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

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 12:51:23 MST

Charlie Stross wrote:
> 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.

Your argument is also not sufficient for that purpose. You would need
to examine more serious the pro argument and refute it. "Useful" to
whom? If you use that notion then there you can't just social groups so
easily, at least not on the basis of being compatible with human
rights. What will you judge them by then?

> 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.

But you have to start where you are and it is ludricous to dismiss
natural rights without speaking of the nature they supposedly grow out
of. And you have not posited any other nature (which would give rise to
rights appropriate to that nature). So this objection is pointless in
the context of the 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.

Sure. Contemplate it and nail it down. Don't just throw out human
nature wholesale and therefore natural rights because you have the goal
to question the latter without talking about nature at all.

> 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.

The religiousity of the period is irrelevant. It was also the time of
serious questioning of religion and basing of human rights and society
on naturalistic thought and reason. Don't try to pretend it was all one
way. That is dishonest. The number of fundamentalist in the country is

> *** 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. ***

Well, you haven't given a better paradigm yet nor has anyone else which
is part of why the world is awash in a sea of cultural relativism.

- samantha

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