Every time the topics of abortion and animal abuse come around, ignorant American twits come out of the woodwork to make up some crazy theory about how rights attach to babies or fetuses or animals ... or themselves.
It is insufferable to hear them yammer on about a subject they don't know and they don't even pretend to know. It is insufferable to watch them write nonsensical gibberish and pretend that it is meaningful.
I know this all comes from being American too. Because Americans don't believe in morality (religiosity is an entirely different thing) and they're used to laws that are completely arbitrary self-contradictory nonsense.
Reading them is like watching some deranged Doctor Who fan asking top physicists how to create a time rotor. All I have to say to them, all that anyone can say to them, is shut the fuck up.
Moral theory exists. It has axioms and uses logic to derive theorems. And there's no room in those axioms for their babbling gibberish. Things like "living entity" and "complete organism" are just fucking nonsense. And the notion of rights attaching to babies is so much gibberish.
Moral theory adds up to normality. Moral theory says it's moral to abort a fetus and immoral to kill a baby. It says it's immoral to drink alcohol during pregnancy and bring that pregnancy to term. It says it's immoral to talk to your child about how you had the chance to kill them.
Moral theory has to do these things because if it didn't end up with sane conclusions, ones that further the good of the group, then it would be trashed. But that doesn't mean idiots can ignore it in favour of spewing their own personal stupid shit.
If you can't reinvent moral theory from scratch and get an entire moral code out of it, shut the fuck up. The world doesn't need your stupid ad hoc shit.
I've ranted about magical thinkers often enough, and I've had to explain what magic means often enough, that I should really just write it up and get it over with.
The three fundamental concepts underlying magical thought are association, opposition and essentialism. These contrast against the three fundamental concepts underlying logical thought which are implication, contradiction and structuralism.
Let's look at each of these pairs in turn.
Association vs Implication
Association is a symmetric relation between two things while implication is not. Magical thinkers have difficulty comprehending that relationships are not symmetric. So if A implies B, they have difficulty comprehending that B doesn't imply A.
Among other things, magical thinkers have problems with the whole concept that correlation doesn't imply causation. The closest thing to implication which they understand is causation and so they invariably think that if two events are associated with each other, the prior event must have caused the latter.
This all comes from the fact that neural networks like the human brain work associatively. Logical implication is a higher-order abstraction which doesn't run on the brain's native hardware. Magical thinkers are piss-poor at holding abstractions in their minds, or even learning them, so when faced with logical implications, they will fall back on associations.
Opposition vs Contradiction
When two things are in opposition they are in conflict with each other. Perhaps they can only exist in different places at the same time. But when they are in contradiction then only one of them can exist in physical reality.
The concept of a contradiction is highly abstract since it involves the notion that one thing's existence over here prevents the other's existence over there. Contradiction embodies within it a concept of non-locality or universality which is extremely abstract. Opposition does not embody such a concept.
Without an understanding of contradiction, magical thinkers are prone to spew literal gibberish such as "three in one". Words strung together that don't actually mean anything. This is no barrier to the magical thinker who thinks quite sincerely that contradictory things can just coexist side by side. Even when there is no "space" to coexist in!
Essentialism vs Structuralism
Ahh, now here's a tough one to convey. Essentialism is more or less the conviction that abstractions don't exist or aren't real. Which of course makes perfect sense for people who can't retain or focus on an abstraction long enough to use it, let alone manipulate it. If abstractions aren't real then what is real? Well, concrete things are real. But what does that mean exactly?
The brain has this notion of 'object identity' which persists through time. A ship has a magical essence, much like a spirit, which gives it its identity even after all of its component pieces have been replaced or upgraded. Note that it isn't the object's structure that gives it its identity. Because structure is an abstraction and the belief that abstractions exist and that they are real is structuralism, the polar opposite of essentialism.
This magical essence of a thing leaves an imprint long after the thing's structure has been destroyed. So dehydrated milk is a kind of milk apparently, and apple juice contaminated with toxic elements is still apple juice. And a liquid made from petroleum that's chemically identical to apple juice wouldn't be apple juice. Nevermind that quantum physics most emphatically says this is bogus, magical thinkers can't process contradiction anyways.
In essentialism, what matters is not the structure of the thing but rather its history, ancestry and origins. So it doesn't matter that a black person has a high IQ, high education and was raised with Western values by white parents. What matters is that they've got black genes and black "blood". Perhaps someday in the far future the "blood" will be "purified" through good (or intelligent whatever) manifestations of the race's members, but until that happens they're all tainted.
Racism and nationalism are inherently essentialist ideas. It isn't logically possible for a structuralist to be a racist. Of course, since the world is run by magical thinkers, the definition of racism is corrupted to suit them and you get all kinds of absurdities about racism supposedly being about skin colour. Then again, you get all sorts of nonsense about how races supposedly don't exist also.
Essentialism often shows up in the more idiotic arguments of humanists too. The fact that my body was constructed from DNA which traces its lineage back for hundreds of generations to the same cave-dwellers as everyone else on the planet is supposed to matter to me. It's supposed to make me not despise 90% of the people on the planet. Same thing with the fact that my intellect is only the product of dumb luck. Yeah, only problem is I'm a structuralist so I'm quite comfortable in my contempt.
Oh and beware of pseudo-structural essentialism. The fact that I share DNA and a bodily shape with magical thinkers wouldn't make me side with them against an AI that would exterminnate them.
One of the most fundamental concepts in economics is the "utility function" that is supposed to represent a person's desires and their relative value to each other. Of course, this is crap (distant rumble as the entire edifice of mainstream economics goes down) but let us reflect here on why it is crap.
A person's desires are not well-ordered like the real numbers. It's not the case that you can always tell that one thing is more important than another thing. Being tortured may be less desirable than chocolate ice cream, but is having a nail driven through your hand more or less desirable than being kneed in the groin?
It's not even the case that there is no relationship between some pairs of desires, like the (knee in groin, nail in hand) pair. Rather, the relationship may or may not exist and may or may not fluctuate over time or due to externalities. You may prefer to have a nail driven through your hand one day and be kicked in the groin the next. All depending on whether you had chocolate ice cream that morning.
So people's desires are not well-ordered and they are not even partially-ordered. They are rather extremely disordered and so form an edset - to contrast with poset. Now the question is, what does an edset have to do with a utility "function"? The answer is: not a fucking thing. As should be immediately and blindingly obvious to anyone familiar with programming.
A function is a set of relations between two sets or between a set and itself, with each relation mapping to a unique value. A "utility function" is not a function since utility(knee in groin, nail in hand) maps to every possible value in the range of the function (less, equal, more) and also to no value at all.
The economist will counter by claiming that if people have no persistent utility functions then it's simple enough to take a snapshot of their desires at any one point in time and treat this as a utility function. However, this is moronic because the "utility function" so generated will invariably be 99.99% blank. Maybe there is a way to rescue the notion using a probability distribution of value for each desire (to represent randomness from internal and external sources) but this would rapidly become intractable.
More substantively, the utility "function" of an edset encodes little to no information. It is primarily white noise. What is of interest is not "less" or "more" or "equal" or whatever. What is of importance is the edset itself. This should be familiar to programmers because I am saying no more than that describing people's desires isn't well suited to a functional approach at all but rather requires an object-oriented approach.
Of course, the reason economists cling to this functional approach is because first it sounds more mathematical. Economists are suckers for anything that makes them sound more authoritative, the scum. And secondly because they are holding onto a Utilitarian past where you can pretend that utility(knee in groin) = -10.0. Such precision!
This makes it the 273rd umm 274th? reason why mainstream economists are morons and the whole field should be thrown in a rubbish bin. Along with anthropology and ... I am actually drawing a blank here since I can think of no other fields in academe that equals these in loathesomeness. Oh wait, philosophy. Phew, I was afraid my sense of righteousness was waning.
Oh yeah, there's a better name than 'edset', it's 'value system'. I really don't like 'desire' since it sounds too earthy and sensual. Of course, value has the dual problem of sounding too abstract and cerebral, but I can live with that better. And desire has the problem that satisfied desires are no longer desires, whereas value doesn't have that problem.
Many ignorant Americans believe that "liberalism" is an unambiguously good thing. After all, doesn't every racist cracker hate liberalism? Aren't the opinions of racist crackers good enough for us? What need do we have for a brain when we can just take the opinions of racist crackers and invert them?
Oh yeah, and then there's all that propaganda about how the Western countries are liberal democracies. Shouldn't that be the ultimate stamp of approval? After all, it's not like corruption exists in any EU country, is it? What could make more sense together than liberalism and democracy? It's like fire and gasoline!
In Europe at least, the word liberalism is tainted, about on par with neo-liberalism in North America. It's correctly perceived as being right-wing. So although I don't know one way or the other, I have trouble imagining European politicians proclaiming proudly about their countries being 'liberal democracies'. They'll whisper it instead.
Well, if liberal democracy is bad then what are the options? Wai ... what? You mean there are other options?!
Liberalism vs Communism vs Anarchism
Liberalism is predicated on a system where the capitalist elites are guaranteed their power against the majority. As a result of this, all liberal theory aims to justify and, since justification is impossible, rationalize its inherent power inequalities and injustices.
So the liberal concept of democracy is predicated on "representatives" who disintermediate (and disempower) the people from the reins of power. And of course, on the concept of "parties" who ensure that a faction of the people (or their representatives) can still rule.
Meanwhile, the liberal theory of human rights is predicated on rationalizing whatever moral code suits the elites of the moment through nonsensical gibberish and handwaving abracadabra. I need say no more than what I've already said - it is nonsense.
This is seen most easily by comparing it with the communist and anarchist versions of democracy and human rights.
Ignorant people knowing nothing of democracy beyond the liberal propaganda often dismiss one-party states as inherently undemocratic. This is not so. A state is democratic or undemocratic depending on its actions, on its conformance to the wishes of the people. If the mechanism were telepathic communion precipitated by sexual orgies, then it would still not matter.
Communist theory comes from the experiences of the Paris Commune. It is not based on rationalizing the privileges of powerful people since these were guillotined so it has no need to divide and conquer the populace. We can see this in the fact that communist democracy is based on consensus.
In a communist democracy, it doesn't matter that there is one party or one electoral candidate, because less than 90% approval of the party is shameful and less than 80% is cause for revolt. Compare this with liberal democracy where less than 50% approval is routine and a leader with 50% of the votes behind him proudly proclaims that he has a "mandate". To dominate the 50% of the population presumably.
So when American propaganda scorns the Cuban elections of Fidel Castro because he's the only candidate ... this is just completely fucking nonsense. It's especially galling because there are real anti-democratic forces in the Cuban and Chinese systems (the politburos are unelected) but the USA's propaganda rags prefer to focus their condemnation on deviations from right-wing liberalism.
Similarly, the communist version of human rights ... well actually look no further than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for that. Communists invented it. Especially awe-inspiring is the blatantly communist clauses approved even by dumbass Anglo-American governments. Such as:
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
You really have to think like a lawyer to appreciate it but once you do. I mean, think about it. It doesn't say that rich property owners have the right to own property. Nor does it say that everyone has the right to BUY property. No no no, it says that EVERYONE has the right to OWN property. Imagine that, the poor and destitute have the right to own property! All written in black & white, in a document signed by Anglos. Well, some Anglos since it was never signed by the USA.
The defining characteristic of communist human rights, the fingerprint seen in the UDHR with suitable analysis, is that process doesn't matter, only outcome does. The process by which human rights are made to happen is so completely irrelevant, so completely outside communist theory, that it's never even aluded to. Communists just don't care. Hell, communists are willing to murder to redress the social order so it's not like they can care.
But more generally, it's indicative of a communist blindness to process, to the dynamical nature of reality. I suspect totalitarian communism would work very well as a means of regulating a perfectly static system. Something like the original Wiki Wiki Web was supposed to be - a static membership of programmers focused on producing static Document Mode artefacts.
At last we come to the best. Anarchist democracy is based on participation. It does away with the nonsensical concept of "representation", as if one person could really represent a multitude, and takes "rule by the people" literally. The only kind of "representation" allowed in anarchist democracy is the statistical kind where a statistically representative subset of the population is drafted by lottery to serve on a jury.
Since anarchist democracy is not predicated on disintermediation, juries have great power. They can not only nullify a law in a specific case, as is no longer true in the USA, but they can repeal it for all cases. With sortition replacing elections, juries of citizens are even responsible for making the laws. Roderick T Long has an excellent article on how juries ruled democratic Athens.
Which leaves only anarchist human rights but that's a story all its own. Suffice to say that they are a system as concerned with process as with outcome. This is necessary in order to recognize both the dynamic and static components of human freedom. Components of freedom which themselves reflect the dynamic and static components of human beings individually and of humanity as a whole.
Communist human rights form an excellent base for anarchist human rights, but additional concepts such as rightful possession and rightful expropriation need to be developed. Rightful possession to define who ought to use an object in any given circumstance, and rightful expropriation to define what ought to happen when usage transfers from one to another.