Natural Rights: Objective, Subjective and Volition
I often have people say Natural Rights do not exist. Then they point to something like the Earth and state the Earth is a sphere – that is real, the mass of the Earth is real and can be measured, but the Right to Property or the Right of self ownership are not real, they don’t exist in nature and there is nothing natural about them. A similar complaint is that Natural Rights are subjective, while the mass of the Earth is objective.
Objective: (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
Subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
Volition: 1) the act of willing, choosing, or resolving; exercise of willing: She left of her own volition. 2. a choice or decision made by the will.
Note that a choice can be objective or subjective but both are exercising one’s will. One can choose to not believe the world is a sphere (technically a spheroid and not a perfect spheroid). One can choose to ignore the objective facts and contend the Earth is flat. This does not make the decision to understand the Earth is a spheroid subjective. Note the Catholic Church choose to believe the Sun rotated around the Earth, despite the objective facts. Global warming (AGW) prophets ignore the facts every day. It is clear that just because something is volitional does not make it subjective.
But what about Natural Rights or ethics, there are no objective facts involved according to these people. As we established above, just because something is volitional (i.e., a choice) does not make it subjective. Euclidean Geometry (EG) is not based on any objective facts. It is a purely logical system and devoid of any empirical facts, does that mean it is subjective? There have never been any two perfectly parallel lines that go on forever and finding or not finding such lines is irrelevant to EG. Does this mean that Euclidean Geometry is subjective? Does it mean it is not real? Well the answer to any problem in EG is not based on personal feelings or opinions, it is based on facts, but not empirical facts. But is EG real? Well certainly the mathematical system of Euclidean geometry exists. You might object that EG is not based on empirical facts, but it is influenced by them. Two perfectly straight parallel lines might not exist in nature, but close representations of them do exist and are used in construction and numerous other area’s every day.
The extreme empiricist wants to deny any higher order concepts exist. So to the extreme empiricist the number four does not exist. Four oranges exist and four nails exist, but four does not exist. This sort of thinking, would deny the existence of gravity. Things fall to the Earth and the Earth rotates around the Sun, but gravity is not an empirical fact; it is a scientific theory. A scientific theory is a model of nature that explains and predicts many different empirical facts.
Locke explained Natural Rights in terms of a “state of nature.” He stated that when man lived by himself, he necessarily owned himself and the products of his labor. Locke’s theory of Natural Rights explains why slavery is illegal, where property rights come from, why theft, murder, and assault, are illegal. Almost all of our common law is based on Natural Rights. It is an extremely powerful theory, much like Newtonian gravity and motion, or evolution. The Marxists attacked Locke based on the idea that people lived in groups. This is an intellectually dishonest sleight of hand. Locke was not making an empirical argument, he was making a logical argument. It is the same as Euclidean Geometry starting with the idea that two parallel lines never intersect. The power of Locke’s ideas is undeniable. The results were the creation of the industrial revolution, unparallel reduction in human suffering, the elimination of slavery and the elimination of force as an accepted method of settling disagreements.
Ayn Rand explained that values are only possible to living things, because life faces the metaphysical choice of life or death. Ethics is the selection of those rules consistent with life. The ethics of a human being are different than the ethics of a tree. Man is the only species that does not have a built in ethical system or instinct. Man is volitional, so he can choose an ethics of death. However, such an ethical system is a contradiction in terms, since only something that is alive can have values. Ethics is based on the fact of life and the only logically consistent ethical system is one that chooses life. Humans are rational animals and therefore must have an ethical system consistent with their nature. Since reason is a personal attribute (not collectivist), ethics is about a set of rules that allow individuals to exercise their attribute that is necessary for survival. Thus any ethical system that limits or undermines man’s reason is inherently an ethics of death, which is a contradiction in terms. This means that man must own himself, because the ability to think without the ability to act is meaningless. Now we are back to Locke.
Natural Rights and ethics are based on objective reality. You can choose to ignore these facts, just as you can choose to ignore gravity, but you cannot escape the reality that to do so is to choose death in both cases.
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