Wednesday, December 6, 2017

RE: Roaming Millennial On Human Rights

The problem with the debate over our rights is that no one ever brings a coherent definition of rights to the table. Doing so would require having a coherent theory of ethics, and this would further require one to understand what morality is and where it comes from. Most people don't have a coherent theory of ethics, and the debate over rights is usually a debate over gibsmedats, especially when liberals are involved. This lack of clarity over what constitutes a right is further compounded by the fact that most people approach morality and ethics in a mystical religious manner instead of in a scientific manner as they should. Conservatives and liberals alike tend to talk about morality as if it's some eternal ethereal thing that exists independent of the human mind. Roaming millennial deviates very little from this norm.

Moral Relativism Is Not The Problem

From the start of the video she confuses moral relativism with moral subjectivism. People who claim to reject moral relativism are usually moral relativists themselves. Moral relativism is the virtue ethics of Aristotle; it's habitually doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right manner, and with the right intentions. It's the utilitarian ethics of Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. The cardinal virtues, the law of equal liberty, and the greatest happiness principle are all relativistic. Moral relativism says certain actions are wrong except under particular circumstances. Moral subjectivism is a completely different animal. It's akin to the saying 'if it feels good do it.' This is probably the sentiment Roaming intended to address in her video.

Begging The Question

RM then defines human rights as something someone is entitled to, before abruptly drawing a dichotomy between legal rights and natural rights. This very ambiguous definition is begging the question. It does not address why people are entitled to certain things or how we arrive at these conclusions. Her explanation of natural rights similarly lacks substance. Reading an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on John Locke doesn't explain what natural rights are or where they come from. It does no justice to a theory as intricate as natural rights theory and makes the rest of her video completely pointless.

The Distinction Between Negative and Positive Rights

Skip to 8:21

The distinction between negative rights and positive rights is not as cut and dry as RM portrays and the example she gives for distinguishing between the two is completely asinine. If I became the last person in the country, morality and the concept of natural rights, would become meaningless. Morality is a social construct and rights are moral claims. They can only exist within a social context. You cannot act justly or unjustly in solitude; other people have to be around. If I was the last person on earth both sets of rights would disappear along with every other institution of society. Saying someone’s negative rights would be unaffected if everyone else vanished is just as absurd as saying the sanctity of marriage would be unaffected if everyone was a bachelor. Obviously, the very concept of marriage would be meaningless and irrelevant if married couple’s didn’t exist.

Morality Is An Adaptation

Morality wasn’t handed down by any god or government. It’s not something we sat down and reasoned our way to. Morality is a product of human action but not of human design; it is a result of what we would call the emergent order. Just like our cultures, our norms and our markets, no one in particular creates morals, rather they result from the interactions among different people and processes over time (e.g. cultural evolution). Morality and rights are objective only in the sense that they can be arrived at by examining the objective facts of human nature. The first objective fact of human nature is that humans are social animals. Individuals don’t just pop into existence like virtual particles; their identities are formed as they are brought up through the various institutions of society, starting with the family. Morality is a product of this process; it is an adaptation to the social state. It’s what allows societies to function properly, or rather what allows people to maintain the bonds necessary for the survival of societies, and the survival of our society is in our long term self-interest.

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