How Rational Self-Interest Helps to Reinforce Individual Rights

An exploration of 2 levels of superrationality


This paper introduces a method of thought by which individual rights can be propagated and sustained through the self-serving interest of the individuals involved. The novel theories outlined in this paper are developed with a practical consideration: to explain and further the idea of individual rights without invoking social-contractual or naturalistic aspects. Doing so allows this paper to refer to rights as a concept in and of itself and helps to avoid absurdities that will become apparent below.

Conceptualization of Rights

I use a simple conceptualization of an individual right in this paper. The individual right is the ability to exercise volition without fear, apprehension, interference, doubt, or undesirable consequences, whether imagined, potential, or real. In other words:

  1. The distinction between individual and group rights rests on the erroneous claim that a “group” exists as an entity that possesses both volitions to act and weakness to compulsions against action.
  2. The distinction between claim and liberty rights, or between positive and negative rights, rests on the idea that there are differences between action and inaction. Though this may be true in the realm of moral judgment, the difference is an artificial one in the realm of reality. As voluntary, sentient beings capable of exerting volitional pressure, our actions and inactions are one and the same: voluntary commands from brain to body.

The Action Axiom

I begin this analysis by introducing an axiomatic rule by which individuals should act:

Third Order Knowledge, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Let us show that knowledge of a particular thing (or event, action, occurrence, etc.) has at least three orders:

  1. If you know B will stay quiet, then you may choose between snitching and staying quiet
  1. If you know that B knows you will stay quiet, then you will stay quiet.

Applying Higher Order Knowledge to AA

In the absence of communication, human minds are not shared. Only K1 conditions exist for any pair of people in the world. This means that objectively, all we know is that we know. Suppose that you walk down the street and a firetruck speeds down the opposite direction, sirens ablaze. You stop to look. You observe that a fellow pedestrian have also stopped to look in the direction of the firetruck. A thought occurs to you: this fellow pedestrian must also be looking at the firetruck.

  1. B knows about AA, and knows that A knows it
  1. A is aware that B’s set of knowledge is identical to A’s, which contains the knowledge that other people know about AA.
  2. Thus A can safely assume that B knows that A knows.
  1. The best possible future of rights means: a future in which the rights envisioned by all who act on the basis of AA exist for all who act on the basis of AA.
  2. Conditional on: knowing that many other people are also aware of AA.

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