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Monday, December 11, 2006 - 6:51amSanction this postReply
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Ed states, "Rasmussen and Den Uyl see a problem in putting what Machan has called a moral principle (i.e., natural rights) as the subject of political action or control. Their goal is to abandon the idea that politics is institutionalized ethics. They say that statecraft is not soulcraft and that politics is not appropriate to make men moral." This suggests that my idea is that "politics is institutionalized ethics" and that "statecraft is soulcraft." I'd like to see evidence for this from anything I have ever written. Indeed, my point in numerous works has been that rights are, as the late Robert Nozick argued, side constraints and aim to secure moral space for us, not to make us do what's right (although I have also said that because rights discourage dumping, they do encourage responsible conduct). (I have previously advised Ed to use more quotations in these presentations of other people's ideas.) My first occasion to present this notion was in 1970, in The Journal of Human Relations where I note that individual rights help identify for us our sphere of personal authority!



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Monday, December 11, 2006 - 6:01pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Tibor:

I certainly did not mean to imply that your idea in any way is that "politics is institutionalized ethics" nor do I believe that Rasmussen and Den Uyl think that moral legalism is your position to even the smallest degree. I apologize if I gave you that impression. I believe that their position is that the notion that natural rights are a normative principle that is based on the premise that it allows for and/or arises from the ethical egoism's focus on, and primacy of, human flourishing opens the door just a bit to some people who might interpret the aim of politics as assisting people in being moral.

Rasmussen and Den Uyl thus see individual rights as metanorms and see the aim of the political/legal order as the protection of the possibility of self-direction.They contend that metanormative and normative levels of ethical principles are split because of their different relationships to individual persons. For them rights are an ethical concept concerned with context setting and individual self-direction and not with human flourishing which takes place at the normative level of personal morality. Rights are based on the common features of human beings whereas the human telos is individualized and agent relative. Both rights and individual flourishing are based on the nature of man and the world. Rights are universal for all human beings (and involve the possibility of self-direction) and flourishing is that of each particular individual whose moral responsibility is to be as good as possible at living his own life given his own abilities, talents, and potentialities.

I like and have learned a great deal from both your approach and that of the two Dougs. However, I have never been fond of Nozick's approach to natural rights which he just seems to assume to exist rather than grounding them in the nature of man.

Thanks!!!

Take care.

Ed







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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 4:55amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

Would you agree that if individuals are being treated as ends in themselves their rights are being respected?

Why should individuals be treated as ends in themselves? Rand's answer is: because they are ends in themselves. Justice is treating people as the kind beings they are, so treat them as ends in themselves. Justice is a moral virtue. Respecting rights is a moral virtue. One is already in the business of morality at the level of rights.

Do you disagree with the view that justice is a moral virtue?

You worry that if justice and respect for rights are part of morality then politics will be seen as legitimately "assisting people in being moral." Well, a regime in which individual rights are the principle of justice is a regime in which incentives and penalties are set in the civil and criminal law such that people are encouraged to do the moral thing of respecting individual rights.

One could accept the principle of morality that individuals should be treated as ends in themselves without accepting egoism. Kant did. So do millions of Americans. The meta-norms you speak of are norms of individual morality already, regardless of the relation of those norms to specifically egoistic morality.



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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 1:09pmSanction this postReply
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In her article "Man's Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand says that a "right" is "moral principle defining and sanctioning man's freedom of action in a social context." (pb, p. 93) Why is it a moral principle? Because it prescribes a particular choice of action -- the choice to abstain from initiating force against others. To say that I have a right to freedom of action is to say that others have a moral obligation to abstain from interfering with it.

Since Objectivism endorses ethical egoism, all of its moral principles, including individual rights, must be based on and consistent with that principle. Therefore, in order to say that one "ought" to respect the freedom of others, one must show that it is against one's self-interest to violate it, which can be done by observing that one has more to gain from the presence of freedom than from its absence.

Before one can establish a valid political theory, one must establish a valid code of ethics. Ethics is a precondition for politics, not the other way around.

- Bill



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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 1:23pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, you say, "However, I have never been fond of Nozick's approach to natural rights which he just seems to assume to exist rather than grounding them in the nature of man." I agree and just because I find his terminology a useful one--characterizing rights as "side constraints" and claiming they provide us with "moral space" (something my early piece in the Journal of Human Relations already spells out in terms of "sphere of authority")--it doesn't follow that I believe his defense of rights is sound.




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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 3:21pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Tibor:

Yes, I agree that his terminology is useful and congruent with your writings. I also know that you have problems with his lack of an argument for rights. Because of that lack, I prefer discussions from thinkers like Ayn Rand, yourself, the two Dougs, Eric Mack, and so on.

Thanks!!!

Ed
(Edited by Ed Younkins
on 12/12, 6:28pm)




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Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - 3:50pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Stephen:

Thanks for you post! I know that you have done some writing on natural rights.

With respect to justice, Rasmussen and Den Uyl distinguish between metanormative justice and justice as a constituent virtue of one's personal flourishing. Metanormative justice is concerned with the orderly and peaceful coordination of any person with any other. This type of justice deals with nonexclusive, universal, and open-ended relationships, thus providing the foundation of a political order and the context for exclusive relationships to develop and for the possibility of personal flourishing and happiness. Justice as a normative principle and constituent virtue involves a person's contextual recognition and evaluation of others based on objective criteria. Normative justice is concerned with selective relationships and requires practical reason and discernment of differences of both persons and situations. Justice as a constituent virtue deals with individuals in more specific and personal ways than does justice in a metanormative sense. Justice in a metanormative sense involves the recognition and protection of natural rights.

Take care.

Ed



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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 5:21amSanction this postReply
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Here is the link to a review of Rasmussen and Den Uyl's NORMS OF LIBERTY for those who might be interested.

Shelly

http://www.mises.org/misesreview_detail.asp?control=307&sortorder=issue



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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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I rarely spend time at RoR lately; I thought that for now at Ed Y's invitation, I'd at least point to my comments on this topic over at SOLO:
http://www.solopassion.com/node/1978#comment-24533

Chris




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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 - 2:43pmSanction this postReply
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I am amused with all these declarative sentences being made about my case for rights, sentences that lack any supporting argument--kind of like Caesar: thumbs down, thumbs up. Not very helpful (unless you are Caesar and handle things by your arbitrary orders)! Of course, since I have written two full books on the topic, I guess it would take a bit of work to actually dig into my case. So better just issue edicts about them!



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Friday, December 15, 2006 - 4:44pmSanction this postReply
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I'd like to reiterate something that is evident in my book--even its title--Classical Individualism (Routledge, 1998). This is that I take "ethical egoism" to be another term for "eudaimonism" except for a significant dosage of individuality added to human nature, something not so clear in Aristotle but clear in Ayn Rand. Rand, after all, titled her book, "The Virtue of Selfishness, A New Concept of Egoism." What's new about it? Well given the context of the moral philosophical climate in which she wrote, back in the early 1960s, the novelty is to depart firmly from Thomas Hobbes' type of egoism. Even the somewhat revised, more normative and less descriptive versions, found in Jesse Kalin and some others, is not Rand's version. While there is some debate about this, it seems to me clear now--it wasn't so clear to me forty years ago--that for Rand the egoism lies in the nature of ethics itself, what it is for, why there is ethics at all. This is to guide our conduct in our life toward our success as human beings, the kind of entities we are. If that is indeed what ethics is for, then ethics is an egoistic undertaking since its purpose is to advance us toward human excellence, which is our highest possible good--our excellence is to our (highest) good, in other words. So what Rand seems to me have challenged is the idea that ethics could even be rationally conceived as anything else but egoistic, eudaemonist. 



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Sunday, December 17, 2006 - 7:46pmSanction this postReply
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Rand's answer to the questions of ethics (I did a brief outline in my JARS article) is: man's life is the standard of value, rationality is the primary virtue, and the proper beneficiary of moral action is oneself.  These issues are all inherently connected.  She also writes that the purpose of ethics (analogies to the purpose of epistemology, which is a guide to acquiring knowledge) is the achievement of happiness.  Why should we "live successfully as human beings"?   Because we achieve fulfillment from it -- the concomitant psychological state for this is happiness or joy.  But I think that she would accept that the overall human state that describes our achieving success is eudaemonia -- which is not just expressed by achievement of our values but also by the exercise of virtue.  And, of course, it's one's own life that one is fulfilling.

Rand does advance a unique position (maybe it's not so unique if Spinoza advanced views I've heard attributed to him), and that is by explicitly tying egoism to Aristotelian-style virtue.  The egoism attributed to the likes of Hobbes or Nietzsche was quite morally barren; they were viewed as figures who didn't believe in "fictions" of morality that weren't tied to appealing to one's own interests.  And Hobbes had a pretty base conception of interests, not defined by reference to virtue.  So the conception of "morality" coming out of Hobbes is an odd conception in light of traditional moral understanding, with the typical is-ought problem un-bridged.  The best to come out of it is contractarian-style theory that is more about compelling people to abide by rules according to game-theory type reasoning.  (Oh, how Rand would have bashed all this for the arbitrary, floating contrivance it is!  Game theory as a basis for ethics?  Where is this coming from?)  Rand, of course, has a theory of virtue that precedes some social constraint or compulsion.

BTW, regarding Prof. Machan's theory of rights, I don't know who specifically his comment was directed at, though I do acknowledge that I gave only brief mention of his views in my SOLO posting, which was more in response to the original description by Ed Younkins along with my years-old recollections of the original material.  I don't remember the original arguments worked out in the kind of depth that I found in Liberty and Nature, with reference to self-directedness as the form of human flourishing.  That's the needed transition point from egoist ethics to liberal politics.  (I'd be glad to be corrected on my recollection of this if it's faulty.)




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Post 12

Friday, January 12, 2007 - 4:22pmSanction this postReply
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I came across an essay called "Deriving Rights from Egoism: Machan vs, Rand" by Eyal Mozes that I thought may be of interest.

http://www.mises.org/reasonpapers/pdf/17/rp_17_6.pdf





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Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 10:57amSanction this postReply
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A problem with Mozes' argument ...

========================
Suppose A and B are two persons living alone on a desert island. A beats up B and takes the food that B has gathered. In evaluating A's actions, if you say "A initiated force, and what he did was immoral," you have, in effect, exhausted everything there is to say about it. If you then add "and on top of that, he violated B's rights!" what would that addition mean? It is, again, only in the context of an organized social system that bringing up B's rights has any meaning (since it would then imply that A should not only be morally condemned for his actions, but also legally punished). (7)
========================

But "A" here SHOULD be legally punished, as well as morally condemned. If there is, as yet, no explicit "legal system" -- then B should seek (individual, unorganized) retribution on A for what A did. THAT would be justice (and no other course of action would be). You could say that B could keep running and hiding from A, but that's not living as a man, but a scurrying cockroach. That's not proper or just.

Basically, Mozes is saying that one man can't violate the rights of another, not unless they're both under a social system explicitly championing those very rights. It's a form of social metaphysics, to say that principles (like rights) only exist when most folks are explicitly saying that they do (or that rights "came into" existence, only after they were first penned on official documents, by the Founding Fathers).

If I've got him right, Mozes is wrong about that.

Ed




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Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - 10:02amSanction this postReply
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     Unless we presume that A is dead or otherwise incapacitated, A is all who's really necessary in being 'right' in punishing B. 3rd parties (supposed 'objective' arbitrators, or, dependent/significant-others of A) are 'necessary' for such punishing (which includes retrieving anything stolen...other than a life) ONLY if A is incapable of such.

     C is not inherently needed in talking about any 'rights' 'twixt A and B. Adding C merely complicates the issue of the 'right' (vs the 'wrong') justification to use force on A or B by...whomever.

LLAP
J:D




Post 15

Monday, September 28, 2009 - 6:30amSanction this postReply
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New work pertaining to #2:

Force and Freedom
Kantís Legal and Political Philosophy
Arthur Ripstein
(Harvard 2009)

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