Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Behaviour, not form, defines a person

May 18, 2018

Within a decade or two we will need criteria to determine if an artificial intelligence has achieved consciousness. (I take consciousness without consciousness of self to be impossible). The criteria will have to be consistent and applicable both to life forms and to non-living entities. Within a few more decades, and certainly within one hundred years I think, we will need to be able to determine if an autonomous, intelligent, conscious entity meets the requirements for person-hood. At the same time it will become necessary to create criteria for judging what constitutes a person and what is meant by “mankind” (or person-kind).

Our use of the concept of “mankind” or “humanity”  or “humankind” is both concrete and abstract. It is used variously to mean:

  1. the 7+billion people alive today,
  2. the 110 billion modern humans who have ever lived (starting arbitrarily from about 200,000 years ago),
  3. all the people who have ever lived and all their works and all their dreams,
  4. an abstract vision of those who exhibit some ideal behaviour.

My own view is that it is behaviour which determines. To look like a human or to have the physical form of a human is not enough. It is the exhibition of “human behaviour” which determines who qualifies to be a human. “Mankind” or “humanity” or “personkind” then consists of those who exhibit or have exhibited and met some standard of human behaviour.  It also follows that any intelligent, autonomous, conscious creature or entity which exhibits these qualifying standards of behaviour is then a member of “mankind” (or of person-kind if language needs a new word). Genetics would then be involved only insofar as genetics determines behaviour.

“Human rights” as used today is a false concept precisely because it is divorced from behaviour. It is ethically and logically unsupportable. It is focused on the physical form of “being human” and not on the behaviour which makes a human. As used today, “human rights” is about form rather than substance, and about sanctimony rather than reality. When being a person is defined in terms of behaviour it then follows, naturally, logically and inevitably, that privileges for a person are also determined by behaviour.


It would then be perfectly logical to consider the privileges of personhood to be enjoyed by every entity qualifying as a person. And then it would not be necessary to consider privileges for members of IS or MS13 or Anders Behring Breivik or for an Adolf Hitler when he next appears.


 

 

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The flow of time precedes causality

April 26, 2018

All origins, all beginnings presuppose the existence of a flow of time. Our imagination, our language and our thought are incapable of conceiving the non-existence of a beginning. We cannot conceive of anything in the world where a non-beginning is not also a non-existence. If it exists it must have had a beginning. There is no branch of science or field of study or area of thought which is not based on causality. We perceive the world around us through the eyes of causality. We perceive what is and look for what caused what is. We do not question that what is must have had a cause. We do not question either that what will be, will be caused by and follow what is. But causality pre-supposes the existence of a flow of time.

But there is no philosophy or theology or science which can explain

  1. what time is, and
  2. what causes time to flow

One could say that it is the existence of the flow of time which brings about causality. Causality is itself caused by time.

“Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God). That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?” ’ That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.”  Bertrand Russel – 1927

Time, or space-time nowadays, is sometimes considered as a river. The analogy with fluid flow does not help greatly and only raises further questions. Fluids flow (over time and space) as a causal consequence of forces and energies which are not in balance and which seek balance. Fluids flow from a higher pressure to a lower (in a gas pipeline), from a higher level of potential energy to a lower (in a river) or by being physically forced from one location to another (in a pump or a compressor). In the fluid analogy it is particles of the the fluid which are transported over space and time.

If the flow of time is a river then what exactly is being transported? What then is the imbalance, and in what property or state which causes the transportation of the magical thing called time? Rather than addressing the First Cause, perhaps we should be addressing the First Questions.

What is time? and Why does it flow?

The existence of time precedes beginnings. The flow of time precedes causality. The problem of course is that without time, beginning and precede are undefined.


 

Justice is just a derived concept

April 20, 2018

Many of our fundamental concepts are not in fact fundamental. They are entirely dependent upon and derive from the negation of other concepts. We are all prisoners of our genes, our bodies, our beginnings and our planet. As a concept “freedom” is meaningless without first defining what captivity means. The concept of freedom is not self-sufficient and derives from some concept of captivity which must come first. Similarly, justice derives from a definition of injustice.  Fighting for justice is a misnomer since it always consists of fighting against some injustice. Equality by itself is almost meaningless. It first requires a definition of inequality. Even in the language of mathematics an equality relies on a prior definition of inequality. Bright opposes dark and each relies on and derives from the other.

Other concepts can live on their own and are not merely negations of some other concepts. Even though they lie on the same scale and may oppose each other they refer to some separate norm as a reference and can live independent lives. Happiness has its own scale (as does unhappiness). The concept of beauty does not require the definition of ugly. Liking and disliking and love and hate can all live on their own. Rich and poor lie on the same scale but each refers to a norm and so they are not dependent upon each other. Rich describes a surplus relative to some norm and poor is a deficiency. Wealth and poverty refer to a norm but not necessarily to the other.


 

The imbalance at the core of time, the universe and everything

April 11, 2018

Without imbalance there is no change.

When all forces and energies are in equilibrium, nothing happens. Nothing can happen. At equilibrium there can be no motion, no waves no vibrations, no change. If the origin of our universe (or the universe) was in the Big Bang, then that must have been in response to some great, prevailing non-equilibrium, the Great Imbalance which caused the Big Bang. (It always seems to me a little unsatisfactory that a Big Bang can be postulated without also having to postulate why a Big Bang would need to occur). All change is always in the direction of eliminating the imbalance which caused the change. If the universe is expanding then it must be in response to an imbalance and the expansion must work towards eliminating that imbalance. The physical world is driven by imbalances. Fluid flows and heat flows and electricity flows are achieved by creating imbalances which force the flow. Human and animal behaviour is driven by imbalances. In fact all life is driven by imbalance.

All motion and even the vibrations of the most fundamental particles (whatever they are) can only be in response to some imbalance. The earth spins and the planets move because gravitational forces are not in balance. Geology happens in response to imbalances. Imbalance always causes change in the direction of eliminating the causal imbalance. Change can only therefore be a response to an imbalance. One change may cause another imbalance to come into being, leading to further change and so on ad infinitum. Though a change may be in the direction of eliminating the initial imbalance, the chain of change may not necessarily converge to stasis. All change needs time to flow. We do experience that time flows – even if we cannot define or experience what time itself is. But then the flow of time must itself be due to an imbalance which the flow of time seeks to eliminate. We do not – can not – experience any lapse of time without change or observe any change without the lapse of time.

Chemistry (which is just applied physics) causes material to combine and merge and split but always as a consequence of some initiating imbalance. Sometimes this chemistry produces living cells which then maintain not only a cyclical chemistry (now biochemistry) but also a code for maintaining the particular, cyclical biochemistry in a changing environment.  The state we call “life” is a state of change. All life and its evolution must therefore be in response to some causal imbalances. Furthermore the direction of life or evolution must therefore be to eliminate the initiating imbalance. But here too there is no certainty that the chain of life will converge to stasis.

If any change – including the state of change we call life – can be said to have a purpose, it is to eliminate the imbalance which caused the change or life in the first place. It would seem then that the ultimate purpose of all change must be to return to a state of complete equilibrium where even time does not have to flow. A state of stasis.

Our universe and everything within it is then a “state of change”, moving from one equilibrium state of stasis to another.

Time and change and states of stasis

The very concept of Change carries within it the concept of No change – which I call a state of stasis. Without a state of Change there is no framework within which Time can – or needs to – exist. It is this state of No change – changeless and timeless – which defines stasis. The concept of Time and duration would seem to emerge simultaneously with or after the commencement of change. But can there be Change without a concept of Time? Stasis was/ is /will be where Change is not. There may be many different states of stasis. Whether states of stasis can precede or follow periods of change is indeterminate since without change – and therefore without Time – there is no before and there is no after.

In stasis there can be no change of any kind, no material, no energy or even dark energy.

Stasis will be reached again when time runs out.


 

 

 

Without Hitler, Israel would probably not exist

April 8, 2018

History is causal.

Above all, it is existential.

“What would have been if …..?” can never be more than a thought experiment. Wishing away horrific events in the past is not just pointless, it is a form of denial of “what is”.  Being proud of past generations or apologising for their actions are both equally inane.

  • Without prophets, gods would not exist
  • Without the rise of the Roman Empire, we wouldn’t have highways
  • Without the fall of the Roman Empire, we wouldn’t have Ferraris today
  • Without the European colonisation of the Americas, native Americans would still be primitive hunter gatherers
  • Without the European colonisation of the Americas, Asian cuisine (horror of horrors) would not include chillies
  • Without the colonisation of Australia, the aborigines would be either extinct or speaking Chinese,
  • Without British colonisation, the Indian sub-continent would be a mishmash of little warring kingdoms,
  • Without Hitler, Israel would probably not exist today.

Apologising for what previous generations or your ancestors may have done makes no sense.

If you must apologise, apologise for what your children and your descendants may do.


 

Even atheists and agnostics (and scientists) believe in Magic

April 3, 2018

I find religions unsatisfactory because they take the easy way out and answer all the fundamental questions by inventing the label of Gods and Divinity and Divine Properties. I find organised religions even less satisfactory since they try and indoctrinate and coerce others into their own invented beliefs. I find atheism and agnosticism unsatisfactory in that they are merely reactions which deny the isms of religion and beliefs in gods. To the question “Is there a god?”, atheism denies the existence of any deities while agnosticism merely claims not to know. A “No” or a ” I don’t know”.

Atheism only denies already existing beliefs and has no philosophy to offer in its own right. The only thought required is in constructing arguments to negate other existing beliefs. Agnosticism can be a little more thoughtful in that it claims a lack of knowledge or that such knowledge is unknowable. But as I have posted earlier, some things are unknowable and the answers to the fundamental questions are outside our ken. They are just Magic. All religions and theologians also believe in Magic though they use different labels.

For the atheist, what time is, or how the universe was created, or how life started all remain unaddressed. For the agnostic the answers to these questions lie in the field of the unknowable. But what is inexplicable, but always is, is just Magic. There is time magic and universe creation magic and spark of life magic. Just labels of course for the inexplicable. But time always flows – by magic – and the universe exists – by magic – and life exists – by magic.

God and The Big Bang are both just labels for Magic

Religion relies on the “inexplicable” to justify the invocation of Gods. God-magic. Atheism relies on the “power of reason” giving the lie to the existence of Gods.  But atheism is merely a rejection of one set of labels and explains nothing. Religions vest their Gods with sufficient attributes to explain away what cannot be explained. Atheism merely ignores the inexplicable or claims the inexplicable to be a consequence of random events. Theologians and physicists alike merely give labels to what they cannot explain – as if the label is in itself an explanation. Anything inexplicable is what Magic is. Of course, Magic itself is just a label. ………. The universe was created by a magical event and dances to magical tunes played by magical instruments. Life was magically created by other magical music within this universe. Atheists and priests and physicists and theologians all actually believe in Magic. God-magic is no different to Big-Bang-magic or origin-of-life-magic. A belief in a God is just as much a belief in Magic as a belief in the Big Bang is.

“Scientists” often disclaim any such beliefs but they fool themselves. All science relies on, and is built upon, foundations of Magic. Why time exists and why time flows is just Magic. Why space exists and space expands is also some other Magic. Scientists may not like the use of the label Magic, but

We can, through the process of science and reason, discover the laws applying to the universe we perceive but, at every step of increased knowledge, we find new “whys” we cannot address. We now believe there are four fundamental forces of nature (gravitation, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, weak nuclear) but have no idea why they should be just four and not five or a thousand. Depending on how you classify them there are 12 or 57 fundamental particles. Why 12 or why 57 is just as much magic as when the universe was considered to consist of just fire, earth, water and air. Gravity and electromagnetism are just as magical now as they ever were. You could as well have a gravity-god or space-time magic. “Why time” is the essence of magic. The Origin of Life is also just a label for a Creation Event. There are weird and wonderful theories about this, ranging from a random event in the primordial soup to extra-terrestrial intervention.

Like it or not, every atheist, agnostic, scientist, philosopher, pope or theologian believes in Magic.


 

The speed of time (2)

April 1, 2018

The magical speed of an inconstant time (1).

Once upon a time (till about the 15th century) timeless meant badly timed. Since the 16th century it has been used almost exclusively to mean eternal and untimely is now used for badly timed. What puzzles me is that a time period – however measured – is not – and cannot be – time itself. A time period is to distance as time is to length. Time periods are all measured by observing a change which is assumed to be regular. We once thought the length of a day to be unchanging and took the day to be a period of time. We made the second fixed part of an unchanging day. Then we found that the rotation of the earth around its own axis was not regular. The period called a day was not an absolute measure. We have now shifted to the assumed regular frequency of vibration of a caesium atom in a particular state. This frequency is itself a time derivative – a change assumed to be regular (constant over time). But the regularity is an assumption. But even if this frequency eventually decays, and a second becomes longer than it is today, what is it that actually passes?

Does time flow? If it does, something called time must flow with respect to something else and it must therefore have a speed (a derivative).  Modern cosmology would have us believe that space and time are inextricably intertwined to make up a continuum – a la Einstein. Before the Big Bang there was no space and there was no time. And then came the Big Bang Singularity and both space and time were created (which is remarkably like a Creation Event). Time began to pass and there was space for the universe to expand into. But if time was not flowing, and then began to flow, it follows that it accelerated from a zero speed to whatever speed it flows at now. If the speed of time changed once, it can change again. It could go negative. In some other universe the omelette would give rise to the egg. But this brings us no closer to what time is.

We have to distinguish between the consequences of the flow of time (duration) and time itself. Without the flow of time there is no change, there is no motion. There is no life without the flow of time. It could be that if no change occurs, then time has not flowed, that the flow of the thing called time is necessary for change to occur. But change and motion are not themselves time. If the postulated space time continuum exists then there is no flow of time without space. If time does not flow there is only stasis. For matter of any kind to exist, even a fundamental particle, time must flow. For energy to exist, time must flow. And even if the wave theory prevails, the flow of time is required. Causality depends upon the flow of time. Not time, but the flow of time, is necessary for before and after and cause and effect.

Whether time is an intrinsic property of the universe or an emerging property it would seem to be a quantity that is unknowable within the dimensional constraints of the human mind. Perhaps the flow of time we observe is merely the shadow cast by something from a higher, unknowable dimension. But there is nothing that requires the flow of time to be constant or regular. As the universe and space expand perhaps the speed of time slows down.

It’s just magic.


 

 

Stephen Hawking 1942 – 2018

March 14, 2018

It was Fred Hoyle who first used the term “Big Bang” but it is difficult not to associate Stephen Hawking with the Big Bang Theory.

But for me Stephen Hawking will forever be my inspiration for considering the ultimate question — What is time?

The magical speed of an inconstant time


 

Human rights are not universal and they are not free: The fatal flaw in the UN “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (part 3)

March 10, 2018

In part 1  I proposed as a definition:

A right is entirely a social construct. .. I take a right to be an entitlement. It is a possession of status within some specified human society which gives its owner a privilege to act or not act in some specific manner, and/or a claim on other entities within the relevant society to act or not act in some specified manner. …… Rights can not – and do not – exist except when vested by a competent grant-giver in a qualified recipient.

A unilateral proclamation or declaration does not create a right. A human right can therefore only be created between two human parties, where the parties are identified and competent to fulfill their obligations (see part 2). For a right to truly exist, the behaviour of both parties in fulfilling the social contract is crucial. Any right which is an entitlement of one party is utterly dependant upon the behaviour of other involved parties. Without an acknowledged and accepted obligation of the other parties, no right exists. It is meaningless – and entirely insufficient – for third parties to declare that relevant other parties should or ought to have such obligations. A fundamental tenet of all valid contracts is that the parties involved commit to their obligations. It is not valid or acceptable for any party to create commitments for other parties. A contract can only be valid if the relevant parties freely enter into and commit to their own obligations.

Purported rights do not create or overcome behaviour. Actual behaviour creates real rights.

A true right can only exist if a valid social contract between a qualified party on the one hand and a competent party on the other, is in force.

The UN’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR) was a knee-jerk reaction to the horrors of the Second World War and the state of the world immediately afterwards. Certainly intentions were good. But it was more a listing of pious hopes than any kind of a contract which could be a tool to change human behaviour. The UDHR was a document born of the Holocaust and a desire that such grotesque repression would never happen again. It was intended to be a compass for human behaviour. It has been the wrong tool at the wrong time.

It is my contention that the UDHR has not only failed to be an instrument for “improving” human behaviour, it has also legitimised the idea that purported rights are “free” and not linked to any qualifications or duties or standards of behaviour.

In the 70 years since it was formulated, the UDHR has been used as the “bible” for human rights legislation. But the state of humankind today in respect of the real rights accorded to an individual by surrounding society is in most cases no better than in 1948. In many instances it is very much worse. Human behaviour is not any better now, than it was then.   It is my contention that the UDHR has done more harm than good. It frees one party (“everyone”) from any obligations or duties or qualifications in the ownership of an entitlement. The other party which must grant and guarantee the right is never defined. As a “contract document” it is not fit for purpose. It has been counterproductive to its own goals because its very lack of rigour has given mere wishes and desires the false status of rights. This in turn has led to the dilution of the necessary requirements for real rights to exist. It has led us down the wrong path. It has provided a very shaky foundation for the legislation that follows which – not surprisingly – is then poor legislation.

Since it was formulated in 1948 and ratified in 1951, there have been more deaths due to recognised “genocides” than during the Holocaust. Religious fanaticism has increased. Freedom of belief has become the freedom to indoctrinate. Barbarism and terror is the new normal for an extremist. The nuclear family has been stripped of its dignity in many parts of the world. To not offend carries more weight than the voicing of true opinion. Mere accusations (especially on social media) now contain a presumption of guilt. Depravity is glorified in the name of “human rights”. Anti-social behaviour is “protected” by purported rights. Having signed up to the UDHR does not stop nations from cruel and unusual treatment of political opponents. States confiscate more of their citizens’ property than ever before under the guise of taxation. The depths to which human behaviour sinks (whether by Mexican drug cartels or by ISIS) has not changed since the Nazi atrocities.

The UDHR fails as a contract document because

  1. it does not address what constitutes a right, and
  2. it does not define the parties to the contract, and
  3. it does not define the obligations and liabilities of the parties, and
  4. it states that the subject of the contract (human rights) are universal, and therefore
  5. contains no commitment from the involved parties

The UDHR ends up being a good-intentioned but banal collection of maudlin platitudes. The entire content can just as well be summarised as Jack Nicholson’s character puts it in Mars Attacks, “Why can’t we all just get along?”. The UDHR was a document of its time. It had the best of intentions but it does not stand the test of time. If the goal was to improve human behaviour, it has led the world down the wrong path.

There is one fundamental, insidious, and corrosive flaw in the UDHR. It is a fatal flaw. This is the legitimising of the view that human rights are “free” and universal and unconnected to duties and obligations and standards of behaviour. It is this claim, that every individual, regardless of qualifications or duties, has entitlements which must be honoured by the rest of humanity without any obligations in return, which is the fatal flaw. Universality requires that the purported rights be “free” and that is why – as declared – they have no value in the real world. The perceived and the true value of any right depends upon the parties involved. Different rights have different values not only to the right-holder but also to the party granting and guaranteeing a right. Rights have a value for the right-holder and rights have costs for the guarantor. These values and costs are profoundly impacted by human behaviour.

There is also a philosophic failure in the UDHR. This is the adoption of the fantasy that human behaviour can be changed by proclamation and declarations in a top-down approach. There is an arrogance – albeit good-intentioned – in a text written by an elite purporting to represent all of mankind. Declaration of purported rights do not create behaviour. It is behaviour which creates and allows the manifestation of real rights. Human behaviour must of necessity begin with the individual, evolve locally and nationally and build up to the international. A top-down approach as in the UDHR is conceptually and fundamentally in error. If human rights are to be real they must first be created and ensured and exercised locally. They must first be rights which are clearly defined (not amorphous as in the UDHR) and specific (not universal and valueless) such that their ownership is clear and their exercise can, in fact, be guaranteed. Implementation at the local level can then be allowed and encouraged to grow to become global to the extent that shared values produce similar behaviour. Universal, amorphous rights as envisaged in the UDHR are necessarily non-existent and unenforceable. If human rights exist at all they start with my behaviour and yours, not with a sanctimonious declaration from the UN. Freedom of speech starts with what I am willing to allow my neighbour to say without triggering any opposing behaviour. If he slanders me then I find the cost of guaranteeing his free speech too much to bear and do what I can to silence him. Every right has a value and a cost. Behaviour creates the rights that are exercised. The rule of law has a part to play – but no system of law can guarantee compliance. In any event it can only begin with laws created at the local or national level to suit local or national rights which themselves have to be created and guaranteed. Global laws imposed on local societies is the cart before the horse.

Human rights are not “free”. They have value to the right-holder and a cost for the guarantor. And if they were “free” – as universality implies – then they have no value. It is by insisting on universality that the connection between rights and behaviour is lost. I suppose it really boils down to whether it is more important to make sanctimonious proclamations about what “human rights” ought to be, or whether it is more important to change human behaviour so that “human rights” are exercised and actually delivered.

The UDHR is written in the form of a contract with seven “whereas” clauses in the preamble, a proclamation clause and thirty Articles. But it is no treaty and no contract. It is just a declaration. As a contract document it is not fit for purpose since the parties to the contract, their obligations and liabilities are all undefined. Even the subject of the declaration – “human rights” are undefined. To its credit it has served as the basis of much legislation. But it has failed in its purpose of improving human behaviour – if that in fact was its purpose. It undermines itself by declaring human rights to be free and universal (and therefore of no real value).

As the UDHR is written even a divine power, if one existed, could not guarantee the purported rights


This is a commentary on why I find the UDHR not fit for purpose as a contract document.

UDHR commentary

The UDHR is not fit for purpose as a contract document because 

  1. The parties to the contract are undefined.
  2. Neither are the concepts of “rights” and “dignity”.
  3. In a contract document the whereas clauses in the preamble are introductory statements of fact that mean “that being the case.” In the UDHR the preamble and its whereas clauses are, at best, ungrounded statements, and at worst, statements of religious belief.

 

You can’t claim a “human right” unless you can identify who guarantees it (part 2)

March 4, 2018

Human rights do not occur naturally. They must be created and they must be bestowed. They cannot be self-bestowed. Once bestowed, if their exercise is thwarted they cease to be rights. Human rights can only be created as a social contract where the parties to the contract are able to, and do, fulfill their obligations.

In part 1 I described the concept of a right taken as an entitlement.

right is entirely a social construct. When encompassed within a legal, moral or ethical system, it could be taken as a social contract. As a contract it requires to be between two parties; the grant-giver and a recipient. ….. I  take a right to be an entitlement. It is a possession of status within some specified human society which gives its owner a privilege to act or not act in some specific manner, and/or a claim on other entities within the relevant society to act or not act in some specified manner. ….  Rights can not – and do not – exist except when vested by a competent grant-giver in a qualified recipient.

Two parties are necessary for a right to be created. The granter must be competent to grant and to ensure the exercise of the right and the recipient must be qualified and “free” to exercise the right. If a right is claimed but it is not clear as to who grants it and who guarantees it, then it is not a right. It may still be a wish or a hope or a desired standard of behaviour, but it manifestly is not a right. The granting party needs, not only to be identified, but also to be competent to grant and guarantee the entitlement. A party – such as a government – may go some way towards the grant of an entitlement by enshrining it in law, but no law (except the laws of nature) can inherently guarantee compliance. Moreover, even the grant of the entitlement is restricted by the jurisdiction within which the granting party holds sway. The party owning a right needs to be a qualified party who has been explicitly vested with the right by a competent party. The very concept of “human rights” is constrained to be applicable only to humans. It is necessary requirement for any right that the grant giver identifies which humans are to be vested with the right. “Everybody” is not a proper definition of a right-holder since there is no grant-giver capable of granting any kind of a right to “everybody”. Any claim of a right being universal and applicable to “all human beings” always fails because

  1. there is no competent agency – human or divine – which is able to grant and guarantee such “universal” rights to all humans, and
  2.  every real claim of a “universal” right is constrained to not be available to some humans.

Most claims of “human rights” fail the test of being rights and are merely wishes. Even where a government can be identified as the party granting and purporting to guarantee the right, the reality is that the right is not guaranteed.

The UN “Universal declaration of human rights” proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 is unsatisfactory at very many levels. As a wish-list I have no great objection to it. As a list of standards to be achieved it has many admirable goals. But it is mainly a collection of platitudes – many undefined and many meaningless. It builds on questionable assumptions and a somewhat suspect philosophy. The title itself is ambiguous. Is the declaration universal or is it proclaimed that the desired rights are universal?

But the primary flaws with the UN document are that

  1. it refers to rights without considering what is necessary to constitute a right, and
  2. it ignores the qualifications necessary to own a “right” by claiming that rights should be universal

It starts by “recognising” the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” with no reference to any party which might be able to grant and guarantee the claimed rights. By claiming that such rights be available universally, it immediately undermines its own intent since there is no human agency capable of granting any right universally. The document contains 30 Articles, and every single Article fails the test of defining, or even trying to define, who grants and who guarantees the proclaimed “right” and to whom.

As a document laying out a social contract it is not fit for purpose.

But more of that in part 3.


 


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