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Do human rights truly exist (yes) or are they a construct of law and morals (no)?

Asked by: BrianD.Fer
  • 'Rights' are a moral 'ought' issue.

    Human rights (I tend to use the term 'sapient rights' where appropriate, as rights apply to all 'people', not simply to whatever biologically constitutes humanity) objectively exist, because it is objectively the case that people 'ought' to respect what people see as their 'rights'.
    Generally speaking, if you're using your ability for rational thinking you'll easily be able to tell what, when it is claimed, can actually be a 'right' (for eg., the right to enough food to not die; it is the right of everyone to be treated fairly and allowed an actual opportunity to live), and what cannot (for eg., the 'right' to force others to adhere to your personal belief system; this is inherently hypocritical and places some people arbitrarily 'above' others, so is meaningless).

    So, it is possible to rationally assess what can actually constitute a universal 'right'. The ability to do so does not cease to exist when the idea ceases to be formulated in this manner, or when a given society does not see fit to acknowledge those rights. The fact that, generally speaking, you do not see rights being observed in nature, and that there is no magical force physically preventing me from violating someone's rights does not mean that they don't exist.
    As I said, rights are a moral consideration, and thus describe what 'ought' to be. It's an 'emergent' law, not a made-up one. People objectively 'ought' to have equal consideration, and be treated/treat others fairly. Therefore, it is the case that universal rights are the best way to formulate how people 'ought' to be treated/treat others.

  • Human beings have intrinsic worth

    All human beings have an ability to give to society in some way, or at least to their family. Their worth is not always apparent if they are disabled or different in some way that makes them seem a problem, but even the nastiest person can be a loving husband or father, and people who are especially nasty to others can always change their ways to some extent.

  • A construct 'truly' exists.

    Human rights are a moral concern. So of course, morals are a construct of 'sapience' - which is after all, heightened consciousness that is capable of empathy. Our personality is a construct of tendencies within our own brain, that doesn't make a personality any less real. So if human rights are really a construct, the fact doesn't deride their integrity. In this chaotic world, a highly thought-up moral construct isn't a bad idea, especially if you impose it upon primitive, less-developed moral codes. (e.G honour killing is clearly a flawed moral code).

    In short, would you rather live in a world that has developed the idea of human rights or not? The answer is of course, the former: you'd cling to that moral 'construct' and rightly so.

  • Yes, though this depends on what one deems human rights.

    In my own philosophy, a human has rights to whatever he can work for himself. And these rights are not necessarily the possession of something but rather the right to pursue something. I would agree that the right to property, healthcare, clean drinking water, etc, are more a manifestation of a society than anything. But even in the natural world, a human would have the right to PURSUE any of those and more.

  • Philosophically, the actuality of human rights can be questioned.

    I see a lot of things that people claim are rights: the right to health care, the right to clean drinking water, the right to life, liberty, property, etc. They claim that these are our God-given rights, they should never be infringed upon. But the fact that they can be infringed upon, that they are not guaranteed, puts some doubt on this claim. In the wilderness nothing is guaranteed unless you can guarantee it yourself. You only have the privlage of life until something claims it. Now it is ethical to provide assistance to those that can not provide for themselves, and it is pragmatic to insure the right of property to properly maintain a well functioning society. These rights only exist as long someone believes in them or someone enforces them. So, in essence, it is logical to conclude all rights are actually privileges that are maintained by society due to moral or pragmatic backing.

  • No. Human rights are a construct of human laws and human morals, which reflect popular social wants.

    No. Human rights are a construct of human laws and human morals, which reflect popular social wants and social demands. Nature does not recognize human rights. Human rights therefore only exist inside of human society and human culture and do not extend into the rest of the natural world, which does not acknowledge human rights and does not abide by human laws and human morals.

    This is exemplified when a shark attacks a human on a popular beach. The shark it is believed attacks the human for food, first injuring him ( or her ) and then trying to eat the victim alive. The shark is clearly oblivious to the world of human rights and human laws.

  • Look around and you will realize it

    In the wild you do not see zebras complaining about lions ; not only because they can't speak, if they didn't want them to eat them they would counter attack and use their natural advantages to somehow get back at them (like killing their cups wile their are separated from them); and I'm not only talking about the "underdog" species but the lack of equality amongst creatures of the same species , like how only the alpha male gets to eat first then the other males get to eat , while females are stuck with the remaining scraps of food (even though they are the ones who are forced to hunt it).And let's not talk about how only the leader of the pack gets to mate, lets change the topic to a more pleasant one like how most animals commit cannibalism not only to those of their kind but to those in their family tree such as their siblings to get stronger and/or to gain status amongst that of their one kind some even start as early as a fetus in their mother's womb as sharks do. In conclusion in the real world animals (such as ourselves) only look out for their own skin and that of those which we are attached to. Furthermore if such rights did exist why did we have to wait until the 20th century to acknowledge most of them? Why have we fought all throughout history agents those who opposed them because we could not present a valid enough argument to support our case, enough to the length that we had to use force to have our will executed and sacrificed the life of millions of people in the wars fought for it? In the end power is what matters, if you have brute power, strength, whether is only your own but that of many people who support you, that overcomes that of the opposing team you will succeed at your objective "War- An act of violence whose object is to constrain the enemy, to accomplish our will" as someone once defined it, the same person who seven-hundred-and-nighty-nine years ago realized this and used it to his advantage and even was audacious enough to say that "The power under the constitution will always be in the people. It is intrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and, whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their servants can and undoubtedly will be recalled." yet not one person ,excluding myself as I am the only person whose records have recorded otherwise, has ever had the tough of it from such perspective and I wonder if someone , other than myself, will ever do so.

  • Think objective rights exist? Think bigger.

    A few commenters seem confused about what constitutes objectivity. Arguing that human rights are "good" or "moral" or even "necessary for the preservation of civilization" has nothing at all to do with whether they objectively exist.

    It's difficult or impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is" without appealing to a point of reference that's both external to and superior to humanity (e.G. A god, as in "[all men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights").

    To believe in objective human rights, it seems to me that you need to believe in a higher power, and that involves a much longer and stranger debate with an even more tenuous claim to objectivity.

    Since I'm voting "No" here, it should be clear where I stand on the position of objective rights and the existence of an entity capable of conferring them. That said, I do agree that certain rights ought (and perhaps even need) to be treated as absolutes in order for societies to function and flourish.

    It's less clear whether the recognition of human rights is a prerequisite for the long-term survival of our species, but even if that's the case, it still doesn't mean that human rights objectively exist – it simply means that we disregard the construct at our peril.

  • Human rights were just constructed out of man's need for feeling important.

    Man needs to feel important and that is what most people want to feel. They want to feel as though they make a difference. So in order for man to feel this way we constructed the complex system of government which allows anyone to assume the role of leadership whether it is on the government side or on the people's side.

  • Human rights are nothing more than a Practical Set of Rules

    There is no such thing as 'human rights' or 'animal rights' or whatever, as these are aspects of morality and such a thing doesn't exist. This includes both objective and subjective morality. There is such a thing as 'empathy', yes, but that has a very different definition than morality. Empathy is simply the ability to feel for another human or animal or object. However, it does not follow that such feelings have any moral basis.
    What we call our moral feelings, or moral intuitions are merely other feelings, such as anger, sadness, embarrassment, etc, that we have mislabeled with moral terminology with no proof or evidence whatsoever. This is because labeling such actions with moral terminology helped our species survive, and that is something we wanted. Societies grew up around that idea because it was practical, and now, we are conditioned to use moral terminology since the time we are toddlers.


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Juan_Pablo says2014-03-08T04:41:11.797
Human rights exist, as do human laws, because we adhere to a social contract ( in my case as an American - the U.S. Constitution ). When humans infringe on the rights of others and break the law, the Law states that the accused can be tried in Court and, if found guilty, can be subjected to punitive consequences as determined by the Court. This is Social Contract Theory. Rights and Laws are established because the members of society agree that they are needed for a social to function and have order! Also, human rights exist because virtually all nations around the world have signed onto the UN Charter, which declares that humans have certain rights in all nations that participate in the UN.
miles-pro-libertate says2014-03-08T04:42:15.073
People doubt that humans have inherent rights? No wonder liberty is dying...
Juan_Pablo says2014-03-08T04:42:41.047
Social = society