On the Issue of Natural RightsSubmitted by dwalters on Sun, 08/04/2013 - 09:49
Natural rights are nearly as poorly understood as gravity. Just as people naturally attempt to defend their property so does an apple naturally fall to the ground from a tree. However, if one asks a prominent physicist, “what causes gravity?” the answer will, at best, be nebulous and rife with speculation. Analogously, one can ask an esteemed philosopher of liberty about the origin of natural rights, and the answer will likely be just as imprecise. Luckily, natural rights do not require the proposition of gravitons to be understood and neither are particle colliders necessary.
What does it mean to say all men are equal? It is not a coincidence that science was invoked in the leading paragraph. In the olden days, science was not yet called science; it was dubbed natural philosophy. It also sheds light on the use of the word “natural” – with respect to natural rights – to consider that Isaac Newton and John Locke were very close friends. Returning to the question posed, all men are equal before the laws of nature. Neither governments nor kings can break those laws.
The realization that all men are equal before nature was not a trivial one. For ages, people were under the impression that divine right existed whereby individuals such as kings and pharaohs were somehow thought to be naturally superior to common mortals. Natural philosophy lead to the dissolution of that myth and ultimately resulted in the American Revolution – which demonstrated to the world that kings are not necessary. This is no small feat; some even suggested that George Washington be America’s first king. I guess old habits die hard.
To probe the nature of a system, it is often necessary to remove (as much as possible) outside influences that may alter measurements or make observations more difficult to interpret...