What are Rights?

What are Rights?

In discussing this topic it is good to start with a dictionary definition of rights. Two definitions offered through Google are: 1. That which is morally correct, just, or honorable; 2. a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way. Most definitions of rights follow the same line of thought. It is interesting to note that most definitions of a right, or rights, is based in the moral norms of a particular society or on the legal principles of a society. In both the above definitions this is true, which means that for most people what can be defined as a right can change within time and between societies.

I want to offer up a less fluid definition of a right. A right is fundamentally a condition which is necessary for human fulfillment, flourishing, and peaceful interaction between individuals, which is inherent in the nature of each individual and is fundamental to the type of being that humans are which is thinking, rational, self-realizing beings.

One could argue that even this definition is less than satisfactory in offering a fully demonstrable and unchanging definition of rights, as we could argue about what makes for human fulfillment, and flourishing, but it automatically assumes certain axioms which I think can be demonstrated to be necessary for a right to be considered universal.

The first axiom it assumes is that a right must of necessity negate any type of force or coercion for no human can be truly fulfilled, or flourish, or participate in peaceful interactions where force and coercion are present. Also, the presence of force demonstrates that the said condition, or right, is fundamentally artificial and can only be brought about through some positive (positive in the sense of acting) action.

The second axiom it assumes is that peaceful interactions are necessary to human fulfillment and flourishing and also must be of a free and cooperative manner. Peace is necessary to rights as rights cannot exist where there are conflicting interests or conflicting realities related to the supposed right, or necessary condition to exist.

By my definition of rights I wish to demonstrate that rights are immutable, that they exist in nature by the type of beings that we are, that they are not a product of our societies morals or laws, and that in order for a right to be universal it must not necessitate the use of force to ensure the right, or make the necessary condition exist.

These are the basic premises on which I will discuss rights in the coming posts.

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