Re: sentient rights (was RE: Battleground God)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 05:22:10 MST

Damien R. Sullivan wrote:

> On Thu, Feb 21, 2002 at 11:01:07AM -0500, Mike Lorrey wrote:

> "Codified physical law"? I'd like to see some support for that.

Agreed. It is a strange turn of phrase. To me the argument
that natural rights grow out of the fact that humans, by virtue
of their specific nature, require certain conditions in order to
  live and thrive most optimally and a subset of those are
basically rights to their own person, property and pursuits -
the so-called "negative rights" - comes closest to a
justification for natural rights.

> It was an extropian on this list -- Dave Krieger? dv/dt? -- who pushed
> me from believing in "natural rights" (with severe qualms, since I
> couldn't imagine how to possibly get someone like Stalin or Hitler to
> take them seriously) to viewing rights as a social contract, which
> amounts to a social fiction.

Give the above notion of natural rights the natural rights exist
regardless of whether they are honored by any particular ruler
or mob. Judging the actions of the rulers or mobs is done
relative to supporting or denying these "natural rights", these
requirements for human well-being. This seems much more
reasonable than attempting the reverse, judging the concept of
natural rights on the basis of whether this or that leader or
group would honor and uphold them. Saying they are a social
contract, in my opinion, makes a similar mistake. It puts the
emphasis on upholding these rights rather than on whether
certain "rights" naturally are required by dint of the nature of
human beings.

> The social fictions have consequences, mind you; it's not as if ethics
> can be chosen willy-nilly. But they're hardly determined, or guaranteed
> to be pleasant in all circumstances, and they're not necessarily
> self-enforcing in a human lifespan.

What your nature requires relative to the actions of others or
their refraining from certain actions for your optimal
functioning does not change based on how they do in fact act
toward you. Natural rights therefore are not a matter of social
contract. Social contracts, if they are rational, grow out of
these "natural rights" - not the reverse.

- samantha

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