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On the Issue of Natural Rights

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...

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In nature, hurting, killing, or stealing is perceived universally by individuals of all consciously aware species (that I know of) as a violation - whether that violation can be defined or not. What is violated?

As always, you're begging the question. To call it "stealing" sneaks in an assumption about ownership.

A premise that avoided the question begging might be along the lines of: In nature, animals frequently exhibit agitation or aggression in response to having something (food, territory, a nest, etc.) taken from them by another animal.

I say "frequently" rather than "universally" because it's not universal. In some species the alpha male may take food away from the individuals who did all the work to bring down the prey, and be allowed to do it any attempt by the others to prevent it, for example. And this kind of behavior is no more or less "natural" than any other; you can't just pick the cases that fit your conclusion.

But the bigger problem with your attempt to use that loaded premise with the word "stealing" in it is that animals exhibit *the same reaction* even if they "stole" it in the first place. What we observe is mere possessiveness, and that, once we remove the question begging baggage you keep trying to sneak in, doesn't help your argument at all.

Anyway, the next step is to start from this non-question-begging premise and build a logical argument (without more question begging) leading to a conclusion about a natural right to property. Without more question begging.

that's fine, it fits right

that's fine, it fits right in. just change it to 'superior.' the superior being always triumphs whether by strength or cunning, etc. etc., and therefore has the justifiable claim, according to nature's law.

the point is, anyone can make an observation about some *limited* aspect of nature, then extrapolate a 'given' moral postulate and deny all counter arguments validity by saying "argument from contradiction."

you are trying to derive an IS from your own subjective OUGHT. you call in nature for "back up" by pointing to what doggy called the instinct of possessiveness, which is nothing like modern property rights.

anyone can do the same thing with any other subjective OUGHT. we all OUGHT to share. let's call nature in for back up. all social species share, and have an instinct for sharing and some communal behavior. therefore, no contradiction is possible.

don't bother arguing against the above statement. it is not MY statement, it is just an example of a statement that uses the same form of argument you're using above. of course it can be contested, it is a subjective moral statement falsely calling in nature as a witness. that's the whole point. it is an invalid form of argument depending on false logic.

:thunderous applause::

:thunderous applause::

LOL. You are right.

But some people have the brains to not stand so close to the edge of the cliff in the first place. People are not born with equal abilities physically or mentally so the idea that all men are created equal is false.

The problem is that instead of the natural progression where those with superior mind and/or body takes the lead in society man has the propensity to artificially empower the weaker thus slowly destroying the natural fabric of society.

That is irrelevant...

If a handicapped person made something, an equivalent argument could be made to justify his or her claim to the created property.

Natural rights - naturally justified claims - are independent of mental capacity or physical state.

Thanks, D

Excellent post! More like this!


for a great lesson on natural rights.

*Advancing the Ideas of Liberty Daily*