MORALITY: right & wrong (was: A Bioethical Foundation for Human Rights)

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Nov 05 2001 - 01:22:10 MST

Anders wrote:
> See the problem with your reasoning? The fact that some people have bad
> mental software doesn't mean they are without rights, and when you start
> to try to pre-empt their bad behavior by violating their rights they
> will have even more reason to strike at you. There are far better ways
> at pre-empting terrorism.

I found the Deutsch analysis of the problem revealing:
(kudos to those who brought these URLs into the discussion)

It seems to me that Anders is close to being a "moral relativist".
Quoting Deutsch:
> Moral relativism always sees itself as evenhanded, and indeed it begins
> with a retreat from judgement or taking sides. But in practice it always
> entails siding with wrong against right.

> Western values are life-affirming and life-seeking. The murderers worship
> death. There is no symmetry between life and death.

It would appear to me, that Anders needs to state clearly and precisely
at what point actions by individuals void their rights.

- Do I void my rights by arguing that we should not be taxed?
- Do I void my rights by demonstrating against taxation?
- Do I void my rights by not paying my taxes?
- Do I void my rights by sabotaging efforts to collect taxes?
- Do I void my rights by assassinating the tax collectors?

(One would note that not paying taxes results in a diminished
ability of tax collectors to defend themselves (and other citizens)
against hostile individuals who would seek to eliminate them
Not paying taxes is not morally "neutral").

The complement of this is -- what rights should agents of the
majority have against agents of minorities?

If such agents of a minority are known to have and be committed
to an agenda that promotes and executes actions that destroy
innocent lives, is it unreasonable to:
- subject such individuals to drugs that would encourage them to
  divulge their knowledge of such behaviors (otherwise leaving them
- subject such individuals to painful methods of torture that
  would encourage them to disclose knowledge they had but would
  not permanently harm such individuals?

I will readily admit that the problem is when there is sufficient
evidence to justify such extreme measures be taken. But we *know*
that there are individuals willing to sacrifice their lives and
the lives of thousands of innocents for the sake of their most
probably irrationally based meme-sets.

To refute this it would seem to me that you have to justify that
holding any moral position -- even one that justifies and rationalizes
the elimination of other moral positions is fundamentally justifiable.

In the terms Deutsch uses -- you have to justify why promoting
the survival of a "wrong" position is as extropic as promoting the
survival of a "right" position.


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