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Comment by SteveInCO on April 29, 2012 at 1:56am

@Unseen

I've been out basically all day.  I've read what you've posted and disagree with a lot of it.  Then I scratch my head because I am unsure about what you mean about some things, and realize if I assume a different meaning, I disagree with you about a totally different set of things.  And a fairly large portion (but probably not as much as half) of our disagreement may be semantics.

So I am going to ask you a couple of questions, thinking the answer will hopefully clarify things.  I don't want to waste arguing against a position that you do not hold.

Human rights are inalienable. Legal rights are reformable and corruptible.

What are you thinking of when you refer to "human rights"?  (you can list or give examples, or define)  Do you think they exist and are independent of culture, or are they defined by the culture/society?

I think I know what you mean by legal rights, examples would be "the right to a Social Security check", a right that obviously would not exist if Social Security had not been legislated into existence.  I don't know if you have other more basic situations in mind when you name this category however.

Comment by Daniel on April 29, 2012 at 4:37am

@ Unseen 

I most surely do not think that you would participate in such matters. 

I offer my justification for condemning their practices. I feel I have sufficient justification.

Besides how can I tell how they wished to be treated if not by observing their actions towards others?

Comment by Unseen on April 29, 2012 at 10:01am

@Daniel

I am going to ask you a couple of questions, thinking the answer will hopefully clarify things.  I don't want to waste arguing against a position that you do not hold.

Human rights are inalienable. Legal rights are reformable and corruptible.


What are you thinking of when you refer to "human rights"?  (you can list or give examples, or define)  Do you think they exist and are independent of culture, or are they defined by the culture/society?

As referred to in this context, I view a right as something which is owed someone or something to which one is entitled.

I think the idea that this is something one is born with begs the question how? Not who says so, which a religious person would say is God, but how? Well, we are just animals and there is no God, so for rights, we need to fight for them to get them. No debt or entitlement has been created on our behalf other than culturally through legal means. There's no such thing as an extra-legal "right." You aren't born with a right simply because your species is human. To establish such a thing, you would need a metaphysical context, which any really logical and consistent atheist can't do.

What are you thinking of when you refer to "human rights"?  (you can list or give examples, or define)  Do you think they exist and are independent of culture, or are they defined by the culture/society?

Obviously, from what I've just written above, I think they are entirely given, not inherent, and are culture- and law-bound. One culture will define it one way, another culture another way, and as such they are contingent and not necessary aspects of being human. And in that sense, I say that so-called human rights either legal or imaginary.

Comment by Unseen on April 29, 2012 at 10:07am

@Daniel

I most surely do not think that you would participate in such matters. 

I offer my justification for condemning their practices. I feel I have sufficient justification.

Besides how can I tell how they wished to be treated if not by observing their actions towards others?

Please quote. I really don't know what we're discussing here. At first I thought it was The Golden Rule applied to a masochist, but now I'm not so sure.

Comment by SteveInCO on April 29, 2012 at 12:05pm

@Unseen... so in spite of that line I quoted, you don't think there is any actual distinction between human rights and legal rights?  Or maybe you see a distinction in the definitions, but consider human rights to be an empty set?

Comment by Unseen on April 29, 2012 at 12:50pm

@SteveInCO

so in spite of that line I quoted, you don't think there is any actual distinction between human rights and legal rights?  Or maybe you see a distinction in the definitions, but consider human rights to be an empty set?

I don't know how you reached that conclusion. Human rights are real when created by law. Otherwise, they are imaginary; rights we wish we had or strive to get by appealing to various agencies posessed of legislative and enforcement power: national law, international law, the U.N., etc.

We just don't have them by dint of being human beings, which seems to be what many people apparently mean by saying we are "born with inalienable human rights." That only makes sense in a religious context. You see, as
atheists, we can't do the "endowed by their Creator" sleight of hand used by the American founding fathers.

In fact, human rights are very alienable, apart from some legal way of enforcing them. If you establish them otherwise than legislatively, like through a power play of some sort (revolution, coup, war) and apart from law, it's just "to the victor goes the spoils."

Comment by SteveInCO on April 29, 2012 at 1:17pm

I don't know how you reached that conclusion.

You seemed to be drawing a distinction between two different categories of rights when you said

Human rights are inalienable. Legal rights are reformable and corruptible.

...at the top of page 12.  That made me wonder that perhaps you thought I was arguing about legal rights, all along, when in fact I was talking about something more akin to human rights.  At this point I conclude you don't think there is any real distinction between the two as regards "where they in fact come from" but rather, you might be drawing a distinction between them with regards as to what the actual statement of rights is--e.g., "the right to hold and propound your own beliefs" might be a human right, but "the right to receive you social security check" or maybe even "the right to a trial by jury" would be a legal right.

I am bugging you with these questions because I don't want to be putting words in your mouth.  (You've mentioned that you teach philosophy; you would then know the importance of this!)

For the record, I have been arguing all along about a category at least somewhat akin to what I think you are referring to as human rights, not the category I think you are referring to as legal rights.  But I probably shouldn't even make that statement until I know what you mean by those terms.

Comment by Unseen on April 29, 2012 at 3:52pm

Steve, I didn't say that. I was arguing against "Human rights are inalienable. Legal rights are reformable and corruptible." I think it was a quote by Atheist Exile, if memory serves. My position is that the first part of the statement is only true under some system of law or governance. The second part is too obvious to deny.

Human rights are rights humans can claim. We aren't born with them, except as form of authority says so, and only to the degree they are enforceable. They are alienable, meaning we can as easily not have them as have them, so we depend upon the law to guarantee them.

Christians can believe that we have them simply by being creatures in God's Creation, but obviously any atheist who argues that we are born with rights can't appeal to a Deity.

The argument from empathy I'm hearing here only results in a contingent form of right, not a necessary one—as ones conferred by a Creator God would be. This is because it depends upon empathy, which is just an emotion, and as with any emotion some people have it to a high degree while others have them hardly at all.

I don't doubt we have human rights, but they don't inhere in us. We have them by decree of our government and perhaps by international courts and agencies such as the United Nations. In another time or another world, we wouldn't have them at all.

I think what some misunderstand about my position is that I am only arguing about HOW we have human rights, not whether. Though, I'm sure some people have a very hard time availing themselves of their rights. Someone born into some backwater village in some Fourth World territory of a Third World country, for example.

Are we getting clear?

Comment by SteveInCO on April 29, 2012 at 4:50pm

The source of my confusion over your stand was the line I quoted, which was the only sentence in the post at the top of page 12.  Since it was the only sentence, I thought you were somehow stating some principle you held, and I was bewildered trying to reconcile it with everything else you had said.

OK now to cogitate some more.

Comment by Helena on May 1, 2012 at 4:24am

What happened to being able to voice an opinion without being bullied by those shouting "political correctness?" Maybe they got turned into Egyptian women.

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