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Sunday, January 16, 2011

you have a right to

This is from a discussion on Facebook with my brother about rights.
within the quoted block:
>> is my initial statement or question
** is his response
following the blocked quote is my reply to his response

David wrote: "Hey, Matthew -- Point by point:
>> A right defines a reciprocal relationship between any 2 individual people. Person A cannot do anything to person B that person B cannot do to person A.

** It’s a very nice idea, Matthew, and fairly nearly the epitome of moral philosophy, except for the word ‘cannot.’ When you say “Person A cannot do anything to person B,” do you mean that person A lacks the power or ability. (I assume not.) Do you mean that person C is going to step in and prevent person A from doing something to person B? (Again, on my understanding of your views, I think not. I’m willing to be wrong.) Do you really mean that person A *ought* not to do anything to person B, et cetera? I would agree to that, but I don’t think you’re satisfied with “ought.” >>

It is not a matter of "being satisified". I think I said it was the Reader's Digest version of the much lengthier post I made and linked to explaining that I did not want to include the whole thing. "Cannot" was not the sole attribute. I do not mean either person lacks the power or ability. Aaron lackng the power or ability to kick me does not define a right I have to not be kicked by Aaron. I do not mean person C will intervene. Person B might be of the religious opinion he is to turn the other cheek. If person C presumed to intervene to protect person B from an attack by person A, person B's rights would have been violated. He has every right to choose not to defend himself or his property. That is what defines it as his. I suppose you could say "ought" but that really doesn't get at what I am saying. Let's look at it this way. What is it you don't want other people to do to you?
Do you want other people to kill you?
So, what do you think they want of you? (Rather than my normal redundancy, I invite you to add or skip the redundacy for yourself. If you'd like to add it, just repeat the foregoing question after each of my questions).
Do you want other people to take your stuff from you?
Do you want other people to hit you?
Do you want other people to trick you into giving them some of your stuff?
Do you want other people to move onto your property when you are at work or on vacation?
Do you want other people to tell you what you can and can't do?
Do you expect people to treat you the same way as you would treat them?
I see a contradiction when people want to be treated a certain way, treat other people the way they would like to be treated, don't see much evidence
on an individual basis that other people would treat them differently, yet they act as if a majority of the world is out to get them so they have to be proactive at preventing it. Those things are rights. There are inductive and deductive ways to get to "rights". People accuse me of living in a fantasy world as if I think that every single person on the face of the earth would respect my rights if I respected his rights. I am not that naive. But I don't see where that is even relevant. It is a principle. It is practically axiomatic.

>>Is that not a valid definition of right?

** Well, with limitations, yes. The limitation is its usefulness. How, exactly, do those two people determine what they can and cannot do “to” each other? And hell, Matthew, there are an awful lot of people in the world: working everything out two individuals at a time, we’ll all be dead before we get anything established.

Not sure how we get at the "usefulness" of the principle. What would it have to be useful for? Or are you saying it is not useful because it is hard to define for every permutation and combination of pairs of people in the world before we get up and get going in the morning? I did not mean acts that would be specific to individual pairs of people. I meant general acts between any random two people.The absurdity should help define it. What acts between specific pairs can you think of that would require prior establishment of can and cannot?

>> Do you see any contradictions in the definition itself? If so, please point them out to me so we might work to refine a definition of right in the sense it is used to mean "have a right to".

** No contradiction, just the inoperability of the term.

I do not see how the level of operability is actually an attribute of the principle. It can be an attribute if that is how you choose to define it. All we are doing is trying to understand what we are talking about. I think I remember you saying you wish we had another word we could use. Why? Why go to all that trouble? If you leave out the operability attribute the definition works fine. So why work so hard to put it in when all that does is cause you more work to look for a word that means "right" (as you choose to define it) without the operability attribute?
That's fine with me. If you want to define rights with an operability attribute and then work to create another word that means your definition of right without the operability attribute, I will accept that but leave the work up to you. In the mean time I will use "right" without the operability attribute.

>> How do you define rights, if you don't agree with my definition?

* I do not find the word useful, and so step aside from it.

Does step aside from it mean you have no definition for it? How do you decide if it is useful if you have no definition for it? Isn't there some concept or principle carrying the label "right" you don't find useful?

>> Can you make a statement about the truth value of a word if you do not have a precise definition of the word?

** I don’t think I questioned the word’s “truth value,” Matthew: I did say, and would re-affirm, that the idea of a human’s ‘rights’ has been and is still dependent upon time and place.

I'm not talking about it as an idea. I'm talking about it as a principle. A principle that is not dependent on time or place. "An idea" does not adequately define the process of "principle". "Understand" or even more specifically, "discover" is how I would define the process of "principle". It has always been a principle that in the same way that you should not kill me I should not kill you. It took a while to discover even the most basic understanding of the principle, and many are still far from it. As in, "all men are created equal" Which means "all men" not "all men born within certain imaginary lines on the globe." Do you prefer that "right" be an idea? Then do we have to make up a word for the concept as a principle?

>> What is the truth value of my definition of right?

** The unmodified word “cannot” makes your definition inadequate. False, if you will.

As I said above, there was much more to what I defined.

>> What does the fact that people choose not to recognize rights have to do with the truth value of the definition?

** Since you say that “a right defines a reciprocal relationship,” then the occasion of person A’s refusal to recognize the ‘right’ of person B nullifies your definition. Or simply clarifies that the relationship between A and B is *not* reciprocal, so tough beans for B.

[Definition of RECIPROCAL
1 a : inversely related : opposite
b : of, constituting, or resulting from paired crosses in which the kind that supplies the male parent of the first cross supplies the female parent of the second cross and vice versa
2 : shared, felt, or shown by both sides
3 : serving to reciprocate : consisting of or functioning as a return in kind
4 a : mutually corresponding
b : marked by or based on reciprocity ]

I would say I was using definition 2 which has no component of agreement to or acceptance of...

How does person A's refusal nullify the definition?
It's not tough beans for B. The concept of a right contains the attribute of being justified in using defensive force to keep it. Or to get it back. Or if it is not possible to get it back to get compensation. Again, the fact that it is not always possible to identify or locate person A is irrelevant to the fact that one attribute of a right is that of defensive force. That attribute is also independent of A's ignorance, acceptance or understanding of it.

>> If people choose not to recognize the earth is not flat, will they fall off the edge if they go far enough?

** Ah, at last we reach the solid point. Since the reality is that the earth is round-ish, it doesn’t matter whether people recognize it or not. On another hand, if a person drinks a really strong dose of arsenic, a person is likely to die of that, whether that person believes arsenic is poisonous or not.

Exactly. Are principles different somehow from from other facts in that they do not hold their meaning simply because people are ignorant of them or choose not to act in accordance with them? Why?

>> By the very nature of the definition of the concept "have a right to" either everyone has rights or no one has rights.

** Everyone? But you’re only talking about reciptrocal relationships between two individual persons, face to face. You’ve pretty much left out the entire world except for you and Aaron. Or you and Sherry. Or you and Alyssa. Or you and Amber.

As I said above, I'm talking about general principles, not specific actions. When I say two individual persons, I mean that the way I am defining "right" any meaning it has between an individual person and a group or between two or more groups it has to inherit from the meaning it has between two individual persons. Again, I think you're attempt at using the absurd helps to define it.

>> It has been claimed that the government of the USofA and all the more localized governmnents exist to protect rights of those within their claimed jurisdiction. If there is no such thing as rights, what can governments then claim is their purpose?

** I didn’t make the claim. It’s not mine to defend. Sorry."

I wasn't asking you to defend any claim. It is an interesting question, though, in many ways. People do seem to have some rough understanding of what is meant by right when it comes to governments and defending rights. The founders of the USofA identified some rights the government was to protect. You can get a bit of the definition of right out of the context of the Declaration, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Constitution and the first ten amendments.

"Let me see if I can clarify the kind of ideas I need to understand your point of view. If we were talking about equilateral triangles, I'd probably assume that we were talking about triangles with three angles of sixty degrees each. But you, being smarter than me, would know that if you laid out an equilateral triangle on a sphere, you could get the angles up to ninety degrees each (depending on the ratio between the size of the triangle and the size of the sphere). You could probably get them much larger, but I think the limit would be 179 degrees.

It would all depend upon what we were discussing. In almost anything we would be discussing the definition in a plane would be sufficient. If we were in a discussion where a more obtuse definition (pun intended) was required it would need to be made clear at the time it was needed.

Hm. I wonder. You talk a lot about your rights, Matthew, but I don't know the following things:
1) What is a 'right'?

That is what I am working on establishing. A definition where we can at least understand what we are talking about. All the above plus that other post are attempts at communicating what I mean when I say "have a right to...)

2) Who determines what we will consider a 'right'?

The definition might help. I don't know that anybody in particular determines what we will consider a right.
Rights are what they are. They are based on ownership of one's person. Either you own your own person or some number of people other than you owns your person. It can't be everybody but you, so what would be the boundaries of the claim on your person? Would it be a numerical limit? A geographic limit? A familial limit? Who defines it? If you define it, then you are the one who actually has the ownership. So that is a contradiction. How does someone else get a claim of ownership over your person?
If one owns his own person, that is a source of the concept of "right". "Right" derives from self ownership. From ownership of one's self is derived the right to life. So, if one does not own one's self, one does not have a right to life. Again, the principle is a principle regardless of anyone's knowledge or acceptance of it.

3) How do they determine what is (or isn't) a 'right'?

Ask questions?
Do you have a right to your own life?
Why or why not?
What is implied by your answer?
Are there any contradictions?

4) Can anybody determine that something is a 'right'?

Why shouldn't anybody be able to?
If the definition is not clear or is misunderstood they might get it wrong. Then the definition needs some work. But one should be able to apply the principle to the something and determine if it is a right.
I can determine if something is a right. Can you?

4a) If not, why not? If you can explain those things to me, then maybe I'll understand better.

Why not would be they don't understand the concept or they do not understand how to apply principles to actions.

Like I said above, I can determine if something is a right. Then I still have to defend that either logically or by defensive force. But I cannot initiate force to get you to comply with something I think is a right. That would violate your rights.

You posited a motive for some questions I asked recently.
Here is my sole motivation for all the questions I ask and statements I make about rights.
I want to live in a society based on reason, not violence. (Rights are based on reason.) It would be a contradiction to try to force such a society upon others by violence. The only way available to me is by reason. By communicating with people about rights.
It took a long time after I got a Facebook account to start talking about politics. Most of my liberal or conservative friends would make political statements. I finally decided I would start asking questions about things they said and use different words when describing what they are stating to bring the actions closer to their association to rights.