24 October 2006

'Natural Rights' are ultimately foundationalist

Johan at frimarknadsanarkist has an old essay Rights Do Not Exist on ASC. Unfortunately the subsequent comment thread seemed to descend into people ranting about how not believing in 'natural' rights meant you want to kill babies and the usual non-sequiturs!

However, an interesting question is what exactly natural rights sympathisers mean when they use the term rights. I think they are correct in saying it is more than mere approval or disapproval, maybe it is just a 'right-for' as someone mentioned in that thread. In this case it comes down to your ends and as I have argued before, ancap is about means not ends. So although 'natural righters' generally have similar ends to me (i.e. individual freedom) which generates similar 'natural rights' to the preferences I hold, ultimately their 'rights' are still ends based and categorically not universal.

It was also admitted in that thread that virtually all, if not all, argument about positive principles rests on shakey ontological grounds. Now this is fine for a non-rights inter-subjectivist ethical system, but is highly problematic for a foundationalist system of natural rights as we have the same old problem of no universally agreed foundation or even definition of the problem.

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