View Poll Results: Your thoughts?

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  • Government is a natural entity; our rights come from nature.

    9 17.65%
  • Government is a natural entity; our rights come from government and/or don't exist.

    12 23.53%
  • Government isn't a natural entity; our rights come from nature.

    12 23.53%
  • Government isn't a natural entity; our rights come from government and/or don't exist.

    13 25.49%
  • Other

    5 9.80%
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  1. #1

    Philosophical Discussions on Government

    I was having a debate with a friend of mine on whether or not human rights exist and if they do, where they come from. He argued that human rights do not exist and that they are artificial constructs that are created by governments. He argued that our rights are created by the government and without the government to protect said rights, they would not exist.

    Conversely, I argued that our rights are natural and exist regardless of whether or not a particular government protects or disrespects these rights. As examples, I cited human sociology, namely natural self-preservation. This eventually led to me posing a philosophical question to him, which I would like to pose to you all as well.

    Food for Thought
    Have you considered that rather than being entities which grant freedoms, governments are instead entities that infringe upon them? Some governments have chosen to take precautions in order to best ensure that some rights are never infringed upon, a prime example being the United States Constitution.

    While some argue that government isn't a natural body, let's assume for a minute that it is. Let's assume that the government is a natural organ that develops out of sapient societies, be this the United States or an African tribe, there is a system of organization, a government, if you will.

    So I ask you, what is the natural purpose of this organ? Is it to control the people and constantly restrict them under the auspices of "keeping us safe" and/or people being "too stupid" to make their own decisions? Or does this organ exist solely to perform the necessary functions in order to ensure those who violate the three basic rights (life, liberty and property) are punished?


    Feel free to pose any additional questions and/or statements on the role of government, whether or not it is natural or an artificial construct, etc.

  2. #2
    Scarab Lord GreatOak's Avatar
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    I believe in Natural Law which is in line with Classical Liberal philosophy.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides, 400BC.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Swazi Spring View Post
    He argued that our rights are created by the government and without the government to protect said rights, they would not exist.

    Conversely, I argued that our rights are natural and exist regardless of whether or not a particular government protects or disrespects these rights.
    I'd say it's a mixture of both. Natural rights exists because the people regards it to exist - the derive from our current morality. The government give force to some of these rights and others by explicitly creating legal guarantees that cover some natural rights, and creates additional ones.


    Food for Thought
    Have you considered that rather than being entities which grant freedoms, governments are instead entities that infringe upon them?
    How did I just know you'd go down this path. Without the government to safeguard our rights, enforce the laws and keep order, we'd have much less freedom or liberty except in the wet dreams of anarchists and anarcho-capitalists.


    While some argue that government isn't a natural body, let's assume for a minute that it is.
    There's no need for assumptions, the government is an intrinsic element of human society. The form of government used evolves over time, but the basic function is fundamental to our species.

  4. #4
    The Insane Reeve's Avatar
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    I think government is a natural construct in humanity, and that government endows people with rights. I think the concept of rights, while a very good concept, is a relatively new one, and wholly artificial. There are a whole lot of really good artificial things though.
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  5. #5
    Fluffy Kitten Badpaladin's Avatar
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    I feel that human rights are not natural, but a Government is. This is because I feel a Government is a natural entity designed to enforce and protect human rights, as a result of groups of people defining what those rights are. My reasoning for why human rights aren't natural is posed as a question:

    Person A feels he has the right to live.
    Person B feels he has the right to not have Person A be alive.
    Person B murders Person A, but is then punished for his actions.
    Person B feels his rights have been infringed.

    Is person B right? I say he's neither right nor wrong, because there's no natural "order" that decides.
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  6. #6
    Legendary! darenyon's Avatar
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    when government does not exist, people create one in short order. government is what establishes and defines agreed upon rights. without it no one has any rights worth mentioning because they are not agreed upon, and can be totally disregarded.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Reeve View Post
    I think government is a natural construct in humanity, and that government endows people with rights. I think the concept of rights, while a very good concept, is a relatively new one, and wholly artificial. There are a whole lot of really good artificial things though.
    I don't the concept itself it's new. I think the human rights we have now are relatively new, but the concept that as a human you have certain rights ought to have been an intuitive one from the dawn of our species. Murder is universally outlawed, for instance, even if ancient peoples sees a large variety of excuses for committing murder.

  8. #8
    Yeah government of one kind or another is hard coded in us, just as it is in every social creature. Our species doesn't really work without societal rules.

    That being said, rights are just something we made up to ease social function. Society works best when we all agree to certain basic premises and its easiest to keep those premises in tact when we pretend they're some how innate.
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  9. #9
    The Insane Reeve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by semaphore View Post
    I don't the concept itself it's new. I think the human rights we have now are relatively new, but the concept that as a human you have certain rights ought to have been an intuitive one from the dawn of our species. Murder is universally outlawed, for instance, even if ancient peoples sees a large variety of excuses for committing murder.
    I don't think that's a question of a "right" as we tend to view rights these days, though. That's more of a question of "I don't like it when people kill my family, so I shouldn't kill other people." It's more of a basic human morality thing than it is a "right."
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Badpaladin View Post
    Is person B right? I say he's neither right nor wrong, because there's no natural "order" that decides.
    But society generally accepts that one's rights ends where another's begins. B is not held to have that right under any modern society, regardless of the state of the law. Human beings are fundamentally averse to killing each other - that's the natural order that says B is wrong.

  11. #11
    Legendary! darenyon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reeve View Post
    I don't think that's a question of a "right" as we tend to view rights these days, though. That's more of a question of "I don't like it when people kill my family, so I shouldn't kill other people." It's more of a basic human morality thing than it is a "right."
    im not sure its morality so much as convenience. less watching your neighbor(s) and more doing productive things.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by darenyon View Post
    im not sure its morality so much as convenience. less watching your neighbor(s) and more doing productive things.
    Pretty much comes down to this. When our species all sits down and agrees we're not going to kill each other we spend more time doing productive stuff.

    Every right just comes down to something that makes society function smoothly.
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    A nice list of logical fallacies. In picture form!

  13. #13
    Fluffy Kitten Badpaladin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by semaphore View Post
    Human beings are fundamentally averse to killing each other - that's the natural order that says B is wrong.
    Most, sure. But not all, and they're not fairly represented by what society "wants". That's why I'm saying they're not natural.
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Reeve View Post
    I don't think that's a question of a "right" as we tend to view rights these days, though. That's more of a question of "I don't like it when people kill my family, so I shouldn't kill other people." It's more of a basic human morality thing than it is a "right."
    Hmm, that's a good point. I guess it's difficult to pinpoint when the idea that it's wrong to do something crossed over to someone has a right to not have something done to them. Though, at the same time, I'd say the modern concept of rights is just a more advanced application of human morality regarding what is right or wrong to do, and that's what prompted me to say that the idea existed from the start of our society. We might not actually have been able to vocalise the concept, but it likely probably was there somewhere. After all, not a big leap to go from "it's wrong to do this to a person" to "that person shouldn't have this done to them".

    I guess it also depends on what is meant by "relatively new".

    ---------- Post added 2012-12-30 at 06:13 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Badpaladin View Post
    Most, sure. But not all, and they're not fairly represented by what society "wants". That's why I'm saying they're not natural.
    What do you mean by fairly represented by what society wants? Society is a reflection of its constituents.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by semaphore View Post
    Hmm, that's a good point. I guess it's difficult to pinpoint when the idea that it's wrong to do something crossed over to someone has a right to not have something done to them. Though, at the same time, I'd say the modern concept of rights is just a more advanced application of human morality regarding what is right or wrong to do, and that's what prompted me to say that the idea existed from the start of our society. We might not actually have been able to vocalise the concept, but it likely probably was there somewhere. After all, not a big leap to go from "it's wrong to do this to a person" to "that person shouldn't have this done to them".

    I guess it also depends on what is meant by "relatively new".
    Its just societal brainwashing. If we treated things like my desire not to get the shit murdered out of me the same way we treat things like traffic laws you can see where we'd run up against problems.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nixx View Post
    Everyone is pro-US. They just don't know it yet.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fyre View Post
    Internet lives in the sky, don't need no cables for that.
    A nice list of logical fallacies. In picture form!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Wells View Post
    Its just societal brainwashing. If we treated things like my desire not to get the shit murdered out of me the same way we treat things like traffic laws you can see where we'd run up against problems.
    There's an innate desire to not get killed though, whereas generic traffic laws are largely disconnected from our biological roots. No one's predisposed to travel on a certain side of the road genetically. I think.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by semaphore View Post
    There's an innate desire to not get killed though, whereas generic traffic laws are largely disconnected from our biological roots.
    Well yeah, we're social animals just like dogs and termites. We have a certain set of social behaviors set in us. That and every animal doesn't want to get killed. Evolution doesn't really care for animals that are meh on the issue.

    I don't think innate desire is really what's important. We have an innate desire to a lot of things that aren't really protected in law. We only protect the oens that are necessary for society to work.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nixx View Post
    Everyone is pro-US. They just don't know it yet.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fyre View Post
    Internet lives in the sky, don't need no cables for that.
    A nice list of logical fallacies. In picture form!

  18. #18
    Legendary! darenyon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by semaphore View Post
    There's an innate desire to not get killed though, whereas generic traffic laws are largely disconnected from our biological roots. No one's predisposed to travel on a certain side of the road genetically. I think.
    we are predisposed to want a set of rules governing interaction, whatever form it may take.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Wells View Post
    I don't think innate desire is really what's important. We have an innate desire to a lot of things that aren't really protected in law. We only protect the oens that are necessary for society to work.
    Maybe not so much innate desires, but rather the natural morality that exists in our species (which in the case of murder, flows from the innate desire to live). What I mean is, as I said earlier, that these innate morality forms natural rights, some of which the government protects in law as legal rights. But yes I agree with you here that the ones we chose to protect are the ones we need for society to function properly.

    ---------- Post added 2012-12-30 at 06:26 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by darenyon View Post
    we are predisposed to want a set of rules governing interaction, whatever form it may take.
    Well yes. The question is where the specific contents of those rules come from. I contend that the rule to not murder comes from our innate morality, whereas the rule for driving on a certain side of the road does not.
    Last edited by semaphore; 2012-12-30 at 06:26 AM.

  20. #20
    Titan Adam Jensen's Avatar
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    I think we're inclined by our instincts to have a government and to bestow upon ourselves rights and liberties. Hence our constant struggle since the dawn of civilization to balance government and human rights.

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