[ExI] Rights without selves (was: Nolopsism)

JOSHUA JOB nanite1018 at gmail.com
Tue Feb 9 19:25:42 UTC 2010

> On Feb 8, 2010, at 9:37 PM, Spencer Campbell wrote:
> 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.

A fetus is not yet a person, nor has ever been a person (as it is not nor ever has been a rational conceptual entity). So it cannot have any rights. At least until 34 weeks, they cannot possibly be regarded as people, at least from what I've read of neural development in the brain (the neocortex doesn't connect up until around then). After that it gets a little more fuzzy. As for comatose patients, if they have the capacity for brain function (i.e., they are not totally brain damaged), then they count as people, though others have to make decisions for them as that is a state which it is very difficult to recover from. If they are brain dead, then that entity no longer exists nor can it exist again (or at least, if it could, the body itself is likely irrelevant), and so no longer has rights.
> "It is wrong to dump garbage in the ocean", but the ocean is not
> wronged if you dump garbage in it.

I am saying that it cannot be wrong if it does not violate the nature of other conscious entities. The ocean cannot be wronged, only rational conceptual "self"-aware entities can be, because they are the things that can conceivably understand right and wrong. So it can't be wrong (as in, a violation of rights) to do something unless it infringes on the rights of other such entities. I argue that the only way to do this is to infringe with their ability to make decisions for themselves based on the facts of reality (so no force or fraud). Ocean dumping does not do this (unless someone owns the ocean or part of it, etc.), so it cannot be wrong, from the perspective of a discussion of rights.
> 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.

They aren't equally valid, they have a basis in reality. Statements have to be connected to reality in some way, or they mean literally nothing. "It is wrong for jellyfish to vomit" is totally disconnected with reality, as "wrong" can't be applied objectively to jellyfish vomit, but only in relation to entities for which the words "right" and "wrong" can have any meaning. Laws cease to exist (as laws) when there are no people who obey or enforce them. They apply to entities which can understand the meaning of "law." And yes, they are loaded with values, but they do not retain those values when they cease to be laws. They are, at best, a description of values from the past. But they are no longer laws, and have nothing to do with rights today (as those laws are no longer in effect).

> 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.

The idea of rights without selves (including rights of cars, the ocean to not be dumped in or vomited in by jellyfish) cannot possibly increase extropy. To demonstrate, I'll quote the definition of extropy from the ExI website:
"Extropy- The extent of a living or organizational system's intelligence, functional order, vitality, and capacity and drive for improvement."
By making life of rational conceptual "self"-aware entities the basis for your system of rights, you establish vitality and capacity/drive for improvement at the center of your system of rights. Along with that, you generate order (as in, spontaneous order, haha) by barring the initiation of force, and you set in place a framework that creates a strong drive for self-improvement, including intellectual improvement, in everyone in the society. Granting cars and the ocean rights has nothing to do with increasing intelligence, improving life, or increasing order or vitality of a living/organizational system. So I don't see how, in the context of extropy, one could argue that a system of rights not based on selves (and more properly, rational self-interest), could be extropic.
> Couldn't resist.
That's fine, I busted a gut at 1:30am when I read this. Tickled my funny bone, haha.
> 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.

True, I'm sorry. Reason is the basis, i.e. a combination of information about reality coupled with the application of logic/reason on that information. In my case, it is the nature of life, rational conceptual self-aware entities in particular, that leads to my conclusion that the only right you have is to not have force initiated against you. Everything else is in the province of personal morality (what should or shouldn't I do, what should my goals be, etc.), not essential right. That needs a self in order to work. Or at least, something equivalent, if you don't want to use "self".

> 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?
> ...
> 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.
Okay, I did a bad example, because rights, in my view, are based on life, and if life is impossible (like two caged friends where one must die), rights don't really apply anymore (all options lead to death). And perhaps I should not have gotten concrete in the way I proposed. Somewhat more abstract would be:
I buy a car, but I don't want it after a month. In fact, I really hate it, because, say, my hypothetical girlfriend had a heart attack in it because, I don't know, she slipped over the middle line and had a good scare. Whatever. But I want it destroyed. The law prevents me from doing so. I do it anyway. Then I go to jail, for a good while, because I violated the rights of a car. To me, that makes no sense at all. The car isn't alive. I committed no wrong against it. I merely crushed it and sold it for the metal it had in it. The only way you can justify this (or, try to anyway), is if you related the destruction of the car to me harming other people (like, they didn't get to have it, though in my opinion, that isn't harm, but that's beside the point). Any "right" would have to be connected to something that can be "wronged". Without "wrongs", i.e., actions where something is wronged, you have ludicrous situations such as the above.

Moreover, you don't have a right to life. You have a right to your life. Big difference. In the one case, I have a right to never die. In the other, no one else can take my life from me. The universe isn't a person, so it can't "take" my life. I must die eventually (or do I? bum bum bum...) but I can be guaranteed the right not to be killed (unless I'm in a special life-boat type situation).

> 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".
I'd like to here it.

Joshua Job
nanite1018 at gmail.com

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