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Friday, January 16, 2004

Fictional Foundations

The three primary means of justifying the foundations of political society each have great attractions. Natural Rights appeal to our intuition that morality should be absolute, and not situational or ad hoc. Utilitarianism seems demanded by the most plausible spiritual doctrines. The Golden Rule is compelling in its simplicity, universality of application, and correspondence with our intuitions.
But they all fail because they are each based on fiction. Natural Rights are based on the fiction that rights exist in nature. Utilitarianism is based on the fiction that all life is interconnected, or that the universe itself has wants or needs. The Social Contract is based on the fiction that society has agreed to a contract.
Rather than fictional foundations for our theories, we want factual, or at least truthful, foundations. To do this, we must first determine what the foundation of political society actually is. Once we know what it is, then we can determine what principles ought to govern it.

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