[ExI] Rights without selves (was: Nolopsism)

Spencer Campbell lacertilian at gmail.com
Tue Feb 9 02:37:13 UTC 2010

JOSHUA JOB <nanite1018 at gmail.com>:
> Anyone who thinks everything is alive is, as Damien said, an idiot, or I will add, severely epistemologically confused. Life also maintains homeostasis, grows, etc., things which a car does not do.

Agreed, agreed.

> Also, while rights, in my view, only apply to life, that is not a sufficient condition. The sufficient condition is that they are self-aware and rational, something cars, plants, etc. are not.

As it stands now, agreed. I've been saying that a new definition,
including unaware and irrational creatures or what have you, could be
more useful. Not certainly, but possibly. Either way I'm confident
that it would be self-consistent at the very least. and probably more
so than our current conception of ethics.

>> 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.
> Perhaps, though I generally view that as simply the fact that from experience we know the person still exists, and must merely be "woken up" in order to resume reasoning, etc. And damaging that physical object that that entity "resides" in will cause damage to the entity's capacity to continue to exist, and thus, is a violation of its rights (more on that in a moment).

Thus we come to the problem of comatose patients and undesired
fetuses. Invoking the possibility of consciousness or the expectation
of future consciousness as a basis for inviolable rights leads very
quickly to some major complications in a world where we can't predict
the future with much accuracy.

> For similar reasons, I argue that things which are not rational cannot have anything have personal meaning to them. The ocean does not employ de se operators, it is not self-aware, and in fact isn't even alive, so nothing can "wrong" it. I'll agree, basically, that rights prevent things from wronging other things, in a very specific sense, but since the ocean does not have any way it can be "wronged", it cannot possibly have rights.

As I noted before: "I'm not saying it would be more morally correct to
give the ocean
rights, as though it were a living, feeling entity". A system of
rights that makes no mention of selves would necessarily describe
rights in a very diffuse sense; it would be impossible to "wrong"
something in particular, anything at all, though it would be quite
easy to commit a wrong.

"It is wrong to dump garbage in the ocean", but the ocean is not
wronged if you dump garbage in it.

>> 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.
> That is my basic view of rights. I don't see how an ocean or a car can have rights, because rights need wrongs, and wrongs need values, and values need rational conceptual entities that employ de se operators (and it needs those entities to exist in some manner).

Normally I agree with you. But for now, I disagree vehemently!

Rights need wrongs: granted. Wrongs need values: granted. Values need
rational conceptual entities that employ de se operators: contested.

Laws are loaded with values, and remain loaded with the same values
long after whoever wrote them ceases to exist in any manner. It
doesn't matter where the values come from. I could write a quick
program that randomly generates grammatically correct value judgements
("it is wrong for jellyfish to vomit"), and it would naturally
instantiate a whole litany of injustices in the world.

The exigencies of survival are an equally valid source of values, and
obviously far more natural. Of course I shouldn't have to point out
that "more natural" does not automatically equal "better". It depends
entirely on how you go about determining the ultimate good. On this
list I generally go under the assumption that everyone agrees
increasing extropy is the ultimate good, and nature plays only an
incidental part there.

> What sort of horrible consequences would come if you gave a car rights (like the right to exist, for example)? Well, besides dumping that whole structure of rights, one, in my mind, based on logic, you lose the power of its base of logic, and rejecting logic leaves open any number of possible groundings for "rights", like faith or racism or random whim, etc. And that is bad.


Couldn't resist.

Logic can never serve as the basis of anything. It can only be used to
elaborate a perfectly arbitrary set of assumptions to its logical
conclusion. Faith and racism are arbitrary, but so is survival.

> But lets be concrete about it.


> If a car has a right to exist, then that means I can't scrap it if I don't want it (and own it). But if that is the case, that means I am forced to give it to someone else, even if I don't want to (breaching my right to control my life, because I purchased the car with my money, which I used some of my life to acquire).

This seems like a perfectly sensible law, which I would not object to
instituting as-is. It's just mandatory recycling really.

> Moreover, let us say that a deer with big antlers jumps in front of my vehicle and I can hit the deer (and quite possibly be killed or at least gored by its antlers, its happened a good bit around where I live to other people), or I can veer off the side of the road, and hit a lamp-post which I know I will likely survive (as I have a wonderfully safe car), but my car will be completely totalled. What should I do? My car has a right to exist, but if I veer off to the side, it will be destroyed, and I will have destroyed it. I have a right to live if I can, but if I want to live, I must destroy my car.

You and your friend are placed in adjacent cages, with no hope of
escape except for two switches reachable only by you. One of them
releases you, but kills your friend. The other kills you, but releases
your friend. What do you do?

Logic dictates weighing the absolute value of you against the absolute
value of your friend, which is extraordinarily difficult if both of
you are typical healthy human adults. If one of you is only a car,
however, the choice should be obvious.

> So, do you suggest, as you do in an earlier post, that a car has a right to exist? If it does, than I would have to go gently into that good night in my hypothetical situation above (or, more likely, scream and then gurgle as I choke on my own blood). Or, if I have a right to live, and do not have to do this, then the car cannot have a right to exist.

Actually, I was careful to stress the difference between a brand-new
car and a complete wreck. But go on. There's something for me to
refute here, but now is not the time.

> Rights are universals, they cannot be contextual, or else they aren't "rights." Everyone can have the right not to initiate force against others, as it leads to no contradictions. My car cannot have a right to exist, because it leads to a contradiction with a logically derived principle that I have a right to my life.

Incorrect, as illustrated by the earlier case of the caged friends! In
practice, rights which are guaranteed to be universal and inviolable
are pretty much always either impossible or worthless.

The right to life is a perfect example. Someday the universe will end,
and your right will be null and void. Realistically, though, you can
expect it to be violated a good deal before it comes to that.

> Btw, if my argument sounds similar-ish to the Objectivist argument, it is because I am heavily influenced by Objectivism (and may, though I am not certain, end up subscribing to that view fully).

Ayn Rand? That explains it! Objectivism, according to the Wikipedia at
least, explicitly endorses happiness (and rational self-interest) as a
valid gauge of morality. My position is known, from an earlier post,
to be in stark contrast with this.

But that's a mere quibble; I qualify unequivocally as an ethical
subjectivist, and even border on metaphysical subjectivism at times.
I'll have to post my Napoleon argument to the list soon. This is an
argument that sparked the following statement an hour or two after I
finished it: "Yesterday I would have said yes, but this morning
Spencer shattered my objectivism".

(This is paraphrased. He actually didn't say "Spencer", he said
"Gomodo", for what I'm sure is a perfectly rational reason.)

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