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Ethan Victor

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What, to you, are basic human rights?

This is quite a tough one to sum up in one discussion:

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..."

1- Which ones summarize the scope of liberties, as a whole?
(name the ones -or your own- that give the whole perspective of liberties)

2- Can you define the basic human rights in terms of material, dimensional, spiritual- or any combination thereof?

3- Could these change? What could make them change?

4- Are they sustainable?

5- Also: where do those rights come from?

PS- Please don't make Q5 such an issue here, this isn't the purpose.


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    Nov 3 2011: i think basic human rights are rights that nobody denies, or at least can deny consistently.

    1. you are the owner of your life. nobody should be able to take or rule your life.

    2. you can own things, and what you own, you can use in any way as long as it does not damage or destroy other people's life or property.

    3. you are free to give your property to other persons, conditionally or unconditionally. basically this is a detail of 2.

    4. you can protect your or other people's life or property if someone initiates aggression against it.

    i believe these rules are eternal. all other rules are local in geography, scope or time.
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      Nov 5 2011: Hi Krisztian, with all due respect, it seems to me like your definitions mix a human right with a legal right. The former is supposed to derive from the mere fact of being human (and as such precedes the declaration of independence and even precedes the first established religions), the later comes after a convoluted process of detailed laws and regulations that each society has crafted differently through hundreds of years

      The mixup arises when life and property are lumped together (as in 2, 3 and 4), regardless of the fact that private property is a fairly recent human construction (recent at least in the timescale of the apareance of humans on this planet.

      I don't see how something related to private property can be considered eternal given the fact that 1) humans have lived in this planet only for a very short fraction of time compared to other animals, and 2) private property has existed only for a short fraction of the time that humans have existed
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        Nov 5 2011: property rights follow from the ownership of one's own life. freedom can not be expressed but through material things. if i don't have the right to use material things, my rights to act freely is nonexistent. so we have to deal with the question, who can use a certain material object. my answer is what i wrote. the owner.
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          Nov 5 2011: I may still need some pointers to study this at a deeper level, as I still don't see how ownership of material things follow from the ownership of one's life and becomes a basic human right. The right to use material things does not require the right to own them. Many native american tribes lived for centuries using material resources around them without having to claim individual ownership to it, so it does not seem to me it follows naturally. You have the legal right to own material things but this right is born as early as you define the legal framework around it.

          I am not sure how do you define "act freely" , I think that by agreeing to live in a society of more than one individual you agree to act only as freely as it will not endanger this society. Even John Locke thought that one individual could not take over a society he is a part of.

          And I would disagree with your answer of who can use a certain material objects. The mere fact that you and I are here is proof that our ancestors were able to use material objects... many many years before the definition of private property was invented
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        Nov 5 2011: andres, i don't think that this logic is really valid. basically the idea is that since we didn't have it for hundreds of thousands of years, it can not be basic human right.

        but throughout those hundreds of thousands of years, every right was violated routinely. lives were taken, slavery existed, looting, robbing and pillaging were widespread. does it allow us to say, since we succeeded without these, so they are not necessary rights?

        however, we all agree, i think, that these should be rights. we want to live in a world with no murder, no slavery, no robbing and so on.

        can we say that the history of civilization is a struggle against such violations? we see the seeds of such values in the earliest civilizations. and one after the other, we gave up such unjust activities.

        do we see the seeds of private property in early civilizations? i'm sure yes. even native indians in america understand land ownership, and punish the other tribe for trespassing. they have their own tents, and own weapons. and even touching other people's stuff can ignite severe aggression. do our property rights develop, as we abandon violating property rights one after the other? i think yes. can it be any more obvious? private property rights have never been stronger than in our modern societies.
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          Nov 6 2011: Hello again Krisztian, I am not trying to take away from the nobility of the rights you outline. I respect life and respect of other people's property, that is not the point that I am discussing.

          I see those rights from a different perspective. I consider myself not only as part of a group of people that fall under the constitutional rights of one country in the planet, but as a part of a larger group, one that includes humans from other countries, and other times, even times before civilizations existed.That is where the scope of human rights falls in my view. My whole point is that humans precede civilizations. If you and I cannot not agree on that statement then I am afraid we will be going in circles trying to pile up more evidence that supports our different points of view or contradict each other's
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        Nov 6 2011: andres, how could you possibly miss my entire point, and go that much sideways?

        in one sentence: right to live or right to speak was also disregarded since the beginning of times.

        please tell me a difference between right to live and right to own stuff in historical regard. or in any regard.
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          Nov 6 2011: i did not miss it, your point is clear and i dissagree with it. i see right to life separate to right to own property. I consider none of the two arising from the other or depending on the other.

          You have not made it clear but i think your perspective is purely based on recorded history. My view is that humans have been humans for much longer than that. The view that evolution shows a constant ascension towards more "perfect" creatures (namely humans) and that human history shows an ascension towards more just societies is not shared by everyone

          Your argument seems to be based on the definition of human rights embeded in the US constitution. But i don't know you will have to clarify if that is the case. I think that view is limited. Certainly when it was written, the founding fathers did not wirite "all men are created equal" to include people all over the world. Not even all people in the colonies. It was a very select group of men that they were aluding to. So if that is the basis of your definition of human rights then I consider that view too narrow

          I can point you to many of the pre-hispanic civilizations in mexico that did not have a concept of private property, but shared comunal land ownership, and yet regarded life as the most precious value in a human

          you mention native americans defending their territories from invasion, but seems to me a little ambiguous to jump from a notion of private property as in personal property and the notion of private property as defending comunal land. do you care to elaborate?
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        Nov 6 2011: sorry, andres, but the theory of liberty and property is european, and not american. i'm hungarian, and i subscribe to a world philosophy developed in austria, and much of their ideas are taken from french thinkers. so the US constitution means not much to me.

        i'm no historian, but based on what i saw, some form of private ownership existed everywhere, even in the hunter gatherer societies. granted, that was rudimentary, so was the concept of the right to live.

        and i don't remember mentioning the indians' struggling with invasion. i was talking about their native lifestyle. they had the concept of "the land we use" and "the land other tribes use". and yes, this was not personal ownership. but it is a rudimentary, limited form of ownership. the concept of land being not for everyone was already there. it just follows from they could not possible defend their land alone. but i'm quite sure that their tents were private place, and nobody could just enter at will.
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          Nov 6 2011: thanks for clarifying Krisztian, mine was only a guess since you did not mention what was the basis to your world philosophy. Even now you only mention that it was one developed in Austria but i am left with no pointers as to where to learn more about it. Not that i don't take your word for it, but as a physicist I am a little skeptical and i tend to expand myresearch as much as i can.

          The generalization of "some form of private ownership existed everywhere", like almost any generalization, is useless if it is not supported by facts. Again if you point me to specific examples i will be glad to read about it and form my own opinion.

          Are you trying to infer that if i set up a tent for my family and I am weary of letting somebody in is not because I feel an innate drive to protect those with whom i share some kinship in order to ensure their survival, but because i have an innate drive to protect my human right to personal property?
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        Nov 6 2011: no, i've said the basis of my philosophy was developed in austria, not the arguments i have presented here. these arguments stand alone.

        and actually what do you want facts for? you want examples of early civilizations having personal property? every writing is full with tales about stuff of people. his dog, his staff, his hat, his house. or that we can have a right that was routinely violated? these things don't call for proof. it is common knowledge.

        so you say that your house is only a place to protect your family? so i can enter your house anytime you are not at home? i can take whatever i please? you are OK with it?
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          Nov 6 2011: I do not see any real intention from you to have a dialogue. We can focus on our differences and beat them to death or we can see if there is room for some agreement, as small as it might be, and focus our dialogue in that area.

          I am willing to learn about something that I do not know, if you are willing to share what you know, but rather i find you asking others to take your arguments as valid as a matter of faith, adopting a condescending tone as if your opinion was for some reason more valid than any others.

          My opinion is just that. mine. I do not claim to speak for anybody else. I am very aware that our cognitive biases make us think that our point of view is always better than the "other's", and the same cognitive biases make us think that we know other's peoples argument better than they know themselves. As such, i try to keep my biases under control by constantly reminding myself that the feeling that i have of knowing some topics much more deeply than you is only an artifact of my brain.

          So I cannot claim that i know your argument better than you know it yourself, but for me to understand it better, I need much more than a string of condescending one-liners.

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        Nov 7 2011: andres, you can interpret it as you feel like. or you can analyze my tone if you so desire. but i still don't know what kind of references or materials or explanation you want from me. so either you clarify what you want, or you won't get it.
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          Nov 7 2011: Hi Krisztian

          The point I was trying to make is that human right to life is universal, while human right to private property (as in my house, my car, my ipod) is not. From your comments I don't think you are referring to communal property but instead to individual private property.

          I know you disagree with me since you consider both universal human rights, so I was trying to understand your argument better. You seem to imply that this kind of right to individual private property follows naturally from the sole fact that we are humans.

          When I ask you about your world view is because other places where I have heard that claim is in John Locke's view of liberties and in Milton Friendman's version of laissez-faire capitalism. Both those views maintain that human self-interest and egoistic behaviors are the only mechanism behind progress.

          In my view their theory is incomplete because it does not incorporate the way in which motivation and decision making actually happens in humans, and it completely ignores cognitive biases and human altruism. So if the world view developed in Austria that you mention is different from Milton Friedman's, I would be very interested in reading about it to see if it has incorporated the human elements i mention above

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        Nov 7 2011: "human right to life is universal, while human right to private property (as in my house, my car, my ipod) is not"

        and what is your rationale? because your only argument so far was that property right was neglected. but i already said that right to life was also neglected. so what is your argument supporting that life is a right, but property is not?

        i still don't understand what do you want to hear from me. i have already described my take on the issue. you want me to list the background of my philosophy? it will be a long list, and even i don't know the full list, only a small fraction of it. the history of laissez-faire is old, and it is grounded in different interpretations and ideas of "natural law". i believe it was developed in the 1700's 1800's in europe, mainly in france and britain, if i'm not mistaken. bastiat, cantillon comes to mind. but i'm no historian, as i've said. but as always, if you want to understand a theory, it is not advisable to read the original material, as we have better ones today.

        if you are into a deep dive, choose "theory and history" from ludwig von mises.

        but once more: to address my points, you don't need any more readings. you don't need to consider historical civilizations. you just need to ask yourself: can i live freely without being able to have material objects and being able to use them? and if i don't live freely, do i live? do i own my life? one can not exist without the other.
    • Nov 6 2011: I'm totally with Krisztian here.

      The basic rights are spiritual in the sense of not being material.

      But in order to enable and encourage spiritual blossom,
      legislators must not work in the spiritual matters,
      but have to work at them by the material aspect.

      Their only job is to enable the people to fulfill their god-given gifts,
      while not impaling on other peoples rights.

      Krisztian, to the likes of you I intended this debate (although it is good to see the array of comments that are all very interesting).
      The purpose was to ask those believing in American style rights how they should be put?
      (Q2) I have no idea, and nothing seems to fit, so I would like your help.

      Andres, are these rights changeable?

      And also (again, try as short as possible)- where do these rights come from if not from G-d?
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        Nov 7 2011: Hi Ethan,

        I have to agree with you, legislators should stay out of spiritual matters and focus on the material.

        Fulfilling one's gifts should by definition be limited to making sure that other people can fulfill their own as well.

        One of the problems is that sometimes more than one individual will lay claim to a particular gift (whether it is a piece of land in Jerusalem or the monetary reward for a technological innovation) and being something material, a third party is required to arbitrate the resolution of these claims. I guess that third party is the role that government (legislators, judges, the legal system) are supposed to play when the fulfillment of one's gifts in a society compromises somebody else's ability to fulfill theirs.

        If by asking if these rights are changeable you mean that they should adapt to new realities, my answer would be yes, since the world we live on is not static.

        I think both a religious and an atheist will agree that the right to life is a basic human right. So let me stick with that one right. For a religious, life is something that comes from a deity, whereas for an atheist life it is something that comes from natural processes of this planet, using chemical elements that were created somewhere else billions of years ago.


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