moral or immoral.Ciceronianus the White
    Positive law is not addressed to sanctioning the moral norm. But it can and does often cross, interfere with or hinder moral rights that a part of the population considers inevitable.
    It is a very frequent case that does not need examples, but I will propose one. The law that prohibits legal access to euthanasia interferes with the moral right to a dignified death that a large part of society considers inalienable. Do not tell me that there is no conflict between legality and morality here, because it seems obvious.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    Your answer does not clarify your concept of the law, which is what I was asking.David Mo

    The law is so enormous I'm not sure it's useful to attempt to define it. I've practiced law for 40 years now, and am leery of efforts by philosophers to fit it into boxes of their construction. The law is civil and criminal. The law consists of legislative acts, regulations adopted by adminstrative agencies, judicial opinions. In the U.S., such laws are enacted and enforced by federal, state and local governments. The Common Law often has application in civil matters. The law is whatever legislation and regulations that have been adopted in the manner recognized in the system by federal, state and local governments, supplemented by interpretive judicial decisions, which address virtually all aspects of human conduct.

    Examples of laws which don't involve legal rights: Building codes; setback requirements; traffic laws; laws governing the licensing of cosmetologists, veterinarians, surveyors, dieticians; laws imposing permitting requirements for hunting and fishing; laws governing fence heights, noxious weeds, lawn height, stormwater regulations, zoning variances and conditional use permits; signage. Laws related tot he licensing of dogs and cats and other animals. Alas, I could go on and on.

    quote="David Mo;413966"]The law that prohibits legal access to euthanasia interferes with the moral right to a dignified death that a large part of society considers inalienable. Do not tell me that there is no conflict between legality and morality here, because it seems obvious.[/quote]

    First, we have the question of moral righs. As you know, I don't think such rights exists. If the law prohibits euthanasia, there is no right to a dignified death. I thing people who are competent should be allowed to choose death (I'm a traditional Stoic, in this an other ways). That doesn't mean they have a right to do so. There are systems of morality that aren't dependent on "rights." I don't think it follows from the fact that the law may address conduct considered moral or immoral that they themselves are moral or immoral.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    I thing people who are competent should be allowed to choose death (I'm a traditional Stoic, in this an other ways). That doesn't mean they have a right to do so.Ciceronianus the White

    What is the difference?
  • David Mo
    469
    The law is so enormous I'm not sure it's useful to attempt to define it. ICiceronianus the White

    The law is whatever legislation and regulations that have been adopted in the manner recognized in the system by federal, state and local governments, supplemented by interpretive judicial decisions, which address virtually all aspects of human conduct.Ciceronianus the White
    This is a definition that matches mine.

    Examples of laws which don't involve legal rights: Building codes;Ciceronianus the White
    All the examples you mention define or regulate legal rights. For example: building codes regulate various rights for the exercise of a certain economic activity with respect to free enterprise, the environment, etc. that affect the rights of the builder, the clients and the inhabitants of the surroundings.

    As you know, I don't think such rights exists. If the law prohibits euthanasia, there is no right to a dignified death. I thing people who are competent should be allowed to choose deathCiceronianus the White

    What is the difference?Marchesk
    That's the point. I don't know what you (Ciceronianus) mean by "rights". If you say that a person should be allowed to do X, you are saying that this person has the right to do X because the right is nothing more than the expression of the conditions of use of a capacity or the obligation to do something.

    To accept a set of rights is to approve a distribution of freedom and authority, and so to endorse a certain view of what may, must, and must not be done. — Wenar, Leif, Rights, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    All the examples you mention define or regulate legal rights. For example: building codes regulate various rights for the exercise of a certain economic activity with respect to free enterprise, the environment, etc. that affect the rights of the builder, the clients and the inhabitants of the surroundings.David Mo

    You must think that our world is full of natural rights or legal rights, brimming with them. We have no natural or right to windows of a certain thickness, to toilet traps of certain minimum width, or not live adjacent to properties which have fences which exceed a certain height, or to have curbs and gutters, to retention ponds. Neither do we have a natural or legal right to have up to a certain number of cats without being required to obtain a license, all derivative of a natural (I think?) right to the exercise of a certain economic activity. Builders rights, client rights, inhabitants rights. How may rights do you believe there to be?

    Such provisions are regulations designed to achieve what's thought to appropriate and in the interest of promoting public welfare in various respects. But there is no right to have housing or office space or roads, etc., of a particular kind. Nor is there any general right of public welfare, or right to be comfortable, or to be warm, or to be happy or pleased because one's lawn doesn't have weeds or isn't enclosed by a high fence.

    If you say that a person should be allowed to do X, you are saying that this person has the right to do X because the right is nothing more than the expression of the conditions of use of a capacity or the obligation to do somethinDavid Mo

    It's not necessary to accept the existence of a natural right to do X, however, to declare that X should not be prohibited. If you refer to legal rights, I've never claimed they don't exist, nor have I claimed they shouldn't exist.

    I don't have to accept that we all have a right to live to say that we should not kill one another. Virtue ethics, for example, isn't premised on perceived or assumed rights and obligations.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976


    The difference arises from the fact I think what it is proper or moral to do should not be determined based on supposed "rights." I don't think I should prevent a competent person who has an incurable, painful disease from taking his/her own life because I have no good reason, no moral reason, to compel that person to live, and by doing so I would be cruel. That isn't the same as saying the person has a right to die. There can be moral duties without entitlements.
  • David Mo
    469
    You must think that our world is full of natural rights or legal rights,Ciceronianus the White
    I did not mention natural rights, but moral rights. Therefore, the rest of your comment does not relate to my proposal.
    Furthermore, the examples you give referred to legal rights, which exist as soon as a law stipulates them. Not to moral rights that are of another order.
    I don't have to accept that we all have a right to live to say that we should not kill one another.Ciceronianus the White
    If you say there's a "thou shalt not kill" rule, it's because there's a right to live. What else is it based on?
    There can be moral duties without entitlements.Ciceronianus the White
    If there is a duty not to do something to someone it is because there is a right of someone not to suffer from something. Duty and right are two sides of the same coin. You can't claim for one without recognizing the other.

    Marchesk asked you a question that you have not answered: what is the difference between X can do Y and X has the right to do Y? You have not explained the difference yet.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    I did not mention natural rights, but moral rights.David Mo

    Now there are moral rights as well as natural rights and legal rights?
    Furthermore, the examples you give referred to legal rights, which exist as soon as a law stipulates them. Not to moral rights that are of another order.David Mo

    I don't think so. You seemed to feel there was some moral right (apparently) which was "in back of" or justified or resulted in the various regulations I mentioned. I don't think they create legal rights, let alone moral rights, but was trying to point out that there are no recognizable rights of any kind on which such regulations are based. Thus, there is no right to comfort or warmth on which building codes are based, or right to buildings made in a particular manner, or rights which somehow support lawn height regulations like a supposed right to well-ordered and pleasing lawns or some kind of aesthetic right.
    Marchesk asked you a question that you have not answered: what is the difference between X can do Y and X has the right to do Y? You have not explained the difference yet.David Mo

    Well, I think I did, in a reply to him a portion of which you quote.

    I mention once more virtue ethics. Put very simply, those who live virtuous lives don't kill people because killing people is not virtuous, not because people have a right to live. Those who wish to live a virtuous life are obliged to act virtuously.

    I prefer an ethics which isn't based on the claims of people that they are entitled to be treated in a certain way. I prefer an ethics which provides that one should strive to be virtuous, which means to act in a certain way in order to live a good life (the old Stoics, or some of them at least, used to say "act in accordance with nature" meaning in accord with the underlying reason pervading nature). The emphasis is on people having the responsibility to act in a proper manner rather than people being naturally or otherwise entitled to all kinds of rights they must be granted which must be honored by everyone else.
  • David Mo
    469
    Now there are moral rights as well as natural rights and legal rights?Ciceronianus the White
    No. There are moral rights and legal rights. Whether moral rights are natural or not is another question.

    Well, I think I did, in a reply to him a portion of which you quote.
    I mention once more virtue ethics.
    Ciceronianus the White
    This is not an explanation of the question. The question began with "What is the difference between...?" You haven't explained any difference between being allowed and being entitled.

    Speaking of virtue you explain nothing because you do not explain why being virtuous implies that a man is allowed to die when his life is unbearable. Virtue is a disposition to do good, but before you know whether a man is virtuous you have to specify what good is. You cannot be virtuous by raping children. Virtue is not opposed to moral rights. In any case, it complements them. Since you establish that something is good you establish a duty to do. And since you establish a duty you establish a subject of rights. You should not kill is to say the same as others have the right not to be killed by you. Duty and right are two inseparable sides of the same coin.

    And this is the only way to explain why you should allow someone to die a dignified death. Because he has the right to it.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    You haven't explained any difference between being allowed and being entitled.David Mo

    I allow someone to share food I'm eating. Or, someone takes some of the food I'm eating, and I don't prevent him/her from taking it. He/she isn't entitled to my food, has no right to it, in either case.

    Have you never permitted someone to do something even though there is no right to do it? Have you never exercised forbearance (declined to restrain someone from doing something although there is no right to do it)?

    I would forbear from allowing someone to die a dignified death not because of some purported right to suicide, but for reasons such as: I should not decide whether someone lives or dies; I should not be the cause of another's suffering, or perpetuate the suffering of others.

    It isn't virtuous that people be allowed to die. Virtue refers to how I/we should conduct ourselves. The question what is virtuous in the case of someone who wants to die arises only when it is in the power of a person to prevent another person from fulfilling that desire. The question then arises--should I/we prevent the person from dying although they want to under the circumstances (e.g. because they're suffering and that suffering will not otherwise end)?

    I would say no, for reasons such as those I noted earlier, not because they have "a right to die."

    But no, if you're now asking me to explain why being virtuous is good and not being virtuous is bad, I decline to do so. This discussion doesn't require we each describe what is moral, and why. Also, I want to get some lunch and do so of that law stuff.
  • David Mo
    469
    I allow someone to share food I'm eating. Or, someone takes some of the food I'm eating, and I don't prevent him/her from taking it. He/she isn't entitled to my food, has no right to it, in either case.Ciceronianus the White
    Indeed, because you have changed the instance from a question of right to a graceful donation. There are no recipient rights in a donation. That is not my point. My case is when the recipient has some right to something you have. Which is the same as saying that you have an obligation to do or should do something. You should give up this meal is a different case from you want to give up. The link between duty and right as two sides of the same act is what you can't explain with your theory of virtue.

    But no, if you're now asking me to explain why being virtuous is good and not being virtuous is bad, I decline to do so.Ciceronianus the White
    No wonder you're declining. Because you can't do it. If you stick to a concept of virtue without specifying you can do all the verbal filigrees you want. If you are forced to explain what virtue is, you find yourself with the unavoidable chain of virtue-well-duties and rights.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976

    You beg the question by insisting I address a situation involving a right. I don't address circumstances where someone has a right to what I have because I don't think such a right, or any right, exists unless it's a legal right. Remember?

    Now I could, and perhaps should, demand that you explain to me what a non-legal right is since you claim I must address only circumstances in which they're at issue. I'd be interested in your non-circular definition.

    I confess I find it hard to understand why you believe, apparently, that acting virtuously, e.g. wisely, prudently, benevolently, justly, is a matter of rights and duties.
  • frank
    5.1k


    It's just like where women didn't have the legal right to abortion, but then they did. We assume that their rights just weren't recognized previously, not that they suddenly bloomed a right. Why is that a problem?
  • David Mo
    469
    You beg the question by insisting I address a situation involving a right. I don't address circumstances where someone has a right to what I have because I don't think such a right, or any right, exists unless it's a legal right. Remember?Ciceronianus the White
    I remember very well, but you have failed in two essential points of your explanation: you have not been able to explain how the obligation of someone to do or not to do x to Y does not imply a right of Y, and how one can be virtuous without this implying a duty to do or not to do.

    Your error lies in the fact that you have led the defence of virtue to absurdity.Virtue theories do not deny the existence of moral duties and rights. Just as the theories of duty do not deny the existence of virtue. Kant, the model of the theory of duty, defended the need to be virtuous, and Aristotle, the model of the theory of virtue, understood it as the fulfillment of duties. It cannot be otherwise.By pretending that there are no moral rights, you have brought the theory of virtue to a dead end.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976


    You don't explain what a non-legal right is, but I won't chide you for it. No doubt you'd reference some right not to do so.

    Aristotle is not my favorite (I prefer the Stoics, and find it hard to like someone so admired by Ayn Rand) nor is the unfortunate Kant. But I think you misunderstand Aristotle.

    Regardless, I think it futile, but will try again. Virtues are qualities of an agent. A virtuous person acts in particular ways because he/she is virtuous and so acts virtuously, not because of the consequences to others, nor because of any sense of obligation to others. Consider as I suggested you do the classical virtues, which include prudence or wisdom, temperence, courage, justice or fairness. The exercise of these virtues isn't mandated by any obligation to others deriving from claimed rights. It has everything to do with living a good life, one seeking eudamonia. One is obligated to live in a particular way--one should live in a particular way--to achieve eudamonia, to live in accordance with nature as the ancient Stoics put it.

    For the Stoics, desiring things beyond our control or being disturbed by them is contrary to the good life. So seeking to control people, seeking after their property, being disturbed by what they do, all the things that motivate people to kill or injure each other or take things from others, or enslave them, are contrary to living well and are therefore improper. They're not improper because of any claimed right to life, or liberty, or property.

    You seem to make what I consider to be the error of treating rights as if they're legal rights. We tend to do that in America, where everyone claims they have all kinds of rights, the right to their opinion however foolish or bigoted, the right to do as they please even if others are exposed to harm, etc. Legal rights are useful in a system of law, regulating conduct, but outside of law, I prefer an ethics that focuses on what we should do.
    ,

    ,
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976

    I'm not sure what you mean. That legal right may not exist someday, as many think there should be no such legal right. Would that mean the right is no longer recognized, or that there was no such right? Will women continue to have it if that happens? In what sense? Is it a natural right, or a moral right? What difference would that make if the law prohibits it?

    "Non-legal rights" are what some people think should be legal rights, but when other people think they shouldn't be rights of any kind, there can be problems.
  • David Mo
    469
    Aristotle is not my favorite (I prefer the Stoics,Ciceronianus the White

    Then you should read well Marcus Aurelius: Meditations, VIII, 5: duties and nature.

    Then, with your eyes fixed on your task, investigate it well and bearing in mind that your duty is to be a good man, and what man's nature demands, fulfill it without deviation and in the way that seems most just to you — Marcus Aurelius

    I think you got a bad read on Ryand. It happens.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976


    As I said, one is obligated (has a duty) to live a particular way--i.e. virtuously--to live according to nature. That doesn't mean someone else has a right to one's virtuous conduct.
  • frank
    5.1k
    I'm not sure what you mean. That legal right may not exist someday, as many think there should be no such legal right. Would that mean the right is no longer recognized, or that there was no such right? Will women continue to have it if that happens? In what sense?Ciceronianus the White

    When we say a person has a natural right to something, say liberty, we're making a statement about the nature of the world. It's declaration about nature's baseline.

    In an absolute monarchy, the ruler is the only person who has inalienable rights, and they're considered to be divine in origin. The religious authorities are close allies of the ruler and they teach the people to assume the divine right of the ruler. If you're in this world, you understand that your right to life, liberty, and property are yours by the will of the king.

    In this world, if you came to believe that your rights are yours by nature and that the same is true of everyone, you would see a deflation in the status of both the king and the religious order. That happened in Europe around the time of the Enlightenment. Philosophers didn't instigate it, they just articulated ideas associated with it.

    So to answer the question about a woman's right to an abortion, there is presently a conflict in the US about whether an early abortion is moral. If it's moral and the state can't give an acceptable reason for interfering with a woman's liberty in this area, then the state has no right to outlaw it. This attitude has its roots in the above story about monarchy and religious authority. The USA has liberal ideals embedded in its constitution. So we keep faith with the founders by recognizing and protecting the natural rights of the people. That's a way to understand the feelings and beliefs in play anyway.

    If abortion is murder, then the state is fully within its rights to outlaw it. The state gains that right by the social contract.

    i think I understand you to be saying we have now outgrown all this language about rights and nature; that it's meaningless to talk about unrecognized rights. Since there is no monarchy in the US that threatens the liberty of citizens, maybe that's true. We have no background for the idea of natural rights, and so it becomes meaningless except as a fixture of history.

    I wonder if we need a new words to deal with the challenges we face now. What do you think?
  • David Mo
    469
    As I said, one is obligated (has a duty) to live a particular way--i.e. virtuously--to live according to nature. That doesn't mean someone else has a right to one's virtuous conduct.Ciceronianus the White

    That's very good when we're talking about virtues that aren't moral. One can be a piano virtuoso without be dependent of others. Or one can have the virtue of self-control as an obligation to himself. But when virtue, as is the case with justice, is a function of what should be given to one's neighbor, the duty to be just is no more than to give each one what is rightfully his. And that is the moral virtue.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976


    Well, like Ayn Rand, you're free (have a right?) to define "moral virtue" (as opposed to "immoral virtue" or "piano-playing virtue" etc., I assume) as you see fit if it pleases you, thus multiplying virtues as well as "rights." Vale.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    976
    i think I understand you to be saying we have now outgrown all this language about rights and nature; that it's meaningless to talk about unrecognized rights. Since there is no monarchy in the US that threatens the liberty of citizens, maybe that's true. We have no background for the idea of natural rights, and so it becomes meaningless except as a fixture of history.

    I wonder if we need a new words to deal with the challenges we face now. What do you think?
    frank

    The concept of "rights" as used now is, I think, relatively new, and probably arose during the Enlightenment as you note. Perhaps that's the case also with "natural rights" which I think is something different from "natural law." Stoicism influenced the development of the concept of natural law, but in the sense that the ancient Stoics thought that nature, i.e. the cosmos, in which a divine, rational spirit was immanent, reflected that spirit in a manner comprehensible to humans because of our capacity of reason, which we share with the divinity. To live according to nature was to live according to reason, as it is the peculiar and essential natural characteristic of humans. It's also one of our natural characteristics that we are by nature social animals.

    The current concept of "rights" however focuses on individuals as opposed to community. According to that concept, each individual is entitled to X, Y and Z. Morality based on the current concept of rights is a morality of entitlement, and (taking a Stoic view) because we're fixated on things that aren't by their nature in our control--money, property, reputation, position--we find the idea we're entitled to such things if we can get them attractive, and this is especially the case when a system of morality justifies their pursuit and acquisition. So, e.g. the billionaire has a right to his/her money and assets, and that right should not be restricted, legally or otherwise, because it is a right. The billionaire doesn't have to share it with anyone else. There are some who argue the billionaire shouldn't do so.

    Someone I think quoted Bastiat earlier in this thread, or somewhere else (I can't remember). He put it well: "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." I think that a moral system which emphasizes individual rights, thought it may be well-intentioned, can result in this kind of selfishness.

    A legal system is another matter, though. We can't adopt a law compelling everyone to be virtuous, or Stoic Sages. When we try to legislate morality we come up with abominations like Prohibition. Legal rights are needed to restrain certain conduct of a particularly offensive kind.

    There's a difference between morality and the law. Because we don't regulate ourselves (particularly where we think we're entitled to so much) the law must regulate us. Morality shouldn't be confused or conflated with the law, and concepts that are useful in the law, like rights, aren't necessarily conducive to moral conduct. If we could teach virtuous conduct to all, that would be ideal.
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