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My question regards the notion of negative rights. Personally, I believe the notion of “rights” is itself a human creation, and that rights do not ultimately exist outside of this creation. Rights come from nowhere else but humans. This being the case would seem to imply that all rights would, by definition, be positive, even if means determining a right not to do something. Humans desicion-making process itself entails deciding to do, or not to do something, or allowing, or not allowing something to be done, all of which have been positively decided. What am I not understanding?

As best I can tell, you may be confusing two different senses of the word "positive." When philosophers refer to your "positive" right, as opposed to your "negative" right, they typically mean your right to have some good or service provided to you, as opposed to your right not to be interfered with in some activity. So (putting it a bit simplistically perhaps) a right to adequate health care would be a positive right, while a right to speak freely in a public park would be a negative right. But philosophers also use the word "positive" to label rights that are conferred by explicit human decrees, such as rights conferred on citizens by the decrees of legislatures or courts. The contrast is often with "natural" rights, which are supposed to be rights that we possess regardless of any human decree. You seem to be saying that all of our rights are positive rights in this second sense, which -- even if true -- wouldn't imply that all of our rights are positive rights in the first sense. A legislature or...

I'm told it's arguable that when people say, "Water is H20", what they mean is, "The stuff from around here that we call water has the molecular structure H2O." Well, what about ethical claims? When people say "Killing is wrong", do they really mean "Killing is wrong in all circumstances, times and places"? Or are they saying something more like, "According to the normal values from around here, killing is wrong"?

One might ask why people would hedge the original claim, "Water is H2O," and intend to assert only the presumably weaker claim "The stuff from around here that we call 'water' has the molecular structure H2O." Is it that they don't want to identify water with the molecule H2O but merely want to assert that water is constituted by molecules of H2O? Or is it that they want to hedge against possibilities like Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth, where what the residents call "water" is macroscopically just like H2O but is in fact identical to (or constituted by) a different molecule that Putnam abbreviates "XYZ"? Either of those reasons for hedging the original claim seems to me to be too abstruse to explain the hedging (if any) done by ordinary speakers of the language. But I can't think of a third explanation. So I'm not sure how to compare this case to the assertion "Killing is wrong" or to the hedged version, "According to the normal values around here, killing is wrong." My hunch about ordinary...

Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist. Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. Can we accept the conclusion above as valid or even fact?

The argument itself is logically valid -- indeed, formally valid. It uses only modus tollens and the rule that "P" and "~ ~ P" are equivalent, both of which are valid rules of inference. However, I think the argument is unsound -- and therefore I think it fails to establish its conclusion -- because Premise 1 is false, at least if Premise 1 is meant as a strict conditional. (I think it's also false if it's meant as a material conditional, but that's more controversial.) For excellent discussion of Premise 1, I recommend this article and this collection of essays .

Is it consistent to be a libertarian while opposing suicide on moral grounds?

I'm no expert on libertarianism in political philosophy, but I think I can answer this one: Yes. As I understand it, political libertarianism is a position concerning the legitimate power of the state. One can consistently oppose suicide on moral grounds while maintaining that the state has no business interfering with suicide. One can consistently think that, for various reasons, one morally ought not commit suicide while also thinking that the law should keep out of it. Indeed, a particularly strong distinction between "immoral" and "illegal" seems to lie at the heart of the libertarian outlook.

Why do we consider lying to be illogical even when it can produce good? I can think of many examples where lying can do more good than harm especially when its used for the benefit of others and not for selfesh gain. CAL

I'm not sure that most people consider lying to be illogical even when it can produce good. More likely they consider lying to be presumptively immoral , and they allow that the moral presumption against lying is overridden in some circumstances. Take a case of the kind you described: imagine lying to a known murderer about the (nearby) location of the next innocent person he's seeking to murder. In that case, I'd agree that the moral presumption against lying is overridden by the good of protecting the innocent person. All else being equal, one shouldn't lie. But sometimes all else isn't equal. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a famous philosopher who holds that lying is never morally okay: that the moral presumption against lying is never overridden. In fact, he argues that lying is illogical in a particular sense. I don't find his argument compelling, but you can learn more about it in this SEP entry ; see especially section 5.

If it is not immoral to shoot dead an intruder into one's house without asking questions, why would it be immoral to shoot dead an intruder into one's country?

I presume that by "an intruder into one's country" you mean an illegal immigrant rather than, say, an invading enemy soldier. Otherwise, I'd answer differently. Does one own one's country in the way in which one owns one's house? I think not, or else I own much more real estate than I thought. Moreover, an intruder into one's house can plausibly be assumed to be a serious threat to oneself. I don't think this assumption is as plausible in the case of an illegal immigrant, all else being equal.

If someone were presented the option to permanently undo a major aspect of their own life, and "rewrite history", would it be morally wrong to do this? Consider the following scenario: a person dedicates their life to an ideal such as justice or peace or any morally sound ideal such as those. They sacrifice so much of their time, energy, life, and sanity to the fulfillment of this ideal. However, due to unforeseen circumstances their actions lead to an outcome they were unsatisfied with. Would it be wrong for this hypothetical person to change their entire life to avert this terrible fate?

Before I could consider the ethics of this scenario, I'd have to satisfy myself that it's a coherent scenario. Let's call the person in question "Jane." The scenario seems to require that something like the following be true: "Jane sacrificed much of her time and energy to achieve justice, but because her sacrificial actions led to an unsatisfying outcome Jane didn't sacrifice much of her time and energy to achieve justice." I can't see how such a scenario is comprehensible enough to be assessed ethically. The question also arises whether Jane's sacrificial actions contributed so much to Jane's identity -- to who she now is -- that it's incoherent to ask what Jane's life would be like now had she not made those sacrifices: we wouldn't be asking about Jane but about a numerically different person.

There seems to be a popular form of virtual atheism where the person says: I don't believe in god, but I don't accept that 'everything is permitted.' And then they grin in an idiotic way. If 'everything is permitted' means exactly the same thing as there are no laws but man made laws, what can they mean? All laws are arbitrary unless they where given by some power from above, or if the very universe is 'good.' What else can they mean? If it is some kind of conditioned response or Freudian figure (which leads to the belief in goodness and guilt), that is ultimately based on meaningless phylogenetic antecedents. So if someone says that don't they just mean they don't like to admit morals are meaningless or radically arbitrary? Perhaps because they are confused.

You seem to be arguing for this claim: Atheism implies that everything is morally permissible. In the view of many philosophers, myself included, that claim is false. These philosophers argue that objective truths about moral right and wrong not only needn't be God-made (or man-made) but couldn't be God-made (or man-made). I recommend reading Wes Morriston, "God and the Ontological Foundation of Morality," and Erik J. Wielenberg, "In Defense of Non-Natural, Non-Theistic Moral Realism" . On the issue of whether all laws require a lawgiver, please see my response to Question 5619 .