Samantha Atkins writes:
> Is the nature of human being negotiated and conditional or is
> the nature of human beings a given? If it is a given then it
> just might imply that certain rights, certain fundamentals of
> how people treat one another, are fundamental to the well-being
> of human beings based on their nature. Yes?
In theory, I might agree. In practice, I would not. [Meaning: it seems a far
stretch to me.]
First of all, I don't subscribe to the idea that we are in any way all the
same, hence I dislike the claim that the nature of human beings is a given.
If this were true, it would imply that all people want to be treated the
same, in all respects. I don't subscribe to that. That is point #1.
But let's assume that the nature of human beings is a given: all people want
to be treated the same, in all respects. How do we then extrapolate human
rights (R) from your definition? Why, we take the 'given nature' (N) of
human beings (H), we take the environment into which these beings are placed
(E), and then we find the optimal set of rules R such that, when these rules
a) The highest proportion of H will be satisfied in E.
b) Or, alternatively, the lowest proportion of H will suffer in E.
c) Or some other combination of criteria. (Which one?)
As you can see, we have difficulty selecting even the rules to determine R,
given E and N. That is point #2.
Also, I asserted that R depends on E and N, not just N. That seems a rather
straightforward implication to me: I see no reason to assume that the result
of extrapolating R from N will be the same for every E. For instance, the
result would be different in a labile community, such as an expedition to
Mars, where everyone's death is imminent unless everyone follows strict
rules, than in a stable, Earth-based community, where rules can be and
should be much more relaxed. So, we have the additional difficulty of having
to extrapolate R from N for every conceivable E. That would be point #3.
Also, any given E changes with time. So we have a dependence on time (T) as
well: we have to re-apply the above extrapolation as often as necessary to
retain consistency. That would be point #4.
Finally, would anyone please show me a person who can, given N and E,
extrapolate R? Do we even have a way of defining N in a strict sense? Not
that I know of, unless we limit ourselves to ideal cases. Do we have a way
of defining E in a strict sense? Not that I know of, unless we limit
ourselves to ideal cases.
So, I would like to assert that it is infeasible to extrapolate R given N
and E. That would be point #5.
So, yes, in theory, and only if point #1 is false, Rights(N, E) could be
considered universal and predetermined: just as you could say, "Well, the
universe seems to function on predetermined rules, so it seems that it must
all be determined." Yes, it might be. But how do you calculate what tomorrow
will be, given the initial state of the universe? With difficulty, at
I hope I have shown in sufficient detail why I think your assertion of
eternal, predetermined human rights is rather useless. There's no way of
applying it. For the time being, I see no better way to determine the best
rules of conduct in any given situation than by implicit (tacit) or explicit
negotiation between everyone involved.
Or at least most of the most influential people involved, as is more often
the case. Your country's fundamental documents might say that human rights
are eternal and given, but they were still negotiated: someone, a human
being or a group of human beings, *decided* what these rights should be, and
they wrote them down into the constitution. I'm quite sure that they didn't
determine N and E, and then extrapolated R from that. What they defined R to
be is the result of a lively discussion; in other words, negotiation; and
the result is somewhat specific to the environment E that they lived in.
So, no, human rights are not a given, no matter what your school teacher
said. School teachers told lots of nonsense to me, too, but that doesn't
mean I have to believe it.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:24 MDT