Rights Mean Responsibilities


Two conflicts common to North American sociopolitical discourse comes from the idea of rights as inherent in the nature of a human being qua a human being. If a human being, then you get rights. If a non-human animal, then you don’t get human rights.

Although, as with Peter Singer, you may get animal rights in some cases. In that, some argue for non-human animal rights. Even Leonardo da Vinci, he made direct statements about ethical treatment of animals without the necessary use of the language of rights.

However, as rights come as broad ethical principles, these become foundational. To personal sensibilities, realities with agency imply inevitable ethics. Thus, the age-old question about if ethics becomes moot.

Because the issue isn’t ethics or no ethics, moral system or none. The issue becomes, “What ethic?” It’s a profound difference based on a slight shift in emphasis. Similarly, transcendent ethics dominated before. Nihilism doesn’t work, as ethics only works without agency.

If a universe with agents, then ethics becomes an inevitability. Similarly, in instances of a first-year philosophy student with a modicum of intelligence, they may question ethics’ ontological status. However, their act of existing, being, and acting in the world instantiates it.

Colloquially, the transcendent ethics can be known as religious ethics. By and large, they’ve won the numbers game. Also, they’ve lost the legitimacy game. When we examine international ethics, systems, rules, and global order, the winner is clearly not religious ethics.

The religious ethics binding to the transcendent, as in imbuing an unseen transcendent object as the source of The Good from which every good follows by natural discourse, logical derivation. International human rights won the day.

All nations are bound to international human rights. Every nation contains a different religion, sect of a faith, and interpretation of the proper ethic therefrom. In terms of human rights, fewer seem this way.

In that, international human rights ethics are the fundamental basis for the modern nation-states bound by regions and the globe. People may self-define as religious. However, their ethics and governments are guided by international institutions.

If the governments and the institutions, nongovernmental organizations, international nongovernmental organizations, civil society organizations, and others, fail to live up to a standard, they are not judged by religious/transcendental standards.

They are judged within frameworks of international human rights. By logical implication, the hidden premise is international secular human rights. Because the basis for the rights do not rely upon a transcendent source. Some philosophical idea within the metaphysical/supernatural/extramaterial domains of discourse.

The rights inherent for others become, as well, requirements for the comprehension of others’ boundaries. Where they start, I stop; where they stop, I, or others, start. If I claim rights for myself from others, then I imply obligations of myself for others.

The right to a freedom stops at the infringement of the right of the other person. These become more generalized utility markers or signifiers in social settings than the parochial and limited transcendent ethics.

Those latter ethics claiming objective status while littered with the language of the local, the provincial, often the cruel, in fact. The former morality incorporative of more neutral, inclusive though diversified, and sophisticated language than the vagaries found in the verities of religious holy texts.

In this sense, the international secular rights become a basis for truer universality of the ethics of rights. Furthermore, these will mean a fuller sense of the obligations derivative or implied as a coupling with the “truer universality of the ethics of rights.”

Any right will require a concomitant obligation; every obligation comes with a coincident right. While the basis for universal remains statistical or approximated, never achieved in a sense of finality of the aim, the fundamental implication of rights is obligations or responsibilities.

The mature orientation on ethics imbues a sense of a consciousness-based Golden Rule behind the scenes of rights and obligations. Where the rights imply obligations, and vice versa, this is the logic of the Golden Rule.

However, implied within it, we find the necessity of a conscious agent behind it. Rocks don’t have consciousness, don’t have rights and responsibilities. Thusly, rights mean responsibilities; responsibilities mean rights.

Essentially, it couldn’t not be; it couldn’t be any other way.

Photo by Christophe Hautier on Unsplash

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