Natural Rights and the Social Contract

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by antagon, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    I challenge the widely held belief that our compendium of rights are granted us by others or the society in which we live. Instead, I argue that we have an innate entitlement to act howsoever we please, and that our societies are crafted to impair our use of our rights for the benefit of a social agenda or determined communal virtue.

    While this is similar to many enlightenment-era views on natural rights, my position differs in some crucial ways. Firstly, I challenge the necessary association with God or supernatural altogether as it is proposed in the Declaration of Independence, for example. I attribute these rights to the nature of free will itself. Should the faithful attribute the facts of our existence to God, my argument doesn't obstruct that, however, my contention is that these rights are natural rather than supernatural.

    I further challenge the necessary altruism which has been associated with natural rights from as early as Thomas Hobbes. In Leviathan he describes these rights to be exclusive to acts of self preservation. John Locke elaborately augmented the concept with the introduction of a natural system of morality to which natural rights were constrained. I argue that there are no such limitations to these rights within the bounds of self-determined action.

    That they could give rise to 'evil' actions or 'good', self-preserving actions or suicidal, is the struggle which I argue our natural authority over our own action - our natural rights - has thrust upon humanity and the social contracts we construct.
     
  2. konradv
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    konradv Gold Member

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    We have an innate entitlement as animals on this earth to eat those species weaker than ourselves and to force others of our species to give up their kill and wait to eat until we're finished, if we're stronger. If you object to waiting for your meal because it belongs to you, but aren't strong enough to retrieve it yourself, you're going to have to count on "the compendium of rights granted us by others or society".
     
  3. Liberty
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    Liberty Silver Member

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    rights are inalienable granted to individuals by virtue of being alive. (paraphrase john locke, the true inspiration for the US constitution)
     
  4. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    sure, cooperation can avail a society greater strength than we can bring to bear on our own. this is how we eat species far stronger than ourselves. what holds society together is a willing exchange of our individual freedoms for a seat at the table and a share in the bounty.

    if the bounty runs dry, the currency by which our society coerces our surrender of rights fails to cover the transaction, and there is unrest.
     
  5. konradv
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    konradv Gold Member

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    How so? Without a government or society protecting you, where are these rights coming from? Rights have no meaning, if they can't be enforced. If I'm stronger than you and want to take your stuff, what good are invoking "rights" going to do you, except as some sort of joke for my amusement?
     
  6. Liberty
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    Liberty Silver Member

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    Read John Locke. The rule of law is created by the government which is given power by the people, to create and enforce laws to preserve their individual natural rights. A government that is not a product of the people is not legitimate. Legitimate goverments are put in power to protect liberty, not take it. A government that is given power to give rights, has the power to remove them. This is why rights are natural and can not legitimately (keyword) be removed by any mortal being.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2010
  7. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    our rights come from the fact that we can act as we choose of our own accord - everytime we take non-autonomous action. this is independent of our ability to achieve a goal with our actions. if we fail to recover stolen property because of your strength then you have demonstrated the meaning and value which natural rights bring to the hypothetical:

    some compensation, whether strength or force, entitlement or coersion, is required to countermand the rights of others. while this might be amusing with one weakling, if your living is made from seizing weaklings' possessions, because of the implications of natural rights, you've got to watch your back.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2010
  8. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    because of locke's presumptions about the inherent morality of the rule of law and the qualifier of legitimacy which he casts on governments, his theory can just get by, logically. because of the presumed altruism of law and the nuance between 'of the people' and 'against the people', i suggest that locke's qualifications are misjudged, however.

    instead, i argue that governments which locke proposed as preservative of rights actually function to cut back the mass of rights which their constituents possess. the framework of government is lucky to carry a bill of rights like the US, but even so, consider the ratio of can'ts which the government applies to the constituency in exchange. i think its a bit crazy to see government in the trusted, altruistic light which locke painted 'legitimate government', particularly when it comes to freedom.

    i'm no anarchist, and understand the virtues of the rule of law, but the bottom line is that entering society is an exercise in relinquishing freedoms on aggregate. this is why we have to tame our pets and civilize our babies: social conformity comes at a cost of freedoms - freedoms to exercise our natural rights.

    sure - governments which cordon off a few freedoms as untouchable are cooler than those which don't.
    i argue that natural rights are natural because the inherent circumstance of being able to choose whatever you want to do is only possessed by the actor, and further that that can't be removed from a mortal being which can determine its actions independently. far from being a key word, legitimacy has no objective play in natural rights or the social contract.

    i think a society is legit if it simply holds together... even if the constituents are shackled together and a whip cracks over them demanding their servitude.
     
  9. konradv
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    konradv Gold Member

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    I agree with everything you say, except the part about "natural rights". They don't exist. That's a bit of circular logic. If we had natural rights, no government could take them away. It's the fact that we don't, that makes us form societies and governments.
     
  10. konradv
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    konradv Gold Member

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    social conformity comes at a cost of freedoms - freedoms to exercise our natural rights.

    I think you have urges and instincts confused with rights.
     

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