One might guess at the topical material that forms the substance of this blog post, and shall tend to it just as soon as time and convenience permit. There are a few preliminary remarks that I can suggest in that direction, however.
First, the French Revolution, which gave birth to the fairly “religious sounding” concept of the divine (-ly granted) “RIGHTS OF MAN” — they could not capitalize it enough, was and is, clearly born of the metaphysical convictions that attended the environment out of which the notion of “inalienable rights” arose. One of these convictions, monotheistic creationism (Deism) seems necessarily to attend the notion of inseparable rights — due process was added by the U.S. Constitution as a qualifying condition, but the concept remains adamantine in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” appears to be a somewhat philosophically-immature attempt to grasp at the Kantian notion of transcendentals — though Kant was German, not French.
It does so in specific language far more British than French or German, sounding a bit like later “Scottish Common-sense Realism.” But it does seek Cartesian “indubitables,” here, and in the Constitution, and uses them as first principles of (Here, juridical) Reason. The Constitution seeks to unpack in detail the declared “Inalienable rights” as a “Bill of (Inalienable) Rights.” The rights are understood as an anthropological-legal equivalent of first principles of knowledge in philosophy — as it were, unshakeable, irrefutable, unchallengeable, and insisted upon by Reason itself.
Monotheistic creationism, was, from the vantage point of the founders, part of the indubitable package. For a hendiadic polytheist like me, this would function to highlight the reasons we must be careful about, and even skeptical of, metaphysical dogmata. These were very-well educated men, and authors ever-so-aware of many of the theological and philosophical objections likely to be encountered by what they wrote and affirmed. I would suggest that the concept of rights, as they have come down to us in the received tradition, here the “received package,” has some of the same baggage. And I think we can do better than they, as we stand on the shoulders of giants.
One of the problems with some of the concepts of inalienable rights stems from the fact that they seems to EXPECT a challenge from, say, criminal elements. The people most famous for going on and on about their rights, protesters and the like, are often those who feel either that their right have been grossly violated, or that their rights are threatened, or both. By making one’s rights as iron-clad as iron can get — to reinforce them against anticipated incursions (by announcing that these are extra-, triply confirmed and most certainly divine, with only half the calories of man-made edibles). “Guns at the ready” postures, even or especially, in legal language, often backfire and suffer from the “He has built a high gate” problem of implied provocation.
If perceived provocation meets perceived provocation in return, you have the makings of a forbidden fruit syndrome. If nontheistic “unbelievers” perceive the dogmatic character of “DIVINE rights,” language, they will surely grow suspicious of them. If language creates culture, especially the legal language that founds it, then language that ANTICIPATES legal violations will tend to create them over time. They are taken as presupposed, implied or connoted in the document (s).
For these, and many other reasons, we should search for a better way of expressing a commitment to procuring for all a uniform access to legal resources and privileges when they are most necessary to protect the innocent from the abusive behaviors of others. But since the notion of “rights” suggests the rigid monotheism of old, we should, as rational people with a more scientific outlook, study to find ways more consistent with a better world-picture to do this protecting. I propose that we appeal to the ideal value system, as a systemic transcendental, that procures for us the privileges, dignities and honors native to humanitarian requirements — rather than the “divine rights” of an angry Ogre who WILL toss you into hell in a fruitbasket, or else a deity who absconded with our rights shortly after creating all things, and simply did not give a damn afterward — WHAT you wrote in your constitution.
I shall continue my post later, if I don’t get tossed into HELL before I resume my efforts. These will focus on the concepts mentioned earlier, known as dignities, privileges and honors, treating them as the more profitable — and a bit less fiery — option. Unlike the historic concept of ‘divine rights,’ we do not have to “triple-dog-dare” people to violate these in order to find out that the gods and goddesses actually did approve them. Rights are inherently defensive in an “institutional” way, where “crime” equals “transgression against them.” SO punishments ready themselves against such sins, crimes that are SURE to come to pass. And so they do.
The alternative implies the ethical (but not necessarily legal) command to perform, that which upholds the dignity and honor of others, and thus nec. bears the prohibition against transgression, but secondarily. The terms “dignity and honor” invokes ethical language, and can be understood as a transcendental necessity, rather than a divine mandatum. What is a social TN? Civilization functions to provide the necessary community that language, education and profitability require, and law proceeds from the necessity of protection, including the protection of the civilization itself. This makes dignity and honor given to others a “civilization transcendental.” Civilization is not optional. It is necessary to the IVS and human condition. We need to have it to procure those things necessary to our survival and happiness in the long of it.
Then I shall move on to discuss the context of, and system of, positive sanctions used to reinforce all the ideals of the IVS in all our excellent citizens, in order to show what is missing from our entire social order presently, that makes much better sense out of what would otherwise seem to be superficial, and perhaps a bit naïve, when it comes to dealing with the more aggressive elements in our society, and how legal codes should treat them.
A brief P.S. and disclaimer is in order. No Monolithic, and ever-so-Threatening Antique, that wantonly-Metaphysical Iceberg that we all know and love — has at any time, either divinely-inspired, or otherwise approved this message.