The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Discussions that deal with moral issues. Key questions in ethics include: How should one live? What is right (or wrong) to do? What is the best way for humans to live?

The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 16th, 2014, 8:12 pm 

To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

This principle is not logically inconsistent, like the moral relativist claim that "there are no universal moral principles." If that were true, then that would itself be a universal moral principle; thus, refuting the relativist's own claim. This principle I stated above, however, avoids that contradiction and seems correct. At least, I have yet to find any fault with it.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby owleye on August 17th, 2014, 8:42 am 

ComplexityofChaos » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:12 pm wrote:To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

This principle is not logically inconsistent, like the moral relativist claim that "there are no universal moral principles." If that were true, then that would itself be a universal moral principle; thus, refuting the relativist's own claim. This principle I stated above, however, avoids that contradiction and seems correct. At least, I have yet to find any fault with it.


This principle might also be stated as the basic (inalienable) right of liberty. However, one drawback about making it a right is that unless it is enforced in accordance with some or another principle (say fairness), the so-called right will be vacated. Of course perhaps you think we are by nature fair and good natured, so such enforcement isn't necessary.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby BioWizard on August 17th, 2014, 10:30 am 

Doesn't everybody already do whatever they want? Wouldn't someone have to be unconscious, or remotely controlled by some entity extrinsic to their consciousness, before they can truly act against their will? Why does that constitute a moral principle?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Natural ChemE on August 17th, 2014, 10:59 am 

ComplexityofChaos,

If a person has a right, then others have an obligation to uphold and not infringe upon that right. This principle seems to be logically consistent only when everyone's wants fit together nicely.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Braininvat on August 17th, 2014, 11:02 am 

Well, in a moral context we often do things we'd rather not do, for some greater good. To the "do whatever you want" maxim, the classic rejoinder is "your right to swing your arms stops at my nose." :-)
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby BioWizard on August 17th, 2014, 11:11 am 

Braininvat » 17 Aug 2014 11:02 am wrote:Well, in a moral context we often do things we'd rather not do, for some greater good. To the "do whatever you want" maxim, the classic rejoinder is "your right to swing your arms stops at my nose." :-)


I don't know if this was in response to my post. However, I know that my point was a bit too subtle for the words I used to convey it, so let me add more.

Even when you think you're acting against your "true" desires for moral reasons, you're still choosing to act that way. You're not being remotely controlled. It is your own choice to act "morally". And that's because you have the ability to understand consequence and factor your assessment of it into your decisions. But that's no different from choosing to not jump off a cliff, even when a desire to fly freely like a bird overwhelms you.

When we act morally, especially when we're doing so against some other desire, we are ultimately still driven by instincts of survival and self preservation. We routinely want conflicting things, but often prioritize the choices that will give us the highest reward (based on how our brains perceive and calculate reward - which of course varies per individual).
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Braininvat on August 17th, 2014, 11:24 am 

Agree with your broader analysis of "what we want" - I was resp. to the OP. As NChem noted, the simple maxim statedthere may only work when everyone's wants are in harmony.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 1:02 pm 

owleye » August 17th, 2014, 7:42 am wrote:
ComplexityofChaos » Sat Aug 16, 2014 6:12 pm wrote:To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

This principle is not logically inconsistent, like the moral relativist claim that "there are no universal moral principles." If that were true, then that would itself be a universal moral principle; thus, refuting the relativist's own claim. This principle I stated above, however, avoids that contradiction and seems correct. At least, I have yet to find any fault with it.


This principle might also be stated as the basic (inalienable) right of liberty. However, one drawback about making it a right is that unless it is enforced in accordance with some or another principle (say fairness), the so-called right will be vacated. Of course perhaps you think we are by nature fair and good natured, so such enforcement isn't necessary.


I never stated anything about an "inalienable right to liberty." The statement makes no such claim. It states exactly what it says. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want. It makes no mention of anyone having to do anything in fairness, or because of some moral duty. My question is whether anyone can show the statement to be inaccurate. I don't think anyone can.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 1:07 pm 

BioWizard » August 17th, 2014, 9:30 am wrote:Doesn't everybody already do whatever they want? Wouldn't someone have to be unconscious, or remotely controlled by some entity extrinsic to their consciousness, before they can truly act against their will? Why does that constitute a moral principle?


Do people do what they want? If so, then why do people grumble so much over paying taxes? Over trying to do the "morally right thing"? Why do people hate their jobs, but go anyway? Why do people keep their contractual promises even when it is going to make them poorer for it?

Every system of morality I have seen tells people not to do what they want. What this principle states is that all such systems are false.

But, more fundamentally, when you claim people do what "they want" what do you mean? Are you claiming that they want to do something and that causes them to do it? Or, is the want and the action both produced by some other cause? How do you know?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 1:09 pm 

Natural ChemE » August 17th, 2014, 9:59 am wrote:ComplexityofChaos,

If a person has a right, then others have an obligation to uphold and not infringe upon that right. This principle seems to be logically consistent only when everyone's wants fit together nicely.


No, the principle is logically consistent even when there is some conflict. Why wouldn't it be? Person A has the right to break into person B's home and steal his TV set. Person B also has the right to shoot person B for trying to steal his TV. Others have the right to establish a legal system that would prosecute A for stealing and punish him for it. So, where is the conflict? I don't see it.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 1:10 pm 

Braininvat » August 17th, 2014, 10:02 am wrote:Well, in a moral context we often do things we'd rather not do, for some greater good. To the "do whatever you want" maxim, the classic rejoinder is "your right to swing your arms stops at my nose." :-)


For the greater good? How would anyone even know what that is? And, the principle is clear. If I want to punch someone in the nose, then I have the right to do so. Why wouldn't I? On what basis would that not be true?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 1:12 pm 

Braininvat » August 17th, 2014, 10:24 am wrote:Agree with your broader analysis of "what we want" - I was resp. to the OP. As NChem noted, the simple maxim statedthere may only work when everyone's wants are in harmony.


I refuted that position above.

So far, I still don't think anyone has refuted this moral principle. And if it is true, then aren't all contrary moral claims false?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Natural ChemE on August 17th, 2014, 1:20 pm 

ComplexityofChaos,

Person A wants to go to the park at 1pm. Person B wants to lock Person A in a cage (which isn't in the park) for the afternoon (including at 1pm).

If they both have a right to do what they want, then they are both enabled to do what they want while obligated to allow the other to do what they want. But there's no way for them to both get what they want.

In general rights are inconsistent. I think that a large part of settling disputes is weighing folks' rights such as to minimize the infringement of rights, but it's often not possible to fully respect everyone's rights. In this case it's not possible to fully respect everyone's rights whenever folks want mutually exclusive actions.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby owleye on August 17th, 2014, 2:15 pm 

ComplexityofChaos » Sun Aug 17, 2014 11:02 am wrote:This principle might also be stated as the basic (inalienable) right of liberty. However, one drawback about making it a right is that unless it is enforced in accordance with some or another principle (say fairness), the so-called right will be vacated. Of course perhaps you think we are by nature fair and good natured, so such enforcement isn't necessary.


I never stated anything about an "inalienable right to liberty." The statement makes no such claim. It states exactly what it says. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want. It makes no mention of anyone having to do anything in fairness, or because of some moral duty. My question is whether anyone can show the statement to be inaccurate. I don't think anyone can.[/quote]

Well, 'inalienable' was inserted in order to remind us of how Jefferson regarded it. In any case, I think you are mincing words. If someone is not at liberty to do what she wants, say because they are confined to a cage, and there's no government under which liberty is treated as a basic right, and, thereby does not come to her defense, releasing her, having such a right as you claim, is no more than an empty shell of one. Any law or right not enforced is no law or right at all. The whole point of calling it a right is to say that it is something worth defending. If it is not deemed to be worth defending, then you are just blowing in the wind, I'm afraid. Who cares what you believe?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 4:06 pm 

Natural ChemE » August 17th, 2014, 12:20 pm wrote:ComplexityofChaos,

Person A wants to go to the park at 1pm. Person B wants to lock Person A in a cage (which isn't in the park) for the afternoon (including at 1pm).

If they both have a right to do what they want, then they are both enabled to do what they want while obligated to allow the other to do what they want. But there's no way for them to both get what they want.

In general rights are inconsistent. I think that a large part of settling disputes is weighing folks' rights such as to minimize the infringement of rights, but it's often not possible to fully respect everyone's rights. In this case it's not possible to fully respect everyone's rights whenever folks want mutually exclusive actions.


So? You are confusing the issue of morality with a description of how things are. Sort of like the naturalistic fallacy or the old is-ought distinction. Biowizard committed the same error. Each has a right to do what they want, and if there is a conflict, it is most definitely not a moral one. I stated this is a moral principle. From looking at the numerous posts under "ethics" most people seem to adhere to some sort of system of morality, either utilitarianism, rights and duties, virtue ethics, or an appeal to divine authority. Why are people making such arguments when none of them are true?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Athena on August 17th, 2014, 4:28 pm 

ComplexityofChaos » August 16th, 2014, 6:12 pm wrote:To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

This principle is not logically inconsistent, like the moral relativist claim that "there are no universal moral principles." If that were true, then that would itself be a universal moral principle; thus, refuting the relativist's own claim. This principle I stated above, however, avoids that contradiction and seems correct. At least, I have yet to find any fault with it.


Right on and Hitler and the Nazis had the right to do whatever they wanted, right? Might makes right, right? Heck, I could jump out of an airplane without a parachute if I wanted to and nothing bad would happen, because it is my right to do whatever I want, right? Or might moral have something to do with consequences?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Athena on August 17th, 2014, 4:33 pm 

Natural ChemE » August 17th, 2014, 11:20 am wrote:ComplexityofChaos,

Person A wants to go to the park at 1pm. Person B wants to lock Person A in a cage (which isn't in the park) for the afternoon (including at 1pm).

If they both have a right to do what they want, then they are both enabled to do what they want while obligated to allow the other to do what they want. But there's no way for them to both get what they want.

In general rights are inconsistent. I think that a large part of settling disputes is weighing folks' rights such as to minimize the infringement of rights, but it's often not possible to fully respect everyone's rights. In this case it's not possible to fully respect everyone's rights whenever folks want mutually exclusive actions.


Correct, except it is not exactly individual rights that matter. Human rights are about more than individual rights. I do not have the right to listen to loud music and disturb all my neighbors, because we all share the right to peace and quiet in our homes. What is important is our shared rights.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 4:40 pm 

Athena » August 17th, 2014, 3:28 pm wrote:
ComplexityofChaos » August 16th, 2014, 6:12 pm wrote:To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

This principle is not logically inconsistent, like the moral relativist claim that "there are no universal moral principles." If that were true, then that would itself be a universal moral principle; thus, refuting the relativist's own claim. This principle I stated above, however, avoids that contradiction and seems correct. At least, I have yet to find any fault with it.


Right on and Hitler and the Nazis had the right to do whatever they wanted, right? Might makes right, right? Heck, I could jump out of an airplane without a parachute if I wanted to and nothing bad would happen, because it is my right to do whatever I want, right? Or might moral have something to do with consequences?


They did. As others had the right to kill Hitler and the Nazis. How is it otherwise? I never stated "might makes right," that is not in the moral principle. If someone stronger wants to give rights to someone weaker, that is their right.

If you jump out of a plane without a parachute, nothing bad would happen if the plane was on the ground, not moving, and you landed on your feet. Are you assuming the plane is in the air? In that case, if you are high up, then, yes, chances are you will die. But, what does that have to do with the question of morality? Absolutely nothing. If you want to jump out of a plane without a chute and die, then that's your right. If someone wants to stop you, then that is their right.

If the principle I stated is not true, then you need to establish why. And talking about what "is" will never refute what is "right," so your example does not address the principle at all.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby BioWizard on August 17th, 2014, 4:54 pm 

ComplexityofChaos » 17 Aug 2014 01:07 pm wrote:Do people do what they want? If so, then why do people grumble so much over paying taxes? Over trying to do the "morally right thing"? Why do people hate their jobs, but go anyway? Why do people keep their contractual promises even when it is going to make them poorer for it?

Every system of morality I have seen tells people not to do what they want. What this principle states is that all such systems are false.

But, more fundamentally, when you claim people do what "they want" what do you mean? Are you claiming that they want to do something and that causes them to do it? Or, is the want and the action both produced by some other cause? How do you know?



Do you pay your taxes? Why or why not?
Do you keep your contractual agreements? Again, why or why not?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 6:32 pm 

BioWizard » August 17th, 2014, 3:54 pm wrote:
ComplexityofChaos » 17 Aug 2014 01:07 pm wrote:Do people do what they want? If so, then why do people grumble so much over paying taxes? Over trying to do the "morally right thing"? Why do people hate their jobs, but go anyway? Why do people keep their contractual promises even when it is going to make them poorer for it?

Every system of morality I have seen tells people not to do what they want. What this principle states is that all such systems are false.

But, more fundamentally, when you claim people do what "they want" what do you mean? Are you claiming that they want to do something and that causes them to do it? Or, is the want and the action both produced by some other cause? How do you know?


Why does a tree grow?
Do you pay your taxes? Why or why not?
Do you keep your contractual agreements? Again, why or why not?
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby ComplexityofChaos on August 17th, 2014, 6:33 pm 

BioWizard » August 17th, 2014, 3:54 pm wrote:
ComplexityofChaos » 17 Aug 2014 01:07 pm wrote:Do people do what they want? If so, then why do people grumble so much over paying taxes? Over trying to do the "morally right thing"? Why do people hate their jobs, but go anyway? Why do people keep their contractual promises even when it is going to make them poorer for it?

Every system of morality I have seen tells people not to do what they want. What this principle states is that all such systems are false.

But, more fundamentally, when you claim people do what "they want" what do you mean? Are you claiming that they want to do something and that causes them to do it? Or, is the want and the action both produced by some other cause? How do you know?



Do you pay your taxes? Why or why not?
Do you keep your contractual agreements? Again, why or why not?


Sorry, I think I placed my answer in the wrong spot previously.

You asked me why I do things, and my answer is "Why does a tree grow?"
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby CanadysPeak on August 17th, 2014, 7:16 pm 

For those of you who are not Buddhists, you can do nothing other than what you do. Choose to be somewhere where you are not. Let me know when you get there.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby BioWizard on August 17th, 2014, 7:54 pm 

ComplexityofChaos » 17 Aug 2014 06:33 pm wrote:
BioWizard » August 17th, 2014, 3:54 pm wrote:
ComplexityofChaos » 17 Aug 2014 01:07 pm wrote:Do people do what they want? If so, then why do people grumble so much over paying taxes? Over trying to do the "morally right thing"? Why do people hate their jobs, but go anyway? Why do people keep their contractual promises even when it is going to make them poorer for it?

Every system of morality I have seen tells people not to do what they want. What this principle states is that all such systems are false.

But, more fundamentally, when you claim people do what "they want" what do you mean? Are you claiming that they want to do something and that causes them to do it? Or, is the want and the action both produced by some other cause? How do you know?



Do you pay your taxes? Why or why not?
Do you keep your contractual agreements? Again, why or why not?


Sorry, I think I placed my answer in the wrong spot previously.

You asked me why I do things, and my answer is "Why does a tree grow?"


You pay your taxes and commit to contractual promises the way trees grow?
Why bother discuss anything then? Everything just is.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Natural ChemE on August 17th, 2014, 8:48 pm 

ComplexityofChaos,

I think that the confusion in "Everyone has the right to do whatever they want." came in with the use of the word "right". A right is something that those with them are enabled by and others are obligated to allow. For example, if Person A wants to go to the park and they have that right, then no one is allowed to stop them, or else Person A's right has been violated.

It seems like you meant that "Nobody has any rights.", which would mean that anyone can do anything that they want because they're not under any ethical obligations to do otherwise. For example, shooting someone violates their right to things like life, health, and bodily integrity, but an ethical system without rights such as those wouldn't object to people shooting each other.

I'd note that we could still have laws and arrest people in a nobody-has-any-rights system. Since nobody has any rights, folks are free to do whatever they want, including to assert their own system of ethics and form a criminal justice system which enforces those ethics while punishing those who fail to meet them.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby Braininvat on August 17th, 2014, 10:00 pm 

ComplexityofChaos » August 17th, 2014, 11:10 am wrote:
Braininvat » August 17th, 2014, 10:02 am wrote:Well, in a moral context we often do things we'd rather not do, for some greater good. To the "do whatever you want" maxim, the classic rejoinder is "your right to swing your arms stops at my nose." :-)


For the greater good? How would anyone even know what that is? And, the principle is clear. If I want to punch someone in the nose, then I have the right to do so. Why wouldn't I? On what basis would that not be true?


So law, altruism, the social contract...just chuck them all out? Seems obvious we wouldn't last long as a species if we embraced your maxim of pure self-interest.

Making laws that allow people to coexist and help each other is complex and difficult work. The value of such laws seems obvious when you compare life in say, Somalia, with here. Good luck with your kingdom of bloody noses.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby BioWizard on August 17th, 2014, 10:29 pm 

My take on this is as follows.

Before moral codes came about, the main reason you wouldn't punch someone in the nose is because you don't want to be punched back. That's why many animals have evolved posturing as an alternative to actual combat, to minimize unnecessary collateral damage. More often than not, aggression seems to be inversely proportional to the likelihood of retaliation. To minimize aggression and standardize security, humans came up with the idea of centralized law enforcement, where retaliation is measured and delivered based on the force of the punch, not the strength and retaliatory capacity of the individual that was punched. Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, that is primarily why you don't walk around punching people's noses. Some animals display and posture, others come up with morality and moral codes, systems that critically depend on our ability to form memories and have reputations. At the end of the day, you still have the choice of doing what you want, as long as you're prepared to face the consequences. And when you decide against an action that would, in the long run, affect you more negatively than positively, then you've merely altered what you want. You may not want to pay your taxes, but you pay them, because you want the perks that come along with being a member of the social system that imposes them. Thus, when you want several things that are conflicting in nature, you prioritize. At the end of the day though, you're still doing what you want, no matter what you end up choosing. Even in a world where you are the only human being, you still can't have everything you want, because a lot of things are inconsistent and mutually exclusive (you can either jump off a very high cliff or avoid bodily injury, not both).

When you give up A, it's usually because you want B a little bit more. You may want to punch me, but you probably want to keep your nose in the same place on your face a little bit more. Not to mention that earning a reputation of being needlessly aggressive is quite costly for an individual within a cooperative social system. It's all a tradeoff.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby doogles on August 18th, 2014, 6:09 am 

Good day to you ComplexityofChaos.

I’ve read every post so far in this thread.

Would you consider changing that un-challengable moral right of “Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.” to “Everyone has the right to CHOOSE to do whatever they want.”

I see a mountain of difference in meaning between the two statements. I cannot accept the original in its current wording and will be only too happy to challenge the wording in its current form.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby owleye on August 18th, 2014, 7:25 am 

ComplexityofChaos » Sun Aug 17, 2014 4:33 pm wrote:You asked me why I do things, and my answer is "Why does a tree grow?"


You claim yours is the only moral principle but do not explain why or how. You give no reason for it other than you think we are trees. To think that trees growing is a moral principle is daft. We are not trees. Trees are not morally responsible for what they do. To claim yours is a moral principle, one that is a right in the way you state it, requires of us that we are morally responsible for what we do or not do. Yet you make your case in such a way that we are not morally responsible for what we do, a surefire way of holding a contradictory or at least an inconsistent position. Why believe something you don't really believe? Speak in riddles all you wish. It isn't working. If you wish to think we are no more than trees growing, drop the idea that it is a moral principle. If you think we are different than trees and are morally responsible for what we do, being free in some sense to think we might have made a mistake in what we did, then drop your view that we are trees.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby doogles on August 19th, 2014, 6:56 am 

I’d like to expand on my last post. Firstly I feel that the statement as it stands is blatantly untrue. “To date, the only moral principle that I have found to be true is the following: Everyone has the right to do whatever they want.

But because nobody seems to have stated the obvious so far, I feel that I may have missed the point. Braininvat touched on the obvious to me when he mentioned “law, altruism, the social contract.. “

For example if any unauthorised person decided to trespass on an army post, he/she would be arrested or shot – simply because they do not have the right to do just that, whether they want to or not. They have the right to CHOOSE to do that, but they will suffer the consequences.
They do not have the right to drive on the incorrect side of the road, or drive through red traffic lights. Traffic laws deny them that right, but no one can take away their right to CHOOSE to defy such laws. But then they have to face the risks of accidents or punishment.
Does this make sense about the right to do anything we want as being different from the right to CHOOSE TO do what we want.
Once we get more than one person living together we have to have rules and compromises in order to survive together harmoniously. These rules spell out our rights mostly about what we cannot do and the manner in which we must do things. What is left is the limited number of things we can do as we want.
Each one of us in civilised societies (and tribal cultures to a lesser extent) have tens of thousands of constraints on our behaviour. We have no right to do anything we want to do.
We have local government bylaws, and thousands of Acts of State and Federal Parliaments dictating our NON-Rights. These constraints make it quite clear that we simply do NOT have the rights to do whatever we want.
And a number of these laws deal with moral matters such as the age of consent, the protection of children and the treatment of animals. And there are such things as Sales of Goods Acts that do not allow traders or customers to do just as they want. We even have laws relating to public nudity.
I just have a feeling that ComplexityinChaos could have inserted two more words in that statement “Everyone has the right to CHOOSE TO do what they want.” Obviously a significant number of people make this choice and that’s one of the reasons our gaols (jails) are full.
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Re: The Only Moral Principle That Is True

Postby dlorde on August 19th, 2014, 7:12 am 

doogles » August 19th, 2014, 11:56 am wrote:I just have a feeling that ComplexityinChaos could have inserted two more words in that statement “Everyone has the right to CHOOSE TO do what they want.” Obviously a significant number of people make this choice and that’s one of the reasons our gaols (jails) are full.

It seems to me that the question of 'rights' is redundant just considering choice alone; it's a personal, internal matter. Everyone can choose to do what they want, regardless. The question of rights applies to the choice - i.e. do they have the right to act out that choice? For example, you can choose to kill someone, but do you have the right to kill them?

In a social context, it might be expressed as an individual having free will (the ability to choose), but not necessarily having the right to act on it.
dlorde
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