A New Basis for Old Morality

Traditional bases for morality are supported by “motherhood and apple pie” arguments. The reasons put forth in support have been either an appeal to God or to various aspects of life usually couched in direct or indirect terms of duty, conscience, or just what is most workable. I treat these at more length in Traditional Bases for Morality.

The temporal rights theory of natural rights provides a new, unimpeachable basis for morality that is insightful and revealing.

Under the light of temporal rights, moral good is that which protects and honors natural rights, and moral evil is that which diminishes and/or violates rights. This profoundly simple definition of good and evil is powerful because it is simple to express, simple to understand, and simple to implement in jurisprudence. It is so simple you may not realize what you just read so I will repeat: evil is a violation of rights. Period.

What is Good?

Good is necessarily that which is not evil. But there is more here. Perhaps we could say that what doesn’t violate rights is OK, what promotes rights is better, and what multiplies rights is best. What if the ultimate good, the best good, for us humans is the use of all our rights while altogether avoiding evil? This would mean the development and enlargement of talents and capabilities, etc. This view draws out and magnifies the abilities and capacities of the human being.

The old morality was honesty, hard work, respect for others, frugality, etc. These all fit nicely within the reach of our rights, so it clearly supports that old morality. Imagine whatever immorality you may wish and you will find that it was a violation of at least one natural right.

Why is it Unimpeachable?

Can you find an evil that is not a violation of rights? So far, I have not been able to identify a single bad action that does not involve a violation of some right. If there is a direct correspondence between these two ideas, morality can be defined as a standard of behavior that honors and protects rights.

This definition of morality is unimpeachable because #temporalRights are based on the physical facts of the objective universe. It is a fact that things that can effect change must have a right to do so, otherwise, the abstract idea of “rights” makes no sense. To drive this home: if I should say “I have the right to jump from here to the moon!” you would just look at me funny because it makes no sense that I would have a right to do something I cannot do. If I say I have the right to speak my mind, that makes sense and we all agree. Well, at least those who believe we should all have equal access to the use of our rights agree.

Can you think of an evil that is not a violation of rights? If so, please shoot me a comment in the form below.

Why is it New?

Mascot Owl Flying Left

This view of rights has no historical precedent. At least I could not find one anywhere and I have searched with some diligence. Since this morality is based on a novel theory of rights, it must be new.

What are Temporal Rights

They were actually defined above but the concept is so simple you probably missed it. Here it is again: “things that can effect change have a right to do so”. For more details, see An Introduction to Temporal RIghts.

The fact that this is both a simple and a new idea, means that it may have sufficient power to bring an end to many of today’s political arguments.

Jackson Pemberton
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