Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of rights

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Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of rights

Postby Carleas » Sat Jan 13, 2018 5:32 pm

I'd like to explore a meta-principle of rights, which I'll call the Violator's Implicit Surrender (VIS):

VIS: For a right R that is granted to all individuals, R is implicitly surrendered when an individual violates another individual's right R.

VIS is similar to the Old Testament maxim of "an eye for an eye," except that it is a negative prescription: rather than asserting that a murderer must be killed, it asserts that she has surrendered her right not to be. VIS seems to be intuitively accepted by most people, and the idea of retributive justice relies on it. For instance, laws that allow the death penalty for murderers imply that by taking a life, i.e. violating another's right to life, one has implicitly surrendered one's own right to life, and therefore can be ethically killed. The VIS principle also explains the lack of similar culpability in the executioner: if the accused has no right to life, no right is violated when she is killed.

In practice, the right that is violated is not always thought to be surrendered, while other rights that aren't violated may be treated as surrendered. A similar principle seems to be at work, but in a more generalized form. Call the generalized principle VISg

VISg: For any right V in a set of rights {Vr} that is violated, one or more rights S1, S2, ..., and Sn in a set of surrenderable rights {Sr} may be deemed forfeited.

We can see that VISg reduces to VIS when {Vr}={Sr} and both contain only one element. But VISg applies to cases where different rights are surrendered than violated, for instance, a thief who is deprived of a right to liberty for violating a right to property.

In practice, some societies have removed rights from any {Sr} regardless of what rights are in {Vr}, e.g. many societies won't consider the right to life surrendered, even when someone has violated that right. Others, especially historically, make {Sr} much larger than {Vr}, including the right to life in {Sr} for many other crimes. Modern western societies have a very small set of rights in {Sr}, varying the degree to which a violator is deprived of a right rather than varying which right is surrendered.

This latter progression may suggest that VIS is effectively incompatible with modern liberalism. VISg starts to look less and less like VIS where the punishments are narrowed, and more and more rights are retained regardless of the rights violated. This is expected for a social morality that makes rights "inalienable", which in practice means being immune from (or at least resistant to) implicit surrender.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Dan~ » Sun Jan 14, 2018 12:11 am

I thought the law system was meant to make things a little bit more fair.
Who has the authority to pull human rights out of a hat, or make those rights disappear thereafter?
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Carleas » Sun Jan 14, 2018 3:59 am

I understand rights as something we give to each other, a kind of formalization of the golden rule. Society has collectively pulled them out of a hat. But built in to the concept of rights is a concept of limits, of when those rights are deemed forfeit. VIS seems to capture a lot of naive approaches to the forfeiture of rights, and VISg is what it's evolved into.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Prismatic567 » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:13 am

Carleas wrote:I'd like to explore a meta-principle of rights, which I'll call the Violator's Implicit Surrender (VIS):

VIS: For a right R that is granted to all individuals, R is implicitly surrendered when an individual violates another individual's right R.
...
I believe we need to define what is 'right'.

Wiki wrote:Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.


Within legal, social and other, one may be able to waive or surrender one's right.

But in reference to Moral theory, there is no question where any one can surrender their rights. Basically in moral theory each person is attributed with the same moral rights, e.g. the right to live, there is no way one can give up one's life to live. It is absolutely morally wrong to commit suicide.

Note there is a significant difference between Moral and Ethics.

Within an ethical framework, provisions may be given in very special circumstances for one to give up one right to live, but I would not consider it a surrender.
In such a case, one should always be mindful one is doing that in contradiction of the absolute moral law, i.e. the unconditional right of live.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:25 pm

Carleas wrote:I'd like to explore a meta-principle of rights, which I'll call the Violator's Implicit Surrender (VIS):

VIS: For a right R that is granted to all individuals, R is implicitly surrendered when an individual violates another individual's right R.

VIS is similar to the Old Testament maxim of "an eye for an eye," except that it is a negative prescription: rather than asserting that a murderer must be killed, it asserts that she has surrendered her right not to be.
A possible problem with this formulation is that it is worded as if the murderer is surrendering her right, rather than, say, a model where we simply say, people or society has a pattern of viewing the person as no longer having a right. I don't think most murderers are DOING this, though some may well be doing it. IOW have some thought process like I will now do this and surrender my right....etc. We are already on shaky ontological ground with rights as nouns, adding in intentionality on the perpetrators side to give up this noun seems to add to the problems. And one would certainly have to add in 'if caught' to make it even make minimal sense, except when the murderers feel guilty enough to confess right off. I think also it should be made clear that the right in question need not be eye for an eye. It could be rights that are not so strictly parallel to the crime. Right now we have death penalties out there in cases where no one dies - certainly in the West in the intelligence community with tacit legislative approval - and then also loss of rights short of death where there is no death penalty for murder.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Carleas » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:48 pm

Prismatic567 wrote:But in reference to Moral theory, there is no question where any one can surrender their rights.

What moral framework are you operating in? I would say people have a right to bodily integrity, but there's nothing wrong with tattoos or piercings or branding, or even with elective mastectomies or elective circumcision etc. It would be wrong for anyone to do that to someone else without their consent, but it's not wrong for a person to do it to herself. How is this waiver of the right to bodily integrity different from a waiver of the right to life in suicide?

And what would you say about murder in self defense? That seems like a paradigm case of VIS: someone trying to kill me has waived their right to life, and there's no moral wrong in killing them to prevent them killing me.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:A possible problem with this formulation is that it is worded as if the murderer is surrendering her right, rather than, say, a model where we simply say, people or society has a pattern of viewing the person as no longer having a right. I don't think most murderers are DOING this, though some may well be doing it.

I think this is correct; I noticed something similar when replying to Dan, but you've put your finger on it. I don't mean to say that the violator intends to surrender, and so surrender was a poor choice because it is too intentional. When responding to Dan I used the word "forfeit", and that better reflects what I mean. Forfeiture does not require intent, it's a surrender-by-corollary, i.e. because you have done X, you have surrendered your right not to have X done to you.

Karpel Tunnel wrote:I think also it should be made clear that the right in question need not be eye for an eye. It could be rights that are not so strictly parallel to the crime. Right now we have death penalties out there in cases where no one dies - certainly in the West in the intelligence community with tacit legislative approval - and then also loss of rights short of death where there is no death penalty for murder.

I agree. In the past, and still in some parts of the world, the death penalty could be applied to even misdemeanors and crimes which wouldn't even merit a jail sentence in the modern west.

This is the intent of my generalized form, VISg. There, the rights that are surrendered (or rather, per your note, forfeited) are not necessarily the rights that are violated, but are some other set of rights, {Sr}.

Do you see any common thread in which rights are deemed subject to forfeiture and which are not? For example, First Amendment rights are seen as surviving even very heinous crimes. This may point to a more general rule: the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech isn't only for the benefit of the speaker, but for the benefit of society as well, for each person's contribution to the marketplace of ideas. Maybe there is a way to divide rights in this way, in terms of who they are meant to benefit? I'll have to think more on this.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Karpel Tunnel » Mon Feb 19, 2018 3:31 pm

Carleas wrote:Do you see any common thread in which rights are deemed subject to forfeiture and which are not? For example, First Amendment rights are seen as surviving even very heinous crimes. This may point to a more general rule: the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech isn't only for the benefit of the speaker, but for the benefit of society as well, for each person's contribution to the marketplace of ideas. Maybe there is a way to divide rights in this way, in terms of who they are meant to benefit? I'll have to think more on this.
Technically first ammendment rights survive, say, incarceration, but in practical terms they certainly get limited. Of course having a certain job can reduce your freedom of speech, though technically you retain it, practically it is often gone, and this is not merely regarding company secrets, or even speech that is considered disloyal.


Some felons lose the right to vote, I believe, which I find strange. It's a small thing in some ways, but it rubs me wrong. You are still a citizen, and hell, if some murderer still wants to participate in soceity in this way, I think it is a good sign. Anyone who may get out some day, I would want to encourage to think of themselves as part of society. And it's not like they can elect their ex-drug dealer employer. I suppose for me the loss of rights should be tied to protecting society. I doubt most do any rehabilitation work. I suppose some might be deterents, but being put in a box is the main one.
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Re: Violator's Implicit Surrender - a meta-principle of righ

Postby Faust » Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:40 pm

Carleas - you are describing rights as (in the first case) barter and (in the second) currency - friable currency. Treating rights a currency has all the conveniences of ac dual (monetary) currency.

We sometimes, as with life sentences, sell at a discount.

That keeps the customers happy, sometimes.
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