Registration and Comments Policy Changes

I recently modified my approach and made two decisions that may be unappreciated. First I removed user registrations for this blog. And secondly I required users to login via their social media accounts in order to post comments. I do believe these decisions to be consistent with the philosophy of this blog and that they will improve its quality.

Requiring Comments via Social Media Accounts

I believe that the modest bit of transparency that comes by using a name connected to an online presence will improve our discourse. It should also help to prevent malicious spamming, trolling or bullying. Essentially you will tie your word here to the online reputation of your social media account. This connection will ensure that users will be less prone to mean or otherwise inflammatory remarks that could very easily damage their online reputation. Or in the opposite direction, one’s online reputation in social media will help to bolster or temper their comments here.

Removing User Registration

Now it should be clear why user registrations to this blog are superfluous. Anyone who would have liked to register in order to post a comment, can still do so using a social media account. This account then provides a better source of reputation. For the user, it also just adds another site’s credentials to add to a long list of usernames and passwords. I also do not wish to pass my time managing the minutia of registered users–that is, sorting out spam accounts from real ones, securing user information and so on. Even more, I currently have no intentions of adding more authors to this blog. In short the role of a subscriber does not seem to present enough value to make it worth it.

Decisions Open to Change

As with most of these decisions, there is always the possibility that I will change my mind. Also please do not hesitate to make your case if you have a good argument in favor of re-enabling user registrations. Or likewise if you have an argument in opposition to requiring social media logins for commenting.

Government

Imagine a deserted island–no people, just animals, plants and natural resources. Now let’s introduce a single human to our island. As we can infer from what we reasoned about our inalienable rights and responsibilities, since there is no party to whom he can delegate responsibility of protecting his rights (apart from a deity or law of the universe, over which he has no moral authority), then all such responsibilities are relegated to the individual whether he is capable of fulfilling them or not. Moreover no conflicts between human rights can occur since no other humans are present.

Next we introduce another human. Now that a (very small) community has formed, two things are immediately possible: cooperation via the delegation of responsibilities and conflicts between the rights of individuals. It is here that an initial definition of government can be recognized. Something is needed external to the individuals to manage the interaction between them. That “something” might be called government. Government is therefore some entity comprised of the body of rules and processes that handle the cooperation and conflicts within a community in order to protect the rights of individuals within that community.

Now it is hard to associate the term “government” with a community of just two individuals, but once we have ten or perhaps one hundred individuals, we start approaching our standard usage of the term. The more people placed under a government, the more delegation of responsibilities is possible (or perhaps even necessary) and the more conflicts among individual’s rights that can arise.

In the case of handling cooperation within the community, a government is then able to take responsibility for the portion of an individual’s right where it is impossible or unreasonable to expect him to fulfill the responsibility to protect this right. At that point, the government might create rules and processes which aim to fulfill that responsibility. And in the case of conflicts of rights within the community, a government is able to create rules or processes to prevent such conflicts or once they occur, to resolve them.

Essentially the more people placed under a government, the more complete and more complex the rules and processes of the government become. At the size and level of government with which we typically associate the term, the concept of “rules” might be more aptly replaced by laws or procedures, and the concept of “processes” by government institutions, departments or programs.

One interesting byproduct of defining government in this way is that government is a natural and moral necessity in community. It is a natural necessity because it manages the interaction between members of the community. And it is a moral necessity because it serves the purpose of protecting as well as fulfilling the moral obligations created by the rights of individuals in the community. Yet the form and structure of government is not imposed by nature or morality.

Responsibility

The idea of responsibility is that of an obligation to do something. This obligation then implies a party to be obliged, which is reminiscent of our description of rights and privileges. Therefore we should be able to see that a responsibility is a result of a right or privilege. Then we must ask who is then obliged as a result of a right or privilege? Who holds this responsibility?

Firstly the implication therein is that the one that holds the responsibility has the power to fulfill that obligation. This helps us understand what I would call the Moral Law of Most Localized Responsibility which states that responsibility should be held by the smallest sphere of influence that has the power to fulfill the obligation. Let’s look at an example.

We have established here that one of our inalienable rights is the right to live as long as we can so much as it does not conflict with another inalienable right. The smallest and therefore first sphere of influence to consider is the individual. The individual has the responsibility to maintain his own life as long as he can, so much as his power is sufficient to fulfill that responsibility and so much as it does not conflict with another inalienable right. In our case, the individual has the power to look after daily living needs–food, water, shelter, hygiene, personal security, etc. But seeing as it is impossible or unreasonable to expect the individual to maintain power to prevent and enforce any and all crimes against him, such would not be his responsibility. Therefore this portion of the responsibility is delegated to a larger sphere of influence, such as that of a household, neighborhood, district, city, county, state, or nation. Since the scope of most criminal activity is probably city-sized, we might delegate the responsibility of crime prevention and enforcement to a city government, which may itself delegate some of its responsibilities to an even larger sphere of influence.

Now let’s reconsider whether responsibility can or should be taken by a larger sphere even though a smaller sphere has reasonable power to fulfill it, essentially questioning the worth of my stated Moral Law of Most Localized Responsibility. This could be exemplified by a government taking the responsibility of taking care of the daily needs of its citizens–making sure they eat and sleep properly. Now morally, at first glance, there is nothing particularly wrong with this scenario–the responsibility is taken and the corresponding right is thus protected. However I would argue against this for a number of reasons: redundancy, liberty and corruptibility. Firstly if the smaller sphere has the power to fulfill the responsibility, but the larger sphere takes on that responsibility, then the powers to fulfill it are made redundant since both are able to exercise that power. Therefore either some form of communication and oversight would need to be present to manage the division of power or one party must give up exercising at least a portion of its power. The former scenario presents the problems associated with redundancy, and the latter points out the loss of liberty. But even more since the larger sphere is exercising its power to do something that the smaller sphere can do, there is danger of corruption with the larger sphere overriding or otherwise controlling the power of the smaller sphere. So there may exist good reasons to do this if well-established rules prevent issues with redundancy, losses in liberty and limit corruption, but I would say that in most scenarios this is not the case.

Inalienable Rights

The Declaration of Independence might contain the most famous reference to our inalienable rights but the concept was not a new one. It is there that they are enumerated as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But personally I prefer the political philosopher John Locke’s list–life, liberty and property.

As discussed here, rights are entitlements from moral obligations applied to a given context. Firstly we should realize that when we think of inalienable rights, we are implicitly thinking only of the rights of people, not of trees, animals or anything else. Therefore the given context is that of being human. Exploring this context in an abstract way, we can derive John Locke’s list relatively simply, and thus get a richer understanding of each item in the list. We will examine each abstraction with both an ontological and moral argument. In essence I am claiming that the nature and function of a thing, as well as the good moral choice, creates a moral obligation. Thus this moral obligation represents a particular right.

The human is a living organism whose nature and function is to continue living for as long as he can. As such the inalienable right of such a creature would be to allow him to live for as long as he can. Or from the moral argument–specifically the concept of the Golden Rule–it best suits me if others allow me to live my life for as long as I can, so in turn it suits others if I do the same. This is John Locke’s inalienable right to life and health. Humans have the inalienable right to live their life for as long as they can.

Next we can divide the human’s environment into two main parts: the human himself and the external world. First we examine the human himself. The human can be divided into two parts: the mind and the body. The mind is the portion of the human that is recognized to think, draw conclusions and make decisions. It may be worth noting that if we wanted to consider the concepts of a soul or spirit, they could probably fit quite nicely within this loose definition of the mind. The body is then the portion of the human which moves and acts in the world. From the ontological argument, the nature and function of the mind and body are do whatever they can–the mind to think, draw conclusions and make decisions however it can and the body to move and act however it can. As such the inalienable right of the human itself would be to have the freedom to use the mind and body however it can. And from the moral argument, it best suits me if others allow me the freedom to use my mind and body however I can, so in turn it suits others if I do the same. This is John Locke’s inalienable right to liberty. Humans have the inalienable right to use their minds and bodies however they can including thinking, drawing conclusions, making decisions, moving and acting however they can.

Moving on to the external world, the human has the ability to interact with it using the mind and the body however he can. The nature and function of this interaction includes but is not limited to interacting with, claiming ownership of and collecting items in the external world. From the moral argument, it best suits me if others preserve my freedom to interact with, claim ownership of and collect items in the external world, so in turn it suits others if I do the same. This is John Locke’s inalienable right of property. Humans have the right to interact with the external world however they can.

Now these three fundamental rights work well for a single human, but as soon as we place more than one human into the world, there can be conflicts of the right of one with the right of the other. For example the inalienable right to liberty might conflict with the second’s inalienable right to life. Such a scenario reveals what I might call the Law of Inalienable Rights. An inalienable right is one that cannot conflict with another inalienable right. From the ontological argument, if the inalienable right of the first conflicts with the inalienable right of the second, then the nature and function of the second is violated. Or from the moral argument, if the inalienable right of the first conflicts with the inalienable right of the second, then it doesn’t suit the second, so in turn it doesn’t suit the first. Therefore a necessary limitation to any inalienable right is that it cannot conflict with another inalienable right.

As we have seen, the inalienable rights are life, liberty and property insofar as they do not violate the inalienable rights of another. Humans have the right to live for as long as we can as long as it does not conflict with another human’s inalienable right to life, liberty and property. Humans have the right to use their mind and body however they can as long as it does not conflict with another human’s inalienable right to life, liberty and property. Humans have the right to interact with the external world however they can as long as it does not conflict with another human’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and property.

Rights and Privileges

The idea of rights and privileges encompass the concept of entitlement. Here I define an entitlement as something that obligates an entity to givenand/or protect something. If I claim to be entitled to live my life as I choose, then I am making a claim that some entity has the obligation to protect my life and my choices. If I claim to be entitled to my paycheck, then I am making a claim that my employer has the obligation to give and protect my paycheck. In this context all three terms–entitlement, right and privilege–are often treated as interchangeable, but in order to allow for a richer lexicon, we shall differentiate these terms.

Rights

The idea of a right is something that is obligated to be given and/or protected in a moral sense. In other words when we say we have the right to something, it means that we believe that there is a moral obligation to that something.

These moral obligations exist within some context. Within the context of being human we have human rights, such as life, liberty and property as John Locke enumerated and as I derived here. Within the context of employment we have employee rights, such as safe working conditions and reasonable wage compensation. So we see that a right can be defined as an entitlement by means of moral obligation applied within a given context.

Privileges

Similarly the idea of a privilege is something that is obligated to be given and/or protected in a promissory sense. Here the entitlement is promised to an individual in some context. Within the context of retail employment, this could be exemplified by an employee discount. There is no particular moral obligation to discount merchandise for employees, but retailers often make this promise as a benefit and enticement to prospective employees. But once promised, the employee can claim this entitlement for himself or herself as if it were a right, that is as if it were a moral obligation. Actually the act of promising indeed makes it a moral obligation. So we see that a privilege can be defined as an entitlement by means of promissory obligation applied within a given context.

Compare and Contrast

Notice that both rights and privileges operate within a context so that the means to claim the entitlement is to prove the context applies in your circumstance. For human rights, one only needs to prove oneself a human. For employee rights, one needs to prove oneself an employee. But for the privilege of an employee discount, one might be required to prove not only that one is indeed an employee, but also that the privilege was indeed promised.

From a different example of a privilege–one of driver’s licenses–we can examine this more clearly. The legal ability to drive a car is a privilege granted to adults of a certain age with knowledge and experience of a certain level, represented by giving said individual a driver’s license. Thus claiming the legal ability to drive requires presenting evidence of the promise, namely the license. Note that from this example we may be able to infer that all or most licenses are indicative of a privilege, though not all privileges are necessarily indicated by a license. This is essentially because a license is a representation of the promise of eligibility for a particular entitlement.


Last updated on Sep 20, 2016

Welcome to the Blog!

Welcome!

I want to welcome anyone reading this to my new blog! And I wanted to start by way of giving a brief introduction to myself and the designed purpose and scope of this blog.

When trying to understand a person’s arguments, I think it is important to understand at least a little about that person’s point of view–their beliefs, biases, background, etc. It helps to prevent confusion and helps illuminate blind spots in their way of thinking. To that end I do plan on doing a series of posts discussing various aspects of my personality and ways of thinking. But so that I don’t have to dive too deeply into that first thing, I’ll give a brief overview here.

A Little Bit About Me

My name is Andrew. I love to philosophize, breaking things down to their smallest parts to rebuild them with greater understanding and insight. Some do this with mechanical objects, I do this with concepts. The smallest parts of concepts are words, with precise definitions to combine with other words to illuminate and create new concepts. As you can probably imagine, I loved studying the harder sciences like math and physics. These sciences break their component concepts into terms with precise definitions, from which they recognize the least number of laws to describe the most complex systems.

In the same way I try to understand the systems of the world around me. To dissect the purpose and responsibilities in topics such as politics, current events, education, religion, technology, music, and so on. As you might expect the breadth of topics on this blog will likely be quite large. It will extend as far as I have interest or investment in the topic. So really this blog is about having a canvas upon which to splatter the paint of what and how I think about the world. Hopefully that paint creates a beautiful or otherwise useful picture.

I am also not a perfect man, recognizing that I can and will make mistakes. I hope to leave this blog as a place for constructive discourse, not just lecturing or pontificating. Feel free to disagree with my definitions and to inspire new insights which improve those definitions. Point out flaws in my reasoning. I enjoy the discourse, always learning and improving the communication of ideas, as well as the ideas themselves. So I hope this will be a worthwhile endeavor, both for me to express my thoughts and for others to learn a new perspective. Or at least to engage in critical thinking.


Last updated on Sep 20, 2016