First, let’s establish one rule here, which is that this thread is absolutely apolitical. There is no need for politics to enter into this discussion, as anything determined here should influence one’s politics, and not vice versa.
I will request that moderators remove any such attempts to make this into a political discussion. As a result, this may provide those on the forum with differing political views to participate in P&R in an environment which is perhaps less hostile towards them.
Now, down to business. I’m gonna start off with a bunch of babbling.
This started with a discussion regarding the notion of rights. I presented the following statement:
This presents a notion of rights as two separate things.
First, we have a purely subjective, ethereal notion of rights. Each of us has an opinion, based on our personal views and experiences, of what constitutes “right and wrong”. Being purely subjective, there can potentially be wide variances in this judgement from one person to another, and that will then translate into a variation in terms of what we believe SHOULD be granted as a set of rights to each individual
But then, separately, we have a more concrete notion of rights that exist within the real world. That is, these rights exist in a form which directly impacts our lives. That real-world manifestation of these rights takes the form of, really, the only thing that affects anything, physical force.
That is, you have these real, tangible, concrete rights if and only if they are defended through force. In an anarchistic society, like with animals, you have the rights which you yourself can defend. The antelope has the right to not be food, if he can outrun the lion. In human society, this force can go beyond the individual, which is a big reason why we enter into society in the first place. Society and centralized government, in its ability to exert far more force than any individual, provides a mechanism by which we can enforce a notion of rights that provide an agreed upon set for the whole of society.
In a democratic society, this set of rights can be fair and representative of the will of everyone. In an authoritarian, autocratic regime, less so. But the important point is that while you, personally, may believe that you have certain rights, if you cannot defend them ( or have someone else defend them for you), it’s largely meaningless. Those beliefs can influence dialog with other humans, and perhaps convince them to work with you to defend those rights, but the rights themselves don’t actually mean anything outside of the enforcement framework. If you’re in the wilderness with a murderer, and he has a gun pointed at your head, your rights don’t actually exist at that moment, and you’re going to die.
So then, we have a problem, in that we need to find a way to get from those subjective, ethereal rights, to the concrete, enforced rights that affect our lives and protect us. We need to find some notion that we can all agree upon, so that we can band together into society and have our collective might defend that agreed upon notion of rights, which is ultimately based in some large way upon our notions of right and wrong.
There’s a notion of “natural rights”, but I think that in a lot of ways such an idea misses a key step, and simply assumes certain things. In many case, it assumed some notion of an omnipotent super being, who defined what was right and what was wrong. God’s notion of right and wrong could ultimately create a framework for rights, because He was the ultimate enforcer. While you might not listen to him in this life, he’d punish you in the next one. Ultimately, even beyond the purely theistic basis for such things, a lot of the older ideas about a lot of rights tended to be somewhat circular arguments, presupposing that the underlying societal norms were correct, because everyone in the society agreed upon them (ignoring that a reason for this is that they had all grown up in that society).
If you believe in God, and believe that whatever mechanism he communicates with you is sound, like a religious text, this is potentially easy. It can be extremely dogmatic. Follow these rules, because God said so, the end. There doesn’t need to be a ton of more complex thinking, if those rules are suitably concrete and all encompassing. That being said, in practice, no religion really goes into that level of detail in actual texts. There is always room for interpretation, and this can lead to all kinds of interesting things. You can look at the works of someone like Thomas Aquinas, and see all kinds of interesting arguments for more nuanced philosophical things.
But not everyone believes in God, especially in modern American society. So we need another framework to decide what is right and wrong, if we’re going to come to some agreement.
That’s probably a decent start, I guess. Folks can jump in and tell me how wrong I am. Or we can go into defining a framework for what is right and wrong in a universal sense.