PHIL: The flaw in "rights"

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 23:45:40 -0500

The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to food, clothing, and education. "Rights" apply only between person and person, not between person and Nature. I can have a "right" for you not to punch me in the nose; I can't have a "right" to eat a meal. Maybe I have the "right" to take your meal away from you and eat it, but if that's what they meant, they should have said so.

I don't know if anyone has phrased it that way before, but it strikes me as being a clean logical-plane counter to an unfortunate way of thinking, so I thought I'd share it.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

--          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.