Jim Hanley at Positive Liberty is considering natural rights. He, like I, don’t think they exist. In fact, he goes even further, to say that:

I have been gently critiqued for being a materialist. I haven’t asked DAR enough questions to yet understand his critique, but I think it has to do with whether one can develop a meaning philosophical structure without importing some non-materialist concepts. Perhaps that is so. But I do believe that when we begin with a materialist understanding of our subject, homo sapiens, we can’t get to natural rights without importing, in a wholly ad hoc fashion, some non-materialist assumptions that lack a firm foundation.

and in comments elucidates:

I had indeed thought about your “patterns” argument. My response would be that I am not a nominalist. It is not the naming that makes it real, and it is debatable just how real the particular category we mean by the name is. But there are these particular animals that have real physical existence. We give the name bonobos to what we believe is a set of animals that are alike in a particular way, and do not give them name to all other animals that we do not believe are alike in that particular way. But whether or not our category accurately reflects the empirical reality of animal likeness/difference, those particular animals have material existence.Whether the categories can be counted as real or not, well, I think we run into the problem of fuzziness of language. I think categories are real because we create them, and understand them as being nothing more than our constructs. That is, the proper referent of categories is not actually to the physical world, but only to our interpretation of the physical world, and they are real referents to our interpretation. If people want to understand them as directly referent to the physical world, then I would argue that categories in that sense are not real.

In earlier essays I had noted that there is a large category of real non-materialist concepts, namely transcendental numbers. This includes a number of un-measureable unobtainable, i.e., transcendental numbers like pi, e, the golden mean and so forth. These are in fact numbers which arise both in our natural cognition about numbers and similar mathematical reasoning and also arise naturally (repeatedly) in any number of mathematical representations of material measurement. More complicated mathematical concepts such as groups, mappings, metric, manifold just as do real numbers are both non-material and are real.

The demonstration that some real non-materialist things are real is not a demonstration that all non-materialistic concepts are as well. It just shows that being a non-material does not exclude the possibility a priori that the said same thing is not real. It is however a demonstration that there are definitely non-materialistic things that are real in a stronger fashion than the categorical reality to which Mr Hanley alludes. So what one seeks is an ontological distinction serving to demarcate and separate the non-real and the real non-materialistic ideas. For it seems plausible that there are non-material non-mathematical concepts that share a similar reality to the mathematical concepts noted above.

Filed under: Mark O.

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