the nature of rights

Many people believe that humans inherently have rights – that we are special in some way that gives us inalienable rights as part of the natural order of the Universe.


However, if human rights were inalienable, as they would be if they were part of the natural order of the Universe like the laws of physics or chemistry, they would be so much part of our existence that we would barely be aware of them.  If there were such things as inalienable rights, for example an inalienable right to life, then such a right could not be removed (that's what 'inalienable' means.)  Plainly this is not so, as is proved every day many thousands of times around the Earth as people lose their lives, even at the hand of other people.  


Rights are not an inherent part of existence.  Rights are a human construct; they are something that we give to ourselves and to each other. Rights are neither intrinsic nor extrinsic to humanity: they are of our own making.  We have complete control over their creation,  form, and implementation.  They are an agreement amongst ourselves that defines how we relate to each other and what we allow each other to do to and with each other; they are part of how we define our society and implement our culture.  We arrive at them collectively: they arise from our culture and our evolution.  Rights are the application of moral ideas, ideas about what are the right (correct) and wrong things to do.  Rights can be used to shape our world , for better or for worse.   

 

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