Re: Ethics in a void (Re: meaning of life (RE: (repost) ))

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 02:54:59 MST

On Tue, Jan 23, 2001 at 10:48:28PM -0800, Samantha Atkins wrote:
> So far you have left out almost any analysis of the nature of the
> existents, human beings, except for a rarefied departure from a
> caraciture of Descartes.
> It is pointless to have a discussion attempting to derive natural rights
> on this basis.

I'm not attempting to derive natural rights -- I'm demonstrating that
there's no such thing as natural rights derived from human nature, and
that it's much more useful to view rights as constructions emerging
from social interaction.

I'm also deliberately not making any assumptions about "human nature"
(which underpins natural rights theory) because this is the EXTROPIANS
LIST, where concepts such as alien intelligences, AI's, uplifted
chimpanzees, Matrioshka brains, and so on are topics of discussion.

Extropianism is about transhumanism. This implies a willingness to
contemplate fundamental changes in human nature. If your theory of rights
is derived from human nature, then you are ill-equipped to do business
with sapients that are non-human -- unless you can coerce them into
pretending to be human.

Moreover, the natural rights theory of the 18th century is infused with
religiosity: the US constitution reeks of deism, and the country that
it belongs to has a higher per-capita proportion of fundamentalists than
just about anywhere on the planet except Afghanistan and Iran. If you
swim in that sea, it's hard to tell what colour the water is -- but to
an outsider, the tint is strikingly obvious.

*** I repeat: I am not discussing natural rights. I think natural rights
are incorrect and that a *better* paradigm for analysing rights exists,
just as the Einsteinian view of gravitation displaced the Newtonian
one. This isn't something I dreamed up overnight, either; it's been
floating around for quite a few decades and is quite common outside
your own parochial national boundaries. ***

-- Charlie

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