"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." – Preamble to the Declaration of Independence of the United States
"endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"
Is that right, the be all and end all of where our Rights come from? Or could it be a presumption that is false?
It might be said that some Rights are alienable; a person could voluntarily agree to the servitude of slavery, or, voluntarily acquiesce to a curtailment of their Right to Free Speech. Is that even a thought to consider?
Here is another thought; Could those Rights be inherited rather than endowed? Where is the proof that our Rights were endowed to us? Or, what is the source that we draw those Rights from—someone's imagination or proselytizing?
Those are just teasers for an interesting read concerning Edmund Burke's assertion, and his support for it, that our Rights are inherited from our bearers and ancestors rather than endowed by some deity or human definition. Or even inherent to humanity.
It's a short, but thought-provoking read: Edmund Burke on Rights: Inherited, Not Inherent
Is the concept of Rights being inherited instead of endowed a possible consideration?
It is claimed that Americans have inalienable, God-given rights of liberty. However, Americans throughout history realize they must be constantly proactive to get & maintain liberty. There was a song in the 1960s which state that freedom isn't free, one has to pay price & sacrifice for liberty. I remember the song to this day. Freedom & liberty is never handed but must be fought for.
Those who are not willing to stand up and defend their freedom and liberty are doomed to lose them.
“A nation that forgets its past has no future”.
Learning about your history is not about making any one person or people feel guilty. You cannot be guilty of actions that took place before you were born. (Don't tell that to those devoted to Leftist movements we see gripping the country today).
But you can be guilty for remaining ignorant and not learning about your history and then repeating the same mistakes as your ancestors.
What we see in many of our streets today with riots and occupations, in how Twitter, Google, Facebook are banning people and opinions, how American news sources fabricate or take out of context anything and everything to suit their narrative... should be reminiscent of another time in history less than 100 years ago, for those who have learned their history.
As your linked article's author stated:
" If a madman came to your house and doused with petrol the dollhouse your grandfather built and sought to rip your father’s watch from your wrist, would you grant him all that as right because he loudly claimed it? Or would you look at those very objects and remember who you are and from where you have come, and then act to defend your patrimony?"
An interesting question considering where our country stands today, and what is going on. And quite honestly it is apparent that there are many Americans who feel inclined to side with the madman and many of our politicians, public leaders, corporations and the likes of CNN reinforce this belief.
And because this is so, America is doomed to great turmoil in the months and years ahead, these issues will not go away whether or not Trump is re-elected.
These issues compounded by an economic downturn that has only been postponed, may very well lead America to becoming a sad revisitization of horrific totalitarian regimes of our not too distant past.
Since 2001, America has becoming more of a surveillance state. People are accepting laws which guarantee their security over freedoms. They don't mind strict laws in order to be more secure. With COVID-19, people are accepting more strictures e.g. lockdown. People, at this point, want law & order. Ken, you are correct in your premise that America may become totalitarian in the future. People want security, law, & order & are willing to abdicate their rights to achieve these things. People want solutions & don't care HOW they are achieved.
It is true technology will take the place of 'snitches' and 'spies' those who participate in the use of facebook and twitter shall be required to conform or be cast out.
It is true that we are transitioning to a cashless society, ten years from now we will all have "digital wallets" and physical cash will only be an item collectors value.
There will then be a two tier social system... those who are accepted into the Digital Society... the Social Credit System... and those who are not.
China is enforcing this on their population today... and we see it occurring in our society now... shaming those that speak out, taking their jobs, banning them from social platforms.
Those who are not in good standing, will lose their privilege to travel, to hold any but the most menial job, to promote themselves on YouTube or Twitter... they will become persona-non-grata.
Watch with your eyes open... they are doing this to the President as I type. They have banned his Ads, they have labeled his posts or removed them... the President himself is being censored.
Just imagine what they will be able to do to you.
I don't think the majority of people want this...
But when they can silence dissent, that majority doesn't matter.
When a child is born he is born perfect.
In this perfection he has the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is self-evident in that he has a natural Joy of Life ...
which no one should want to take away.
It seems to me that a person has rights "if and only if" the entity bestowing those rights also guarantees them. Whether it be a god, a government, self, parent - whatever or whoever - the right exists only if it is guaranteed by someone/something that will ensure it exists.
I don't see, however, that such an entity is prohibited from removing the right at some time in the future. The right to liberty, for example, can be lost and a person imprisoned.
I think your statement would be more accurate if the concept of having certain Rights and enjoying them were separated.
I say a Right can exist whether or not it can be enjoyed. An African native had the Right of Liberty before he was enslaved and the enjoyment of that Right was taken from him.
I think the same concept applies when a Right is denied by any other entity. The Right is not abolished, it is denied.
The OP's question comes before your concept of "guaranteeing" a Right.
Modern humanity recognizes that an atheist has those Rights, and if they, (the atheists), are right in their beliefs then it couldn't be a deity or creator than granted those Rights.
In Burke's thoughts, he supports his contention that our Rights come from our ancestors/bearers by making them analogous to property Rights—the one Right he contends is the primary foundational stone of even the concept of a free society.
Simply put, a son is a freeman because his father was a free man because his father was a freeman . . . all the way back to the first free man.
Any other explanation for the origins of our Rights must rely on some authority given by the people; a government supported or not supported by the people, a religion accepted or not accepted by the people, etc.
Using that type of support must, obviously, put a time stamp on when such Rights came to be. Did they begin with Adam and Eve via religious delaration? Did they originate with the first Greek governments?
As I understand Burke's point, these Rights would have originated with the first societal group of cavemen. (ahem Burke was a religious man and would probably object to my disassociation of his thoughts from his Creator)
So, the original question is not who, can deny or uphold these Rights but where did they originally come from? They existed well before the preamble of our Constitution, so that can't be the originating point—which could diminish the credibility of their claim that these Rights were endowed by our Creator.
I have found this an interesting line of thought. I think history would show most folks would go with the Creator reasoning, but I think Burke's argument against that, (okay, maybe not "against," but more appropriately assigned to man himself), is a solid one.
I have a hard time accepting that a slave, or someone in prison, still has the right of freedom. It has been taken away, not just the enjoyment of it. While one might argue that a slave (enslaved illegally) still has the right, just that no one will enforce, that seems just spin to me.
But I will maintain that if the entity giving the right does not enforce it, then it has given nothing. Words do not make a right - only action can.
Maybe just terminology, but maybe not - we continue to hear of more and more "human rights" that much of the earth's population do not have. They are only empty words, then, as far as I'm concerned - worth no more that political rhetoric that no one believes anyway.
Maybe our difference is just semantics or "terminology." Or maybe it is a difference in perspective.
Your view seems to be that one doesn't have any Rights unless they are allowed to exercise them. Mine is that one does have those Rights whether they are allowed to exercise them or not.
As an example; A fellow has a Right to Liberty. Then he commits a crime and loses, (by your logic, denied by mine—a differentiation that is not just semantics in this discussion), that Right. Then he gets out of jail and has that Right again. Then he commits another crime and "loses" his Right again. He is a repeat offended, so the cycle continues.
Is that a fair analogy to your view? If so, I think it diminishes Rights to transient and shallowly local circumstances. Was that fellow really being repeatedly endowed with that Right, or was his ability to exercise that Right really what was being "endowed"
Once again, considering the general view of something, (Rights), all humanity supposedly has, I don't think the semantic difference between Lost vs Denied is a small point.
Particularly in the discussion of where Rights come from. Burke's thought places that origin to the beginning of mankind, yours places it as recently as the latest government or controlling entity.
Your final point that in many times and many places those Rights are no more than "empty words" is very true. But does that invalidate the concept that those Rights exist as Human Rights? If circumstances did change and allow the exercise of those Rights, would you say those Rights were newly endowed, or newly restored?
"But does that invalidate the concept that those Rights exist as Human Rights?"
Simply put, "Yes". A right that cannot be exercised is no right at all; it is nothing but words. I understand your point completely (I think), but find it empty philosophy - philosophy that sounds pretty but in real life means nothing at all.
And that doesn't even begin to consider what happens when one person's rights interfere with those of another!
". . . but find it empty philosophy - philosophy that sounds pretty but in real life means nothing at all."
And there is the difference. I don't think it is "empty" at all. I think it goes to the very heart of the authority proclaiming Rights by the control of its authority.
If an authorizing entity has its authority to authorize in question, then that is the spike in the tree. (I know, cute)
We are stuck. I insist that a Right exist whether it can be exercised in the period, or not. You say a Right must be executional before it can be considered a Right.
It has been an interesting conversation. I wholly agree with you about the reality and fullness of a Right being totally dependent on the current controlling authority. But I disagree about the very existence of a Right as a concept. And it was a question about the origin of that concept that was the point of the OP.
As to your last point about the Rights of another, . . Consider one of Burke's original thoughts that he could see a correlation between the early-developed concept of property Rights as foundational to the concept of basic human Rights—like Liberty. He probably didn't have the phrase, "At the tip of my nose" at his fingertips, but if you look to his thoughts about property Rights you will see him say that in about a couple hundred words. ;-)
Wilderness, great point. Rights is indeed bestowed. Oftentimes, rights agreed upon by a consensus. Rights aren't merely given- they are either agreed upon or taken by force through revolution or other types of upheaval. Rights are decided by those in power. You are correct that rights can also be taken away by those in power.
" Rights are decided by those in power.."
I was pretty pleased with the structure of a recent question I posed to Ken to expand on a quote of his. So let me propose it here to you.
His example was a Burke quote about a madman and a dollhouse situation. (you can see the details in our exchange)
But simply put the example has an aggressor burning a man's property in his own house while he and his family were in it.
The Rights being discussed; Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, are said to include the Right to protect your property and person. Where do you think your response of a Right to protect yourself and your property from the aggressor comes from; From your chest or from your courts? From your humanity or from your leader's determinations?
As mentioned earlier, the question isn't whether or not you can enjoy your Right, or whether it can be restricted or denied by an authority—which would all be period specific, but whether those Rights exist regardless of their state? And if they do, where do they come from?
Did they not ever exist before an entity of authority created and bestowed them? And when was that? Are they newly bestowed when restored? Or are they simply reconstituted?
Did you not feel the Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness before an authority said you were right to have those feelings? If so, where did that feeling come from?
I contend that humans primordially feel the right to dominance, even primacy over their environment. Primordial humans believed in exercising that primacy through brute force & strength. It was the contention that the rule is the survival of the strongest & protection or subjugation of the strongest over the weakest.
As humankind became more evolved & civilized, humans realized that they had basic rights which some civilizations implemented. Although there were laws implements to protect basic human rights, it was decided by the powers that be that there were some who had more rights than others. It wasn't until recently that universal human rights was considered & implemented. Humans evolved into believing that human rights i.e. rights to life, liberty, & pursuit to happiness is a given.
"Humans evolved into believing that human rights i.e. rights to life, liberty, & pursuit to happiness is a given."
Hmm . . . maybe you are right, as those Rights are modernly expressed, ie. The Right to Life, but I am not so sure that applies to the concept of the Right.
Wouldn't you suppose someone about to have their life arbitrarily taken by someone else would be thinking they have as much Right to live as the one taking the life? Or wonder why that taker thinks they have the Right to take their life?
I think they would and I think that is the source; the intrinsic human desire to survive, of the concept. No evolution needed to form the thought of that Right.
a self equals will.
what self would want anything other than whatever guarantees or provides joy of life?
in that case, a self makes it self-evident.
Do animals have the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Would you say these rights are self-evident to animals?
Animals rights are evident, but only to humans, (those) who are aware of them.
I think for each nation, the issues and answer as to “Where do Rights come from” will differ.
For the ‘Rights’ enjoyed in today’s Britain, a good starting point is the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. With the Norman’s they brought their ‘Feudal System’. Under that system the peasants (Anglo Saxons) were divided into three classes:-
• Freemen: Who had some rights and freedoms, and allowed to rent land from the Landlord or have a trade e.g. blacksmith.
• Serfs: Who had no rights, and had to work for the Landlord; but had some protection under the laws e.g. under the ‘poor laws’ the Parish (village/town) was responsible for the health and wellbeing of ‘peasants’ (the poor) born within that Parish (village/town) and
• Slaves: Who could be bought and sold.
The first major step towards rights in medieval England, which forms the basis of the British (unwritten) Constitution, and the American Constitution, was the signing of the Magna Carta by King John on 15th June 1215.
King John was a bad King (as portrayed in the Robin Hood legend), so much so that his Barons rebelled against him, and after capturing London, they forced the King to sign their document of demands (the Magna Carta).
The Magna Carta, which means ‘The Great Charter’, established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.
The actual wording for the demand made in the Magna Carta that forms the basis of today’s justice system is:-
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”
The term ‘outlawed’ in the above sentence is significant in that prior to the Magna Carta anyone who committed a crime could be ‘outlawed’; in other words, stripped of their ‘rights’ of protection under the law, so that they were then ‘outside of the law’ e.g. so that anyone who then killed them would not be committing murder. Such people, who were outlawed, tended to live on the fringes of society e.g. in the forests (for their own protection), and invariably some survived by robbing others on the roads through the woodlands (forests) joining the villages and towns (highways between villages); hence the legends of highway men like Robin Hood and Dick Turpin, who were outside of the law (outlawed).
What is Magna Carta? https://youtu.be/7xo4tUMdAMw
Then jumping forward to the Victorian era and beyond, ‘Rights’ have never been handed to ‘The People’ on a plate; they’ve had to be fought for every inch of the way; sometimes peacefully through democracy, pressure groups and demonstrations etc., and sometimes with violence, such as riots, protests and civil disobedience. And in the last century, various political parties and Trade Unions have been major players in winning rights for people.
So in the words of ‘gmwilliams’ above: “Freedom & Liberty” is never handed but must be fought for.
Using your Magna Carta example:
"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Would you say the Magna Carta gave that Right or recognized and codified it?
I think Burke's view, (and leaning to becoming mine), is that your example didn't endow that Right but simply recognized it.
To be clear, I am talking about human Rights, like; Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, not Rights such as the Right to Vote. I may have been less than clear on that point from the beginning when I simply spoke to Rights and not just Human Rights.
Specifically, your "Freeman" example would logically fall into the Right to vote category because the details of it could vary from government to government and society to society. But, it bears so closely on the Right to Liberty that I accepted it as representative of that Right to Liberty.
My point is that in reference to your comment, certain "Rights," (Voting and such), are certainly period and society sensitive—and may be "handed" out, but that the basic human Rights; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the concepts, are intrinsic to humanity and not something that can come from a controlling entity.
Anyway, this entire thought was sparked by Burke's thoughts on the origin of the concept of basic human Rights. With the understanding that his point isn't relative to all Rights, but just to the basic human Rights.
Also, when it can be considered that his thought might easily be aligned with Locke's State of Nature/State of War ideas, I think I have been swayed to his point of view.
Thanks for your comprehensive reply, certainly plenty of nuances to think about; which I have been doing this evening during our ‘family quality time’ e.g. watching telly together as a family for R&R.
Before I start mulling over some of the main points you raise I would like to clarify just a few points, just too hopefully reduce the risk of understandings on some of the fine points?
For clarity, the Magna Carta had nothing to do with voting rights. The main quote from the Magna Carta is the foundation for the principle of ‘Trial by Jury’; which I would consider to be a ‘Liberty’.
The fact that the Magna Carta introduced the principle of the right of ‘Trial by Jury’ by your fellow peers, not just to ‘Freemen’ (peasants (working class) who were given freedom from servitude to their Landlord), but also to ‘outlaws’ (criminals who had previously been stripped of their protection under the law); suggest to me that it was encompassing ‘Life and Liberty’ under ‘human rights’ e.g. being outlawed by society (stripped of your protection under law) leaves you vulnerable as you are denied your human rights of ‘Life and Liberty’ (an outcast). And the Magna Carta served to correct that inequality in basic ‘human rights’.
Also for clarity: In England, Freemen didn’t get the right to vote for the first time until 1867. Prior to 1867 only wealthy landowners had the right to vote e.g. just 3% of the population in Britain.
For further clarity:-
• In medieval Britain, the Barons owned the land; land given to them by the King after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Barons were most predominantly Normans, but also Anglo-Saxons as reward for loyalty to the King. In modern terms; this equates to wealthy land owners (the upper classes).
• The Anglo-Saxons (including Freemen) were the peasants, and had no rights to own land. In modern terms; this equates to the working classes. A Freeman was a peasant who was rewarded by his landlord (Baron) with freedom from serfdom e.g. allowed to rent land from the landlord or follow a Trade, rather than being in servitude to the Baron to work the lands for crops; and below the serfs were Anglo-Saxon peasant who were the property of the Baron e.g. slaves who could be bought and sold.
Moving closer to your postulation that:-
“Basic human Rights; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the concepts, are intrinsic to humanity and not something that can come from a controlling entity.”
My initial ‘gut feeling’ tells me that ‘Life and Liberty’ are not inherent in the Individual but a concept of modern society/civilisation; and that happiness is subjective anyway. But before consolidating any views I’d like to take a broader (macro) view of the human species (Homo sapiens) and human civilisation from origin; and reflect on it in respect to ‘Life and Liberty’.
• Current scientific evidence suggests modern man (Homo sapiens) evolved in Africa around 300,000 years ago.
• Mankind started to transition from ‘hunter gatherer’ to ‘agriculture’ around the world about 11,700 years ago.
• The first civilizations emerged in the region of Western Asia around 6,500 years ago.
Neanderthal (our nearest hominid cousin, with whom we bred) are known to have been burying their dead 70,000 years ago, and there is growing evidence that Neanderthal nursed their sick and injured (relatives and friends) back to health. The earliest evidence of early hominids caring for their elderly dates back to 1.77 million years.
Now taking each point in turn ‘Life’, ‘Liberty’ and the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as basic human rights:-
Life as a basic human right for family and friends (Social Bubble) was certainly a concept in the minds of Neanderthal, as it was with earlier hominids, and thus our own species (Homo sapiens). Research suggests that it wasn’t just a cultural practice, but something that was a fundamental strategy for survival of the ‘group’ (family/community); especially when mortality rates were so high.
In contrast, throughout pre-history and history, ‘Lives’ of others (outsiders) was not considered a ‘basic human right’, especially when different ‘groups’ (communities) are competing for the same resources e.g. wars.
So when it comes to the concept of ‘Life’ as a basic human right: Concepts like “Charity begins at Home”, “Blood Thicker than Water”, “Putting the Family First” etc., seem quite relevant e.g. Life as a basic human right is ‘relative’.
However I look at it, as far as I can see, ‘Liberty’ is something that is bestowed upon you by Society e.g. if you are born into slavery then you are born without ‘Liberty’; you are property. That can only change if you are given ‘Liberty’ (Freedom).
In my view, ‘Liberty’ is a conception of ‘Society’. Society decides what ‘Liberty’ is, and who it applies to. Liberty in one form or another will have existed long before Homo sapiens, but even from an early date (and throughout history) women and children in many Home Sapiens societies often had less ‘Liberty’, and slaves none.
#3: PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Happiness is very subjective. However, it is something that is intrinsic to humanity, and not something that can come from a controlling entity.
Happiness is an ‘attitude of mind’ (an emotion); and anyone can be happy regardless to whether they are rich or poor, or free or slave.
It’s an emotion which (in various forms, and to varying degrees) I am confident we share with the rest of the mammals and the modern descendants of the dinosaurs (birds).
It looks like I am the one that should have been more clear. Sorry to make so much work for you with a misunderstood point.
In referencing the Magna Carta, using your Free man, (used as quoted, not as the class descriptor—"Freeman") and imprisonment example, it was my intention that it noted a basic Right of Liberty, not a society-determined Right - like that to Vote. My bad it came across that way.
Following through your comment to the point of the detailed examinations, I think you illustrate my point concerning the discussed basic human Rights being conceptual all the way back to the beginning of humanity.
Consider that with Locke in mind. He proposes that man can only be in a true state of nature, (a true state of liberty when he can do whatever the hell he wants), when he is one alone. Any restrictions on that liberty automatically put him in a state of war, where he can no longer do absolutely anything he wants.
So when man cohabits with another man, then his true Right to Liberty is now restricted in ways that address that other man's Right to Liberty.
And so on, by degrees, until it reaches the degree of tribal or "other." groupings. One recognizes the Right to Life of their tribe, but maybe not so much to that "other" tribe. You say that makes a Right relative.
I say of course it does, but it is also relative to every other tribe and group also. Wouldn't you think that "other" tribe might hold the same thoughts as the first tribe—but mirrored. So wouldn't that relativism also make it a universal concept just interpreted differently?
I think your thought about Liberty being societal is also true, but I think it is the truth of only one side of the coin. The other side being the citizen's acceptance of society's degree of defined, (allowed), Liberty. Again, referring to Locke, if the society's defined limited liberty puts that citizen's heart into too much of a state of war, takes too much from their state of nature, (total Liberty), then they will not abide that state. An extreme example being a slave's escape attempt.
That force can determine the success or failure of either side of the coin is not relative to the concept, but only to its shape. And references to degrees, (your Liberty of women and children), of Liberty again only testify to the existence of degrees of the concept, not the existence of the concept.
And then comes Happiness. I agree with you that:
"Happiness is an ‘attitude of mind’ (an emotion); and anyone can be happy regardless to whether they are rich or poor, or free or slave."
. . . but I disagree that the concept of Happiness, in this instance is subjective. I don't think it is subjective at all. By your explanation, you noted that happiness will be a different thing for everyone, and I agree, but it is not the subjective details that comprise that Right, it is the very objective concept of the "pursuit" of that happiness—whatever that may be.
I know that could be taken to be contradictory but think about it; this Right isn't the Right of result, but is the Right of action.
When you continue your thought speaking of emotion as a component, doesn't that imply that emotions are also something bestowed, not inherent—like the basic human Rights of the discussion? I wouldn't make that comparison.
Maybe my struggle is to maintain, for the question of this discussion, the separation of the idea of a Right being a conception with an origination, and a Right being the exercise of that conception, (a Right),
I think the confusion with “Freeman” is that it has a different (Dictionary) meaning to the words “Free Men”; and your use of the word is more pertinent to the words “Free Men”.
The two main (dictionary) meanings of ‘Freeman’ in “British English” are:-
1. Historical (Medieval): “a person (peasant) who is not a slave or serf, and
2. Modern British English: “a person who has been given the freedom of a city”.
In British English the latter is derived from the former e.g. symbolic of the historic; and is considered an honour. For example to this day, the City of London award people with the ‘Freedom of the City’ (made Freemen) every year in a Ceremony, where the recipient is presented with a parchment document, with his/her name inscribed on it by a calligrapher, just as it has been done in the City of London since at least 1237.
The two people to be given the ‘Freedom of the City of London’ this year being: Arkady Rzegocki (Polish Ambassador) on 26 February 2020; and Sir Tom Moore (aka Captain Tom) on the 12th May 2020. Sir Tom honoured for raising £32 million for the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis. For his efforts Captain Tom (100 years old this year) was also subsequently promoted by the Military to ‘Honorary Colonel’, and knighted by the Queen on the 20th May. In historical (Medieval) terms, knights were the bodyguards of the Barons; and it was considered an honour to serve (to be a knight).
To add to the confusion (in typical British Style) the ‘City of London’ referred to above, is NOT London the city. The City of London is a city within a city, and unlike London (with a population of over 7 million, and only 1,000 years old), the City of London (over 2,000 years old) only has a population of 11,000 people, is only 1 mile square, and has its own laws and traditions separate to the rest of the UK (as explained in these two short videos below):-
The (Secret) City of London, Part 1: History https://youtu.be/LrObZ_HZZUc
The (Secret) City of London, Part 2: Government https://youtu.be/z1ROpIKZe-c
Returning to the ‘subject in question’:
In essence I generally concur with most of what you say.
On a few small points:-
EXISTENCE OF THE CONCEPT
In Ancient History Democracies did not exist, and the ‘subjects’ (people), whether they be free or slave, lived in Societies ruled by ‘Dictators’ of one form or another; and ‘the peoples’ concept of ‘Life & Liberty’ (in the way of how we think of it today) was rather limited, and very basic e.g. they didn’t know any better. For many, life was harsh and it wasn’t a question of ‘Liberty’, which many wouldn’t have perceived as a ‘right’ anyway; it was a question of ‘survival’.
So it’s not just the ‘existence’ but also the ‘perception’ of the concept of ‘Life and Liberty’ which is variable throughout time, and can be influenced by your ‘class’ (status) in Society.
OBJECTIVE CONCEPT OF THE "PURSUIT" OF THAT HAPPINESS
I would say that the ‘concept of the "pursuit" of that happiness’ is still subjective. It’s a personal thing that differs from person to person e.g. more of a feeling, rather than something tangible. For example, one person’s pursuit of happiness may be the pursuit of money (which can be a folly); while others are happy with just contentment. I tend to fall into the latter e.g. less stressful; but then again I gain immense happiness in just looking out of our home office window to see nothing but trees and blue sky, and hear the birds chirping outside, as I write this (but then again, I do love nature).
WITH REFERENCE TO YOUR COMMENT:-
“When you continue your thought speaking of emotion as a component, doesn't that imply that emotions are also something bestowed, not inherent—like the basic human Rights of the discussion? I wouldn't make that comparison.”
For clarity, emotions throughout the animal kingdom (including humans) are the blend of both ‘instinctive’ (inherited through the DNA) and the effects of the environment (learned).
WITH REFERENCE TO YOUR LAST COMMENT:-
“Maybe my struggle is to maintain, for the question of this discussion, the separation of the idea of a Right being a conception with an origination, and a Right being the exercise of that conception, (a Right)”.
Yep, the limitations of the English Language in trying to express oneself, and get a point across clearly; which can be so frustratingly at times. So you last comment is something I shall think about today, to see if I can get any further clarity on this point in my head!
Further to my comment above: With Reference to ‘The City of London’ (the 1 square mile of land) within London e.g. a city within a city.
In the Magna Carta, signed in 1215 by King John, Clause 13 stated:-
“And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free customs, as well by land as by water”.
That clause still stands to this day; hence why ‘The City of London’ is semi-independent from London and the rest of the UK.
I think that clause's reference to "ancient liberties and free customs" could be equated to the currently discussed concept of the origin of "Rights" as forming before the development of any society that could be said to have the authority to create or bestow them.
When the words “Ancient liberties and free customs” was written in ‘Clause 13’ of the Magna Carta the City of London had had 1,154 years of autonomous rule. So in the eyes of King John and his Barons, London’s ‘liberties and customs’ (laws and traditions) were ancient.
Although in reality they were laws peculiar to London that had been developed, and evolved, over time, from the time of Roman London; and not ‘Rights’ that existed before the existence of London.
The Romans invaded England in 43AD, and built London around 47AD; but it was ransacked and burnt to the ground by Boudicca in 61AD, in revenge. The Romans quickly rebuilt London as a walled city (1 mile square), and made it their capital of England until they left England in 410AD.
When the Romans left the Anglo-Saxons invaded England, which then became 7 Kingdoms (countries) until the 7 Kingdoms were reunited under one King in the 9th century, at which point not London but Winchester in Wessex became the capital of England. London didn’t become a capital again until the 12th century; albeit, it wasn’t the Roman London (The City of London) that became the capital, it was the New London, just 5 miles away from the Roman London, that became the capital e.g. the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace) built by King William II in 1097, in competition for political and financial power with the Roman London (that was protected by its city wall, built by the Romans).
The reason Boudicca ransacked and burnt London to the ground in revenge in 61AD was because although she was a Romanised Britain (Celt by birth) and her husband was King of the Iceni (Celtic Tribe), under Roman Law (on the death of her husband) she was denied her ‘given rights’ to be Leader that she would have enjoyed under Celtic Rule.
The Iceni Tribe was about 50 miles from London. Unlike Roman Society (where woman were 2nd class citizens) in Celtic Society women had equality; so quite naturally when her husband died, he had left his tribe to his wife in his will, but in the eyes of the Romans women could not be leaders, so Rome refused to recognise her rightful entitlement to the tribe, and tried to impose a male ruler over the tribe.
Therefore, in anger, Boudicca led her Tribe (The Iceni Tribe) in battle against the Romans, and in the process, Boudicca and her Tribe killed an estimated 80,000 Romans (and Romanised Britain’s), men, women and children, in three cities in South East England (including London). Although she was finally defeated and reportedly committed suicide, along with her two daughters, Boudicca is considered a ‘national hero’ to this day.
Nathanville, the extent of your interest in Britain's/Europe's history seems as strong as mine is in U.S. history. You put a lot of work into it. ;-)
. . . and it seems we agree on the concept of Rights, and its probable origin.
Yes, we certainly seem to agree on the concept of Rights, but I’m not so sure that we agree on its probable origin e.g. you seem to have the view that ‘Rights’ have always existed; whereas I view ‘Rights’ as something more fluid.
Yes, British/European history is a pet subject of mine; thanks predominantly to my great-great grandfather.
When I was 13, in my grandmother’s loft, I found my great-great grandfather’s diary, his poems, his writings, scrapbook, two books he published on phrenology, his family photos, and his family tree that he did back to his grandfather. He was a prolific writer.
So thanks to him I had a sizable slice of my maternal family tree (and family history) laid out for me on a plate, back to my 4 x grandfather in 1760, including (in his diary) a summary of my great-great grandfather’s time spent in a couple of the border slave/free States in America just prior to the American civil war, and the close friends (in the Union Army) he made while over there; with whom (after his return to Bristol) he kept in close contact for the rest of their lives.
It was this that sparked my interest in genealogy: And in my view, the family tree is the skeleton, while the history adds the flesh to the bones; so as to allow me to put my feet in my ancestors shoes, and get a sense of their lives (from their perspective): Hence my interest in History.
"So it’s not just the ‘existence’ but also the ‘perception’ of the concept of ‘Life and Liberty’ which is variable throughout time, and can be influenced by your ‘class’ (status) in Society."
Yep, that is the nut of the question: Not the degree, (the perception), or exercise of the Right, but the concept of whether there is a Right. And if that concept exists, then where did it originate?
My thought is that if the concept is accepted as existing, then it cannot be 'bestowed' by any entity of authority—that authority can only control the concept. It did not originate with that authority's addressing of it. This forces the thought to devolve to the origin of the concept prior to, (in Ken's words), the societal construct of a Right as viewed by period societies.
I think this is one of those kind of discussions where it would be good to sit down together one (or two evenings) with plenty of coffee and a few beers to bounce ideas off each other; alas if we only could!
Accepting that I am not religious so that in my mind ‘Rights’ cannot exist without or before ‘humanity’; I think from these discussion that in many respects there is a lot of common ground that we can generally agree on.
However, the one sticking point seems to be that ‘In My Mind’, a ‘Right’ cannot exist, and does not exist, until and unless, it is thought of, conceived, perceived, recognised and accepted as a ‘Right’.
It goes back to the early civilisations, if a ‘Right’ had never existed in ‘society’ before, and not even been thought off before, then it was non-existent until the point at which it was first conceived as a ‘Right’.
Then you get the other issue of not confusing a ‘Right’ with a ‘Desire’ or ‘Wish’. One example which might demonstrate my thoughts on this is the legal difference between your rights in the USA and the rights in Europe in respect to an intruder in your home:-
In the USA you have the ‘right’ to shoot an intruder. In the UK you can only use ‘reasonable’ force to defend yourself and your property, and shooting someone (under British law) is not considered reasonable force, it is considered to be murder.
I know many Americans cherish their right to be able to shoot intruders; it’s a ‘right’ (a Liberty) I don’t want, but even if I did want such a right; under British Law, it wouldn’t be a ‘right’ it would only be a ‘wish’ or ‘desire’.
One parallel I draw from these discussions is Schrödinger's cat: The world of ‘Quantum Physics’ where something does not exist (in our reality) until we observe it!
That was a forceful response Ken, but the topic wasn't about how to get Rights, how to keep them, or the cost of them. It was where do you think our presumed basic human Rights came from: Such as from your breast or from your courts?
Your madman/dollhouse quote was a good illustration. Does our Right to protect our property and persons come from our breasts or from our leaders' legislations?
True I drifted from your original query.
The "Rights" are a construct developed by men over the course of many centuries of continued civilization.
These rights may have origins deeper than our initial English heritage, but for purposes of keeping this to the last few hundred years, the American concept of Rights and Freedoms stem from 1215 and the UK's Magna Carter and then continuous efforts over time that stripped power from the Crown and the idea that King and Pope were the absolute center's of authority on Earth and representative of God's Will.
Education was not allowed to most common men, serfs and slaves were nothing more than property, so a societal progress where the merchant class arose, where reading and writing became more common... fast forward to the Printing Press and the efforts of well educated Merchants and Intellectuals like those that wanted to free themselves from the Crown entirely and develop a Nation that owed no fealty based on Nobility or Papacy.
Your question while seemingly simple, requires a detailed depth of understanding our history, and how humanity has evolved its beliefs.
And honesty... one has to understand as well that our liberties and freedoms are owed as much to the continued progress of technology than enlightenment.
Advances like the Cotton Gin and the development of the textile industry, had more to do with the abolishment of slavery than morality did.
Only after technology had made the necessity of slavery obsolete were we able to accept a more enlightened belief that "all men are created equal" was meant for all races.
What we have occurring in our society today however, is not enlightenment, what we see is a restriction of it, a silencing off free speech and open ideas... you are not allowed to speak your beliefs if they offend another, and who is offensive is now determined by race and sex.
What we are seeing quickly develop in our society is a reversal of enlightenment and liberties, and a tiered system of victimhood. Where people such as you and I will have no right to voice our opinion, because we are 'privileged' and consciously or unconsciously racist and evil as this is inherited (just as our skin pigment is)… and if you are not aware of that which I am referencing, I suggest you do some research on the true beliefs of BLM the SPLC and other such arms of the 'Progressive Left' efforts.
If these social tech giants (FaceBook, Google, Twitter) can censor the President, imagine what they can do to you.
"Your question while seemingly simple, requires a detailed depth of understanding our history, and how humanity has evolved its beliefs."
You nailed it this time Ken. That is exactly the point, and query, of the OP's question. I agree that the concept of Rights, as they are defined and expected, is the end product of a societal construct that started its formation at the beginning of humanity.
I think that Burke's thought that the origin of the modern-day 'finished' concept of basic Rights can be traced to derive from the most basic human instant to protect their property.
A caveman has a woman and he will beat you on the head to protect his possession of that woman if you try to take her—a basic human instinct that has revolved to the example of a homeowner using a gun to protect his Big-Screen TV from a burglar.
The "social construct" part of the deal is the acceptable method and level of effort that protection may encompass. For the caveman, there was no limit, a lethal club to the head was accepted. For modern man, there are limits; from whether lethal force is acceptable to whether the only accepted, (by society), action would be a 911 call.
The rest of your comment is, I think, spot-on relative to our societal developments. But that is secondary to the first part which addresses the question of the origin of the concept of Rights. And it was rightly done, I would say. (as would Burke) ;-)
Well this response brings up a great deal to consider.
It wasn't so long ago in another thread where I stated:
What purpose is there for so many millions of men in our society today ?... they are not expected to be providers for a family, they are not expected to be father figures for children, they are not expected to be soldiers willing to defend their country, they have no role nor purpose...
This is especially the case for the poor, can't find a job, can't find meaning in family, we have an entire generation of young men growing up being told they are not needed and not wanted.
For what? So that women can be free to have "slut walks" and express their rights to do as they want, when they want, with whom they want, and have these rights protected and funded by the state?
This is part of what I wrote hoping to elicit a debate that would lead to a more direct dialogue regarding our true problems today. The bait wasn't taken I'm afraid.
Let me pose this then to the example you made of the Caveman defending his possession of a woman... what value do our "Rights" hold when a Society has no purpose and when a man's life has no meaning?
This is a serious question to consider, for tens of millions of American men today feel their lives have no purpose and have no meaning.
Gone are the days when our leaders would inspire with speeches like:
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.
I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.
I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.
The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
To what purpose do we strive today as a society?
Have we set for ourselves as a nation, willing to share in the cost an effort, reaching Mars and expanding humanity beyond this world?
No we have not, as wise and prudent as it may be to not only try to achieve that for humanity's sake, but also for the unification of a people (society/civilization) to give purpose and meaning.
Instead we have taken our "Rights" and extended them to a myriad of meanings that are destructive to a cohesive society. And we see this ultimate search for, and expression of, 'Rights" now breaking down the pillars of our culture and society.
What purpose, for instance, does it serve to delve into the rights and reasons for a transgendered non-binary person?
Why is research (let alone entire studies in Universities) being done on behalf of the .0001% that may fall under such a definition?
Is this a sign that we have taken our Rights as a civilization to strive for greater meaning and enlightenment and twisted it to look inward rather than outward into every perverse and indulgent idea?
What purpose today does the growing mantra exampled below serve?:
"I think the challenge for us white people right now is the constant challenge that we need to live with, which is reflection on how white supremacy is using us as tools in our family systems, in our communities, in our schools, in our police departments, and how we’re constantly asking ourselves what we can do as white people to break those systems down, how to be different in our white skin.
Are these signs of a civilization without purpose bent on its own destruction?
Is this what the protection of everyone's "Rights" leads to?
For certain, when the Founding Fathers spoke of 'Rights" it was at a time when slavery and servitude were the very pillars of their reality and when those "Rights" did not extend to women.
And now today, the rights of some are being infringed upon so that the rights of others can be expanded.
IE - The President's tweets are censored, because they may be found offensive to the rights of others.
"Let me pose this then to the example you made of the Caveman defending his possession of a woman... what value do our "Rights" hold when a Society has no purpose and when a man's life has no meaning?
This is a serious question to consider, for tens of millions of American men today feel their lives have no purpose and have no meaning."
Well damn, I really left the door open for you, didn't I?
My answer to your serious answer reflexively came without thought or contemplation. They have the same value. Maybe even a little more due to the challenge of enjoying them'
I don't think man's purpose in society, or to society have anything to do with the value of Rights because I think any and all value(s) of a Right are primarily solely to the holder. Societal benefit, (or detriment), is secondary to the individual's.
As for the rest of your comment. Geesh. Your cynicism is almost depressing.
With most of your points, I agree that the recent generational attitude of immediate gratification and demands for toleration of any and all is harming our society and culture, but along with that harm also comes some progress.
An expectation of immediate gratification is indeed a cultural danger and it would be tough to think of seriously valued progress.
I do not think tolerance can be achieved solely by demanding or legislating it. It has to be given. But maybe the highlighting of the issue by the ills created by that demand may have at the least the positive benefit of bringing the issue to the forefront so at folks can be considering it—instead of just stewing internally, and alone, over their grievance with the situation. *shrug
The issues of cultural decay that have you so worried are not new, but the pendulum that carries them has been increasingly swinging farther and farther—each way.
Here is an affirmation of that thought from Socrate's time:
"Though abstracting from the problem of the imprecision of the world—one of the fundamental political problems is precisely that people do not know their own good, their own advantage, with precision—this formulation will require that we rethink our ambiguous thoughtfulness." Source: The Republic
I agree with you, I think we have swung so far towards the prioritizing of the individual, (or tribe), that our society is being damaged, but I also think this prioritizing is going to blow itself up when it smacks into hard reality, (2020-2024?).. Fortunately, I think we are strong enough to bounce back from that smack and be better for it.
I think there is much wisdom in that perspective.
However, my cynicism in times like these (Fed adding 7-10 Trillion onto its books, Unemployment at record highs, Media and Social Tech giants censoring the President) seems prudent at this stage.
Rights - The oldest code that I could discover was from Urukagina - Ruler Of the Sumerian City Of Lagash . It is from the 24th century BC - almost two thousand years before the Cylinder of Cyrus.
Unfortunately there are only fragments referenced in various sources. These fragments show how the state protected the poor from the rich and powerful, which would essentially be a declaration of basic rights.
For such a diverse and structured civilization to exist I have to believe "Rights" go back much further, we just have no records of it.
by weholdthesetruths 11 years ago
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