The Myth of the Right to Life - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

The Right to Have One's Life Maintained

This leads to a more general quandary. To what extent can one use other people's bodies, their property, their time, their resources and to deprive them of pleasure, comfort, material possessions, income, or any other thing - in order to maintain one's life?

Even if it were possible in reality, it is indefensible to maintain that I have a right to sustain, improve, or prolong my life at another's expense. I cannot demand - though I can morally expect - even a trivial and minimal sacrifice from another in order to prolong my life. I have no right to do so.

Of course,repparttar existence of an implicit, let alone explicit, contract between myself and another party would changerepparttar 122355 picture. The right to demand sacrifices commensurate withrepparttar 122356 provisions ofrepparttar 122357 contract would then crystallize and create corresponding duties and obligations.

No embryo has a right to sustain its life, maintain, or prolong it at its mother's expense. This is true regardless of how insignificantrepparttar 122358 sacrifice required of her is.

Yet, by knowingly and intentionally conceivingrepparttar 122359 embryo,repparttar 122360 mother can be said to have signed a contract with it. The contract causesrepparttar 122361 right ofrepparttar 122362 embryo to demand such sacrifices from his mother to crystallize. It also creates corresponding duties and obligations ofrepparttar 122363 mother towards her embryo.

We often find ourselves in a situation where we do not have a given right against other individuals - but we do possess this very same right against society. Society owes us what no constituent-individual does.

Thus, we all have a right to sustain our lives, maintain, prolong, or even improve them at society's expense - no matter how major and significantrepparttar 122364 resources required. Public hospitals, state pension schemes, and police forces may be needed in order to fulfill society's obligations to prolong, maintain, and improve our lives - but fulfill them it must.

Still, each one of us can sign a contract with society - implicitly or explicitly - and abrogate this right. One can volunteer to joinrepparttar 122365 army. Such an act constitutes a contract in whichrepparttar 122366 individual assumesrepparttar 122367 duty or obligation to give up his or her life.

The Right not to be Killed

It is commonly agreed that every person hasrepparttar 122368 right not to be killed unjustly. Admittedly, what is just and what is unjust is determined by an ethical calculus or a social contract - both constantly in flux.

Still, even if we assume an Archimedean immutable point of moral reference - does A's right not to be killed mean that third parties are to refrain from enforcingrepparttar 122369 rights of other people against A? What ifrepparttar 122370 only way to right wrongs committed by A against others - was to kill A? The moral obligation to right wrongs is about restoringrepparttar 122371 rights ofrepparttar 122372 wronged.

Ifrepparttar 122373 continued existence of A is predicated onrepparttar 122374 repeated and continuous violation ofrepparttar 122375 rights of others - and these other people object to it - then A must be killed if that isrepparttar 122376 only way to rightrepparttar 122377 wrong and re-assertrepparttar 122378 rights of A's victims.

The Right to have One's Life Saved

There is no such right because there is no moral obligation or duty to save a life. That people believe otherwise demonstratesrepparttar 122379 muddle betweenrepparttar 122380 morally commendable, desirable, and decent ("ought", "should") andrepparttar 122381 morally obligatory,repparttar 122382 result of other people's rights ("must"). In some countries,repparttar 122383 obligation to save a life is codified inrepparttar 122384 law ofrepparttar 122385 land. But legal rights and obligations do not always correspond to moral rights and obligations, or give rise to them.

The Right to Save One's Own Life

One has a right to save one's life by exercising self-defence or otherwise, by taking certain actions or by avoiding them. Judaism - as well as other religious, moral, and legal systems - accept that one hasrepparttar 122386 right to kill a pursuer who knowingly and intentionally is bent on taking one's life. Hunting down Osama bin-Laden inrepparttar 122387 wilds of Afghanistan is, therefore, morally acceptable (though not morally mandatory).

But does one haverepparttar 122388 right to kill an innocent person who unknowingly and unintentionally threatens to take one's life? An embryo sometimes threatensrepparttar 122389 life ofrepparttar 122390 mother. Does she have a right to take its life? What about an unwitting carrier ofrepparttar 122391 Ebola virus - do we have a right to terminate her life? For that matter, do we have a right to terminate her life even if there is nothing she could have done about it had she known about her condition?

The Right to Terminate One's Life

There are many ways to terminate one's life: self sacrifice, avoidable martyrdom, engaging in life risking activities, refusal to prolong one's life through medical treatment, euthanasia, overdosing and self inflicted death that isrepparttar 122392 result of coercion. Like suicide, in all these - barrepparttar 122393 last - a foreknowledge ofrepparttar 122394 risk of death is present coupled with its acceptance. Does one have a right to take one's life?

The answer is: it depends. Certain cultures and societies encourage suicide. Both Japanese kamikaze and Jewish martyrs were extolled for their suicidal actions. Certain professions are knowingly life-threatening - soldiers, firemen, policemen. Certain industries - likerepparttar 122395 manufacture of armaments, cigarettes, and alcohol - boost overall mortality rates.

In general, suicide is commended when it serves social ends, enhancesrepparttar 122396 cohesion ofrepparttar 122397 group, upholds its values, multiplies its wealth, or defends it from external and internal threats. Social structures and human collectives - empires, countries, firms, bands, institutions - often commit suicide. This is considered to be a healthy process.

Thus, suicide came to be perceived as a social act. The flip-side of this perception is that life is communal property. Society has appropriatedrepparttar 122398 right to foster suicide or to prevent it. It condemns individual suicidal entrepreneurship. Suicide, according to Thomas Aquinas, is unnatural. It harmsrepparttar 122399 community and violates God's property rights.

The Myth of the Right to Life - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

I. The Right to Life

Generations of malleable Israeli children are brought up onrepparttar story ofrepparttar 122354 misnamed Jewish settlement Tel-Hai ("Mount of Life"), Israel's Alamo. There, amongrepparttar 122355 picturesque valleys ofrepparttar 122356 Galilee, a one-armed hero named Joseph Trumpeldor is said to have died, eight decades ago, from an Arab stray bullet, mumbling: "It is good to die for our country." Judaism is dubbed "A Teaching of Life" - but it would seem thatrepparttar 122357 sanctity of life can and does take a back seat to some overriding values.

The right to life - at least of human beings - is a rarely questioned fundamental moral principle. In Western cultures, it is assumed to be inalienable and indivisible (i.e., monolithic). Yet, it is neither. Even if we acceptrepparttar 122358 axiomatic - and therefore arbitrary - source of this right, we are still faced with intractable dilemmas. All said,repparttar 122359 right to life may be nothing more than a cultural construct, dependent on social mores, historical contexts, and exegetic systems.

Rights - whether moral or legal - impose obligations or duties on third parties towardsrepparttar 122360 right-holder. One has a right AGAINST other people and thus can prescribe to them certain obligatory behaviours and proscribe certain acts or omissions. Rights and duties are two sides ofrepparttar 122361 same Janus-like ethical coin.

This duality confuses people. They often erroneously identify rights with their attendant duties or obligations, withrepparttar 122362 morally decent, or even withrepparttar 122363 morally permissible. One's rights inform other people how they MUST behave towards one - not how they SHOULD or OUGHT to act morally. Moral behaviour is not dependent onrepparttar 122364 existence of a right. Obligations are.

To complicate matters further, many apparently simple and straightforward rights are amalgams of more basic moral or legal principles. To treat such rights as unities is to mistreat them.

Takerepparttar 122365 right to life. It is a compendium of no less than eight distinct rights:repparttar 122366 right to be brought to life,repparttar 122367 right to be born,repparttar 122368 right to have one's life maintained,repparttar 122369 right not to be killed,repparttar 122370 right to have one's life saved,repparttar 122371 right to save one's life (wrongly reduced torepparttar 122372 right to self-defence),repparttar 122373 right to terminate one's life, andrepparttar 122374 right to have one's life terminated.

None of these rights is self-evident, or unambiguous, or universal, or immutable, or automatically applicable. It is safe to say, therefore, that these rights are not primary as hitherto believed - but derivative.

The Right to be Brought to Life

In most moral systems - including all major religions and Western legal methodologies - it is life that gives rise to rights. The dead have rights only because ofrepparttar 122375 existence ofrepparttar 122376 living. Where there is no life - there are no rights. Stones have no rights (though many animists would find this statement abhorrent).

Hencerepparttar 122377 vitriolic debate about cloning which involves denuding an unfertilized egg of its nucleus. Is there life in an egg or a sperm cell?

That something exists, does not necessarily imply that it harbors life. Sand exists and it is inanimate. But what about things that exist and haverepparttar 122378 potential to develop life? No one disputesrepparttar 122379 existence of eggs and sperms - or their capacity to grow alive.

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