[ExI] Rights without selves (was: Nolopsism)

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Mon Feb 8 19:18:57 UTC 2010

JOSHUA JOB <nanite1018 at gmail.com>:
> A car can't have rights because it isn't self-aware. It isn't even alive. It doesn't have choices, and nothing matters to it. It doesn't have the quality of being this weird self-referencing thing with a de se operator, it lacks the capacity of reason. And thus, it can't have any rights. A corpse isn't alive or rational or aware either. A brand-new human is, or at least will be in short order. Proliferating rights in the manner you suggest devalues the word and destroys its meaning, allowing evil people to appropriate it for their own ends, as they did in socialist countries all across the globe. The result? The deaths of tens of millions from starvation, disease, and brutal suppression of dissent.

There are people who believe that every single thing in the universe
is technically alive. Since cars actually have the ability to burn
fuel and propel themselves, traits generally associated with animals,
they actually have a better claim to the title than most inanimate
objects. You could argue that a car isn't alive because it can't move
intentionally, and the obvious counterargument would be to point
demonstratively at a plant; but many plants lean towards the sun. I
would prefer coral polyps as an example, or, even better,

On the subject of awareness, use of "de se" designators, et cetera,
Stefano Vaj points out that unconscious human beings retain the rights
of their conscious selves. I would equate this with a house retaining
the right not to be demolished even when its residents are away.

You're correct that my position devalues and/or destroys the current
meaning of "rights", but I don't see how a fungal bloom of evil would
follow logically from that. Elaborate please?

JOSHUA JOB <nanite1018 at gmail.com>:
> Having rights that you suggest would likely lead to chaos and that would support the rise of oppressive regimes, just as the proliferation of "rights" to jobs, health care, income, education, etc. have caused problems by creating a "need" for ever more oppressive regulations. The result? More chaos, and more regulation. Networks of rational agents generate spontaneous order through rational self-interest. I don't see how you can have any such thing as rational agents, or self-interest, without some "thing" which is an agent and has an interest in its own existence.

I'm broadening the definition with the intention to make law in
general more sensible: rights prevent wrongs. It is wrong to dump
garbage in the ocean. Therefore, the ocean should have rights.

At the moment the ocean is effectively piggybacking on tortuously
ill-defined rights of humans, such as "the right to live on a planet
that isn't broken", which are not explicitly enumerated in any written
document that I'm aware of.

I'm not saying it would be more morally correct to give the ocean
rights, as though it were a living, feeling entity. I'm not even
saying it would be more intuitive. I'm saying it would be simpler and
more efficient.

JOSHUA JOB <nanite1018 at gmail.com>:
> Even if there is no such thing as a "self", there is a thing which employs a de se operator to describe "itself", whatever "it" is, and I'm not clear on what the difference is between such an entity and a "self". It obviously has memory, reasons, and is self-aware (i.e. aware of the the thing that is speaking, thinking, etc., whatever it is). Doesn't some "thing" have to exist to employ such an operator?

I don't actually think the optimal system of law would exclude the
concept of a rational agent from playing a part. For the sake of
argument, I'm simply saying it's possible, and that such a system
could be made to work just as well, in effect, as any other. It would
likely employ much less concise language to do so, so it wouldn't be
as efficient as a "de se"-enabled system with all of the same laws.

The difference between "selves" and "de se systems", if that term is
accurate, is largely a matter of abstraction. A self is highly
complex, and theoretically atomic: it persists from one moment to
another, and one can correctly attribute memory, thought,
self-awareness, and so on to it. Memory is inextricable from self. All
of the parts add up to an indivisible whole.

Conversely, a "de se" designator is just a symbol. It points to a
greater system, which we normally call a self, but that system is
composed of a great many independent parts that interact in
complicated ways. Memories are only a part of that system, and purely
optional. The symbol doesn't care: it just refers to whatever's
present at the time.

I talk about "my arm" and "my foot" in exactly the same way that I
talk about "my house" and "my computer", as though all of these things
were part of me and I would be incomplete without them. This is
obviously false for the latter two, and not-so-obviously false for the
former two. My arm is part of my self, just as surely as is my
computer, but neither are parts of me. I don't have any parts; I don't
technically exist outside of the moment in which I write this.

There's a more tenuous relationship between quoted passages and
responses in this post than I normally display. I found myself copying
and pasting paragraphs from beneath one quote to beneath another,
because they worked equally well in both places and I wanted to spread
things out a little.

So it might not sound as if I was "listening" very carefully. Sorry
about that; I actually was, but I got a bit sidetracked.

You argue against cars having rights, and claim, indirectly, that
doing so would cause a great many terrible unintended consequences.
Request that you expound on a few of those consequences. You can
choose something other than a car, if easier.

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