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A Question for Speciesists

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 4:18 PM

I don't see how that quote says that Nielsio believes that third-party opinions are the foundation of law. It looks like he thinks that third-party opinions help reinforce the resolutions of disputes. If I steal your shovel and refuse to go to mediation or court, then what happens if you take your shovel back? What if I prevent you from doing this? How are you going to get it back? By hiring someone to do it? Why are they going to do it? What makes it your shovel and not mine? Why should anyone care about your belief that it is your shovel?

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 4:24 PM

I don't see how that quote says that Nielsio believes that third-party opinions are the foundation of law. It looks like he thinks that third-party opinions help reinforce the resolutions of disputes. If I steal your shovel and refuse to go to mediation or court, then what happens if you take your shovel back? What if I prevent you from doing this? How are you going to get it back? By hiring someone to do it? Why are they going to do it? What makes it your shovel and not mine? Why should anyone care about your belief that it is your shovel?

This approach unnecessarily conflates the production of security and the production of law. You cannot take an "axiomatic approach" to "derive" a market because the market itself is the result of the simultaneous interactions of many humans that are simply too complex to be analyzed step-by-step. Hence, we speak of the "market in security" without specifying, step-by-step, how such a market could or would arise on an empty island being repopulated one person at a time. In other words, Crusoe analysis is simply unsuitable to the problem at hand, except to differentiate the case of a state of nature with no other human beings (isolation) and the social order.

All the questions you ask are addressed in my article Praxeological Account of Law. Nielsio and I probably agree on most conclusions but the disagreement is methodological and I think that the repercussions of Nielsio's methodology are profound... he thinks you can derive a libertarian legal system from his methodology and my contention is that, in fact, what gets derived from that methodology is the social order we actually have, where judges make decisions based on what is popular more than what is just.

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Thanks Clayton, I was driving and couldn't respond.  That's exactly right.  A sleeping person must wake up in order to advocate for themselves.  A person in a coma or hampered by a mental condition that makes them unable to make value based decisions to guide their actions must have a rational advocate.  They can't be held responsible for their own actions.  Thus someone must take responsibility for them. 

This doesn't mean that our actions toward each other aren't influenced by a host of the virtues we consider important, often paramount.  It's just that those moral motivations we have are not universals, and no amount of argument can show that they are. 

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 4:34 PM

I know what you say in your article, and I agree with it, which is why I link to it for most newbies here. The point of my questions is that you cannot escape third-party opinion. If you cannot prove to others that what you have done is just, then you cannot be acting within the law. If you reclaim your shovel from me, but you cannot prove to others that what you did is just, then you will have acted illegally, even if what you did was right according to libertarian property theory.

What I get from Nielsio's points is that people have natural incentives to support libertarian property rights, but that the state upsets these natural incentives. Eliminate the double standard, and people will want to support libertarian property theory because it is in their own interests. I don't see how that in any way could lead to a state.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 4:41 PM

Thanks Clayton, I was driving and couldn't respond.  That's exactly right.  A sleeping person must wake up in order to advocate for themselves.  A person in a coma or hampered by a mental condition that makes them unable to make value based decisions to guide their actions must have a rational advocate.  They can't be held responsible for their own actions.  Thus someone must take responsibility for them.

 

Certain incompetents are vegetative and so the advocate is exclusively a guardian (infants, seniles, comatose etc.) Others are not vegetative but they cannot form an argument on their own behalf (e.g. the mentally retarded, the insane) and so the advocate is both a guardian and a surety. In the former role, the advocate is primarily preventing harm from coming to the incompetent. In the later case, he is both preventing harm from coming to the incompetent and accepting liability for harm the incompetent might bring onto others, whence he derives the authority to confine the incompetent or make other arrangements to incapacitate or pacify the incompetent.

This doesn't mean that our actions toward each other aren't influenced by a host of the virtues we consider important, often paramount.  It's just that those moral motivations we have are not universals, and no amount of argument can show that they are.

Well, I would qualify that last sentence... we can in fact establish universals through empirical study, that is, by investigating culturally-universal behaviors, of which there is a staggeringly large list. These behaviors form the basis of an empirical specification of human nature. This provides the framework for a normative morality. However, normative morality is not suitable for use in legal disputes because the only valid threat that can be made in a legal dispute is to walk away, that is, to call off the deal.

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I don't actually accept that qualification.  I mean, even a staggeringly thorough scientific study of values could only ever make hypotheses about human values.  They couldn't really ever design such a test, and if they did, it would only tell us about ourselves and our species-specific preoccupations, not anything like a universal we could expect to apply to other species.  It's like the "is free will objectively real or just an illusion?" question.  It's irrelevant through the impossibility of getting the right perspective to carry on a study.

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I do agree with the rest of what you said, though, Clayton!  Should have started with that.

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dude6935 replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 5:12 PM

Clayton, take the case of a fetus. Say a mother wants to abort. In your view, do I or don't I have a right to advocate for the life of the fetus by laying claim to it (as abandoned property) in order to assert my rights to its preservation.

I see her right to evict, but I don't see her right to keep others from adopting what she intends to abandon.

The same issue would apply to any incompetent whose guardian wishes to kill it. 

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 5:14 PM

even a staggeringly thorough scientific study of values could only ever make hypotheses about human values.  They couldn't really ever design such a test, and if they did, it would only tell us about ourselves and our species-specific preoccupations, not anything like a universal we could expect to apply to other species.  It's like the "is free will objectively real or just an illusion?" question.  It's irrelevant through the impossibility of getting the right perspective to carry on a study.

That exaggerates the shakiness of what we can conclude on the basis of empirical study of human behavior. If the same behavior exists across all cultures, that tells us that this behavior is part of our genetics*, that is, it is encoded right into what it means to be human.

To develop norms on this basis still requires a moral criterion - that is, you have to pick something that is the criterion for "good" versus "bad". Human nature itself is just a description of what is a human... it is neither good nor bad. Combined with the Epicurean moral criterion (pleasure=good, pain=bad), you get a robust, reasonable and practical moral system. Morality is the art of choosing right ends on the basis of the consequences (short- and long-run) to oneself in terms of suffering/satisfaction within the constraints of human nature, both of oneself and that of others. The study of human nature not only sharpens my discernment of how my choices will affect me but also sharpens my understanding of how others will react to my choices. Because the social order is itself the single most important component of my satisfaction** (and, thus, the single greatest cause of my suffering), the large part of moral philosophy (or science, if you like) is concerned with the study of human nature and the consequences of the particular features of human nature to our choices.

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*though not necessarily our genes... regardless of how a particular behavior is developed (whether hardwired in the brain or invariably developed during childhood), so long as it is culturally universal, we can safely conclude that it is part of human nature

**consider how many social interactions are required just to cook yourself breakfast

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 5:24 PM

Clayton, take the case of a fetus. Say a mother wants to abort. In your view, do I or don't I have a right to advocate for the life of the fetus by laying claim to it (as abandoned property) in order to assert my rights to its preservation.

I see her right to evict, but I don't see her right to keep others from adopting what she intends to abandon.

The same issue would apply to any incompetent whose guardian wishes to kill it.

Absolutely, and I've written on this in some other thread, I can't remember where. Basically, viability does matter though not for the reasons the Supreme Court said in Roe. Viability determines the point at which the life of the child could reasonably be saved and then the unwanted child could be adopted by someone else. Since it is not the mother's property merely by virtue of having been inside of her, she cannot destroy the child if someone else is willing to take it. However, privacy is also anyone's right, so the mother has no duty to inform anyone that she is pregnant. In this case, she can abort even after the point of viability without legal repercussion.

Termination of respirator support (e.g. the Terry Schiavo case) is a different matter - the advocate is not abandoning anything, he is making a positive decision to end the life of the incompetent on the basis that the incompetent is undergoing pointless suffering. I'm not justifying anything here, merely pointing out the structural difference.

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Okey doke!  I'm gonna gracefully say you're probably right...

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 5:48 PM

@Lady Saiga: The subject which has only in the last few decades started is called Evolutionary Psychology and I recommend this and this to your attention.

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dude6935 replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 5:49 PM

I agree with you. Block tries to insert a positive obligation on the mother to inform the public (he acknowledges that this is inconsistent).

Not only is it inconsistent, but it is also unnecessary. The hospital employed to perform an abortion has every right to inform others of a possible adoption. This is a possible revenue stream for them. Only if they contract away this right would the abortion be secret. Thus, secret abortions have a premium price.

So adoption would be the norm due to the lower price. Only when the mother is willing to pay a little extra would abortion be the result.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 6:06 PM

How didn't this thread end with Neodoxy's posts? Rights are subjective, normative, prescriptive concepts. They aren't objective, descriptive laws of nature. They're whimsical rules and nothing else. They're whatever you want them to be or, if others are involved and "rights" is to mean anything communicable, then they're whatever people agree they are.

/thread

But the question in the OP is effectively addressed through evolutionary biology/psychology. Social norms are what they are as opposed to every other possibility because that's how homo sapiens developed in the face of every other possibility.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 6:54 PM

 they're whatever people agree they are.

This is like saying "words mean whatever people agree they mean" - just true enough but direly misleading. Meaning emerges through the process of repetition and as a word becomes repeated, its meaning transcends any kind of conventional agreement, the kind that people can make by sitting down in a room and taking a vote. The rules of chess are "what people agree they are" but in a starkly different sense than words mean what people agree they mean.

In an unhampered market in law, law (rights are merely a corollary of law) is like language, not like the rules of chess. Lawful behavior is whatever you can do without someone justifiably preventing you. What can people justifiably prevent you from doing? Go look at the past settlements of legal disputes and see.

Word usage is objective - English-speakers don't use the sound "car" to mean orange - when they mean to indicate an orange, they invariably use the sound "orange." This is not whimsical, it's a fact that is as objective as the speed of light. Simple observation will bear it out. Similarly, the terms of past settlements are objective facts that can be ascertained merely by reading the terms of the settlements. The success of those settlements can be ascertained by inquiring whether the parties have gone back into a dispute or whether the settlement put the matter to rest for good. Such study is tedious and likely to be the domain of experts in such matters but it is nonetheless objective. The legal scholar arranging a compendium of case law is little different than the linguist arranging a dictionary of words and word usage. Both are scientists of objective human behavior in a particular domain.

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AJ replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 6:55 PM
Clayton's first addition, which fleshed out what I was getting at when I said you need to define the term before saying whether it's subjective, was necessary. Once you define which "morality" you mean clearly enough, it becomes obvious what is subjective. Without this further distinction many will be left with objections due to misunderstanding.
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gotlucky:

@thetabularasa

Have you bothered to read the link I provided? I can't help but think that you aren't interested in finding an answer to your OP.

Yes, I watched it, and no, it didn't help. It maintains that people have no natural rights; that rights are something obtained through rational, economic interaction with others. I completely disagree. My retarded brother (mentioning him again) cannot rationally communicate other than with very basic hand signals, but this doesn't mean I can kill or injur him. To assume he has no rights because he cannot effectively communicate is to presume that he can be treated just as any other non-human animal that also has no rights.

The essence of my questions is thus: why is it ok for people to kill non-human animals but not ok for people to kill other people?

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hashem:

How didn't this thread end with Neodoxy's posts? Rights are subjective, normative, prescriptive concepts. They aren't objective, descriptive laws of nature. They're whimsical rules and nothing else. They're whatever you want them to be or, if others are involved and "rights" is to mean anything communicable, then they're whatever people agree they are.

/thread

But the question in the OP is effectively addressed through evolutionary biology/psychology. Social norms are what they are as opposed to every other possibility because that's how homo sapiens developed in the face of every other possibility.

So you maintain that rights simply don't exist; only customs exist. Taking this notion, I could make the claim that since Nazi Germany institutionalized the killing of millions of people who weren't Aryan that there was nothing wrong with it since culturally speaking, the victims were outcast and had no natural rights to life to begin with...right?

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Anenome replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:01 PM
 
 

Hashem confuses the subjective nature of the communication of rights with the objective facts rights are designed to describe. Also, some corollary rights are somewhat abstract, but that doesn't make them less a facet of reality. Thus, the fact of controlling your body leads to for instance the right of freedom of movement and its corollary, the right to free association abstracted from the previous right.

In a similar way you might talk to a scientist about the nature of mathematical forumlae we use to represent the rules of reality. They will tell you that these formulae are not what the laws of nature actually do, they are just close approximations.

A political right is a close approximation of the freedoms that we actually have as human beings, as a fact of reality. We've discovered that societies work best and are most successful when that society respects rights that are closely aligned with the actual freedoms people are born expressing, thus we consider it important to protect such rights.

When we speak of rights being 'discovered' this is the sense we mean it, in the similar sense that, say, mathematical laws are discovered or the theory of relativity was discovered.

Hashem rejects all of that, he's essentially a pure subjectivist, but I can't accept his rejection of the reality that the political concept of rights are meant to reflect.

 
Autarchy: rule of the self by the self; the act of self ruling.
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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:02 PM

thetabularasa:

 

Yes, I watched it, and no, it didn't help. It maintains that people have no natural rights; that rights are something obtained through rational, economic interaction with others. I completely disagree. My retarded brother (mentioning him again) cannot rationally communicate other than with very basic hand signals, but this doesn't mean I can kill or injur him. To assume he has no rights because he cannot effectively communicate is to presume that he can be treated just as any other non-human animal that also has no rights.

The essence of my questions is thus: why is it ok for people to kill non-human animals but not ok for people to kill other people?

There is no such thing as objective rights, period. Rights are subjective or intersubjective. As Clayton pointed out, if your brother cannot speak for himself in a court of law, then someone else must do it for him. Your brother can only be protected. If you value the NAP or, more importantly, the golden rule, then of course you would consider it wrong to aggress against your brother. But in terms of law, your brother can only be protected.

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:04 PM

Clayton:

Word usage is objective - English-speakers don't use the sound "car" to mean orange - when they mean to indicate an orange, they invariably use the sound "orange." This is not whimsical, it's a fact that is as objective as the speed of light.

I know what you are getting at, but the distinction between word usage and the speed of light is that word usage is intersubjective and the speed of light is objective. They are not both objective.

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gotlucky:

thetabularasa:

Yes, I watched it, and no, it didn't help. It maintains that people have no natural rights; that rights are something obtained through rational, economic interaction with others. I completely disagree. My retarded brother (mentioning him again) cannot rationally communicate other than with very basic hand signals, but this doesn't mean I can kill or injur him. To assume he has no rights because he cannot effectively communicate is to presume that he can be treated just as any other non-human animal that also has no rights.

The essence of my questions is thus: why is it ok for people to kill non-human animals but not ok for people to kill other people?

There is no such thing as objective rights, period. Rights are subjective or intersubjective. As Clayton pointed out, if your brother cannot speak for himself in a court of law, then someone else must do it for him. Your brother can only be protected. If you value the NAP or, more importantly, the golden rule, then of course you would consider it wrong to aggress against your brother. But in terms of law, your brother can only be protected.

Perhaps you could adequately respond to my previous post since nobody else has. You have very clear, concise responses, gotlucky, and I appreciate your input.

If rights are subjective, I could make the claim that since Nazi Germany institutionalized the killing of millions of people who weren't Aryan that there was nothing wrong with it since culturally speaking, the victims were outcast and had no natural rights to life to begin with...right?

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:35 PM

thetabularasa:

 

Perhaps you could adequately respond to my previous post since nobody else has. You have very clear, concise responses, gotlucky, and I appreciate your input.

If rights are subjective, I could make the claim that since Nazi Germany institutionalized the killing of millions of people who weren't Aryan that there was nothing wrong with it since culturally speaking, the victims were outcast and had no natural rights to life to begin with...right?

It depends upon your values. If you only value Aryans, or if you subscribe to a belief, such as "the ends justify the means", then there is nothing wrong with it from that perspective. But if you value the golden rule, or the ethic of reciprocity, then the actions of the Third Reich were very wrong, or more precisely, evil.

It depends upon the subject in question and what his values are. The vast majority of people seem to value the golden rule, and libertarians seem to be individuals who apply it to everyone, no exceptions. 

 

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:44 PM

"word usage is intersubjective"

I've always considered the word "intersubjective" to be a bit of a weasel-word. Word usage is objective just like bird-calls are objective. The lark makes a call that is easily distinguished from the call of a crow. Similarly, we can go out into the world and observe the utterances that people make to one another and ascertain usage patterns. These observations are nothing less than objective.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 8:49 PM

thetabularasa:
So you maintain that rights simply don't exist

Rights are concepts, this is a fact independent of my opinion on the matter. Rights (aka rules) exist within brains to the extent that they're acknowledged. When two people agree on a rule (aka a "right"), then it exists in that regard and to that extent.

thetabularasa:
there was nothing wrong with it

"Morally right" or "morally wrong" are concepts.

thetabularasa:
but this doesn't mean I can kill or injur him.

You're confusing yourself. You simply can kill him. Whether you should isn't the same as whether you can. In either case, whether you should is independent of whether anyone imagines a rule (e.g. a right) regarding such.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:03 PM

Clayton,

There is a clear distinction between intersubjective and objective.

 

 

adjective /ˌintərsəbˈjektiv/ 

  1. Existing between conscious minds; shared by more than one conscious mind

 

adjective /əbˈjektiv/ 

  1. (of a person or their judgment) Not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts
    • - historians try to be objective and impartial
  2. Not dependent on the mind for existence; actual
    • - a matter of objective fact
  3. Of, relating to, or denoting a case of nouns and pronouns used as the object of a transitive verb or a preposition

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:08 PM

Clayton you're so confused man. There isn't a law of nature (objective) that says the sound "table" will refer to a flat thing with legs. "Table" means whatever people agree it means. It might mean something unpredictable tomorrow, and I'm sure that's how many languages have developed. It started in someone's brain (subjective), and other brains acknowledged it (intersubjective).

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hashem:

You're confusing yourself. You simply can kill him. Whether you should isn't the same as whether you can. In either case, whether you should is independent of whether anyone imagines a rule (e.g. a right) regarding such.

I may not be clarifying my point through definitions. Allow me to offer an example via questioning:

Do you believe that taxation is wrong; why or why not?

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gotlucky:

thetabularasa:

Perhaps you could adequately respond to my previous post since nobody else has. You have very clear, concise responses, gotlucky, and I appreciate your input.

If rights are subjective, I could make the claim that since Nazi Germany institutionalized the killing of millions of people who weren't Aryan that there was nothing wrong with it since culturally speaking, the victims were outcast and had no natural rights to life to begin with...right?

It depends upon your values. If you only value Aryans, or if you subscribe to a belief, such as "the ends justify the means", then there is nothing wrong with it from that perspective. But if you value the golden rule, or the ethic of reciprocity, then the actions of the Third Reich were very wrong, or more precisely, evil.

It depends upon the subject in question and what his values are. The vast majority of people seem to value the golden rule, and libertarians seem to be individuals who apply it to everyone, no exceptions. 

Since rights are not inherent, you must maintain that there was nothing inherently wrong about the Holocaust. Do you maintain this?

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:19 PM

thetabularasa:
Do you believe that taxation is wrong? ....... Was the holocaust wrong?

"Right" and "wrong" are concepts. Tell me what you mean by "wrong" and I'll be able to decide if I believe taxation fits in that category. In your explanation, don't lose track of the topic: rights.

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hashem:

thetabularasa:
Do you believe that taxation is wrong? ....... Was the holocaust wrong?

It depends on what you mean by "wrong". In your explanation, don't lose track of the topic: rights.

This should further specify things:

1) Do you believe that liberty is a right?

2) Do you believe that infringement of liberty via coercion can be forcefully resisted by the individual whose liberty is being infringed?

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:36 PM

Clayton you're so confused man. There isn't a law of nature (objective) that says the sound "table" will refer to a flat thing with legs. "Table" means whatever people agree it means. It might mean something unpredictable tomorrow, and I'm sure that's how many languages have developed. It started in someone's brain (subjective), and other brains acknowledged it (intersubjective).

Not confused at all. We can observe the meaning of "table" by going out to see how people use it. It doesn't matter who does this observation, they will come up with the same result. Hence, the meaning of the word (written or sounded) "table" is objective (doesn't vary from observer to observer).

The "broadcast-acknowledge" model you are promulgating is simply false. Words are not broadcast/proposed from some central brain and then "acknowledged" by other brains. They are invented willy-nilly by the population at large and then repeated as people see fit. Certain words spread rapidly and enter the "permanent" lexicon, other words are a flash-in-the-pan and die out quickly. Even in the "permanent" lexicon, there is a slow churn as durable words, usages, spellings and variants fade in and out of usage. The study of word usage is as objective as the study of bird-calls, there's nothing subjective about it.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:39 PM

@tabularasa

Let me reiterate:
A) Rights (rules), and "morally right" or "morally wrong" are concepts, this is a fact independent of my opinion on the matter.
B) Whether you should do something is independent of whether you can.
C) Whether you should do something is independent of whether people acknowledge a rule.
D) Whether you should do something is independent of the beliefs (morals) of others.

tabularasa:
1) Do you believe that liberty is a right?

It is when people agree that it is. Then and only then, by definition. That's what a right (a rule) means.

tabularasa:
Do you believe...can be forcefully resisted...

It depends on the power of the individual. Like I said, whether you can do something is independent of whether you should do something.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:41 PM

There is a clear distinction between intersubjective and objective.

I fail to see the distinction. All objective facts are "intersubjective" the moment we begin talking about them. While I can conceive of something being shared by just two minds (for example, a secret code), I fail to see the significance of this class of knowledge... it seems negligible to me. There is no practical difference between a fact being shared by a large number of minds and its being objective, and while I can conceive of facts shared between a small number of minds I do not understand why I should care about such a category of knowledge.

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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:42 PM

thetabularasa:

Since rights are not inherent, you must maintain that there was nothing inherently wrong about the Holocaust. Do you maintain this?

That is correct. There is nothing inherently right or wrong with homicide. If you value the golden rule, however, then the holocaust was tremendously evil.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:44 PM

Clayton:
We can observe the meaning of "table" by going out to see how people use it.

Red herring. The word "table" didn't mean what it does mean until people proposed and acknowledged it.

And double red herring, because the fact that rights are rules (and are therefore whatever people acknowledge them to be) is independent of the fact that language has meaning to the extent that it's communicable.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:52 PM

Clayton:

I fail to see the distinction. All objective facts are "intersubjective" the moment we begin talking about them. While I can conceive of something being shared by just two minds (for example, a secret code), I fail to see the significance of this class of knowledge... it seems negligible to me. There is no practical difference between a fact being shared by a large number of minds and its being objective, and while I can conceive of facts shared between a small number of minds I do not understand why I should care about such a category of knowledge.

You fail to see the distinction between the meaning of the word "gay" and the length of a table? Gay might mean happy and it might mean homosexual. Certainly this is observable, but the meaning is either subjective or intersubjective. If I choose to call myself a zebra, I am not a white striped horse. For there to be meaningful communication between us, either you have to recognize that I am using zebra in a nonstandard manner, or I have to choose a different word that would communicate my meaning.

Take the sound pa. Depending upon the subjects in question, it could mean a variety of different things. We could even take the same sound in English, such as gay, as I explained already. Another good example is the word "capitalist". You know that it is used in very different ways by different people.

The fact of the matter is that the meaning of the word depends upon the subjects using the word. If there is no agreement, then it is subjective and useless as a form of communication. If there is agreement, then it is intersubjective and conveys meaning from one subject to another. But there are no inherent meanings of words.

If you are using objective to not mean inherent, but simply as an object, then sure, anything can be "objective". But the distinction between intersubjective and objective is a useful distinction that highlights the difference between things that require intersubjective agreement and things that do not.

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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 9:55 PM

Red herring. The word "table" didn't mean what it does mean until people acknowledged it.

Obfuscation. We don't even need to form a psychological theory of meaning in order to see how people use language. People repeat words and the usage of some words becomes widespread for whatever reason while the usage of others does not. The correlation between a table and the word "table" is something we can objectively ascertain simply by going out and asking people what they call a table.

Rights are not rules in the sense of the rules of the game of chess and it's confusing to refer to them as "rules". Rights-language is just another way of speaking about law, in particular, criticizing law. "Men have a right to speak their mind" means that good law will not allow people to prevent one another from speaking their mind. This is just a form of criticism, nothing more.

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hashem replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 10:05 PM

@Clayton

Sorry but I don't see you're going with it—and you're still confused:

Clayton:
People repeat words and the usage of some words becomes widespread

You missed the first steps: a word is proposed, then it's acknowledged, THEN it's spread. In any event, red herring, because words do mean what people agree they mean, and this has no bearing on the fact that rights are concepts and therefore mean whatever people agree they mean.

Clayton:
Rights are not rules in the sense of

Whatever other category they fit in, they are concepts, they are subjective, normative, and prescriptive—they exist when people acknowledge them, and they have value when people agree on them.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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Clayton replied on Fri, Nov 23 2012 10:06 PM

You fail to see the distinction between the meaning of the word "gay" and the length of a table?

 

The usages of the word gay are just as objective as the length of a table. I can stretch a tape over the table or I can walk around with a multiple-choice sheet and a photograph of a happy man with one choice marked "gay" and the others anything but synonyms of "gay" and people will invariably choose "gay".

If you are using objective to not mean inherent, but simply as an object, then sure, anything can be "objective". But the distinction between intersubjective and objective is a useful distinction that highlights the difference between things that require intersubjective agreement and things that do not.

I'm using objective to mean "observer independent". If Frank asks 100 random people off the street what they call a table (perhaps he can show them a picture and ask "what is the word for this?"), he will get exactly the same results as if Bob asks 100 random people off the street what they call a table.

Granted, when we get into more complex words than simple nouns, things get much more complicated. However, I do not subscribe to this theory of language as "meaning-by-contract". Meaning is not the result of a contract between the speaker and listener and meaning is not conveyed in anything like the sense in which, say, I can move a plate from my hands to your hands or photocopy a piece of paper and hand the photocopy to you.

My view is that the speaker has very little, if any, control over the effect that his statements will have upon the listener's mind in the usual case. And even in the ideal case of a determined, articulate speaker working in tandem with a diligent, meticulous listener, the conveyance of meaning is still nothing like the transfer of a plate or a photocopy, even though the language we use to speak about the conveyance of meaning strongly uses this metaphor.

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