Tuesday, June 17, 2008

an attack on the idea of natural rights

Here's an argument against Jefferson's claim that we have inalienable rights.
Natural Rights Don't Exist


Brandon said...

I must say that I suspect rights don't exist either. However, not for the same reasons Wallace says.

He seems to simply push off the question of ought. He doesn't show why we ought to make rules for things. It can't be because we simply want rules for personal reasons. Then rule-making becomes a matter of preference etc, not mandate or rightness or goodness:

The natural rights debate leads us down a false road. The energy spent in arguing which rules exist should better be spent deciding which rules we should make. The "perfect freedom" Locke described "to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they see fit... without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man", does not dictate the existence of rights; instead it leaves us perfectly free to legislate them.

I prefer this freedom, which seems to me simple and clear: we are all at a table together, deciding which rules to adopt, free from any vague constraints, half-remembered myths, anonymous patriarchal texts and murky concepts of nature. If I propose something you do not like, tell me why it is not practical, or harms somebody, or is counter to some other useful rule; but don't tell me it offends the universe.

Anonymous said...

I have been suspicious of natural rights for quite a long time(ever since MacIntyre.)

The only big problem I have with that paper is simply that the Declaration was a piece of propoganda. So, he could have gone a little easier on Jefferson.

One Brow said...

Jefferson was writing under a British system which did not recognize the rights that he described, and which was the legal government of the colonies until they succeeded in separating themselves and forming a new one.

Well, this document was actually the first step, the separation. It seems he is criticizing Jefferson not waiting until we declared indenpendence, in the vbery document designed to do so. Such a document seems a very natural place to include axioms for the new system.