1

Suppose I always have the right to not tell someone something, if I so chose. Suppose I am also unwilling or unable to leave them alone, and they are smart enough to work it out if I don't create a sophisticated network of deceit and manipulation to make sure of this.

Should I do not that?

In less psychotic worlds: if I have the right to property, and the only way to ensure this is a hugely oppressive socio-economic system, does that legitimate any means?

3
  • 1
    I'm not sure that a right not to tell entails a right to create arrangements by which it is (practically) impossible for another to find out. A right to privacy might entail this but not, I'm inclined to say, the mere right not to tell.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 7:51
  • 1
    interesting thanks @GeoffreyThomas what about cases where a supposed right to privacy infringes on other people's right to privacy, not to be harassed etc.?
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 7:53
  • 1
    "The ends justify the means" is not typically seen as right or good, I think.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 8:29

5 Answers 5

0

What is a right?

You legitimately have the right to do X (within some boundaries), if it is beneficial to society overall to recognize and protect your right to do X (within those boundaries).

What is defined as "beneficial to society" is open to interpretation, but generally we're talking about some outcome-based measure, such as health, happiness, wealth, and education of members of society. It could also involve grand national projects, such as the production of great art and science, or advance in philosophical understanding.

This is not, however, a purely utilitarian or outcome-based definition of "right," because it works on the level of deciding general rules to follow. Even if there is a utilitarian loss from protecting some right in a rare circumstance, everyone still has that right, because the gain to society of recognizing the right universally is greater than the utilitarian loss in the rare circumstance.

For example, we have a right to privacy (within certain boundaries). Sometimes, because we respect privacy, a criminal evades capture, which causes harm. But because privacy grants peace of mind to the majority, and because allowing the government to invade privacy wantonly to catch those few criminals leads to an authoritarian state ripe for abuse, it is still a legitimate right.

Note also that there is a difference between the rights society does recognize, and the legitimate rights according to the above definition. Society may fail to recognize legitimate rights, or legally protect "rights" that are not legitimate (because legally protecting them in that way causes net harm to society).

Anyway, how does all this relate to your question? If recognizing a person's right to privacy or property would require a massive and harmful change to how society is organized, then that person does not have a legitimate right to privacy or property to that extreme an extent. They may still have a right to privacy or property, but only to a lesser extent that would not entail such drastic and harmful society-level changes. Because, the legitimacy of a right depends on the outcome to society of recognizing and enforcing that right.

3
  • i was not thinking of it so politically/state based, and i tend to think that a right exists not because of society's recognition of it, but something more ideal than that, grounded or inferred (dunno which) from if not principles of the potential for happiness of the duty bearer and right holder, then their well being. but we overlap. really i only use 'rights' when thinking of conflict, which is - as you may point out - social
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:36
  • @user66697 I didn't say a right exists because of society's recognition of it. Added a bit to the post to clarify that. A right is legitimate if it is beneficial for society to recognize and protect it, regardless of whether society actually does so.
    – causative
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:39
  • yeah, but the same sort of idea. not calling you a nazi, it was just oddly phrased. the difference is you think of society as a whole and i was thinking of rights as more like a dyad. i don't think it's all about well being fwiw
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:39
1

Blockquote

A murderer comes to your door. He is after your friend, who he saw go into your house. You decide to exercise your right to refuse to answer the murders’ inquiry. But he keeps pressuring you. So you lie to the murder and tell him that your friend left by the back door some time ago. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to you, your friend got scared, left by the back door, and was, consequently, murdered.

Should you create a “network of deceit” to save your friend?

According to Immanuel Kant, if you create a network of deceit in this instance, you are the cause of your friends’ death. He, of course, has an argument for this position, lest someone think that it’s his mere opinion, but I am not going to type it in here (pecking away at my phone).

0

Suppose I always have the right to not tell someone something, if I so chose. Suppose I am also unwilling or unable to leave them alone, and they are smart enough to work it out if I don't create a sophisticated network of deceit and manipulation to make sure of this.

Fine, this is how the world has always worked. I have the right not to tell my competitors that I found a cheaper resource, so I can get a competitive advantage over them. I don't leave them, since I want to leave in the same city. They are smart enough to work it out... etc.

Should I do not that?

No, it is always better to compete, it improves the quality of the market and helps you grow. Who doesn't grow is dying. Competition is healthy, collaboration occurs in very few cases in life, and in final terms, collaboration is just groupal competition.

In less psychotic worlds: if I have the right to property, and the only way to ensure this is a hugely oppressive socio-economic system, does that legitimate any means?

No. For example, the Cuban/North-Korean/Venezuelean/etc. governments (in your words, hugely oppressive socio-economic systems) legitimate the right to property of the leaders by means of a lot of economical, social, political or military oppression. This is not correct, moral, ethical and even legal in most countries.

You cannot exit Cuba or North Korea (and soon, Argentina): that are examples of hugely oppressive socio-economic systems. On the contrary, most countries have their borders opened, so you can always choose to live in non-oppressive countries. I did it, I know those systems by experience, now I live in the old world, hope soon moving to USA.

3
  • interesting reply, thanks! but you do seem to acknowledge a difference between rights and how they are enforced. are there no lengths that secrecy may not take?
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:07
  • Rights are enforced, correct. If I have the right to go to school, means that YOU have the OBLIGATION to pay for it. That's why not all rights should be granted without enough consideration.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:10
  • yeah, i agree. these are more like liberties in my lingo, than rights
    – user67104
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:12
0

Unless you believe in religious or natural laws that transcend the existence of human beings and the necessity for a legitimization and thus a prioritization and are treated as "absolute", ...

... then you pretty much come to the conclusion that "rights" don't exist in a void. Rights are part of the social code of conduct of a society. Without other people, there are no rights. Simply because there's no one to honor or violate your rights. You could argue with "laws of nature" in the sense of physical cause and effect relations but that's a different kind of animal entirely. These laws describe behavior they don't prescribe it, if someone broke the rules of nature their is no "supreme court of nature" again religious people might believe in a "divine judgement" but that requires faith rather than reason.

So given that rights aren't absolute, but a social construct, something that humans collectively made up, it's apparent that they are not beyond the necessity of a purpose. They exist because it serves a mutually agreed upon useful purpose if people behaved like that. Now ideally the reason for that is that this purpose is mutually beneficial for the individual directly and/or indirectly because they secure a peaceful coexistence which again is beneficial for the individuals enjoying peace and mutual prosperity.

The less ideal version of this is "forcing agreement", i.e. "might makes right" and a legitimization of rights through the fact of punishment for violation. However while in that case these rights are treated as if they were absolute, in practical reality they behave more like "laws of nature" in the sense that there is no intrinsic motivation to honor them, they are just there and you try your best to work around and break them where possible and beneficial. There's no moral reason to accept unjust laws or rights and work towards upholding them.

So the idea of absolute property rights is somewhat contradictory as the concept of property only makes sense in the presence of other people. Nature doesn't care about your property, of course you can define it by your ability to defend the possession of something, but then it's obviously not a meaningful right, but more of a personal motivation and an act.

So very few people consider this to be an absolute right. The more reasonable approach is to consider the benefits and drawbacks of it and how they relate to other rights, needs and desires. So for example a limited right to property allows the individual to have privacy, to "build something" to make something a part of oneself and to shape a miniature world of one's own, that provides some sense of purpose, security, expression, agency, satisfaction, peace aso.
However when you treat it not as absolute but as provider of these values, then they are related to other desires and they aren't just qualitative but also quantitative. Like they don't scale indefinitely, at some point the things that you own end up owning you, what used to provide utility now requires maintenance. Also for obvious reasons other things are more important, all the property in the world mean nothing if your dead or severely injured so that might take priority in most situations, or if you're lonely, depressed, ill of any kind and so on.

So in most jurisdictions you'd rate theft as less severe than robbery (coercion), or mutilation and murder.

So as the goal is not absolutely ultimately good, it's no longer reasonable to apply any means necessary but only those proportional to the outcome and that don't do more harm than good.

Now for the final trouble with all of that. People will, based on their own immediate conditions have different lists of priorities and even if they agree on the same goals and rights they might do so for very different reasons, so their proportional might not be your proportional. And if you push people to the edge of an existential crisis "proportional" to "life or death" can be a very dangerous concept.

0
  1. Should I create a sophisticated network of deceit and manipulation to prevent someone from figuring out something I have the right to withhold?

    Yes Argument: In some circumstances, withholding information might be necessary for a greater good, such as national security or the safety of individuals. In these cases, a network of deceit could be seen as a necessary evil to protect that greater good.

    No Argument: On the other hand, deception and manipulation can lead to mistrust, negative consequences, and potentially damaging relationships. These tactics often complicate situations further and can create more problems than they solve. Upholding honesty and transparency is generally considered more ethical and straightforward.

  2. If I have the right to property, and the only way to ensure this is a hugely oppressive socio-economic system, does that legitimate any means?

    Yes Argument: From a certain perspective, maintaining the right to property could necessitate strong systems of control. This viewpoint might argue that without such systems, chaos and lawlessness could ensue, leading to greater harm for everyone.

    No Argument: However, if the cost of protecting property rights is a vastly oppressive system, it is arguably too high a price to pay. The protection of rights should not come at the cost of oppressing others. There should be a balance between individual rights and societal welfare, and oppressive systems typically signify an imbalance.

In both cases, the decision lies with you.

You must log in to answer this question.