(Non-Political) Rights, Ethics, and Morality


That’s true. I do not use any sort of principled reasoning to make many decisions. But by the same token, there is no possibility of rational debate over those decisions. Which means that what applies to me does not apply to you.

Presumably moral reasoning is different. If I do X when confronted by Y, then I believe you should also do X if confronted by Y. But if the reason I do X has nothing to do with principle, then I can’t really expect you to do it too. In which case, it’s hardly worth calling it “morality” at all, it’s just a bunch of personal preferences.


Quoting from that post:

Here’s where I disagree with you. I think that self-interest is too limited to provide a successful moral framework for a culture in the long term. I think that empathy has to be part of it, and that our empathy should be as broadly applied as possible. Harari’s argument in Homo Deus that humanism itself is too limited is pretty compelling, particularly when considering our specific historical situation. He looks at the political consequences of humanism over the last two centuries and the current and near-future state of technology and culture.


Society can be responsible for your behavior even if it’s not due to restrictions. For instance, perhaps it’s due to the way society has indoctrinated/taught you, and no further coercion is necessary.


But the reverse is equally plausible - a society of deprivation and desperation and that encourages immorality might be as indoctrinating. I feel like on the surface that’s a null argument.


Yes, the reverse is plausible. Maybe not only plausible, but actually happened (eg the Mongol Empire). If so, that argues that morality is not inherent.


I see it more like a sun loving plant growing under shade, tbh. Maybe it can but that doesn’t mean it “wants” to (in the sense of making it the most healthy, successful plant it can become, even if it itself is not conscious of the conditions in which it lives).


I would suggest that due to some of the underlying evolutionary traits that humans have, empathy actually does end up playing a role in a self-interest based ethical framework.

At a higher, abstract level, acting out of empathy ends up having utility because I believe that the overall effect of helping other people is a more pleasant world for me to live in.

But even before you get to that abstract level, due to things like mirror neurons, doing good things for other people actually does end up having a beneficial impact for you on a physiological level. Doing good things for other people will, in certain circumstances, create a sensation as though they were happening to you.

One thing to bear in mind though, regading these lower level, physiological effects: they often do not translate into non physical contexts. When presented with another person in real life, your brain observes their facial expresions, body language, etc, and causes various things to happen in your brain in response, because our brains evolved to do that.

When you remove that physical aspect, most of that instinctual empathy just goes out the window. Simply reading a story about bad things happening to other people in the news, in the abstract sense, will likely have far, FAR less impact on you, emotionally, than actually seeing their suffering, because it won’t trigger the same low level empathy pathways.


LOL or maybe we are shade loving plants forced to grow in light.

How often do people reluctantly do the right thing, and how often do people do the wrong thing reluctantly?


Arguably most people do the right thing most of the time - the problem today is the very narrow, self sacrificing view of what “the right thing” is that muddles the philosophers today. Human experience is not simply an endless sequence of moral dilemmas where either i throw myself in front of runaway trolleys or not (and by not doing so thus reveal my inherent amorality).


Well, you don’t do those things because you believe them to be wrong.

The reason for why you believe them to be wrong, is more complex.

On some level, you have the neurological and physiological stuff that humans have evolved over millions of years, which instills some degree of empathy in you. This creates a predisposition against just murdering other people.

But you also have stuff that was taught to you throughout your life, and instilled in what is likely a somewhat dogmatic sense. You were taught that following the rules is what you should do, and you know you’re not supposed to do that stuff.

On top of that, you also have the fact that you know society will punish you for those things… this may actually prevent you from doing some things that you would otherwise think was right, because you don’t want to pay the consequences.


A concept in my mind isn’t a thing?

You avoided my question, and I think it could clarify some things: Is hope literally not a thing if everyone in a place is hopeless? Is love not a thing unless I act on it?

Eh, this kind of empiricism only gets us so far. I’ve never seen the Andromeda Galaxy with my own eyes, or felt its gravitational pull. Shall I declare that it does not exist? When I read about it in a book, all I can say about it is that it is a picture in a book, that it exists in the words on a page, but not in space?


Ok, but my point is that when people are reluctant to do something, it’s usually when they are doing the “right thing”. If they were intrinsically biased to do the right thing, then they would mostly express reluctance when doing the “wrong” thing.

I mean, I reluctantly exercise, but I don’t reluctantly eat ice cream. That tells you about my predisposition.


Well, i don’t know of course, i’d conjecture it’s because these questions are usually framed as a kind of “self sacrifice” that makes people not do the “right thing” because our nature as living things makes it difficult to judge on the fly the degree to which self sacrifice is appropriate - you do after all have the “duty” (right?) to your own self preservation.


It’s only a thing in your mind. It doesn’t affect the world unless you act upon it.

What exactly are you trying to do here?

I mean… ok, so is hope not a thing if no one has hope and no one acts on it? Yes, I guess? I mean, what does that even mean?

Here, let’s try to distill this into sensible terms.

Define what it means for something to exist in the world. I presented my definition earlier. You seem to disagree with it, but you have not clearly presented any alternative definition. You need to do that, because I suspect that is where your disagreement lies.

You actually have. I mean, technically, you are in fact under the gravitational influence of that galaxy, infinitesimal though it may be.

You read about it in a book because people actually did observe it, because it does in fact exist within the universe.

Again, I’m not sure what you are trying to argue at this point. That things exist even if there is literally no measurable observation to support that notion?

So unicorns exist? Fairies? How do you know that they don’t exist?

On some level, I feel like this is getting pretty far off the mark. I’m not super interested in debating something as primitive as “does anything exist?” I feel like my definition of existence is pretty universally accepted, and one that we use constantly in our every day lives.


Ok, so then you didn’t fully read/understand his post or reply to it meaningfully. And if we’re far afield and in the wilderness, that’s because you brought us there! Don’t blame me for your bad example. :D

Again, you didn’t fully read/understand the comment. As I defined Rights2, these are things like the 911 dispatcher, police department, IRS, etc. The physical mechanisms of enacting rights. In my comment I said that these mechanisms (as well as Rights1) still exist but are not applicable. And you replied that no, these things (the 911 dispatcher?) are only in your head. Which is obviously not correct. Again, I think it would be really helpful for you to distinguish between Rights1, a mental and social construct, and Rights2, the mechanisms and abilities for enforcing rights. Otherwise you start making confused statements, like

You have the right to existence, as far as society is able to defend it.

Which makes (some) sense as a statement about Rights2 (we can defend what we can defend) but doesn’t make sense as a statement about Rights1 (you should exist so long as your tribe has the force to keep you alive, but presumably no longer. Well ok, maybe you are Sith-Nazi and that is your belief, but I don’t think that’s what you actually meant by that statement).


I did this, correct? What you are calling “Rights1” is what I referred to as “ethereal rights”. That is, they are purely an abstract concept in your head.


I feel like there’s room for confusion which is why I try to make the distinction. E.g. take 2 statements

“The Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
“You have the right to existence, as far as society is able to defend it.”

The first statement is a statement about a shared social belief (Rights1, ethereal rights) while the second statement is generally a statement about physical power and capabilities in the world (Rights2). And I feel like it’s easy to start slipping between the definitions if we’re not careful. That’s all! Carry on.


But the whole point of separating ethereal rights from manifested rights is that only manifested rights actually matter, in terms of affecting our lives.

The declaration of independence declared beliefs, but it only mattered because the colonies went to war to defend that assertion.
Their belief differed from that of the King. The only reason their declared assertion of their rights trumped that of the King, was that they exerted the physical force to defend their assertion. If they had lost that war, they wouldn’t have had the rights they asserted. (I don’t think we need to get into the nuanced details of exactly what rights were already granted under english law at the time, etc.)


Well, some of those rights kind of existed in England already. They just didn’t transfer to the colonies.


Heh, I just mentioned that in the edit… I think it’s kind of immaterial to the underlying discussion regarding rights and their manifestation in the real world.