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

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Mon Aug 23 05:44:11 UTC 2004

Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:

> 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.

Agreed, the individual may.

> 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 adaptive.

Agreed again.

> 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.

Perhaps not but I am not sure that we are conversing yet though.

Have you stepped into my concept of rights to see if it works for
you, is consistent and is perhaps useful, or are you using one of
your own without stating what you mean by rights?

>From where do you perceive that the rights or others derive? I
outlined a sketch of where I think they derive that involved the
concept of groups and responsibility.

I'm arguing that there are no rights as rights other than those
which a person (if we stick with our own species) has because
they are a member of some group that will underwrite those rights
with a group-backed assumption of aggregated other individual
accepted responsibility.

I would argue for instance that as a US citizen that you have no
right to endless life (your fellow citizens cannot at present underwrite
such a right for you as they do not have the wherewithal to prevent
you from dying - even if they wanted to) rather you do have a right
not to be murdered so long as  your fellow citizens (group members)
will collectively accept the responsibility for preventing your being
murdered and for penalising anyone in or outside your group that
murders you.

I think this is an important topic and I'd be interested in pursuing
it with you (you are worth disagreeing with or agreeing with) but I
want to make sure that we are not talking past each other by
using words like rights imprecisely.

Brett Paatsch

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