Rights again (was Re: [extropy-chat] SUV versus sedan etc)

Eliezer Yudkowsky sentience at pobox.com
Sun Aug 22 14:24:25 UTC 2004

Brett Paatsch wrote:
> 1) The rights one assumes for oneself are meaningless as rights.
> Any creature can pursue its own interests any way it likes and
> for so long as it can get away with it. A creature operating alone
> is one operating more basically and outside the sphere of rights
> and responsibility. Rights only arise in a social context. An individual
> without a group has infinite "freedom-to" and zero "freedom-from"

An individual of a species that has existed for evolutionary time in a 
regime that includes social groups may have a cognitive concept of rights 
that is internalized, intrinsic to the individual.  Even though that 
psychology would never have evolved without a group context, it now exists 
as an adaptation, independent of the ancestral conditions that rendered it 

I don't think it's a contradiction in terms to say that some of the things 
I choose to do myself, what a literally minded philosopher of selfishness 
would define as "my interests" (e.g., saving the world and not being a jerk 
in doing so), arise from my psychological perception of the rights of others.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                          http://singinst.org/
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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