The Instigator
JBeukema
Pro (for)
Losing
7 Points
The Contender
asyetundefined
Con (against)
Winning
20 Points

Defeding Inalienable Rights: a Crisis of Philosophy (We are unable to defend 'natural rights')

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/7/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,529 times Debate No: 7725
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (31)
Votes (5)

 

JBeukema

Pro

A disturbing thing has occurred to me. It should be well known by now that I have always held that Man has certain inalienable rights. Indeed, several key points of my ideology hinder on this belief. If the right to life in not an inherent, natural right, then one cannot reasonable defend any other rights as such. Let us be clear that such matters can still be resolved under the theory of social contract- that is, so long as the People agree to defend all life, there is no danger of losing legal protection of one's right to exist. The problem, however is this:

If we are unable to defend certain rights, such as the rights to life and liberty, as natural and inalienable in nature, then we are wholly dependent upon social contract to defend these rights, as the only possible conclusion would be that they are granted purely by the group. The crisis lies in the fact that if such a position is adopted, then there is no line of reasonable or logical defense against murder, abortion, slavery, or any other crime or act against Man if society fails to protect the People. Furthermore, is such rights are not inherent, then we cannot demand that society protect them- we are at the mercy of the masses.

This is truly a disturbing thought. How, then, can we defend our belief that such rights are inherent, without relying on mythology or emotion-laden words? What logical defense do we have? If we are to protect the rights of all people, we must address this matter with the greatest urgency- there is no matter more important to the ideological or pragmatic defense of human rights, for if we fail then we have no defense against a civilization seemingly intent on devaluing human life and casting aside all ethical hindrances in favor of libertine and gluttonous excess, without the slightest regard of consequence to fellow Man.

(Let it be known that my hope is that I can be shown wrong in my concern)
asyetundefined

Con

For the sake of Coherence the positions in this argument need to be further clarified and expounded.
PRO do you intend to argue that there is no such thing as Inalienable rights? Or is that MY position? I would gladly argue either side.
I well realize that in doing what I am doing, I am essentially forfeiting the first round - but I think this argument has an immense amount of potential and I want to be clear on what is being debated.
Please respond with a more defined set of positions - I am glad to take up this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
JBeukema

Pro

My argument is simple: There is no logical way to demonstrate inherent, natural rights exist
asyetundefined

Con

Excellent Debate! (I apologize for the slow start!!!) Let it Begin!
My task appears to be twofold:
(1) prove the existence of Natural-Rights, and;
(2) show the fallaciousness of PRO's -shall I say- Lament?

The first task I have given myself is the least difficult, and perhaps is even given by PRO. Natural-Rights are -well- natural. Because I am here in the world, being both conscious and imbued with intentionality (indisputable), I have a borne obligation unto myself; as John Stuart Mill declared:
"Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" [1].
This is the 'original-position' of Natural-Rights - self-sovereignty. One CANNOT eliminate the existence of self sovereignty for the following reasons:
-consciousness and intentionality (which are the constituent components of self-sovereignty) are irreducible. Even if we describe what consciousness IS (chemical interaction, what-have-you) or what intentionality IS (deterministic 'about-ness') we have NOT eliminated their existence, nor what they entail -being- self-sovereignty. For example you could describe what LOVE is: a series of certain chemical interactions caused by various events, thoughts, other persons, ect. HOWEVER, in describing the composition of love you do not remove the feeling - the 'essence' of the experience. It is still there, it cannot be displaced even if one foolishly reduces it down to chemicals.
From our Original-Position of Self-Sovereignty we can begin to see the formation of additional Natural-Rights. If I am obligated to myself then I have a Right to continue my own existence - I have a Right to self-preservation, self-defense. In addition, through my own labor I can create VALUE in the world. In the words of John Locke:
"He hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property" [2].

Through what I have shown we arrive at the proverbial maxim that oft constitutes an understanding of Natural-Rights - that man has the Right to 'Life, Liberty, and Property'. These values are intrinsic, inalienable, indubitable; their value is first to themselves, they cannot be reduced nor transfered - they are Natural-Rights and to deny their existence is to deny your own existence; one cannot ever logically declare that, "I do not Exist" (feel free to say it, but it is gibberish).

---------This brings us to my second task ----------

My second task is to remove a cumbersome and misguided categorical error. That error is the notion that the sometimes undefendable nature of Rights makes them somehow less valuable, or less real, or less 'natural'.
The most critical error PRO makes is that he confuses the defense of Rights as being a conflict as to their authenticity (that is, if we fail in our defense of them they cease to exist or be valid), with the truthful view that defense of Rights is about defending an addition premise - RECOGNITION of Rights. When I defend my Natural-Rights I am not defending their validity - I am defending their acceptability - that is, whether or not a government or society actually recognizes my Rights. PRO uses the phrase "devaluing human life", I like this phrase, but it points out a deep contradiction within his line of thought; to devalue life is to ignore its basic Rights - not eliminate them. Rights are always 'inherent' - the problem is (which PRO definitely touches but misinterprets) is whether or not the Rights are realized.
PRO somewhat realizes, and is correct in doing so - that some form of Mutual understanding or Compact (in PRO's language 'social-contract', a term I refuse to use - I prefer the term 'Compact' meaning 'a formation of') is required to fully realize Rights. But again it must NOT be confused that if we fail to defend Rights on a social or governmental level, they do not cease to exist - they have simply been ignored.

I hope I have provided a sufficient and coherent argument - but it is obviously NOT up to me to make such a decision - let the contentions be raised!!!

Thanx;
Remi

----------------------------------------------

[1] Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998.
[2] Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Ed. C. B. Macpherson. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc, 1980.
Debate Round No. 2
JBeukema

Pro

You have a done a fine job demonstrating that Man has self sovereignty. However, this falls short. Because I am sovereign over myself simply means that I am wholly responsible for myself. In the 'natural state', this means that it falls entirely to me to fend for myself and defend my life and property. In a society (derived from 'social contract') this self-responsibility forms the cornerstone of our legal system- that you are responsible for your own actions. It also forms the basis for capitalism, that you are responsible for your own wellbeing (as opposed to socialism/communism which stresses more strongly the caring for of the less able by the State).

Con:: 'If I am obligated to myself then I have a Right to continue my own existence'

How so? You have not demonstrated any logical basis for this leap. One can easily counter, without need for any such leap to conclusion, that this means no other has such an obligation to you. From this, we can see that, since I have no obligation to you (in the 'natural state'), there is no reason for me o not act against you in order to further my own wellbeing in some way. Indeed, theft, rape, and even murder in moist cases, all serve the self. If the only only obligation is to the self, then not only can we not reasonably condemn these actions (morally)- it seems we must encourage and embrace them, to the extent that they help to better serve self-interest and satisfy the self-obligation you demonstrated earlier. If one does not wish to be raped or killed, under your model, they have no right to not be- they merely have a self-obligation to prevent it.

In order to demonstrate the existence of natural 'rights' to condition (freedom from slavery, rape, murder, etc.) and not simply to thought/experience (those things which are inherently interior, such as as a right to believe X), you must demonstrate that the the Self has such an obligation to the >Other<. Otherwise, we are left where reason had led us- to the disconcerting conclusion that the only inherent rights Man can be demonstrated to have are to Think and to Struggle.

As for your preference of 'compact' in place of 'contract' for this conversation, I have no objection. I simply use the term because, upon finding that others had constructed similar (and more complete) models long before my arrival, I adopted their terminology in order to better communicate my thoughts to others more familiar with the matter.

Con suggests that I am in error for assuming that X is not real unless it can be demonstrated that X is in fact real- or, more accurately, that the model that X is real is the best available model, given the available information. I disagree- this is the same reasoning that leads us to conclude there is horn on our foreheads and that any given deity does not exist- be it flying mass of pasta, an invisible pink unicorn, a triune-man, or a 8-armed woman. Such reasoning is acceptable in other fields of logic, reason, and philosophy- I see no reason we should not accept the same standard here. Indeed, should we face a State or society which does not recognize such rights. Indeed, we do now- society now seeks to put a time constraint ones' right to exist, stating that you have no such right until your slaughter creates an unsightly mess. What if such a State arises again that recognized no such rights because they cannot be reasoned to exist. If history repeats itself once more, are we without any valid argument? Are we to rely on appeals to emotion and consequence to make our case? That is unacceptable for a reasonable philosophy. If we have only social contract to protect us, then what reason is there to demand the contract recognize rights that cannot be shown?

Con then goes on to make a weak yet pleasant-sounding assertion that 'Rights are always "inherent"' without any further evidence to support his yet-to-be-made case. Alas, you have merely strengthened the argument for the cruelty of the natural state and the need for social contract- your model makes us wholly dependent on positive law to put in place positive rights, for you show no reasonable path the conclusion that natural rights exist at all. As we prepare to conclude this final round of this public discussion, perhaps you will stumble upon such an argument as to demonstrate the existence of such a thing- else we must abandon much of conservative and humanitarian tough, for we face the crumbling of the very foundation upon so much good is built
asyetundefined

Con

This argument has been excellent despite its shortness!

It seems to me that you are confused about what exactly entails 'natural-rights', and their place in the world - this is what I attempt to get at when I said 'categorical error' earlier.
What I am saying is that YES Natural-Rights exist - they exist in the form of self-sovereignty, but they do not, cannot, create for themselves a mechanism for defense against abuse. That is, self-sovereignty does not create the means to defend itself - but this is NOT a 'problem' in the sense you suggest . It seems to me that in your introduction you suggest that because natural-rights are incapable of this form of defense they are useless, valueless or meaningless. Thus the categorical error is that you over-extend the sphere of natural-rights. To claim that Natural-Rights not being able to defend themselves is a problem with the essence of Natural-Rights is equivalent to saying that because I can verbally abuse the Theory of Gravity, it is inherently flawed - after all, Gravity can't Defend itself!
You are right in saying that it is TROUBLESOME that Natural-Rights can't in-and-of-themselves be defensible - but this does NOT rob them of value - it simply means that we need to create EXTERNAL means of defense, such as a "social-contract" or Compact, or perhaps additional ethical or moral considerations (wherever they are derived from).

In regards to your other attempted rebuttals. You claim that my statement:
"If I am obligated to myself then I have a Right to continue my own existence"
is somehow illogical - that I failed to provide a logical basis for it. At the point that the statement was made it had already been concluded that OBLIGATION to oneself does indeed exist. Thus it seems to me that your issue is with the step from OBLIGATION to RIGHTS. Rethink what is meant by Rights, what entails a Right? Rights are derived through a number of means - but one of them is through Obligation. Natural-Rights are NOT contingent upon social, legal, or traditional factors - they are brought about through ethics, entitlements, and permissions. That is, since I am self-sovereign (self-obligated), I am also entitled to myself - thus I DO have a Right to my own existence so long as I remain Obligated unto myself (whether or not obligation to oneself is a choice is a much different but equally interesting philosophical debate). Thus it seems you claim that 'One could easily counter' the claim that I have a Right to my own existence is highly fallacious.
Furthermore - of your latter discussion about 'freedom from slavery, rape, murder', you are simply reiterating the earlier categorical mistake. Of course natural-rights don't defend you from being raped - they can't!! But rape would still be ethically wrong regardless! This is what leads Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke, and all other contract theorists to give us the social-contract - as a means of extending Natural-Rights in a fair manner as to become capable of actually defending against the sorts of acts you named earlier.
Also; I am not sure what is being said in regards to the non-existence or existence of (X)... Natural-Rights and Natural-Theology are two very different things - not much overlap, if any...

Finally at the end of your argument you attack the Inherentness of Rights - claiming it to be a "pleasant-sounding assertion" not based on any evidence. How could one EVER provide evidence for essence? It would be like asking me to show you my Love or my Anger. I can only ever show instances where I acted with Love or Anger - but the essences themselves cannot be shown. Natural-Rights are not little slips of paper each of us carry round with us in our bill-folds or back pockets, they are a feeling, concept, idea, notion, or essence; their existence is shown through philosophical assessment which is what I did in my previously posted argument.
And again, you are right that Natural-Rights do not actually free us from the "cruelty of the natural state", but this is yet again your categorical-error. Man needs either to defend his rights for himself through his own will-power and means, or he needs to enter himself into a social agreement - as you say: 'social-contract' (or as I prefer, Compact).

In closing your statement: "There is no logical way to demonstrate inherent, natural rights exist" has been shown to be fallacious, misguided, inappropriate. Natural-Rights, being extensions of self-sovereignty and in-and-of-themselves (inherent), clearly exist.

It was a pleasure to partake in this debate!

Thanx;
Remi
Debate Round No. 3
31 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Spaghettim0nst3r 8 years ago
Spaghettim0nst3r
"Spaghettim0nst3r, your link is broken"

Just add ".html" to the end of it.
Posted by Spaghettim0nst3r 8 years ago
Spaghettim0nst3r
Before you address "Where it comes from" you must first understand "what it is," only then can you even approach what is "moral" or "immoral" otherwise you're just being vague.

[1] - (What is Morality?) [Morality] is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life. Ethics, as a science, deals with discovering and defining such a code.

[2] - (Where does Morality come from?) - Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life. Hence a moral code, a set of principles, to facilitate this.

[3] - (What is Moral/Immoral?) - Since reason is man's basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work.
Posted by JBeukema 8 years ago
JBeukema
Spaghettim0nst3r, your link is broken
Posted by JBeukema 8 years ago
JBeukema
'A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context.'

-What is the source of this morality?

'the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life.'

-Including acts of theft and violence against others to further one's own survival?

Are you aware of any in-depth reflections on this by philosophers of the past?
Posted by Spaghettim0nst3r 8 years ago
Spaghettim0nst3r
Human nature comes into play in any debate concerning rights, because before one can understand rights one must understand the origin of rights, and the origin of rights comes from human nature.

[1] A "right" is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man's right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

So while one might claim rights to various things, like Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... naming these as rights does not give us a definition of what rights are or where they are derived, or allow us to understand why we need them. This definition puts the cart before the horse, using it would be circular. The reason it is circular is because it doesn't penetrate the issue beyond the surface for a more fundamental basis upon which to base itself, and simply assumes itself to be a sufficient basis.

Just like in debates about theism, you can't assume what you're talking about is true in order to prove it because it negates the very concept of proof... since you began and ended with the same assumption. Similarly, when trying to substantiate the existence of rights, one can't do that simply by stating that one has a right. These are both the same types of begging the question.

[1] http://aynrandlexicon.com....
Posted by JBeukema 8 years ago
JBeukema
How are they self-evident? the only thing that is self-evident is one's own existence

'if you don't accept their existence you are denying your OWN existence'

You have failed to demonstrate that; it sounds like you are following Descartes' footsteps

'Perhaps it is slightly presumptuous to declare them as such but I defended the viewpoint fairly, and to take the contrary is to say, as I mentioned earlier: "I do not exist".'

If it is presumptuous, then they are not self-evident. Anything that is truly self-evident leaves no room for doubt. Again, self-sovereignty only leaves one responsible for one's on well-being. Natural rights implies that i have some obligation to recognize and respect them in another- no such obligation has been demonstrated, as i stated and have shown- you leave us with an obligation to the self, without rights or reason to expect any other to recognize your position
Posted by asyetundefined 8 years ago
asyetundefined
JBUEKMA:
Although I may not have stated it directly, Natural-Rights are self-evident, that is, a brute-fact; if you don't accept their existence you are denying your OWN existence. Perhaps it is slightly presumptuous to declare them as such but I defended the viewpoint fairly, and to take the contrary is to say, as I mentioned earlier: "I do not exist".
SPAGHETTIMONSTER:
The debate was NOT a question about Human Nature so looking for such content is odd.
In addition a definition of Rights was given: the Right to Life, Liberty, and Property as extensions of Self-Sovereignty. If you don't think this is sufficient then you should put forth an argument.

All-in-all I was happy with the debate - I definitely DID tackle (or at minimum: attempted) the positions that were given, despite PRO claiming that I didn't. If you disagree put forth an argument.
Posted by JBeukema 8 years ago
JBeukema
I was responding further to their comments; lose the cyberballs
Posted by wpfairbanks 8 years ago
wpfairbanks
Stop bitching about why you lost or how unfair it was. You look silly
Posted by JBeukema 8 years ago
JBeukema
Spaghettim0nst3r ::
I was pretty disappointed in the debate, as this is a topic I care deeply about.
- No definition of Rights was given.
- No probing of the nature of man explored.
The CON argument to me seemed like an "It is so" assertion more than a justification. The preface of the debate was that we have a philosophical problem that needs to be solved, i.e., how do we justify or give an account of the concept of inalienable rights.

Exactly the problem. What 'side' is there for me to present? I am not arguing the existence of a negative- rather I simply lament the lack of evidence supporting the positive assertion by CON. As such, it falls to Con to show that there is a reasonable means to demonstrate the existence of natural rights. Con misses the point entirely, and concentrates on defense of 'rights', retroactive reasoning, and repetition of his own definition to avoid the crisis at hand
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JBeukema
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