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Which has priority: rights or democracy? watch

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  • View Poll Results: Rights or democracy
    Rights
    85.96%
    Democracy
    14.04%

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    Rights; there are some things that should not be up for debate; the right to life, bodily integrity and property ownership are not granted to people as a product of democratic mandates but rather arise naturally from the fact of human existence and should not be subject to the tyranny of majorities.
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    (Original post by Melancholy)
    None of this means that it's a false dichotomy - that's the wrong word. The question can be considered normatively - i.e. what ought to be given priority? I don't want to get into metaethics, but that they are social constructions do not mean that rights don't "exist", not even in the objective sense. That leads onto a longer philosophical debate about, say, the correspondence theory of truth, cognitive irrealism, the parallels between mathematical and normative statements, and so forth. But certainly, I see the general direction that you're aiming for.
    I believe I addressed your point in my reply to lexis some posts above^.

    We can give them normative priority but based on what, exactly? Based on a moving social herd morality; what we decide is good now would be vastly different to what was decidedly rightly good a hundred years ago. Or, for that matter - in other cultures. Morality is a rolling concept - an individuals morals will consistently contradict themselves over the period of a life time. This is where my problem with rights lie, philosophically anyway. Politically it's been repeatedly shown that rights are only enforced when it benefits the enforcer; they are, essentially, a gag to keep self-righteous moralists quiet.
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    (Original post by Tengo)
    I believe I addressed your point in my reply to lexis some posts above^.

    We can give them normative priority but based on what, exactly? Based on a moving social herd morality; what we decide is good now would be vastly different to what was decidedly rightly good a hundred years ago. Or, for that matter - in other cultures. Morality is a rolling concept - an individuals morals will consistently contradict themselves over the period of a life time. This is where my problem with rights lie, philosophically anyway. Politically it's been repeatedly shown that rights are only enforced when it benefits the enforcer; they are, essentially, a gag to keep self-righteous moralists quiet.
    Is this really true? Things such as the Golden Rule have remained fairly central to a society's moral structure (with a few distortions owing to external inputs, such as dogmatic moral/religious beliefs), most likely because it permits a mutually-beneficial system in which to operate, where reasonable expectations for reasonable actions can be ascertained. It seems to me that free-thinking reflection about morals takes you to a Kantian style of thinking about morality, at its equilibrium. I think there is such a thing as moral reasoning that is fairly universally understood. Moral reasoning is not anarchic. Moral judgements supervene on matters of fact, like-cases receive like-judgements, etc. Already you derive formal equality under the law - which is what all modern societal judgements have tended towards. And definitions of fairness can become fairly intelligible and agreed upon. Sidgwick's analogy with the denial of pure time preference is a good one. The denial is normative (surely?), or at least it doesn't strictly deal with ascertaining material facts of existence (much like our discussion of morals do not), yet a universally-applied judgement can be made. Either way, the sanctity of human life is upheld overwhelmingly over space and time.

    Your criticism seems to be that morality is ungrounded and so it only exists as a fictitious concept that motivates humans. Yet what would it take for morality to be grounded? What does the question really mean? Most concepts are not grounded. In epistemology nothing can be grounded. What establishes what is "good" evidence is, essentially, a normative question.
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    Rights.
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    Either one in the absence of the other easily leads to unpalatable consequences.

    Having said that I think a sufficiently well constructed system of rights could weaken the need for 'democracy' in the conventional sense.
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    You cannot have one without the other...
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    If not both, then rights. Too many people think their 'right' to democracy overrides basic human rights. Your right to free speech ends where my human rights begin.
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    Either one in the absence of the other easily leads to unpalatable consequences.

    Having said that I think a sufficiently well constructed system of rights could weaken the need for 'democracy' in the conventional sense.
    I agree. One of the main reasons for democracy is that it's a way to ensure that our rights are respected. If a competent government is willing to respect them anyway then it doesn't really matter so much if it was elected or not.
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    I would definitely say Rights. However, this thread has fizzled because nobody is willing to play advocate.. so...



    Democracy! And here's the basic premise of why - Democracy (defined as the ability of the majority of persons to be involved in the decisions of state) will always lead to human rights.

    Without Democracy, Rights could be destroyed. Without majority influence rights are victim to being removed in the worse interests of people. Democracy protects rights by preventing destruction of them.

    I'm sure many of you will reply with examples of democracy not leading to rights, but these are not cases of democracy. Democracy is obviously fragile without rights, and rights are evidently fragile without democracy. For any kind of discussion we're just going to have to assume that both are the purest forms of each and can't be removed or destroyed.For this reason, we first need to separate the terms.


    Democracy:The ability to be involved in creating rights

    Rights: Entitlements that each person automatically has.



    So, notice that in one case, rights become inflexible. Without the influence of the majority to change or develop rights, they could become rigid and broken with the passage of time. Take for example laws around the age of consent, and if they had remained the same for thousands of years despite developing psychological and biological research revealing that they needed to change. Or consider when medical treatment is possible, but religious rights limit it. Clearly rights must constantly adapt and change to avoid being made defunct, and pure democracy would last longer and be of greater benefit than rights in terms of a bigger picture.

    Public opinion changes. The danger of a pure democracy is obviously that public mood will remove rights or create unhappy laws. I'm sure many of you will post either hypothetical or actual examples of this happening. However, if the majority of people in that state find it to be just and correct, we simply disagree with it out of our own public opinion bias. We have no real power to decree that our world view is superior because people of our time agree, and many laws that we currently hold in high regard would seem monstrous to people of the past and people of the future.

    Democracy is the instrument, rights are the end. It would be arrogant to assume we were at the end. Everything will be alright in the end, and as it is not yet alright it is not yet the end.
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    (Original post by Hal.E.Lujah)
    I would definitely say Rights. However, this thread has fizzled because nobody is willing to play advocate.. so...



    Democracy! And here's the basic premise of why - Democracy (defined as the ability of the majority of persons to be involved in the decisions of state) will always lead to human rights.

    Without Democracy, Rights could be destroyed. Without majority influence rights are victim to being removed in the worse interests of people. Democracy protects rights by preventing destruction of them.

    I'm sure many of you will reply with examples of democracy not leading to rights, but these are not cases of democracy. Democracy is obviously fragile without rights, and rights are evidently fragile without democracy. For any kind of discussion we're just going to have to assume that both are the purest forms of each and can't be removed or destroyed.For this reason, we first need to separate the terms.


    Democracy:The ability to be involved in creating rights

    Rights: Entitlements that each person automatically has.



    So, notice that in one case, rights become inflexible. Without the influence of the majority to change or develop rights, they could become rigid and broken with the passage of time. Take for example laws around the age of consent, and if they had remained the same for thousands of years despite developing psychological and biological research revealing that they needed to change. Or consider when medical treatment is possible, but religious rights limit it. Clearly rights must constantly adapt and change to avoid being made defunct, and pure democracy would last longer and be of greater benefit than rights in terms of a bigger picture.

    Public opinion changes. The danger of a pure democracy is obviously that public mood will remove rights or create unhappy laws. I'm sure many of you will post either hypothetical or actual examples of this happening. However, if the majority of people in that state find it to be just and correct, we simply disagree with it out of our own public opinion bias. We have no real power to decree that our world view is superior because people of our time agree, and many laws that we currently hold in high regard would seem monstrous to people of the past and people of the future.

    Democracy is the instrument, rights are the end. It would be arrogant to assume we were at the end. Everything will be alright in the end, and as it is not yet alright it is not yet the end.
    A noble attempt, but I'm unconvinced. The thread fizzled because it's a poor question.


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    (Original post by LexiswasmyNexis)
    A noble attempt, but I'm unconvinced. The thread fizzled because it's a poor question.

    I'm unconvinced by your reply. I'm not going to say why, just state it. Do you see what I did there?
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    (Original post by Hal.E.Lujah)
    I'm unconvinced by your reply. I'm not going to say why, just state it. Do you see what I did there?
    You say in the first sentence that without democracy, rights would be destroyed. At the very least, this shows that rights are of enough priority to be worth protecting by democracy. Ergo democracy does not hold the highest priority.


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    (Original post by Melancholy)
    Is this really true? Things such as the Golden Rule have remained fairly central to a society's moral structure (with a few distortions owing to external inputs, such as dogmatic moral/religious beliefs), most likely because it permits a mutually-beneficial system in which to operate, where reasonable expectations for reasonable actions can be ascertained. It seems to me that free-thinking reflection about morals takes you to a Kantian style of thinking about morality, at its equilibrium. I think there is such a thing as moral reasoning that is fairly universally understood. Moral reasoning is not anarchic. Moral judgements supervene on matters of fact, like-cases receive like-judgements, etc. Already you derive formal equality under the law - which is what all modern societal judgements have tended towards. And definitions of fairness can become fairly intelligible and agreed upon. Sidgwick's analogy with the denial of pure time preference is a good one. The denial is normative (surely?), or at least it doesn't strictly deal with ascertaining material facts of existence (much like our discussion of morals do not), yet a universally-applied judgement can be made. Either way, the sanctity of human life is upheld overwhelmingly over space and time.

    Your criticism seems to be that morality is ungrounded and so it only exists as a fictitious concept that motivates humans. Yet what would it take for morality to be grounded? What does the question really mean? Most concepts are not grounded. In epistemology nothing can be grounded. What establishes what is "good" evidence is, essentially, a normative question.
    The golden rule has been around since Confucius (or possible about a thousand years prior), but you can look for just about moral precept and find it in some similar manner reciprocated historically. The golden rule is really a ridiculous notion though; any understanding of preference does away with it. My main argument would be to state that morality is essentially a synthetic ideal by which society can properly function: I don't doubt that tenants such as 'Do not Kill' are useful to aid societies to function properly; but as an actual moral imperative? meh.

    Morality is essentially committed to untenable description. I suppose I take an anti-realist approach to morality, but I would argue that the sanctity of human life is a laughable notion. It's a societal concept because it's very useful for societies to have individuals think like that. I'd paraphrase Carlin: You know where the sanctity of human life came from? We made it up. You know? Because we're alive, it's self interest. It's a self-serving man-made bull**** story that allows us to feel 'noble'. We get to chose which forms of life we think are sacred and kill the rest.

    Even so, historically almost no civilization have practiced the sanctity of human life. Some properly opposed it; Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Celts, the Picts, the Vikings, the Mongols and the list goes on and on. For everyone in any society that has proposed that life is sacred, there has almost certainly been one that has disagreed. It's a self imposed, fallacious consideration that is historically as much a part of human discussion as genocide and slavery and anti-antisemitism, all held as morally correct at various point throughout history.
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    Do you mean democracy as in a governmental and social structure which is set up to serve the will and best interests of the people; or democracy as in we all vote on a regular basis? The more abstract sense seems to have fundamental rights implicit in it, while the more practical one is most effective when balanced against the concept of fundamental rights - otherwise you get tyranny of the majority and things like that.
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    A very interesting question. I guess rights, especially human rights are very important to arrange society. In my point of view rights are the basic to a system of the government. Without rights no one wouldn't accept and respect each other, no matter whether in a monarchy, aristocracy or democracy. From this perspective rights have priority towards democracy.
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    I believe personal liberty should trump democracy.

    However, there obviously have to be limits to personal liberty in society, hence the social contract.
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    (Original post by Martyn*)
    It cannot be both?
    How can you have true rights if they can be voted away by a majority?
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    I don't believe either are things that we are intrinsically entitled to.

    However I would prefer certain rights be enacted over democracy.
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    The results of this poll seem massively different to what people actually practice in real life. If you believe that individual rights trump democracy (as I do) then I don't see how you could accept taxation, for example; but somehow (unfortunately) I don't think anything like 87% of people realise that taxation is theft.
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    (Original post by Aspiringlawstudent)
    The results of this poll seem massively different to what people actually practice in real life. If you believe that individual rights trump democracy (as I do) then I don't see how you could accept taxation, for example; but somehow (unfortunately) I don't think anything like 87% of people realise that taxation is theft.
    That is just one conception of what you believe rights to be. Others who believe in rights for individuals also realise that might mean they believe in 'rights for all' regardless of their position.

    Money for the provision and protection of those rights will not come from nowhere, and this realisation will allow someone who favours rights to 'square' the concept of taxation with their beliefs.

    You have perfectly highlighted the left/right divide within the schools of rights theory and, actually 'liberal thought'.


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