On Rights

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A right, according to Webster’s, is “something to which one has a just claim.” The word is often uttered in sonorous phrases like “natural rights,” “human rights” and “equal and inalienable rights.” So today I’ll ask, and try to answer, a few questions about these rights. Where do rights come from? What are rights? What is the relationship between rights and justice? Are rights the same for everyone? What kinds of rights are there? And can these rights be given up, withdrawn, or transferred to others?

 

To put this essay in context. It’s the third in a planned series of short articles, in which I aim to set out the foundations of my political philosophy. I do this because, like many other people, I’m fed up with today’s world of states and superstates, arbitrary borders, institutional dishonesty, heavy and unjust taxes, bad political agendas and wars. So, I want to do what I can to elicit and to elucidate a better way. But I caution that this is a work in progress.

 

Where do rights come from?

 

Some believe that rights derive from a god. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “all men... are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” But for those who, like me, don’t believe in a deity, this isn’t a useful answer.

 

A second view is that rights are granted by a government. Thus there are no natural rights, only legal rights. This idea seems to have originated at the time of the French Revolution with Jeremy Bentham, who called natural rights “nonsense upon stilts.” I find this view worse than useless. For it fails to provide any moral defence at all against a government that goes rogue, and oppresses the people it is supposed to serve – as in the French Revolution itself.

 

A third view is that rights arise from tradition. In this view, rights are granted through such documents as Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the first ten amendments to the US constitution. In other words, rights granted in the past by a government that was “up against the wall” and unable to proceed without making concessions to the people, become rights for all time. I find this a more agreeable view than the first two; but it still doesn’t cut any ice for me.

 

A fourth view, much favoured by authoritarians, is that there’s no such thing as a natural right. But this view invites the obvious rejoinder: If we don’t have any natural rights, then you don’t have any natural rights. So we can do to you whatever we want! And we know where you live...

 

Here’s my own view. For me, rights come from human nature. And in particular, from the nature of human beings to be convivial. This word, which literally means “living together,” I have borrowed from the Belgian philosopher Frank van Dun. I use it to mean treating others peacefully and civilly.

 

What are rights?

 

In my view, a right is a benefit, which an individual acquires when everyone with whom he deals keeps to a particular obligation or rule. For example, the right to life results when everyone keeps to the Judaeo-Christian rule “Thou shalt not kill.” Or, perhaps more accurately: “Thou shalt not kill human beings against their wills.”

 

The convivial rules which everyone should keep to, and the rights which accrue from them, are like two sides of the same coin. And for me, all rules which generate rights are negatives. Thus, they prohibit doing things that unjustly harm, or are likely to harm, others. This is not to say that individuals don’t have any positive obligations towards others; they do. But those obligations (which I’ll treat in a later essay) don’t generate what I mean here by the word “rights.”

 

I see these obligations as examples of the negative form of Confucius’ Golden Rule, normally quoted as: “Don’t do to others what you don’t want to have done to you.” Thus, for example, those who don’t want their property stolen or trespassed on shouldn’t steal or trespass on the property of others. And those, who don’t want their privacy invaded, must refrain from invading others’ privacy.

 

There is, however, a difficulty with Confucius’ rule. Different people have different tastes. A masochist, for example, might be happy if you whip him. But you would probably not be happy if he did the same to you in return! A better statement of the rule, then, might be: “Don’t do to others what they don’t want to have done to them.” But this gives us a problem. To clarify what rights are, we need to construct a core list of things no-one should do to others, and of the corresponding rights we enjoy when others don’t do them to us. This is a hard task. I’ll give a few pointers later in this essay, but I’ll have to leave the detail for another day.

 

Rights and Justice

 

In an earlier essay “On Justice,” I discussed the nature of justice. The ideal I came up with, I call common sense justice. In this view, individuals should be treated, over the long term and in the round, as they treat others. It follows that rights must be conditional on the individual himself respecting the rights of others. Thus, rights are earned, not granted.

 

And those that do violate others’ rights can’t complain if they, in their turn, suffer violations of their own rights in reasonable proportion. This is why it’s OK, for example, to deny freedom of movement to convicted criminals in prison.

 

Are rights the same for everyone?

 

In my first essay in this series, “On Equality,” I identified the senses in which human beings are (or should be) equal to each other. One of these is moral equality. I put it thus: What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa.

 

Because of this, the list of things which people shouldn’t do to others must be the same for everyone. Not only does this mean that the core rights of each individual must be the same. But also that these rights must be independent of any particular culture.

 

Further, anyone who respects others’ rights thereby earns rights for themselves. And therefore, rights cannot depend on involuntary characteristics such as race, skin colour, birthplace or gender. As I like to put it: It doesn’t matter who you are, only what you do.

 

What kinds of rights are there?

 

Looking at lists of claimed rights, for example the United Nations’ 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” I find myself dividing them into four groups. I call these: fundamental rights, rights of non-impedance, procedural rights and aspirations.

 

Fundamental Rights

 

Fundamental rights result from moral prohibitions – that is, obligations to refrain from doing something, which apply to everyone – of the form “Thou shalt not...” followed by something bad. For example: The right to life (thou shalt not kill). Dignity (thou shalt not treat human beings as less than human). Property (thou shalt not steal). No slavery. No torture. No cruel or unusual punishment. No unjust arrest or detention. No unjust interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence. No untrue defamation. No coercion into marriage. And many others.

 

There are also some fundamental rights which should be in the Declaration, but aren’t. To find these, we need to look at other lists, for example the US Bill of Rights. I’d add at least the following examples. No unjust seizure of goods or other assets. No stalking or routine surveillance. No search without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing. And, in particular, no random searches, on any pretext.

 

Few people would deny that fundamental rights like these should be promoted and safeguarded. Moreover, fundamental rights are easy to measure respect for. With a fundamental right, such as the right to life, you always know where you are. Yes, you can say to yourself, I haven’t killed anyone. I’m OK on that one. And an hour later, you can check again. Yes, I still haven’t killed anyone. I’m still OK.

 

Rights of non-impedance

 

Rights of non-impedance, on the other hand, result from more nuanced moral prohibitions, of the form: “Thou shalt not put any obstacle in the way of...” followed by something good. And rights of non-impedance always carry an implied rider at the end. That is: “...provided it does not violate anyone else’s rights.”

 

In this category fall rights such as: Freedom of movement and residence. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Freedom of opinion and of speech. Freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Freedom to marry. Freedom to seek work. Free choice of employment.

 

And, as with fundamental rights, there are also some rights of non-impedance missing from the Declaration. The right to pursue happiness is one example.

 

Procedural rights

 

The third group I call procedural rights. These are rights which an individual has, not against other individuals, but against government as an institution. Examples include: equality before the law; public, impartial courts and trials; and innocence until proven guilty.

 

These rights only make sense in the context of a particular scheme of government. And they are often specific to a culture, or even to a jurisdiction. For example, trial by jury for criminal accusations is normal under English law, but not in many other systems of law. I’m planning several future essays on the subject of government. So, I won’t discuss these rights further today.

 

Aspirations

 

The fourth group of “rights,” which I call aspirations, aren’t really rights at all. Examples in the Declaration are the “right to work,” social security, a minimum standard of living, and “free” education. While many people would agree with the gist of these aspirations, there’s a problem with elevating them into rights. For, if such a “right” requires someone to pay so that others can have it, that is itself a violation of the rights of those who are forced to pay. In general, no claimed “right” can be valid if others’ rights must be violated in order to implement it.

 

There’s another problem too. If an aspiration like a minimum standard of living is elevated into a right, you never know where you are. You can’t be sure that you’re doing enough to respect the right. When you check an hour later, you still can’t be sure. Is there someone in Liberia, for example, you should have given a penny to in that last hour? You don’t know. You can never be sure you’re OK. And it’s almost impossible to defend yourself from an accusation that you aren’t respecting such a right.

 

But many of these aspirations can easily be re-cast as rights of non-impedance. For example, the “right to work” turns into the right not to be impeded from seeking work, or from doing work in whatever way is mutually most convenient to the parties involved. And the “right to a minimum standard of living” becomes a right not to be impeded from trading with others to get your needs satisfied. In other words, no-one should ever put any obstacle in the way of free access to the market.

 

Can rights be given up, withdrawn or transferred?

 

Lastly, the thorny questions of whether rights can be given up (alienated), withdrawn or transferred to someone else.

 

As to alienation, you may certainly choose to give up some of your rights in a particular situation, if you wish. If you have joined with other people in a defensive war or in a fight against oppression, for example, you may be willing to give up for the common cause some of your property, or some of your freedom of movement, or some of your opportunities for rest and leisure. You may even, if you so wish, give up your right to life by committing suicide or taking euthanasia. But you must make any such decisions rationally, and in full knowledge of the situation.

 

As to withdrawing rights, in my view a right may be withdrawn only temporarily, and only when required by objective, common sense justice, whether restorative or retributive. The way I put this is: Justice trumps rights. I gave earlier the example of a criminal, convicted of violating others’ rights, whose freedom of movement can be justly taken away for a period. And if actual harm has been caused, the individual can justly be made to compensate his victim.

 

Beyond justice, though, since rights are earned by respecting others’ rights, they are not granted by anyone or anything. And they therefore cannot be withdrawn.

 

As to transferring rights, you can of course choose to give some or all of your property to others if you so wish. But your fundamental rights and your rights of non-impedance remain always yours. You don’t give away any of your right to property, even if you give away all the property you currently hold! Any property you justly acquire afterwards is yours, not someone else’s.

 

So, while you can forego some of your rights for a time, or even permanently if you wish, you can’t assign or transfer any of them to anyone else.

 

To sum up

 

Rights – that is, fundamental rights and rights of non-impedance – come from human nature. Every valid right arises out of a moral prohibition. Rights are earned by respecting the rights of others. And they are the same for everyone.

 

The rights of those that have caused harm to others, or committed violations of others’ rights, may be violated in proportion, insofar as is necessary to implement common sense justice. But the rights of those who respect the rights of others, unless they voluntarily choose to forego them, must not be violated. Not for any reason. Not ever.

 

Comments

George N Romey Added Nov 18, 2017 - 10:37am
A modern complex society should determine rights that benefit its citizens and provide for moral stability.
Neil Lock Added Nov 18, 2017 - 10:53am
George: You're getting ahead of me! You're trying to build a house when I'm still trying to build its foundations. But thanks for the comment, anyway.
 
BTW, I notice you have a draft article here on Guaranteed Basic Income. I just made a lengthy comment on Opher's Automation thread that addresses this issue. I suspect you and I may be on the same side on that one.
George N Romey Added Nov 18, 2017 - 11:10am
I plan to publish it in the next day or so. This will be how politicians and the .1% will want to deal with ever growing poverty and lack of opportunity. And the US will simply print money to cover the costs.
Neil Lock Added Nov 18, 2017 - 11:19am
George: I know I'm preaching to the converted here. But printing money causes (after a little while) inflation. Which brings poverty to the self-reliant; while those close to the establishment are shielded from its effects. It happened in the UK back in the 1970s. That's what brought Thatcher to power. And she made a right royal screw-up of the situation - didn't she?
Neil Lock Added Nov 18, 2017 - 11:27am
OK: maybe I should X myself for letting George distract me. My fault, not his. But this thread is about rights, not about economics.
Dino Manalis Added Nov 18, 2017 - 12:19pm
Rights are constitutionally protected for everyone!
Dave Volek Added Nov 18, 2017 - 2:05pm
Your series reminds me "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
 
In this book, Robert Pirsig tries to define "Quality". Even though most of us can recognize it when we see it (most of the time), it is a philosophical concept that eludes definition--and this paradox drove the author insane.
 
It seems everyone knows a "right" looks like and can throw this term around in causal conversation, but "what is a right?" is for a higher level of discussion.
 
 Anyways, keep it up. I hope you got a few more essays coming.
 
 
The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 18, 2017 - 3:48pm
A fine piece Neil. 
opher goodwin Added Nov 18, 2017 - 4:44pm
Neil - a very thought provoking piece. My view is that there are no such thing as rights.
As an antitheist I do not see any rights stemming from medieval writings or supernatural beings. Too ambiguous and culturally confined.
As a biologist I know there are no rules.
Having said that I believe that it is down to the best minds to work together to create a set of 'rights'. That to me has already happened with the UN's magnificent charter of human rights.
People buy into these rights by virtue of agreeing with them and supporting them. They then can guide our interactions, inform our laws and social practices and confer 'rights' on all citizens.
The term 'Rights' I think is somehow not quite right.
Nasty Added Nov 18, 2017 - 6:34pm
I am sure your screed has value, but I stopped reading when it became a list of delusions.
Rights are whatever values you are strong enough to demand and hold!
That is my definition, and I really don't care what you think rights are.
God helps those who help themselves.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 18, 2017 - 7:33pm
Neil Lock:
    Basically everything thing you argued was false; every kind of higher ethics involves apriori reasoning, i.e., reason apart from feeling, experience, the senses. 
    If people worship the devil(instead of their Creator) then they ate fundamentally at odds with nature and what you call "natural law". 
     Ignorance is at odds with nature, and natural law, nature rejects it.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 18, 2017 - 8:32pm
Neil Lock, you said     
    Here’s my own view. For me, rights come from human nature. And in particular, from the nature of human beings to be convivial. 
    Nature is feminine; nature loves beauty, elegance, it dislikes cruelty. That Lord of immeasurable power that cannot be gauged even by Gods, who is unapproachable to mortals, who is of the nature of Justice meditates silently in his highest abode in heaven and in gardens upon the snow peaked mountains of the Himavat(peaks of the Himalayas).
    " The right most prized by civilized men is the right to be left alone".
J. Brandeis
Jeffrey Kelly Added Nov 18, 2017 - 10:00pm
Interesting piece.
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:12am
Nasty - well as god is a delusion what you are suggesting is the rule of the nastiest. I was hoping we were better than that.
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:13am
Barath - take god out of it. God is dead.
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:14am
Barath - nature only appears feminine. Scratch the surface and it is brutal and cruel.
Neil Lock Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:17am
Dave: Thanks for your kind appreciation and support. And yes, indeed I do plan a few more essays on deep topics like this one.  And a few more beyond that, too!
Neil Lock Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:18am
TBH and Jeffrey: Thanks to both of you, too.
Neil Lock Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:26am
Opher:
 
I believe that it is down to the best minds to work together to create a set of 'rights'.
 
Yes, absolutely agree. That's one of the things I'm going to propose when (eventually) I get on to the subject of government. But the UN, regrettably, isn't the best organization to do it. And the Universal Declaration (which, by the way, is the best, or at least the least bad, thing the UN has done), while it includes a lot of good stuff, still gets several things wrong, as I showed here. For example, you can't have unconditional social security or "free" education without violating property rights.
 
I can't read the Declaration without being reminded of the old saw about a camel being a horse designed by a committee. When we do the rights exercise for real, we're going to have to make sure that what comes out of it is the horse we wanted!
Neil Lock Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:31am
Nasty: Thanks for bringing up an alternative view that I didn't consider - but should have. You're saying that rights are no more than what you can defend. In fact, that's in essence the way the current system of nation-states "works." "I have the right to do what I want in my territory, as long as I can stop you taking it over." I don't think that's much of a recipe for a peaceful world!
 
Anyway, thanks again, and I'll add something about the view you brought up next time I'm updating this essay.
Neil Lock Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:43am
Barath: When I try to parse your first comment, I think you're saying that I was falling for David Hume's is/ought fallacy - trying to deduce ethics from facts, or what should be from what is. I was trying to avoid just that when I defined a right as: "a benefit, which an individual acquires when everyone with whom he deals keeps to a particular obligation or rule." I wasn't saying that these obligations are ethically right, but rather that they are beneficial and therefore useful.
 
As to "the right most prized by civilized men is the right to be left alone," I couldn't agree more. I have a list of "curve-ball" rights, which I'll come to discuss in due course. And this one is on my list. No-one should have to be sociable at times when they don't want to be!
The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 19, 2017 - 6:18am
No one is given rights. There are only those as nature will allow and as the individual may assert.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 19, 2017 - 8:28am
Neil:
   Why don't you just say rights come from the concepts of Justice, Liberty, fairness ..etc.
   Opher:
     Some animals believe in being good, mostly mammals, some don't,  if they didn't fear punishment of the Lord  the orderly arrangement of life would not be possible.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 19, 2017 - 8:44am
Neil Lock:
   But, if you want to say someone doesn't have a right to worship the devil, I would say they probably do, since who am I or the government to say whom the devil is?
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 19, 2017 - 8:59am
Opher:
    Let's say you adopted a puppy from the pound. You yell the puppy, " The powder room is in the park"
     One day the puppy misbehaves and goes in the house. " You say why did you do that, I told you to go in the park".
    The puppy was probably mad at you for some reason.
    If animals came to my nicely mowed backyard and had sex and swallowed each while kids were playing in the yard you would say " That's disgusting". They don't do that because the Lord punishes them for misbehavior.
  Thus the orderly arrangement of nature is possible.
Katharine Otto Added Nov 19, 2017 - 12:56pm
Neil,
I'm glad you are writing such thought-provoking essays, but my view is simplistic.  I figure my only "right" is that to my own body.  To insure that right I try to behave in a way that keeps me safe and relatively secure against threats.  That means not hurting other people, earning enough money without stealing to get food, clothing, and shelter.  
 
I don't believe nature or mankind is inherently evil or brutal.  There is a give-and-take among animals, or nothing would have survived this long.  
 
When discussing rights, it's important to consider who is empowered to grant or restrict them.  What gives them that "right"?
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 1:01pm
Nothing disgusting about animals having sex Barath. I'd probably use it as an opportunity to instruct the kids. Sex is a healthy thing between consenting adults. It's natural for animals too.
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 1:02pm
TBH - nobody is given rights but a society can decide to confer rights on individuals.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 19, 2017 - 1:29pm
Opher:
     Justice and fairness require that people should have rights.
     If you plant a tree and herbs and flowers in you backyard, if every animal came to your property to enjoy and fight over a place in it they would make a mess.
   They don't do that. Why?
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 19, 2017 - 2:29pm
Neil Lock:
   We need another civil rights revolution, Hillary Clinton can lead it since she marched from Selma, (Alabama) to Montgomery.
opher goodwin Added Nov 19, 2017 - 4:11pm
Barath - Justice and fairness require that people should have rights.
I agree with that.
Nasty Added Nov 19, 2017 - 5:20pm
I see none of you has had to live in the real world!
 
You don't see the armed Patrol men who keep away,  those who would take away your rights. You are ignorant of the Laws that Protect you from swindlers, frauds and thieves. You live in powerful countries with Armies to keep the slavers at bay.
 
You read of human trafficking, as if that is another world, even though it is in your city, state.
 
Enjoy your delusion, that you are entitled to those things provided by men of strength who die daily so you may live.
Dave Volek Added Nov 19, 2017 - 6:40pm
Nasty
You bring up a good point. Take away the police force and the bad guys come out real quick. Bad guys don't care about rights. Check out the Montreal police strike of 1969.
Jeffrey Kelly Added Nov 19, 2017 - 7:09pm
@Nasty:
”I see none of you has had to live in the real world!”
 
We all live in the real world.

“You don't see the armed Patrol men who keep away, those who would take away your rights. You are ignorant of the Laws that Protect you from swindlers, frauds and thieves. You live in powerful countries with Armies to keep the slavers at bay.

You read of human trafficking, as if that is another world, even though it is in your city, state.

Enjoy your delusion, that you are entitled to those things provided by men of strength who die daily so you may live.”
 
I don’t get what your point is.
 
”Rights” are only as strong as the societies built around them.  Those societies include the military and the police, plus whatever governments are in place to write laws and enforce them.
 
”Rights” are tenuous things.  If society collapses or radically changes then “Rights” don’t mean anything.  That’s also the case where the state is all powerful and not answerable to its citizens.
 
We all know this and I for one appreciate the men and women who protect this country and keep us safe.  I also appreciate the solidity of the institutions that keep our government in check.
 
So, bagging on us about this doesn’t make sense, Nasty.  We all know and appreciate what we have, we also know the sacrifices of those who got us here.
The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 19, 2017 - 8:12pm
Opher that is complete bollocks! Society confers rights to the individual? That is a premise so absurd it doesn't even deserve comment. Only mention it because I like you :)
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 4:08am
TBH - where do you think rights come from?
The way I see it is that we have no rights. The only rights we can ever have come from common agreement.
Why do you think that is bollocks?
The Burghal Hidage Added Nov 20, 2017 - 5:23am
Opher - In my Thanksgiving ode I made reference to and you commented on the Native Americans and I think that provides a fine example. If we are to accept your premise then one is left to wonder over the rights of the Native American. I guess if the rights of the individual are conferred upon them by a society then society may also take these rights away. So did society confer rights upon the Native American and then one of them leered at one of our daughters and reconsidered, then taking those rights away?
 
Societies do not confer rights upon the individual. The only role a society has in this is when it takes or attempts to take rights away from the individual, usually under the guise of being for the "common good".
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 5:35am
TBH - That is interesting. The Native American Indians is a great example. They did have 'rights' (and I am very unhappy with the whole concept of 'rights') conferred upon them. But they were lied to and their 'rights' not then recognised.
This is also true for the American black population. Their 'rights' have been abused.
Basically nobody has rights. There are no natural rights or supernatural rights. But societies come together to create, laws, regulation and confer 'rights'. Societies have always abused these rights and have the power to take them away.
What I always champion is a more universal set of 'rights' which were very well thought out and set out in the superb Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
These are not really 'rights' but a set of principles that human beings should live by. It is the nearest thing to rights that we can hope for.
Neil Lock Added Nov 20, 2017 - 6:43am
Barath: In my view, everyone has the right to worship whatever they will, as long as what they do doesn't cause actual harm to others. The UN declaration describes the right as "freedom... to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." They got that one right.
 
And you make a very good point: "who the devil" are you or I to say who or what "the devil" is?
Neil Lock Added Nov 20, 2017 - 6:45am
Nasty: When the police do the job they are supposed to do, they are a force for good. When they do other things (like shoot innocent people), not so much.
Neil Lock Added Nov 20, 2017 - 6:55am
Katharine: Many thanks for your kind comment. I'm well aware of the "standard" libertarian view that you have a right to your body, and that's all. I'm also well aware of the corresponding view that the only wrong is physical violence, and other things like non-violent fraud and lying in order to destroy someone's reputation are OK. I don't think either of those views goes far enough, which is why I am trying to re-derive everything from first principles.
 
As to who is empowered to grant or restrict rights, my view (as I hope I made plain above when I said "rights are earned, not granted") is - no-one.
Neil Lock Added Nov 20, 2017 - 7:02am
Opher: a society can decide to confer rights on individuals.
 
That's true (e.g. a corporation can decide to give its CEO a right to a golden handshake), but those aren't the kind of rights I'm talking about here. Everything in this article - and the two previous ones - should be taken in a context of individuals interacting with each other, outside and independently of any society or societies they may (or may not) belong to. I'm planning to write a bit later an article on societies, and how the rules and so the rights within a society may differ from the prohibitions and rights I'm talking about here.
Neil Lock Added Nov 20, 2017 - 7:06am
TBH: I should have addressed my comment above to Opher to you as well. You're both right in your own ways, but you're talking about different kinds of rights. In the context of this article, there is nothing called "society" which can confer rights on or take away rights from anyone.
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 7:44am
Neil - then there are no rights.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 11:45am
Opher:  
     The whole Creation is not worth its Creator. Men did not create themselves or the stars and planets.
The Creation may perish(due to the injustice of men) but not its Creator.
     Adam and Eve had two boys one survived the Jealousy of Cain, how could Eve be the Mother of all living? Adam and Eve procreated through sex. Adam and Eve were white, where did black people, Arab, Chinese people come from?
    Jehovah created dry land, plants and herbs and fruit yielding trees  on the 3rd day before there was a Sun, but only the Sun and stars on the fourth day. Angiosperms or fruit yielding trees evolved much later than fish, or sea life. The bible says God created sea life, whales on the 5th day.
    "And Evening and Morning were the third day"
     We tell time by the Earth's revolutions around the Sun, and the Earth's rotation on its axis, how long was a day, hour or minute before there was a Sun?
     Why did Lord Jehovah create day and night twice, on the first day and again on the fourth day?
     The Sun was in its place before the Earth or else how could the Earth orbit it?     
     Jehovah can't be the Creator.
       Who said you have a right to not worship the Creator when you believe people have no rights?
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 12:19pm
Barath - As far as I'm concerned people have the right to worship whatever medieval supernatural force they want. Tolerance is the basis of my antitheism. I believe all religion is medieval manmade nonsense but that's a personal opinion. Believe what you like. I prefer having evidence for what I choose to believe in.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 12:26pm
Opher you said,
        Neil - then there are no rights.
Then you said, 
      As far as I'm concerned people have the right to worship whatever medieval supernatural force they want.
     Also included would be the right to not worship any supernatural force, medieval or otherwise.
     So you actually accept that people have rights.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 12:40pm
Opher:
    You can't have a system where people try to enforce religious ethics and then when they are questioned as being wrong people say they don't believe in religious ethics.
   Opher it's silly, no society can function without rules and ethics or law. Do you want people to lie, steal cheat and torture and say there is no right or wrong?
    People can be very creative in their schemes and plans to violate the law. If you incriminate respected men(so called) in wrongdoing people end up dead. (I read the news today, oh boy.)
Simply Jews Added Nov 20, 2017 - 1:16pm
Neil,
 
It was an excellent read, I've especially enjoyed the classification of right in 3+ groups (well, + for Aspirations). Never thought about it this way. Cool.
 
As for the source of rights: aren't rights a type of a contract members of society commit to by being members? Of course, I agree on non-theist origin, but aren't our rights, as they are documented in laws and the justice system, a result of development of our morals, our society and (oh well), acceptance of some religious dogma? 
In short, part of what we (each one in his own corner, of course) call our culture?
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 2:52pm
Barath - only the rights I confer upon them.
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 2:54pm
Barath - no - I want a superior form of unambiguous ethics, laws and regulations formulated out of the philosophies of superior minds in our age. I figure that is much better than the ambiguous ramblings of medieval minds. We've got better at it.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 3:08pm
Opher:
    What like your medieval British mind and your inferior ramblings?
   The minds of your age are juvenile and stupid.
   The Lord is a living Lord and much superior to your infantile medieval superficial minds.
    You don't get the simplest things correct.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 3:12pm
Opher:
   You're a liar, saying you don't believe in a Creator so you can protect your silly Christian crapola.
     You couldn't even tell time without the Lord.
     There is no Jesus or Jehovah. They don't exist.
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 3:22pm
Barath - I am no liar. I have no Christian crapola. What are you talking about. None of the religious gods exist - including your own. They are all figments of human imagination.
There is no living Lord. But you believe what you like. I know who I think is juvenile - those who swallow the indoctrination and can't think for themselves.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 20, 2017 - 6:01pm
Opher:
    Okay, I apologize. But, what people really like is simple things, friendship, love, kindness, good friends and holiday cheer.
    They don't want a more advanced religion. They don't want hear that time can only accurately be measure by the distance light travels in a vacuum or Space, that time is not (absolute)real, but relative.
      Even after our mortal lives are done life goes on, nothing is the end until it's the End of the world. That even life's suffering are temporary and transient the important thing is knowing the Lord. Why seek hate and revenge instead of knowing the Lord's benevolence and goodness?
     People don't want more advanced ethics but more basic ones.
opher goodwin Added Nov 20, 2017 - 6:35pm
Fine Barath - But, what people really like is simple things, friendship, love, kindness, good friends and holiday cheer.
I'll go along with that. Those are the things that matter.
Jeff Jackson Added Nov 20, 2017 - 8:11pm
Neil- "And when a government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new form of government." Outlined in our constitutional philosophy, that the people have the right to end an oppressive government. This implies the wisdom of the majority. I suppose the question is if, in fact, the majority has an inherent wisdom. Nice article, Neil.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 21, 2017 - 1:42am
The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
Neil Lock Added Nov 21, 2017 - 3:49am
Jeff J: Good quote. I think this comes out of a very similar passage in John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (para 149, if you'd like to look it up). This idea was well known more than 300 years ago!
 
 
Personally, I don't think "the majority" has any inherent wisdom, so I answer your question in the negative. Are 10 people necessarily wiser than 9 people? I think not. Does that give 10 people the right to order 9 people around? Again, I think not. That's a big shortcoming of the system we today call "democracy." I'm planning to write something about that particular system (much) later.
 
Anyway, thanks for your interest and for the kind comment.
Neil Lock Added Nov 21, 2017 - 3:52am
Jeffry G: Also a good quote. I'm not a huge follower of Rand, but she surely got that one right.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 21, 2017 - 4:04am
I'm not a follower of her at all but like a stopped clock being right twice a day....as you say she got that one right.
 
 
Neil Lock Added Nov 21, 2017 - 4:06am
SJ: Glad you liked the article.
 
As to your question, I'm going to have to give the short answer "yes and no." As I said above to Opher and TBH, a society can confer rights. But these are not the same things as the rights I'm talking about here. Rights like life, security of person, and property, and freedoms like movement and association, are more fundamental than any society, and can exist prior to the establishment of any particular society.
 
To look at it another way: the rights (and obligations) conferred by a particular society are decided by the governing body of that society. But the fundamental rights and rights of non-impedance I talk about in this article are outside any such system, and are common to all convivial human beings. In a sense, they're like international law as opposed to national laws. I'll make a note to clarify this issue next time I update the article.
Simply Jews Added Nov 21, 2017 - 4:14am
Neil,
 
"But the fundamental rights and rights of non-impedance I talk about in this article are outside any such system, and are common to all convivial human beings."
 
This is exactly the point I have a problem to wrap my head around. You describe something that comes (or supposed to come) to the system, which is relatively self-contained (society) from the outside. Doesn't it imply existence of higher power that introduces that something?
Neil Lock Added Nov 21, 2017 - 5:06am
SJ: Yes, it is a hard point to grasp, isn't it? As I say in the article, "rights come from human nature." That means that in essence they come, not from outside, but from inside. They are built into what we are - a species with an innate ability to build civilizations. There's no need for an external higher power.
Simply Jews Added Nov 21, 2017 - 5:58am
OK, I shall think about suitable objections ;-)
Jeffry Gilbert Added Nov 21, 2017 - 6:03am
There's no need for an external higher power.
 
Damn Skippy! 
 
The weakness that seeks such only drags down the remainder. 
 
Those that ascribe to fate are victims of their own making. 
Wick Burner Added Nov 21, 2017 - 7:27am
A well-crafted and thought-provoking piece.  Thanks for the read.
Your premise of human nature as the font of rights (as a construct) is right on the mark (I certainly can't disagree).  Reading this caused me to think that Natural Justice, unimpeded by greed and other less-favourable human character traits, should be universally attainable; we certainly need more Natural Justice... and a healthy dose of Common Sense as well.
Cheers.
Barath Nagarajan Added Nov 21, 2017 - 9:39am
Neil Locke:
     Great civilizations have always been built on finding a higher ethic than human nature.
       Human civilizations have for too long been built on struggle and labor. Human nature says if you struggle and toil and labor more you will build more, achieve more.
     But the Lord says, " Why struggle? Be good, and be righteous and the Lord will give to you as he even gives a home for the birds in trees"
     
Neil Lock Added Nov 21, 2017 - 11:43am
Wick Burner: Good to meet you. I see from your profile that you're an Aussie. The first of that ilk I've come across here, so g'day, mate. (At least, that's how they used to greet me and others, when I spent six great months working in Sydney way back in 1987/8).
 
And as for your comment... well, you're far too kind to me, but other than that I couldn't agree more.
opher goodwin Added Nov 21, 2017 - 12:47pm
Neil - Personally, I don't think "the majority" has any inherent wisdom, so I answer your question in the negative. Are 10 people necessarily wiser than 9 people? I think not. Does that give 10 people the right to order 9 people around? Again, I think not. That's a big shortcoming of the system we today call "democracy." I'm planning to write something about that particular system (much) later.
I think we saw that with both the Brexit and Trump elections.
Neil Lock Added Nov 22, 2017 - 4:30am
Opher: I don't agree with you about Brexit. The EU was sold to us under false pretences. That's reason enough to say No to it.
 
As to Trump, you have a point; particularly given he didn't win the popular vote. But if the only choice you have is between an awful candidate and a god-awful one, no-one should be too surprised if the awful one wins.
Wick Burner Added Nov 22, 2017 - 6:01am
Cheers Neil!  Nice to meet you too, and lovely to be in agreement with someone.
opher goodwin Added Nov 22, 2017 - 9:27am
Neil - I think Brexit will prove a disaster. Our status is downgraded and our economy will suffer greatly. Prepare for hard times. The EU has many faults but I think we will notice the benefits more after we've left. As for Trump - it is always a choice between two evils but to go for the greater is insanity.