(a) nobody has any superior rights to anybody else, or
(b) nobody has any rights at all
The difference between (a) and (b) is that in (a) we assume that there are some sort of rights. How do we find out what these rights are? How do we define them? If we do find some way to qualify them, we can then use logic to discover if (a) is true, that there are no 'superior' and 'inferior' sets of rights. To make a logically consistent system (on that wouldn't break down in certain situations) we would have to make sure that none of the rights interfered with any of the others, or that the rights had a specific hierarchy. So in the end we would have a certain set of rights that were inalienable, and perhaps which had a particular order of precedence. This is the big journey to discover an objective, consistent system of ethics. But by no means does (a) automatically imply the Golden Rule: it implies that rights have specific characteristics which define them as rights and that it might be possible to discover what they are. But it doesn't imply what the rights are, and there is a lot of work to ensure that they are logically consistent.
Tom Palven wrote:
Okay, let's continue to assume for the sake of argument that no person by virtue of royal blood or any other factor, possesses greater or different rights than any other person, and see how this relates to the Golden Rule as a proposed logical etihcs. And let's start with the easy part first, where we are probably in agreement:
1. If Joe Zealot murders a doctor because he performs abortions, Joe has performed an act which the doctor doesn't want done to himself, although the abortion was voluntary and the doctor was not doing something that his patient did not want done to herself. Leaving the life of the fetus aside for now, I think that we can agree that what Joe did was unethical.
My point in my previous post was that "no person having superior rights to anyone else" did not automatically lead to the Golden Rule. If it does, there are some steps that haven't been established here. So when we assume no person has superior rights, we still have to define what rights, if any, there are, before we can go around assuming the Golden Rule. When you talk about Joe Zealot and the doctor, you're still assuming the Golden Rule follows as a direct logical consequence of everyone having equal rights, but we can't know that because we don't know what the rights are and how to define them.
The alternative is that no one has any rights whatsoever:
If we look at (b), it is very easy to state that no one has the right to kill another person. However, from the same assumption we are unable to say if someone has the right to life, to food, to freedom, or to anything at all. There are no rights whatsoever. Does someone have an obligation to help another person in need if they are able? Hard to say: the person in need doesn't have any rights to speak of. So this creates a moral vacuum. If someone does help someone else, this might be construed as "nice", but this is a subjective assumption based upon the idea that helping people is "good", which is not implied by a lack of rights.
Tom Palven wrote:
Say we agree that Joe Zealot did not possess a right to murder the doctor. What if instead, Joe said to the doctor, "I'm hungry, and instead of murdering you, I demand that you give me some food." Again, Joe is performing an action that the doctor does not want done to him, and is violating the ethics of the Golden Rule. The same would be true in the other two examples. Whether it would be whites claiming that they have a right to food produced by blacks, or a government demanding that it had a right to food produced by some in an area where it claims authority, these claims to rights remain illegitimate.
If there are no rights at all, it becomes problematic to say that anything should happen. Does the doctor have a right to self-defense? If millions of people are starving do they have no right to life? According to the Golden Rule, starving people would want food given to them and this would make it ethical to be treated this way, and non-starving people would want to keep their food, and this would make it ethical as well, which seems contradictory.
In fact, just looking at the logic of the Golden Rule, there are two ways you can understand it (I'm quoting from the "Ethical tree in a forest" thread):
It could, but there would still be competing concerns. As I see it, there are two versions of the Golden Rule, both of which are compatible with "do unto others etc.":
- one where people look after themselves (i.e. the onus is on me to survive despite the actions of others, but everyone else is in the same boat). In this case, for example, one might think it okay to steal food, but they would agree it was fair if their food was stolen; either they didn't lock it up, or the other person deserved it through sheer hard effort of managing to find it and remove it, despite whatever precautions were in place.
- one where people look after each other (if they don't want their food stolen, they won't steal other people's).
And in the same thread I ask you a couple of questions I think need answering to test the consistency of the Golden Rule:
What if two people want to control the same property?
What if I don't want to be discriminated against (for the colour of my skin, sexuality, whatever) but other people want to - they only want white people in their cafe, or no gay people marrying? Who gets to control the action of the others - whose "don't want" is the most valid?
What if there are starving children on my lawn, but I don't want to give up my huge excesses of food? Can they make me? Is there an ethical imperative?
Last time you diverted attention by talking about leaves and trees, but maybe in this thread we can discuss how the Golden Rule treats these circumstamces.