Nonsense on Stilts!

British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who had himself mummified when he died.

Jeremy Bentham, the rationalist British utilitarian philosopher, scoffed at the notion of natural rights.   “Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, nonsense on stilts.”

He has a point.   People like to posit “ought” statements as having some kind of ontological status beyond that which ones’ own biases and beliefs provide.   To say “you shouldn’t kill because I think killing is bad and a lot of others agree with me and will punish you” is less persuasive than “you shouldn’t kill because nature (or God) says its wrong.”

Nature says no such thing.  Nature does not care a wit if you kill, steal, lie, cheat, or jump to your death from a high cliff.  Humans are born into the world with one “natural right” only: you are free to do whatever you want to do, limited only by your capacity to act (abilities and constraints) and the consequences of your action.   Everything else is fine with nature.

Rights like “life, liberty and property” are things we humans construct for various reasons.   For John Locke it was to give the rising middle class a way to challenge the aristocracy and set limits on government.   For libertarians it’s a convenient way to rationalize views on politics skeptical of government.    But make no mistake – those rights don’t exist in nature.

They can’t.  They are based on human concepts and definitions, all of which are constrained by context and linguistic sloppiness.   Context means simply that the same ‘concept’ has different meanings depending on what the situation is.   One might posit a nice rational focused definition of theft: taking from someone something that belongs to that other person.   But whether you’re stealing from a man who otherwise doesn’t have enough to feed his family or taking food from a rich Nazi to save a Jews’ life changes the essential nature of the act.

This leads to the first “bullshit” aspect of claims of natural rights – the idea one can define a right abstractly and ignore how context shifts the essential meaning of and nature of any act.

Now, I don’t swear much – either in print or in speech – so let me define bullshit here.   Bullshit is an absurd and arbitrary claim that rests on fancy sounding rationalizations and justifications put forth sometimes with righteous indignation.   You can usually tell “bullshit” arguments by how they are defended.   For instance, deny natural rights and many will respond in an appeal to emotion, or appeal to public opinion:  “Oh, really, you say you don’t have a natural right to your property — if someone comes and tries to take it, will you just say ‘oh, I have no right, so you can take it.”

Such an illogical argument is absurd on its face — just because a right isn’t natural doesn’t mean I won’t assert my own claims and defend them.   I just don’t appeal to some kind of mystical natural justification.   I won’t defend my property because of some natural right, I’ll defend it because I’m not going to let people take my stuff!   I don’t need any fancy justification for that.   Moreover, saying there is no natural right to “life” does not mean one thinks murder is OK.   It just means we see those “rights” as humanly constructed, and often for good reason.   The ‘argumentum ad populum” bit seems persausive because that’s the reason we constructed those rights — most of us think they should exist.   Whether nature provides them is irrelevant.

The most common bullshit way to try to argue against context is the use of a vague definitional justifier.   “You shouldn’t take life unjustly.”   ‘Unjustly’ is a magic word here, meaning ‘anything contextual that I arbitrarily define as just killing can be dismissed.”   Unjustly can be defined by other similar abstract efforts to delimit a term, creating confusing complexity that hides the underlying bullshit upon which such an argument stands.     Words like ‘valid, just, legitimate, etc.’ are like big neon signs saying “bullshit alert!”   It’s all fancy ways people try to make it sound like their opinions represent not just their own particular take on reality, but some deeper truth that they have uncovered thanks to their superior intellect and moral integrity.

This is not to say that John Locke is completely wrong (though his view on epistemology has also been brushed aside into the ash heep of history).   Rather, he just had too much residual scholasticism in his way of thinking.   Instead of debating how many crystal spheres make up the heavens, now there is an effort to trace human rights – or ‘ought’ statements – to the nature of reality — or for Locke the nature of British reality in the 1600s.

The point is not that the rights posited as natural are to be ignored or thrown out — on the contrary, I believe most of them should be put forth as rights to be defended and protected at all costs!   Not because we have discovered them in nature but because as thinking humans we have decided we believe putting forth those rights is good for society and reflects what we value.    And if lots of other people value them, then all the better.    They don’t need to be from nature, being from humans is good enough.

The problem with the “from nature” argument is that people with different views try to use that as a way to dismiss all other perspectives and rationalize not doing the hard work of actually making arguments and defending their beliefs.   “It’s nature, yada yada yada,” hands over the ears.

The other problem is that we shouldn’t see it as a cheapening of rights to take credit for them as human constructs.  Heck, we’ve constructed all sorts of things, nature didn’t give me this computer or a Boeing 747.   We built them, using the raw materials of nature.   Using the raw materials of human existence in a social context we’ve constructed systems of rights. Let’s be proud of them as our creation, not some kind of gift from nature!    This also makes it easier to deal with context, we’re not trying to impose as perfectly as possible an abstract rational dogmatic ideology — we’re deciding how we want our world to operate.   We can choose the terms, limits and contextual impact.

Those who point to nature as the source often claim they support liberty, but what can be more limiting of human freedom than to say we’re not free to construct our own systems of rights?    Why should I slavishly devote myself to some set of rights “from nature” rather than use my imagination to develop what I think should be considered rights, and then work with others to persuade them and actualize those rights?   The only reason anybody would want to limit that freedom is authoritarian- they want to impose their view of rights on everyone.   The imposition may be intellectual rather than political, but such dogmatism is inherently anti-intellectual.

So do we have rights to life, liberty, property and a host of other human rights that most of us view fundamental?   To the extent we’ve built political systems to protect these rights we have them; to the extent we believe those rights should exist we are free to act politically to build them!

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  2. #2 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 05:29

    He was refuted in his time, and the time has not changed the arguments.

    Rights exist and they are natural.

    They derive from the same substance as all natural law.

    As you do to others, they do to you.

    As you do not do to others, they do not do to you.

    Only the nihilists are blind.

    • #3 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 15:33

      That’s a statement of belief, not an argument. You can’t prove it, it’s your own subjective, personal opinion.

      • #4 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 16:49

        Rights exist because they are self-evident and axiomatic – which is why, correctly, they do not need proof.

        You cannot prove the “point” of geometry – so to you, the nihilist, a circle cannot exist! 🙂

        No, the point is the axiom.

        Right exist because you exist.

  3. #5 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 05:31

    To say “you shouldn’t kill because I think killing is bad and a lot of others agree with me and will punish you” is less persuasive than “you shouldn’t kill because nature (or God) says its wrong.”

    You are right. Nature does not say this at all.

    It is merely your typical nihilist strawman.

    Nature says:
    “If you kill, others have a right to to kill you”

    The Golden Rule of RECIPROCITY…. something a toddler in a sand box knows, but you -with all your degree and education have seem to forgotten.

    • #6 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 15:34

      No, nature doesn’t give us reciprocity, we humans choose to act on a principle of reciprocity (or choose not to, if we choose forgiveness). Humans are free to choose. Too much freedom for you?

      • #7 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 16:47

        Scott
        Nature does give us reciprocity. Where do you think it comes from? Magic?

        Attack an animal and it responds with an attack.
        It is instinctual, not learned.

        Because it it instinctual makes it “part of nature” and part of our nature.

        We chose how, when and where we will act – but that does not change the instinct nor the nature.

      • #8 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 17:05

        We choose. We do not act primarily on instinct, nor do we always follow some kind of principle of reciprocity — indeed, most of the time we don’t. We can choose to forgive, we can choose to punish in ways different (we don’t usually kill people who murder), or we can choose to honor those who kill. When you define “nature” down so far that you essentially say “anything we do is part of nature so it’s natural” then you’ve delved into meaninglessness. So let go of trying to justify things via ‘nature.’ Accept human responsibility, creativity and ingenuity as the cause of what we build, including systems of rights.

      • #9 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 17:10

        Scott

        We choose. We do not act primarily on instinct, nor do we always follow some kind of principle of reciprocity

        Thus, – to you – sex is not natural because we choose when and where and with whom we engage in it.

        As usual, you utter bizarre theories of little merit.

      • #10 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 17:19

        You’re in a hole and you know it. You’re not even trying to justify “natural rights,” you’re simply saying nature exists. Well duh. And we do need to eat, procreate, go poop and survive. But how we build cultures, political systems and notions of ethics are the result of human choice. Otherwise there would not be so much diversity and disagreement. I’ll choose freedom, creativity and free will. Nature provides the canvas, we are the artists!

      • #11 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 18:03

        Scott

        You are a card!

        I can most certainly imagine you sitting smug in geometry class claiming the mathematicians are in a hole because they cannot prove their “point”!

        You’re not even trying to justify “natural rights,” you’re simply saying nature exists. Well duh.

        Well “Duh” indeed!

        You deny it then you acknowledge it – all within two sentences!

        And we do need to eat, procreate, go poop and survive.

        But YOU denied these things as “natural” because we CHOOSE when and where we do these things!

        That was your exact claim and counter argument – which now, it appears you disavow.

        Please pick an argument and stick with it – or at least acknowledge that your nihilist view point is utterly flawed.

        Pl

  4. #12 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 17:28

    Oh, by the way, everything you proscribe to nature BF is captured in one part of my post, which I’ll repeat here: “Humans are born into the world with one “natural right” only: you are free to do whatever you want to do, limited only by your capacity to act (abilities and constraints) and the consequences of your action. Everything else is fine with nature.”

    • #13 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 17:59

      Scott

      and the consequences of your action. Everything else is fine with nature.”

      And that is why I like you, Scott. You contradict yourself constantly and pretend you are brilliant!

      Exactly the consequences of your action is precisely the consequences due to reciprocity – what you do is reflect right back at you. There is no more clearer understanding of “consequences” then that.

      But in the “Scott-ish” fashion, you turn right around and deny it within the rest of your post.

      • #14 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 18:04

        The consequences of our actions are due to a lot of things, not just some vague term ‘reciprocity.’ If I click on the remote my TV might turn on — or I might activate an explosive somewhere. Different actions have a myriad of diverse consequences, to somehow say they all result from one ill defined ‘principle’ is meaningless. You’re asserting something which not only lacks proof, but doesn’t even have clear meaning. You also don’t show any contradiction. You assert things, but don’t support or give evidence to back up your assertion.

      • #15 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 18:13

        Scott

        The consequences of our actions are due to a lot of things, not just some vague term ‘reciprocity.’ If I click on the remote my TV might turn on — or I might activate an explosive somewhere.

        Huh?

        What kind of leap is this nonsense?
        Obviously there is a large matter of action/reaction/consequence between having your remote turn into a bomb!
        Who the heck made the bomb and why? It does not “magically” appear out of thin air!

        For a man to bomb YOU for no reason is nonsense.
        It comes as a CONSEQUENCE in response to a previous act – which may be a response to a previous act and so on.

        However, it will come to a point of a man acting upon another man … and that man’s RESPONSE to such an action, which is the root called RECIPROCITY.

        It is hardly vague (except for nihilists, but everything is vague to them, even themselves)

        You also don’t show any contradiction.

        To a man as yourself that has a hard time telling the difference between black and white, I expect that you cannot see your contradiction, so I shall help you.

        You deny nature “because we have choice – then claimed that because we have choice does not deny nature.

  5. #16 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 18:08

    Bottom line: you still don’t try to defend a notion of natural rights. At best your argument is that we are a part of nature so that everything we do is “natural.” But since we have constructed numerous forms of ethical systems and notions of rights, by your logic all systems of rights we construct are natural, even if they contradict each other. So the claim is nonsense, as Bentham would say!

    Then you try to posit an ill defined principle you define as ‘reciprocity’ and claim that it accounts for all consequences of actions. That assertion is so vague as to be meaningless as well. It certainly doesn’t say anything about rights, which is the subject of this post.

  6. #17 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 18:20

    Scott

    Bottom line: you still don’t try to defend a notion of natural rights.

    The “notion” of natural right is axiomatic.

    We have rights.

    My rights exist without you.
    Your existence is not required for me to have rights.

    I can substitute every human that ever lived, lives now, or will ever live for “you”, and that statement remains true.

    Thus, all rights inherent to the individual and requires nothing outside of that individual.

    Because you have distorted your understanding of “rights” does not dismiss the undistorted existence of rights.

    Your distortion – the creation of “artificial” rights – which you then attack as being “artificial” does not refute human rights. It only creates a strawman.

    • #18 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 18:39

      The notion of individual rights is utterly and completely meaningless absent other humans. Humans along simply act and the consequences of their acts are determined by the laws of physics and quantum probability. The idea of rights is non-sensical if there are no other humans around.

      When other humans do enter the picture and have to interact, people develop rules and procedures for doing so. This yields social structures and political rights (though individual rights have been a very recent creation). Rights are not inherent, you could be made a slave, you could live in systems with diverse sets of ruless and obligations, and those will be real to you, and what you imagine should be rights will be irrelevant.

      Your opinion of what is “rightful action” is subjective and no one has any reason to accept it. You are simply making assertions of subjective opinion. You give no argument to support it or reason to believe it. You can believe what you want, but others can disagree and act politically on their beliefs (as can you).

      Same with consequences of actions and choices. If someone comes and slaps me I can slap back. I can call the police. I can turn the other cheek. I choose my responses, and so does everyone else. As a society we can create laws regulating the kinds of responses we believe will be best for society and enforce them. That’s freedom. Your “natural rights” are fantasies, as real as pixies and fairies. Socially constructed rights and legal systems are real.

      Now, one can act on what believes should be rights and forge agreements on that front — we don’t want slavery, we want murder to be wrong in our society (but don’t necessarily want to kill the killers) and due to human fallibility we prefer a legal system over allowing individuals to try to extract vengeance. We’re free to construct this system, we’re free to construct rights.

  7. #19 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 18:20

    Your argument comes down to an assertion that an ill defined “principle” you call “reciprocity” underlies everything, and anyone who doesn’t see things that way is a nihilist (and you throw in some other insults). That is on its face a non-argument; it makes no logical sense, you don’t define your terms, you don’t support your claims with evidence, it is by definition non-sense. On stilts, no less!

    • #20 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 18:24

      Scott,

      Your argument comes down to an assertion that an ill defined “principle” you call “reciprocity” underlies everything

      “Strawman” Scott – underlies “everything”? Never said that….

      Underlies Human Rights – of which establishes Rightful action of human being upon human beings.

  8. #21 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 19:00

    The notion of individual rights is utterly and completely meaningless absent other humans.

    The necessity of rights does not exist absent of anyone else.

    Robinson C. does not find it necessary to exercise his human rights as there is no Man Friday.

    However, because it is unnecessary for a hermit does NOT eliminate the existence of his rights.

    Further, the condition of only one human in existence is the same as no human in existence.
    Any dialogue about human is moot.
    Indeed, any description of anything is moot too!

    So what’s your point – other than another example of your nihilist tendency?

    An electron absent of any other energy and matter is moot too!
    That does not mean the laws of nature do not exist, nor no longer apply!
    Because there is nothing to apply it DOES NOT mean they do not exist.

    Reality dictates that there is more than one human, so that is the condition that requires the test, not a bizarre nihilist argument “what if there were no humans…” nonsense.

    Human rights exist because there are humans is self-evident.
    Human rights is unnecessary if there are no humans.

    By the existence of humans, human rights exist.

    BUT, equally, MY human rights are independent of YOUR existence, or anyone else’s existence.
    You do not exist – my rights remain and are unchanged.
    You exist – my rights remain and are unchanged.

    Humans along simply act and the consequences of their acts are determined by the laws of physics and quantum probability.

    LoL!
    So above, you argue for choice.
    Now, you argue it is probabilistic within a quantum field.

    When other humans do enter the picture and have to interact, people develop rules and procedures for doing so.

    Agree – and they use human rights to measure the validity (rightness) of their interaction.

    For your position to hold, any action of any person on any other person is rightful by merely the ability to act and therefore, immune from measure.

    But you do not agree – you argue that structures are created to enhance or degrade certain human action – therefore, there must exist some measure from which to define this and therefore there exists some yardstick by which to measure

    But you argue that none exists.

    You are the one in a hole, sir.

  9. #22 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 21:33

    Again, BF, you offer nothing but an assertion, a statement of your faith, what you believe to be true. There is nothing there to give anyone who does not share your belief any reason to accept what you say as true, it’s pure unsubstantiated assertion.

    As for a measures and yardsticks – any that exist are created by humans. We reflect on the world we’ve constructed and the belief systems in a culture and create ways to measure how we want to define the rights we construct. The idea of individual rights is relatively recent and thus the evidence is very much against an argument that this is some universal standard. Indeed in most of history and anthropology group rights and interests trumped those of individuals. That suggests that if one standard exists it’s probably group oriented rather than individually oriented.

    But there is no reason to think one standard to measure or one yard stick exists. The fact is we are free to make our own standards and yardsticks. I find that liberating and very meaningful — we create meaning for our lives. You mistakenly call that nihilism because you commit one severe logical error: you think that reality only has meaning if there is some single truth or meaning from outside our existence that we are to uncover or follow. You think meaning only exists if there is an ‘answer key’ out there. That kind of thinking risks dogma, which can risk authoritarianism (suppression of political movements that do not support the ‘right’ view).

    • #23 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 21:43

      For you Scott, all arguments you do not like are assertions, but your fallacies are not.

      Again, BF, you offer nothing but an assertion

      No, it is an axiom, and does not depend on your faith.

      . There is nothing there to give anyone who does not share your belief any reason to accept what you say as true, it’s pure unsubstantiated assertion.

      For you to claim this, you must argue that there does not exist reciprocity.
      That requires you to deny observational fact.
      As a nihilist, you have no trouble doing this.

      The idea of individual rights is relatively recent and thus the evidence is very much against an argument that this is some universal standard.

      The idea of gravity is relatively recent. Therefore, it did not exist before Newton articulated it.
      So it is in the world of Scott.

      • #24 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 22:47

        Labeling an assertion an “axiom” does not alter the fact it’s an unsubstantiated assertion that I have no reason to accept. Your term ‘reciprocity’ is meaningless to me, it is unnecessary and vague. It certainly does not deny observable fact.

        Big difference between gravity and your claim about rights — you can see the impact of gravity all around and you can’t get away from it. You don’t have people floating all over until they assert their right to gravity. With so-called ‘individual rights’ they didn’t exist for people for most of human history – people were kept as slaves (still are sometimes), and often given no freedoms. That’s why gravity is different, the idea is a human theory but the phenomenon exists in nature. Individual rights only exist when humans construct them and act on them. Otherwise they may as well be pixie fairies.

      • #25 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 23:14

        Scott

        Labeling an assertion an “axiom” does not alter the fact it’s an unsubstantiated assertion that I have no reason to accept.

        You can certainly express this about geometry, or mathematics as equally – and you, Scott, may have no reason to accept these either.

        However, equally, you lose the ability to understand the world around you.

        And this is no different here.

        You most certainly can entertain your own contrived theories, and attempt to use them to understand the world – however, as I review your progress so far – it isn’t working very well.

      • #26 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 23:20

        But we’re not talking geometry, we’re talking about your claims on natural rights. You’re making an unsubstantiated assertion about reality that has no evidence supporting it, or reason for me to accept it.

        You may think I lack the “ability to understand the world,” but the reality is I just don’t agree with you about the world, and you want to categorize that as lacking the ability. Yet in practical terms — I’m happy, have a good life, friends, and feel content and at peace with myself and my life — this alleged “lack of understanding” has done me no harm. That’s why you can’t hide behind geometry and mathematics, you’re doing something fundamentally different and borrowing a term to try to disguise your belief system as something more objective than it is (it’s actually totally subjective) is false. I suspect you may even be fooling yourself here.

      • #27 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 23:55

        Scott,

        But we’re not talking geometry, we’re talking about your claims on natural rights.

        But, yet, for no reason given you accept geometry with its preposterous axiom without any proof!

        Why?

        You may think I lack the “ability to understand the world,”

        I do, by direct observational difference between how things “are” and the claims you have made on how things “will be”.

        but the reality is I just don’t agree with you about the world, and you want to categorize that as lacking the ability.

        Ability?
        No, I believe you are a very capable human being – in this, there is no doubt.

        Comprehension is probably the better term here…..

        Yet in practical terms — I’m happy, have a good life, friends, and feel content and at peace with myself and my life — this alleged “lack of understanding” has done me no harm.

        The consequences of evil very often are not delivered upon its user – most often it is delivered on the innocent.

        If it was strongly and directly delivered on its user, the use of evil would immediately diminish overnight. This is demonstrated by the consequences of violence by individuals – those that initiate such violence face massive and reasonably direct consequences from society.

        But for other evil, such consequences are not so delivered.

        However, often the reciprocity of such evil is time-shifted into the future -where it will be delivered on your children.

        This is why the pragmatic lifestyle you indulge is so devastating – you have a short-time preference, and measure your good by its immediacy. You have no sense of the long term and the accumulation of consequences of such actions.

        You are in a race to die before its delivery upon you, and thus, doom your children such suffering.

  10. #28 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 22:01

    Scott

    But there is no reason to think one standard to measure or one yard stick exists.

    Another Scott-ish strawman – I did not make such a claim.

    I stated such yard stick derives from Reciprocity.

    I stated that such a yard stick exists for each individual for himself wholly independent from anyone else.

    In the past, I have stated that I cannot prove your (or anyone’s) yardstick to be right or wrong based on MY yard stick, but I can prove you right or wrong based on whether or not YOU contradict YOUR yardstick.

    I did not offer any description of your yard stick, or anyone else – that is your assumption and straw man leap. It is up to you to offer your yard stick and not for me to provide you one. However, you DO have one – regardless if you deny it or not.

    • #29 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 22:41

      Your claim that a yardstick derives from reciprocity is meaningless. It is literally non-sense, it makes no sense. You could say it derives from fairy pixies and it would be just as meaningful.

      To the extent one has one (or several), they derive only from our thought and reflection. Moreover, we can make it up as we go, we can change our yardstick (indeed, a goal of politics is to convince people to change their views) and we can apply it differently in different contexts if we believe context matters — sometimes theft is wrong, sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s justified, sometimes its minor and unimportant. The reason why consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds is that consistency usually means applying the same idea across different contexts — but context alters the meaning of every action and situation.

      • #30 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 23:02

        Scott,

        Your claim that a yardstick derives from reciprocity is meaningless. It is literally non-sense, it makes no sense. You could say it derives from fairy pixies and it would be just as meaningful.

        That is not true.

        Because it derives from Reciprocity, it establishes a tight establishment of such “yardsticks” from which to judge human action.

        If it were fairy dust, then anything under the sun would pass – yet, by your own admission, this is not the case.

        we can change our yardstick

        Not so – or else it is not a yardstick.

        If you find you can “change” your yardstick, then it isn’t one but “it” is merely a manifestation or expression created from such a yardstick.

        Your yardstick is the “thing” that caused you to change course – you made a measure of some current circumstance, and it did not measure up, so you discarded that for something else.

        sometimes theft is wrong

        A good choice for such an example.

        Theft is always wrong, unless, of course, you are a thief or you do not care about social cohesion.

        sometimes it’s justified

        It cannot be justified, unless, of course, you are a thief or you do not care about social cohesion.

        sometimes its minor and unimportant.

        It is not minor nor ever unimportant – however, the capacity to absorb the damage maybe larger then the damage inflicted.

        But it always damages society.

      • #31 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 23:15

        Again, your term ‘reciprocity’ is meaningless to me, it has no substance or clear definition. I have no reason to take it seriously. Therefore there is no need for an unchanging yardstick. You can choose to have one, but I find trying to have an inflexible unchanging yardstick to be untenable given the nature of social reality.

        Consider: stealing well water from a Nazi to save the life a Jew dying of thirst is not only justified, but it’s morally right (in my opinion). In fact, stealing from that Nazi to aid anti-Nazi causes would be morally right as well. That kind of theft might be good for society! Context changes the nature of every single act – trying to put them all under a broad category of “theft” creates an illusion that these acts are the same. They are not – every act has meaning defined in large part by the context. That’s why efforts at abstract universal principles are all doomed, they rest on an untenable claim that such acts are really fundamentally the same.

  11. #32 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 23:19

    Scott,

    but the phenomenon exists in nature. Individual rights only exist when humans construct them and act on them

    You miss the vital condition – that is, they have to be constructed from somewhere – they are not “invented” (who invented human rights, Scott? Who is the inventor of society? of civilization?).

    These very human things derive directly from human nature and natural law – their complexity notwithstanding. The complexity is the “artificial” construct, Scott, not the natural law that underlies such constructs.

    The artificial constructs are the things that you rationalize – such as theft of taxation – it is these rationalizations that are the artificial constructs, not the human rights that measure such theft as evil

    • #33 by Scott Erb on December 27, 2011 - 23:26

      Humans construct social reality, we invent all terms, ideas, concepts, rights, ideologies, philosophies and the like. The claim they derive “directly from human nature and natural law” is preposterous — there is too much diversity and disagreement, and things like individual rights veer significantly from the reality of human life for most of human existence (it would be like saying things floated around indiscriminately until Newton came up with his equations on gravity!) So I reject your belief in ‘natural law’ as stemming not from anything about reality, and certainly isn’t supported by your argument. It’s your own subjective belief you choose for reasons that probably reflect your personality — you have a need/desire to be RIGHT, you don’t like doubt and uncertainty, you don’t like paradox and inconsistency, and you probably have a kind of heroic sense of yourself holding to “truth” in a world where people are deluded and confused. That’s fine — whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright. But using logic and evidence I see nothing at all persuasive in what you proclaim — quite the opposite. Having a different sort of personality, I’m not drawn to that kind of world view. And that’s good enough for me – and as Ricky Nelson said “it’s alright now, learned my lesson well, seems you can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.”

  12. #34 by Black Flag® on December 27, 2011 - 23:28

    Scott,

    Again, your term ‘reciprocity’ is meaningless to me, it has no substance or clear definition.

    For an educated man, you seem to be new to the concept of a dictionary;

    I will help you:
    given or done in return

    I have no reason to take it seriously.

    You have no reason, but that is another topic.

    You can choose to have one, but I find trying to have an inflexible unchanging yardstick to be untenable given the nature of social reality.

    Now that is an assertion! and wholly contrary to the nature of society and civilization.

    Consider: stealing well water from a Nazi to save the life a Jew dying of thirst is not only justified, but it’s morally right (in my opinion).

    Because you pervert meaning of “violence”, you end up completely confused when such an example is raised as this.

    The fault of your circumstance is not a “theft” – but the use of violence upon the man that physically restrains his ability to cure his own thirst – namely a gun to his head.

    You miss the gun – and as such go off in a whirlwind about morals and rights as if the gun made no such difference to this circumstance

    But it does.

    And your whirlwind occurs only because you hold no coherent understanding of the nature of violence.

    Regardless, you still measured the morality – based on what? A whim you dreamed last night?

    What principle did you apply to make such a measure?

  13. #35 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 01:08

    Your dictionary definition does not alter the fact that as a “principle” it is non-sense. There is no principle there, just your assertion, and you can’t support or defend it except by asserting it with more vehemence and a couple of insults.

    There was no direct violence in my example. But you make my point – you admit the context changes things. You want to limit it to violence, but even violence is a vast concept that includes direct violence, structural force and the like. You want to arbitrarily limit it to things that fit into your belief structure, but that’s just your own subjective whim.

    So you know what – your morality is based on a whim. A few beliefs strung together so that you can hold it as a coherent belief system, but it may as well be a dream you had last night. In any event, I tend to avoid abstract principles because they are more deceptive than accurate, they hide too much of the context and try to force too many things to seem alike than different. To the extent we have to do that, we have legal systems with degrees of criminality and leeway for juries and judges. Our system is based on recognition that applying broad principles to complex social situations is, well, non-sense on stilts! I tend to make judgments in part from analyzing the situation, in part from the heart – a touch of empathy, intuition. Psychologists say intuition is more powerful than intellectual analysis in making good decisions, after all. I therefore trust mine. That’s my choice.

    The key point is we can all hold different views, and we can even have things that seem internally contradictory, that’s OK. Since every situation is different due to context, the only real contradictory view would be to say about one given situation “you should kill him and you should let him go.” We go into the world and act politically, make compromises, reach agreements, sometimes fight, and thus we construct reality. You can believe in natural law and rights and act on your beliefs, I can reject them and act on mine. That’s the world that is.

    • #36 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 04:04

      Scott,

      Your dictionary definition does not alter the fact that as a “principle” it is non-sense.

      Your lack of comprehension does not create a fact.

      Because you do not understand, it probably does make no sense to you.

      But that’s ok.

      here was no direct violence in my example.

      Of course there is – you merely did not articulate it – and simply because you do not see or say it does not make it disappear.

      Indeed, do you believe the Jew could just go get the water? Of course not. If he left the camp, he’d be shot.

      But of course you do not see this.

      But you make my point – you admit the context changes things.

      Your example contradicted your point.

      Since you purposely ignored the fundamental violence, you made specious claims upon the faulty example.

      You tried to justify “theft”, where no such theft existed.
      What did exist was violence – and you merely tried to pull the wool over your readers eyes about it.

      You want to limit it to violence,

      No, end it.

      but even violence is a vast concept that includes direct violence, structural force and the like.

      No, it isn’t.

      You merely redefine terms to suit your ends, which only ends up confusing yourself.

      Confucius said:
      The first task to restore order in a collapsing society is for words to have meaning.

      But that would mean you could not advocate the irrationalities that support you. So, your task is to wreck confusion into definitions, twist and warp them as necessary.

      You want to arbitrarily limit it to things that fit into your belief structure, but that’s just your own subjective whim. So you know what – your morality is based on a whim.

      No, sir.
      That is what you are doing.

      You disavow that there are any natural laws in this matter – that is, there does not exist an objective measure or calculation – which can only leave your subjective whims.

      As usual, you claim others are doing what you are doing.

      . In any event, I tend to avoid abstract principles because they are more deceptive than accurate, they hide too much of the context and try to force too many things to seem alike than different.

      ..or that they require adherence to be consistent, but that might make things difficult for you.

      To the extent we have to do that, we have legal systems with degrees of criminality and leeway for juries and judges.

      And you continue to be more confused.

      The law is clear – there is no justification for theft.

      Go find me the law that says “Theft is wrong, except if you are starving, its ok to steal”

      No such thing exists, regardless of your bizarre understanding of the law.

      So “we” arrest and charge the starving thief, and convict him.

      Then “we” feed him, and (hopefully) assist him in obtain his food needs without theft.

      Compassion is a human trait – but that fact makes no argument for you here.

      You can believe in natural law and rights and act on your beliefs, I can reject them and act on mine. That’s the world that is.

      Exactly.

      But you have to explain how you can “invent” without invoking natural law?

      You must believe that you do such things “supernaturally” – but what kind of bizarre thinking is that for you to require divine intervention or the existence of magic?

      The question that should be pondered is not if such a natural law exists, but what natural law is invoked!

  14. #37 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 04:25

    Well, you’re now using a ton of words to hide the fact that all you have is your own subjective beliefs — whims really — which you want to dress up as ‘natural laws’ in order to pretend your views are backed by some kind of authority. The fact you want to ignore all structural force to focus only on direct violence shows a very warped and misguided theory on your part.

    But no harm done, you can believe what you want. You can act on your beliefs, I can act on mine. That’s why politics is necessary – people disagree on these things, yet somehow we have to create a system wherein we can work things out despite the differences.

    • #38 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 04:33

      Scott,

      Well, you’re now using a ton of words to hide the fact that all you have is your own subjective beliefs — whims really — which you want to dress up as ‘natural laws’ in order to pretend your views are backed by some kind of authority.

      No, you said you can not understand the concept of reciprocity, so I assisted you in showing that such a concept predates Plato, and holds across varied cultures, civilizations and time.

      The fact you want to ignore all structural force to focus only on direct violence shows a very warped and misguided theory on your part.

      No, it shows a keen understanding immune from the mush you attempt to propagate so to justify real violence upon the non-violent.

      But no harm done, you can believe what you want.

      That is the irony. Mine does reduce and eliminate harm.

      Your belief does harm – it is used to enslave and slaughter millions.

      You can act on your beliefs, I can act on mine.

      You acting on yours is frankly terrifying to the peace and order of society.

      That’s why politics is necessary – people disagree on these things, yet somehow we have to create a system wherein we can work things out despite the differences.

      Without objective measure and principle, things only shift between bad and worse – a ship adrift in the ocean without a rudder nor propulsion.

      • #39 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 04:41

        I understand what you mean by reciprocity, I find it rather amusing you want to think you can simply proclaim this a ‘natural law’ and source of rights on your own opinion and expect people to take it seriously. It’s a bit silly. And you do have a kind totalitarian tendency in your mindset — those who think differently are dangerous, spreading ‘mush’ and terrifying. You may not take the next step to trying to stop and eliminate those dangerous folk who do not correctly understand the world — but your mode of thought opens the door to those who would. You need a bit more humility about your capacity to truly understand the world, the nature of violence and human interactions.

      • #40 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 04:53

        Scott,

        I understand what you mean by reciprocity, I find it rather amusing you want to think you can simply proclaim this a ‘natural law’ and source of rights on your own opinion and expect people to take it seriously.

        The Golden rule – reciprocity, is the root of human rights.

        What you do not want done to you, you cannot do to others.
        What you do to others, gives others the right to do you.

        It’s a bit silly.

        What is silly, Scott, is that you believe invention occurs without natural law.

        those who think differently are dangerous

        No, sir.

        You can think differently all you wish, matters not one wit to me.

        However, the moment you act matters for everything.

        If one assumes consistency between words and actions, then -indeed- the mush you spread is terrifying.

        If you do not act, it is merely …how did you say?…. rather amusing.

        but your mode of thought opens the door to those who would.

        To a man who breaths violence as his tool – it is of great perversion to then claim of others who do not are “actually” the ones who promote it.

        Orwellian-speak lives powerfully within you, Scott.

        You need a bit more humility about your capacity to truly understand the world, the nature of violence and human interactions.

        You need to achieve better clarity of the nature of violence yourself, for your twist of its definition guarantees the expansion of it.

    • #41 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 05:07

      “Tse-kung asked, ‘Is there one word that can serve
      as a principle of conduct for life?

      Confucius replied, ‘It is the word ‘shu’ –
      reciprocity.

      Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.’”

      G’night, Scott.

  15. #42 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 05:13

    Your mistake is to turn your ideas into dogma without humility. You also have never dealt with the importance of context in making every act different in meaning, and undercuts claims to universal laws and rights. You also never link your ideas to rights in any coherent way, nor do you provide any proof for the existence of natural rights. You assert your opinion. That’s cool – but you should be honest to note it’s just your opinion, it may be wrong. None of us are infallible, all of us may be wrong.

    • #43 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 05:28

      Scott,

      You have a way of stopping me from going to bed.

      You also have never dealt with the importance of context in making every act different in meaning, and undercuts claims to universal laws and rights.

      There is nothing to deal with in this matter.

      Universal law and rights is context independent – that is the essence of a right.

      I do NOT need to concern myself with what context I enforce or use my Right.
      It does not matter.

      It does not matter what you are thinking, what you believe, the color of your socks… whatever…

      ….you do not have a right to my life.

      You also never link your ideas to rights in any coherent way,

      I most certainly do, but you are deaf to it, because it contradicts your ego-centric world view.

      nor do you provide any proof for the existence of natural rights

      Nor have you provided any proof to the concept of the geometric point.

      We are back here again, with you trying to comprehend “axiomatic”.

      . You assert your opinion. That’s cool – but you should be honest to note it’s just your opinion, it may be wrong. None of us are infallible, all of us may be wrong.

      It’s possible that I may be incomplete in my articulation and breadth regarding “reciprocity” and its role as the root of human rights.

      It may be a manifestation of even a more fundamental natural law.

      But one thing is certain

      There exists such a Natural Law – and my limited ability to articulate it notwithstanding.

  16. #44 by pino on December 28, 2011 - 05:44

    It just means we see those “rights” as humanly constructed, and often for good reason. The ‘argumentum ad populum” bit seems persausive because that’s the reason we constructed those rights — most of us think they should exist. Whether nature provides them is irrelevant.

    Scott,

    Is lying wrong?

    • #45 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 05:48

      Sometimes. Sometimes lying is the best thing to do. It depends on the context.

      • #46 by pino on December 28, 2011 - 05:51

        Sometimes.

        In those times it’s wrong, what is the quality that makes it so?

      • #47 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 23:23

        Scott

        Exactly, we are not perfect and all knowing For someone to claim they have figured out invisible ‘natural laws’ and have the power to determine what they are and label evil those who disagree with their abstract ill defined vague subjective whims are clearly self-deluded.

        But that is not how it works.

        Natural law is immutable – you can attempt to work against it, but it always wins.

        The goal, therefore, is to work toward understanding that natural law, and utilizing to our advantage.

        However, if one refuses natural law, depravity and disaster will be the consequence.

        As far as the term “evil”

        I have defined it here often enough for you to understand it.

        It is the manifestation by man of a contradiction.

        As such “violence on the non-violent” is evil, for that contradicts the Law of Reciprocity.

        But also in other matters, for example, your pragmatism. You will readily contradict yourself, if it is pragmatic for you to do so. As such, you create evil in your wake.

        We create law. We give power to judges, the police and juries to take context into account.

        You cannot give what you do not have.

        Thus, where does the power “we” (whoever this “we” is) come from for the “we” to give it?

  17. #48 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 13:36

    It varies. The strongest reason would be the consequences – saving a life through theft may be right (even if the example isn’t as stark as above). Intent matters too – if one steals a drug to save someone’s life with the intent to ultimately pay for it, that makes a difference. In some cases when it’s clear that a small group has amassed wealth in a manner that is detrimental to society and creates severe injustice (think of France around 1789) a rebellion can be justified. A lot of Americans think the Boston tea party was justified (that was theft and destruction of private property). Ultimately its a balancing of diverse properties, but usually a strong system of laws and legal protections creates options that allow people to solve problems without resorting to even justifiable theft.

    • #49 by pino on December 28, 2011 - 15:36

      Intent matters too – if one steals a drug to save someone’s life with the intent to ultimately pay for it, that makes a difference.

      And where are you going to find the angels who will arbitrate intent? I suspect you aren’t entirely comfortable with me doing that. In the same way and manner, I’m not sure I would trust you, or BlackFlag.

      Further, what difference does intent or consequence matter? If I take $20 from your wallet, why is that wrong? What have I done to you that “wrongs” you. And remember, in your world, you have no more “right” to that 20 bucks than I do, you only are in possession of it.

      In short, there is “something” that is wrong about things a priori to anything else. I think we all know that, our bodies are tuned to it; it’s why we feel guilt.

      • #50 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 15:58

        In general I agree with social conventions that you should receive money you earn and be able to maintain possession of it. In most cases if someone tries to take it from you they are taking your property and thus guilty of theft and deserve punishment. Given how our culture is structured, not punishing theft would lead to violence and unrest, people would not feel a need to work if they could get away from crime, families would suffer as bills could not be paid. However, part of the structure includes stable governance which also has yielded taxation and a federal monetary system. So taxation, for instance, is not theft, but paying our fair share of maintaining a system that allows us to prosper.

        There are cultures where private property is not considered to be important — people use communal stuff (these are usually small villages/tribes). In such cases this would not even be seen as theft or as morally wrong. This is also done on smaller scale — some couples have everything shared in joint accounts and joint ownership, others keep things separate. So if my wife takes $20 from my wallet she didn’t steal it, since I can get $20 out of our joint account with my ATM card.

        My point is that context matters.

      • #51 by pino on December 29, 2011 - 00:53

        In general I agree with social conventions that you should receive money you earn and be able to maintain possession of it.

        I think where we differ is that I think theft is wrong even IF society doesn’t think so. You think theft is wrong only because society named it so.

        In your world, slavery back in the day was alright, because the social norm accepted it. Women having no rights was okay because society accepted it. Today, in many Arabic cultures, the abuses of women is alright because in those societies, they accept it.

        I happen to feel that individuals have rights before society, or government, says they have them. Or that they don’t.

      • #52 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:10

        Scott,

        Silly guy, I’m not evading, I’m giving you my answer. Your demand that the law say precisely what you word above shows that deep down you know context matters, our legal system considers it, and you’re unable to admit it.

        I did not make any such demand for “precisely” at all.

        In fact, I reword the request many times in many forms to give the greatest breadth for an example

        …and you failed to provide one….as expected.

        Context does NOT matter in the law. Theft is a crime, no exceptions.

        Context mattes in the CONSEQUENCES, mercy is considered based on the circumstances.

        Your belief in natural laws IS a belief in magic!

        Good God!

        Now the Gravity and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is magic!

        Scott, you are diving ever deeper into a pool of irrationality.

      • #53 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:13

        Pino,

        I must agree.

        What is wrong now, is wrong then.
        What is right now, should be the right in the future.

        Otherwise, it is merely whim.

  18. #54 by sekanblogger on December 28, 2011 - 13:49

    Great post. Made a lot of folks think a bit. Nice.
    I just got home from having a really bad night at work. No, it’s not a right to be able to work, or have a good time of it. Gotta go to a second job pretty quick now, so I don’t have the time to go into much philosophy right now. I’d like to look pretty cool right now by quoting Kierkegaard, Socrates, and maybe even a little Abby Hoffman. Those guys make me think too. The truth is, I’m pooped.

    How about a short bit of lyrics, then I must go.

    The alternative to truth is hypocrisy
    If you want to choose the latter you won’t never be free
    Go slow
    Ain’t no such thing as revolution
    It’s got another name
    It’s called evolution
    Go slow
    Ain’t no such thing as revolution
    It’s got another name
    It’s called evolution
    Go slow
    Part of being free is a state of mind
    You just got to learn to leave it all behind
    Go slow
    (Shawn Phillips – from Lookin’ Up Lookin’ Down)

    Have a great day, even if you don’t have a natural right to do so.

  19. #55 by Titfortat on December 28, 2011 - 15:00

    @scott&Blackflag

    You guys are too funny! You sure you 2 arent married?

    I will posit that anything that happens in our experience of this universe is NATURAL. To think otherwise is just a little bit presumptious, dont ya think? 😉

    • #56 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 16:42

      Scott is my foil.

      He is (I am sure) a really nice guy and the life of a party.

      But I hold that his core beliefs are evil.

      He promotes pragmatism; I, the opposite, support principles.

      He is a nihilist at heart; I am a radical at heart.

      He is a Statist; I am an Individualist.

      He is Political Scientist (an oxymoron if anything); I am not!

  20. #57 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 16:50

    Scott

    In general I agree with social conventions that you should receive money you earn and be able to maintain possession of it.

    Pino is not asking if you agree or not – I believe he understands that you already agree.

    He is asking
    “Why you agree to such a thing?”
    “What principle are you using to measure your agreement or disagreement?”

    His point, as I understand it, is that you already measured such an action prior to acting (or not acting).

    A priori, you have determined right/wrong before you have created the reality of the action and its consequences.

    You keep offering example of consequences, but consequences occur a posteriori – and you’ve already judged it before then.

    My point is that context matters.

    The point is, you cannot determine the extent of context to a degree to claim it matters.
    You do not know all things to make such a determination.

    Yet, you do.
    It cannot be the context – that can only be determined in hindsight.
    You do not act backwards – that is, you do not in hindsight act now.

    Action first, then hindsight.

    So how do you determine which action is right or wrong?

    • #58 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 17:26

      I gave the reasons I think theft should in most cases be wrong. I believe in constructing property rights and many others. But the point is simple: you assert that a particular set of rights you choose to believe are natural, and those who construct different systems (systems just as natural) can be evil if they go against your whim of what is proper.

      Your claim that the context can only be determined in hindsight is ridiculous — the context is co-existent with the action, they are determined together. The action has particular meaning because it is enmeshed in a context, you cannot divorce an action from a context, meaning that abstract principles applied across a large range of contexts is untenable and false.

      Moreover, every legal and cultural system ever created (that I know of) follows that kind of logic. No system has ever been created that follows the principles you imagine to be natural. That’s powerful evidence. When one person thinks everyone else is evil and insane and he’s the only one who sees the truth, well…. And that’s how you appear to me — you assert a really fringe idea, claim those who disagree are evil, hurl out labels as if they were arguments, and yet never actually put forth an argument that proves natural rights exist. It seems to me like smoke and mirrors.

      So let’s just figure out where we agree. We agree that generally theft is harmful for society and individuals and should not take place. We can create laws and construct systems of rights based on those agreements. The rest is angels dancing on the head of a pin stuff.

      • #59 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 17:50

        Scott,

        You did not give reasons.

        You gave examples.

        I cannot apply your examples, I have no reason to do so.

  21. #60 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 18:04

    Scott

    you assert that a particular set of rights you choose to believe are natural

    No, it is not a particular set that I choose. Natural law does not change because I choose different things.

    I observe the consequences of natural law – and then find its root.

    and those who construct different systems (systems just as natural) can be evil if they go against your whim of what is proper.

    Now you are cooking with gas!

    Exactly! Your evil system derives from the same Natural Law!

    There are two -equal and opposite- reactions from Reciprocity.

    (1)I do not do to you as I do not want it done to me.

    (2)I do to you, and I don’t care what you can do to me.

    Freedom and Civilization derive from (1)

    Slavery and Government derive from (2)

    Your claim that the context can only be determined in hindsight is ridiculous — the context is co-existent with the action, they are determined together.

    Your assertion is wholly false.

    As I said, you cannot determine the extent of context because you are not all-perfect-knowing-all-things.

    You cannot see everything to understand the context you exist within.
    Your example of the remote and bomb.

    You sit there determining the immediacy of the situation, but you haven’t a clue to the extent of action/consequence that created the bomb and the desire of the bomber to harm you.

    Therefore, your examination of context will always be flawed and in error.

    Moreover, every legal and cultural system ever created (that I know of) follows that kind of logic.

    A bizarre assertion!

    I have asked of you to find one law that states “Theft is wrong, unless you are starving”.

    You know you cannot find one case – zero.

    Yet, here you claim the opposite!

    So let’s just figure out where we agree. We agree that generally theft is harmful for society and individuals and should not take place.

    We do not agree here.

    All theft is harmful for society and individuals and should not take place.

    You want exceptions – and that creates contradictions – and Man attempting to manifest a contradiction in a Universe that Absolutely Prohibits Contradictions creates Evil.

    We can create laws and construct systems of rights based on those agreements.

    No.

    No man creates laws.

    Man writes legislation. The best Man can do is CODIFY law.

    Legislators produce legislation, not law (although they do sometimes codify law).

    And the confusion of legislation with law – a confusion fueled daily in common talk – is one of the most pernicious occurrences that bestows upon the State more authority and respect than it has earned and that it deserves.

  22. #61 by Scott Erb on December 28, 2011 - 20:44

    Exactly, we are not perfect and all knowing For someone to claim they have figured out invisible ‘natural laws’ and have the power to determine what they are and label evil those who disagree with their abstract ill defined vague subjective whims are clearly self-deluded.

    We create law. We give power to judges, the police and juries to take context into account. Context defines the action while it happens – we may not have perfect knowledge but we do make our best measure of the context.

    Your reciprocity “principle” there is, again, non-sense. Your bifurcation into two types – slavery and freedom – is absurd. Reality is always full of paradox and complexity, trying to pretend its that simple is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong — you have your faith, your belief system, and if you want to hold it and label all us infidels who are ‘pragmatic’ as evil, go ahead. But nothing you write differentiates your thinking from any sort of dogmatic true believer. You’ve convinced yourself, you ignore arguments and instead try to simply argue by assertion and definition, thereby creating a closed system where you don’t let yourself entertain the possibility you might be wrong. You don’t see how ridiculous it is for you to think you have that knowledge and power to label all others – true believers tend to think there is something very special about them, and they have a truer, nobler and more honest understanding of reality than others.

    But to me you’re really no different than those religious folk who yell out that God’s will is sacred and I’m doing evil if I go against it. You can have your faith. I have my beliefs. I am completely unpersuaded by yours (and find your assumptions extremely problematic), so I’ll act on mine, regardless of whether you think it’s evil. I have that freedom.

    • #62 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 23:25

      Arg, sorry for the double post, but it actually belongs down here.

      Scott

      Exactly, we are not perfect and all knowing For someone to claim they have figured out invisible ‘natural laws’ and have the power to determine what they are and label evil those who disagree with their abstract ill defined vague subjective whims are clearly self-deluded.

      But that is not how it works.

      Natural law is immutable – you can attempt to work against it, but it always wins.

      The goal, therefore, is to work toward understanding that natural law, and utilizing to our advantage.

      However, if one refuses natural law, depravity and disaster will be the consequence.

      As far as the term “evil”

      I have defined it here often enough for you to understand it.

      It is the manifestation by man of a contradiction.

      As such “violence on the non-violent” is evil, for that contradicts the Law of Reciprocity.

      But also in other matters, for example, your pragmatism. You will readily contradict yourself, if it is pragmatic for you to do so. As such, you create evil in your wake.

      We create law. We give power to judges, the police and juries to take context into account.

      You cannot give what you do not have.

      Thus, where does the power “we” (whoever this “we” is) come from for the “we” to give it?

      • #63 by Black Flag® on December 28, 2011 - 23:29

        Double arg, the repost didn’t have the edits… and I added some more thoughts here.

        If you can, please delete the dup posts above.
        Thanks!

        Scott

        Exactly, we are not perfect and all knowing For someone to claim they have figured out invisible ‘natural laws’ and have the power to determine what they are and label evil those who disagree with their abstract ill defined vague subjective whims are clearly self-deluded.

        But that is not how it works.

        Natural law is immutable – you can attempt to work against it, but it always wins.

        The goal, therefore, is to work toward understanding that natural law, and utilizing to our advantage.

        However, if one refuses natural law, depravity and disaster will be the consequence.

        As far as the term “evil”

        I have defined it here often enough for you to understand it.

        It is the manifestation by man of a contradiction.

        As such “violence on the non-violent” is evil, for that contradicts the Law of Reciprocity.

        But also in other matters, for example, your pragmatism. You will readily contradict yourself, if it is pragmatic for you to do so. As such, you create evil in your wake.

        We create law. We give power to judges, the police and juries to take context into account.

        We do NOT take context into account regarding the law.

        I have already insisted you provide any example where the law says “You cannot steal, unless you are hungry, then its ok”

        You can’t so you do not offer it, but you still pontificate as if such a law exists!

        With “power”, you cannot give what you do not have.

        Thus, where does the power “we” (whoever this “we” is) come from for the “we” to give it?

    • #64 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:15

      Scott,

      Your reciprocity “principle” there is, again, non-sense. Your bifurcation into two types – slavery and freedom – is absurd. Reality is always full of paradox and complexity, trying to pretend its that simple is ridiculous.

      You confuse paradox with contradictions, and complexity with ignorance.

      You believe a slave is free and free men are slaves.

      Don’t get me wrong — you have your faith, your belief system, and if you want to hold it and label all us infidels who are ‘pragmatic’ as evil, go ahead.

      I do, for pragmatism requires contradiction.

  23. #65 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 00:02

    It still sounds like religious faith to me — you believe in this “natural law” that you can’t see. You give it attributes that you can’t test, you define those as “evil” who go against the law that you believe in, and you do this all with assertions that are untestable and unfalsifiable. I don’t begrudge you your faith, but I don’t need it. If the world runs according to these invisible ‘natural laws,’ then I must intuitively understand them pretty well since the way I live my life generates happiness and contentment. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Also, I have noted that laws allow discretion to judges, have different levels of punishment based on intent (e.g., manslaughter to murder), allow the police not to press charges or juries to determine innocence. Our whole system is built on the premise that it is inherently ridiculous to treat all crimes the same under the abstract rubric like ‘theft.’ Each act is different and gets treated that way.

    Social reality is a construction — humans exist naturally connected with other humans, one of your biggest errors is that of radical individualism. Your identity, your tastes, your interests and your beliefs come as much from your social context as from your individual self. If you were born in a different culture — in Cairo or Beijing, for example — you’d be a fundamentally different human with different interests, tastes, etc. Your powers and constraints are also social products, humanly produced. Nature plays a role in creating boundaries, but within those humans have a lot of leeway to act. I’ve written about this elsewhere: https://scotterb.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/particle-or-wave-individual-or-collective/

    I suggest you read Brian Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos.” Your view of nature seems more set in a Newtonian clockwork universe and doesn’t really take into account modern physics — the ‘laws of nature’ become probabilistic, increasingly theories suggest reality could be more like a hologram than actual matter. Don’t close your mind and think you have the answer — that’s a path to mental stagnation. Keep questioning and be self-critical as well as other-critical!

    • #66 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 00:18

      Scott

      It still sounds like religious faith to me — you believe in this “natural law” that you can’t see.

      You “can’t see” gravity either, nor the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

      What you do see is the manifestations of such law.

      Indeed, absent of natural law, Scott, it is YOU who demands mere religion and faith.

      You give it attributes that you can’t test

      But you can say that about your theories too.

      Social sciences are pretty hard to test with experiment.
      As such, it is pretty much assigned observation, prediction, theory, observation.

      But the task does not refute natural law.

      As TitforTat says, and Pino infers, if it is not natural law, what is it? Magic?

      you define those as “evil” who go against the law that you believe in,

      Man, you are frustrating when you do not read the post.

      I did not say such. I made absolutely no mention of Law at all!!

      You are very dishonest in your retorts, Scott.

      I said that when a man manifests a contradiction, he creates evil

      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

      But as you are deaf, dumb and blind, you do you know its not broken?

      That’s the point against your argument of context you do not know enough to make such subjective and whimsical judgements.

      Also, I have noted that laws allow discretion to judges, have different levels of punishment based on intent (e.g., manslaughter to murder), allow the police not to press charges or juries to determine innocence.

      You completely distort the process and deny all the legal theory merely to promote your bizarre understanding.

      The law is absolute. There are no exceptions. Your utter failure in finding an example is proof.

      The consequences so delivered to the criminal, however, are -indeed- open to mitigation, but the crime is absolute

      As I pointed out, the starving thief is arrested, charged and convicted and then fed and (hopefully) assisted in meeting his needs of hunger.

      Our whole system is built on the premise that it is inherently ridiculous to treat all crimes the same under the abstract rubric like ‘theft.’

      We do treat all theft as a crime – no exceptions.

      How we mitigate the consequences is where our society demands leniency on the suffering.

      But the mercy given on the consequences does not, whatsoever, excuse the crime

  24. #67 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 00:30

    I don’t see manifestations of your claimed natural laws. I agree social science results have to be taken skeptically, tested and questioned. Anyone who has a theory that he or she does not regard skeptically and is not willing to alter or change based on evidence leaves the realm of scientific rational inquiry and enters the realm of faith. I know my belief structure isn’t broke because it works well for me. You’ve used evil many times in this thread, so if you need to call someone dishonest, look in the mirror while you do so.

    Laws are not absolute, you ignore my response and then assert non-sense yet again. Context matters, there is not one law against theft, one against murder or anything else. There are degrees, and often people aren’t charged due to mitigating circumstances. Judges have vast leeway on what kinds of sentences to hand out. Again, you ignore what doesn’t suit your dogmatic subjectivism.

    Look, you can have your faith in natural law. Others have faith in God’s will and God’s law, and that’s fine too. But there is no reason for me to take that seriously, and no reason to adopt your subjective faith as mine. In fact I cannot think like you, it is impossible because what you write goes against reason, my intuition, my core values and core beliefs. There is no way I could ever accept your belief system. Moreover, mine works very well for me. Now, I don’t begrudge you for having your faith, but you seem bothered that I don’t share yours (you’ve insinuated it’s evil). That means you have the problem, not me. You’re the one upset that others don’t live as you think they should, or with the beliefs you think are right. Relax, take it easy, and understand that people think differently and you’re as fallible as any of us.

    • #68 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 00:47

      Scott,

      So, one topic at a time, as each warrants more detail.

      I don’t see manifestations of your claimed natural laws.

      So, you therefore must believe human action is a consequence of divine intervention or magic.

    • #69 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 00:51

      Scott

      You’ve used evil many times in this thread, so if you need to call someone dishonest, look in the mirror while you do so.

      I call someone dishonest when after I post a specific definition, and consistently use such, that person continues to pull from out of thin air something else and claim it to be mine.

      Laws are not absolute, you ignore my response and then assert non-sense yet again.

      Laws are absolute, and I did not ignore your response.

      I AGAIN demand you provide just one example where the law states “No theft, unless you are starving”

      You continue to evade this, and continue to spew your fallacy regarding law as a response.

    • #70 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 00:53

      Scott,

      Context matters, there is not one law against theft, one against murder or anything else.

      Correct.
      There are many laws describing different kinds of theft and killing

      …BUT THERE IS NO LAW that says stealing or killing if you are starving is “ok…

      Judges have vast leeway on what kinds of sentences to hand out. Again, you ignore what doesn’t suit your dogmatic subjectivism.

      No, sir, you are arguing a perversion of the process.

      As you admit here, the thief has been CONVICTED. There is no doubt to the crime.

      How the CONSEQUENCES are measured, that is where the mercy is applied (or not).

      • #71 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 00:58

        Silly guy, I’m not evading, I’m giving you my answer. Your demand that the law say precisely what you word above shows that deep down you know context matters, our legal system considers it, and you’re unable to admit it. So you make up a silly demand to show you a law with a particular wording that no one would claim exists. If my answer isn’t good enough for you, tough – it’s all you’re going to get, and it’s good enough for me.

        Your belief in natural laws IS a belief in magic! That you don’t see that is profoundly amusing. You just label your “God” or “magic” as “natural law” and use it the same way. There is no difference!

  25. #72 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:12

    UGG! Wrong place again…please delete above….

    Scott,

    Silly guy, I’m not evading, I’m giving you my answer. Your demand that the law say precisely what you word above shows that deep down you know context matters, our legal system considers it, and you’re unable to admit it.

    I did not make any such demand for “precisely” at all.

    In fact, I reword the request many times in many forms to give the greatest breadth for an example

    …and you failed to provide one….as expected.

    Context does NOT matter in the law. Theft is a crime, no exceptions.

    Context mattes in the CONSEQUENCES, mercy is considered based on the circumstances.

    Your belief in natural laws IS a belief in magic!

    Good God!

    Now the Gravity and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is magic!

    Scott, you are diving ever deeper into a pool of irrationality.

  26. #73 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 01:14

    No, context does matter in the law — that’s why judges are given considerable leeway in sentencing, and why you have different degrees of crimes and the like. The process also allows context to be considered, it matters on where bail is set (or if bail is demanded) and a whole variety of aspects of the legal process.

    Your faith in natural laws is not the equivalent of the 2nd law of thermodynamics or gravity. Don’t you dare compare you’re subjective untestable unsupported faith with well supported theories of science. That makes you look like a bit of a kook.

    • #74 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:17

      No, context does not matter in the Law.

      It matters in the application of consequences.

      Your pontification and confusion on this is absurd, given you should know the differences.

      You have YET to demonstrate anywhere where the law says it is ok to steal.

  27. #75 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:18

    Scott,

    Your faith in natural laws is not the equivalent of the 2nd law of thermodynamics or gravity

    Sir, you are the kook to believe there is something other than natural law at work.

  28. #76 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:22

    PS:

    I would surmise you have a week of holidays, right?

    You are waaayy too responsive lately!

    “Nice job if ya can get it, huh???” 😉

  29. #77 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 01:29

    Wow, you can’t admit you’re wrong, can you? I demonstrate clearly that the law differentiates based on context and you try to dismiss it because it deals with the consequences. That’s part of the law and the acts! You can’t separate those things — or you can when you try to avoid reality. You can only hold your argument if you deny reality and find ways to define away arguments that show you non-sensical your position is. You are intellectually dishonest, but I don’t think it’s intentional. You want to hold on to your faith so badly that you can’t help but do these wild gyrations to avoid dealing with the lack of substance in your argument.

    But the bottom line remains the same: I’m not bothered that you have your beliefs, but you don’t like it that other people don’t share those beliefs and act under different beliefs. That is your problem, nobody else’s.

  30. #78 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:31

    Scott,
    You can’t admit your wrong!

    There is NO law that says it is ok to steal, yet you deny this fact!

    • #79 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 01:50

      Uh, you’re the one talking about laws saying its OK to steal. I never made such a claim. That’s your MO – you twist someone’s target into something very different than it was (you ignore the role of context in law – both structure and process, which was my point, which you have not refuted) and instead argue against your false construction. You do that alot, you try to recast another person’s position into something simplistic you can argue against, often by labeling. You’re not arguing against anything I’ve said at this point.

      • #80 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 01:52

        Scott,

        You stated that laws change based on context.

        By fact, they do not.

        Consequences change based on context.

        But being such a well-educated guy, you are utterly confused about legal theory.

      • #81 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 02:07

        The fact is, Scott, there is no law that says that it is ok to steal, nor does the law anywhere attribute context to its application… NO WHERE.

        After the conviction, the judge has leeway in SENTENCING… which is the application of CONSEQUENCES of the breach of law.

        Your position asserts -with NO fact whatsoever- that this is a demonstration that “law” is subjective.

  31. #82 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 02:15

    No, you’re misstating my argument. I’ve restated it many times, you ignore that and continue to argue against what you wish I had said. You’ve never dealt with the issue of how context in part constructs the meaning of every act — a fundamental flaw in your approach (related to how individuals get identity, interests, tastes, etc. from context as well). We are not individual billiard balls bumping against each other, we are part of an interconnected web. I’m fine if you don’t believe that, I don’t expect or demand you adhere to my beliefs.

    • #83 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 02:21

      Scott,

      You argued this:
      I demonstrate clearly that the law differentiates based on context

      You fail to demonstrate this at all, let alone clearly

      No where does the law -at all- differentiate on context.

      You merely have to provide the law – an example – but as I have asked a dozen times, and you have not demonstrates that your position here is flawed at its core.

      • #84 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 02:35

        I’ve given you an explanation, you refuse to accept it, nor do you refute it. If the existence of degrees of crime, discretion to the judge, differences on bail, and other process differences that reflect the nature of a particular charge isn’t enough to show you context matters, then all I can do is shake my head and walk away. It’s certainly enough for me.

        Moreover, you have never dealt with the larger claim that context is part of the meaning of every act, and in fact makes every act different from each other, bringing into question attempts to try to find one area of commonality and create a category wherein you treat all acts the same. You ran from that like a chicken with its head cut off because it eliminate the central core of your world view. And you can’t refute it!

        Face it, you can’t prove your ‘natural laws’ exist. You can believe they do and act on those beliefs, and that’s OK. But I can believe differently and act on those beliefs, and that’s OK. Avoid dogmatism and the totalitarian urge to think you have found the “right” answer and all who think differently are wrong. All humans are fallible, even you.

      • #85 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 02:44

        Scott,

        Just one more time as this is getting drool.

        Provide one example of law that demonstrates your position that theft is ok if you are starving (or any other excuse

      • #86 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 03:05

        Since I never claimed the law says theft is OK, and I’ve explained this to you many times (my claim is that the law takes context into account), I have to include you are being intentionally dishonest here.

        That level of dishonesty, plus saying it’s my burden to prove a negative…face it, you’ve lost this argument completely.

      • #87 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:09

        Scott
        You said this:

        I demonstrate clearly that the law differentiates based on context

        You cannot provide even one case.

        Yet, you flurry around, throwing dirt in the air, trying to obscure your fallacious position.

        It is obvious you are cornered, and embarrassed – and I apologize for that… this is your blog, and it is rude to do this to have done this to the owner.

  32. #88 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 02:54

    Scott,

    Face it, you can’t prove your ‘natural laws’ exist.

    No, sir, the burden is on you to demonstrate that NO natural law exists.

    • #89 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 02:55

      …because otherwise, your entire position rests on magic and fantasy.

    • #90 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 03:02

      LOL! You can’t prove negatives silly. The fact that you make such an obvious logical error — saying the burden is on someone to prove a negative — shows that you really have nothing. Not only can’t you prove a negative, but I’ve already said I’m not trying to change your mind, you can believe what you want. You just haven’t convinced me. Until you prove natural laws exist, it’s simply your “God” or “magic,” nothing more.

      • #91 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:05

        Scott,

        Now you move into idiocy.

        You claim no natural law exists – therefore, there must be a positive which exist in its place.

        Either it is natural law, or it is “something else”

        Your simple task:
        demonstrate the lack of natural law
        OR
        demonstrate the exist of something else.

        You cannot do either.

        You are the silly one, sir.

      • #92 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 03:08

        I already demonstrated the existence of something else – human choice. Humans create laws, cultures, ethical systems, etc., all the time. They come from the human mind, imagination and will. Humans create these in a variety of forms. That’s good enough for me. You’re the one needing a magic helper of some sort of “deus ex macchina” that provides the “right answer.” I don’t need that. I’m fine with human responsibility. You can have your God/magic/natural law. I find that unnecessary.

        But I take your post as admitting you can’t prove your position. It’s something you hold on faith. That’s cool, I’m not going to try to dissuade you. But I’m going to focus on what actually exists in the real world – politics and human choice.

      • #93 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:11

        So, now you’ve been corned, snookered and hung.

        So now you block my posts.

        Darn, you were doing so good – now, you disappoint.

  33. #94 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:11

    Scott
    You said this:…

    I demonstrate clearly that the law differentiates based on context

    You cannot provide even one case.

    Yet, you flurry around, throwing dirt in the air, trying to obscure your fallacious position.

    It is obvious you are cornered, and embarrassed – and I apologize for that… this is your blog, and it is rude to do this to have done this to the owner.

  34. #95 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:13

    Scott,

    I already demonstrated the existence of something else – human choice.

    So, now you hold that human choice is beyond natural law???

    So that we can chose to fly like a bird, and it shall be so???

  35. #96 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:14

    …geez, I hate wordpress and its lag….

  36. #97 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 03:27

    I’m deleting my last comment, it repeats much of what I said before, and you’re repeating the same things. So I’ll let your last comments be the last word in this debate. I think we’ve taken this as far as it can go.

    • #98 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:34

      Scott,

      Yes, I provided many cases where context changes the act.

      You have absolutely failed in providing any such case, sir.

      You have provided ample examples of mitigating consequences, but absolutely NONE of changing the act – as I’ve requested breathlessly, you have never, ever, demonstrated a case where the context changes the ACT OF THEFT to be something else

      NOT
      ONE
      CASE

      (NEXT COMMENT):

      Scott

      I also made clear that I’m talking about social reality, and I gave the constraints of nature – we are limited by our capabilities and the consequences of our actions.

      So, this is where you are utterly confusing (or confused yourself).

      You state human action is beyond natural law.
      Then you state – here – that human action is constrained by natural law.

      Either you have some concept in your head about natural law that is not very well articulated or you do not understand the concept of “natural law”.

      However, I’m not expecting an essay – I am sensing you are tired of smashing your head against a wall.

      Perhaps it is better we shelf this topic for now.

      I bet we will engage again in the future, for it has been the center of gravity so often in our discourse…

      (did ya get the pun???)

      😉

  37. #99 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 03:54

    I promised Blackflag the last word and he had something more to say and posted it on another thread. I have removed it from that thread and moved it here, adding it to his previous comment so as to let him have as full a ‘last word’ as he wants.

  38. #100 by Black Flag® on December 29, 2011 - 03:59

    Thanks, Scott

    Have a good night and a great New Years!

  39. #101 by Scott Erb on December 29, 2011 - 04:43

    Thanks to you, Black Flag, and I wish you all the best for 2012!

  40. #102 by Scott Erb on January 11, 2012 - 13:09

    You say rights are “axiomatic and self-evident.” That’s the equivalent of saying they were conjured up by magic. Your subjective whim, nothing else.

    • #103 by Black Flag® on January 11, 2012 - 16:20

      Scott,

      Your subjective whim

      No, it means they are the root from which proof is definied and that they themselves require no proof.

      Otherwise, in Scott’s Universe, the geometric point is whimsical and magic and purely subjective.

  41. #104 by Scott Erb on January 11, 2012 - 16:23

    In other words, subjective faith. You choose to believe something. That’s cool. But don’t expect anyone else to feel compelled to choose and believe the same as you, especially when different choices work very well in the real world, both short term and long term.

    • #105 by Black Flag® on January 11, 2012 - 16:53

      Scott,
      So in other words geometry is merely subjective faith.
      Good luck with that.

      Your nihilist world view strikes again.

      Try again
      HUMAN rights come from HUMANS.
      This is called SELF-EVIDENT
      and for a man who calls himself a “SCIENTIST” you sure do struggle with basic stuff.

  42. #106 by Scott Erb on January 11, 2012 - 17:02

    It’s laughable that your idiosyncratic subjective faith can be compared with geometry. Geometry has been tested, proven useful and accepted for those reasons – geometry is practical, it works in the world.

    • #107 by Black Flag® on January 11, 2012 - 17:11

      Scott

      Geometry has been tested, proven useful and accepted for those reasons – geometry is practical, it works in the world.

      Human rights have been tested, proven useful, and accepted by free men – and it works in the real world.

  43. #108 by Dan National on September 26, 2012 - 15:39

    I agree with Bentham on this one. Constantly my biggest surprise in life in general is how many people don’t agree with it.

  44. #109 by Bill Rabara on December 29, 2015 - 12:25

    Scott,

    You are correct. To the dismay of Libertarians et al, morality is a human construct. The idea that some rights are ‘self evident’ is essentially admitting that such rights are created by humans. Claiming x exists because it is self evident is equivalent to assuming x exists. If we assume the right to x exists then of course it exists. Yet I ask Black flag, how does one discover a ‘natural right’ without committing the naturalistic fallacy?

    • #110 by Black Flag® on January 4, 2016 - 13:18

      Something that is “self evident” is that is a truth that cannot be proven.

      Geometry, for example, has the self-evident existence of a “point” whose existence must exist for every other part of geometry to exist. All other geometric forms are proven based on such an existence of the point, yet the point itself cannot be proven, yet must be true, since the exist of the circle, line, etc. exists.

      To argue the opposite – that humans have no rights – is equally an argument about the existence of rights and a construct. Constructs are not a “disease” – they are the means humans use to understand the universe.

      One tests such an argument by reasoning the consequences of such a position, and it is THIS argument (non-rights) that ends up with massive contradictions upon human action and confusion in social order. Contrast to the argument of rights, when reasoned, creates and maintains social order.

      So you have a choice; adhere to “no such thing as rights” and you get social disorder and confusion, with massive increase in violence
      or
      adhere to “there are human rights” and you get social order with a massive decrease in violence.

      Pick one.

      • #111 by Scott Erb on January 4, 2016 - 16:05

        Nonsense on stilts! It’s just word games, nothing more. Claims about order and contradictions are just word games, used to justify ones’ own biases. Through almost all of human history notions of rights have been virtually non-existent, and differ from culture to culture. You can posit what you think would be a good conception of rights, get people to agree, and then we can construct it. But without human action, choice and reflection, it’s just nature – and we are all free: free to do whatever we want, limited by our circumstances, capabilities and by the consquences of our actions (and really circumstances and capabilities can be meshed into one).

      • #112 by Black Flag® on January 5, 2016 - 10:31

        Nonsense.
        You pretend any presentation that contradicts your errant world view is “word games”, when, indeed, it is you playing the game all by yourself.

        Almost all of human history was ignorant of the natural laws of the Universe as well. I will doubt in this matter you would claim that the understanding that these natural laws exist in the human mind is merely a matter of “word games”.

  45. #113 by Black Flag® on January 5, 2016 - 11:20

    Additionally, Scott, while I wholly agree human action in this matter is a matter of choice, this does not dispute the consequences of such choices

    As I pointed out, you are free to ignore “human rights” and act as if they do not exist. Such actions, however, create consequences. I pointed to the consequences – social chaos and mass violence. If chaos and violence is your goal, then pretend human rights do not exist.

    If, however, you enjoy social order and reduction of violence, then acting within the construct of human rights will gain you those consequences.

    Pick one.

  46. #114 by Scott Erb on January 5, 2016 - 11:49

    No contradiction on my part. You do engage in a logical fallacy. Look, you can believe whatever you want, that’s cool. No one else has any reason or motivation to act according to your belief. You seem to want to think there’s an “answer key,” one right set of ways for life to operate. I suggest the reason for that belief says more about your psychology than reality (not meaning that as an insult – most people’s world view is more a result of psychology than anything else – that’s an insight William James had). For those of us who don’t think such an answer key exists for the worlds we construct, well, we remain free to think, imagine and use human freedom to construct worlds, not thinking there is some “right” path we must conform to. Cheers!

    • #115 by Black Flag® on January 11, 2016 - 16:22

      No, sir, it is your logical fallacy to proclaim “understanding of a natural law” is merely a human construct. You do not know which is which.

      OF COURSE THEY HAVE A REASON!

      Either they choose social order or choose social chaos. THAT IS A REASON, Scott! You sit in your emptiness of “no reason” to believe people aren’t motivated one way or the other.

      There is no third way, Scott. Either you have social order or you do not. You are merely pretending a construct that you can be both black and white at the same time.

      • #116 by Scott Erb on July 17, 2016 - 17:14

        A belief in natural law is a human construct; there is no way to prove its existence with reason – it’s faith, and faith alone. Also, you don’t choose social order or chaos, you always are somewhere inbetween the two, and those two categories are human constructs, defined differently. You are stuck in irraitonal bianary thinking!

  47. #117 by Scott Erb on January 6, 2016 - 10:08

    In any event, if there is some ‘correct’ approach, you won’t get at it through reason or philosophy. Reason is a tool that rests on assumptions and pre-existing judgments. It alone cannot lead to value judgments or truth (unless programmed to a particular result by pre-existing assumptions). That’s why reason can lead to numerous contradictory conclusions. Any moral or ethical truths probably rest with empathy and sentiment, and need to be felt rather than put into some linguistic formula.

    Along these lines, psychologists note that if people lose the ability to experience emotion, they cannot make value judgments – even setting an appointment time becomes impossible. So emotion is the key to how we value, make ethical choices and judgments in the world.

    • #118 by Black Flag® on January 11, 2016 - 16:23

      Reason rests on more then assumptions, Scott. It rests on EXPERIENCE and CAUSE and EFFECT.

      Reason does not lead to contradictory conclusions! Reason CORRECTS contradictions, not creates them.

      I think you are confused between a “premise” and an “assumption” here.

      • #119 by Scott Erb on July 17, 2016 - 17:13

        No, reason doesn’t have that power. You can interpret cause and effect in different ways, and have different assumptions. Depending on how you do that, reason leads you to different results. Reason is a tool, but it is not a path to truth.

    • #120 by Scott Erb on January 11, 2016 - 16:34

      Ah, but it is a human construct. The law of gravity per Newton was a construct that worked for a long time. Einstein’s reconstruction works pretty well, though the macro and quantum level differences shows it has its limits. But the fallacy was to assume that physical laws were akin to social/cultural life. You also have a fallacy is saying one has to choose social order or social chaos – you’re excluding the middle, and really in that case, the middle is all we’re likely to ever inhabit. And everything that has shades of gray is black and white at the same time; the world cannot be turned into simplistic dichotomies.

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