- Nov 16, 2012--- In LandCafe@yahoogroups.com, "mattbieker" <agrarian.justice@...> wrote:
>That analogy is problematic for a number of reasons. It's entirely off-topic for this forum, but as you've brought it up I'll briefly try to explain why.
> --- In LandCafe@yahoogroups.com, "walto" <calhorn@> wrote:
> > I'm not industrious enough to point out all the instances of the genetic fallacy in Roy's comments below. I just point out that whenever one wants to suggest a new meaning for some term already in use the burden is always on him to show why such a change would be better. It doesn't matter where the current usage came from or where his new one was developed. All that is actually irrelevant.
> > W
> I don't think he's really trying to redefine "rights," so much as he is trying to present an alternate hypothesis for their basis. To follow his "memory" analogy, we all know what memories are, but science has provided a better understanding of their basis, and what they are in actual reality.
First, I'll waive all the difficulties surrounding the claim that some memory that someone has just IS a "memory trace" (some neurological feature of the brain). For the sake of argument, I'll assume that your memory of a cow in a meadow a couple of miles from the house you grew up in is simply identical to something in your brain, in spite of the fact that, leaving out politics, religion, and other valuative fields, it's hard to come up with any claims that are as controversial. The literature on it is absolutely humongous and there's nothing like a growing consensus on the matter. But, as I said, let's let that go and just assume it's right.
How was this identity shown? What was the research project that demonstrated it? There were correlations between the occurrences of various memories and memory traces of various kinds (and in various places). When traces were removed, the memories would disappear and when new memories were made, new traces were discovered. In fact, it seemed there was more than a correlation: a good case for a causal connection had been made.
The next step was to argue that parsimony required the application of Occam's Razor. We could claim that, while memories display intentionality (i.e. are OF things like cows) and pieces of grey matter don't seem to be, no explanatory power is lost by claiming an identity. The terms may not mean the same thing, but they may (like "water" and "H20" or "Cicero" and "Tully" refer to the same items anyhow. Thus, from zinging rat brains, do we finally get to the proposition that your memory of that cow is nothing but a memory trace in your head.
Now we turn to the claim that a natural right (say to some amount of land) just IS some sort of evolutionary success (or success story or something else--the claim has never been made very clearly here). What will be the analogous research program that will produce evidence of this theory?
The first and foremost obstacle to their being any such program is that, unlike in the case of memories, there is a reasonable doubt that there are any such things as natural rights to be shown to be identical to ANYTHING. Nobody doubts that there are memories of cows, but lots of people doubt that there are natural rights. So before any research program can be developed to show that what these thingies are can reasonably be asserted to be identical to some other things (or events, or values, or stories, or whatever it is exactly that Roy or anybody else is claiming that they are identical to) there must first be some demonstration that there's anything there at all? What is there identity criteria. When do we have one natural right, and when two?
Of course, there are BELIEFS in natural rights, but we're not here interested in a theory of where those came from (that's the genetic fallacy at work) or what those mental events may be identical to. Presumably the similar sort of program that we used for memories may be engaged to push the identity of beliefs with neurological processes. But our claim is not about the beliefs. Beliefs in unicorns and lollipop fairies may also succumb to that research program: but that wouldn't show that the entities to which such beliefs refer are actually in the world. That is the nature of intentionality--beliefs may be false.
Anyhow, that's enough for now. The point is, even granting the memory/memory trace identity (and that's generous), it doesn't take any claims about natural rights very far.
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