Obligations vs. Rights

Nick_A

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Hi all

On the "Abortion: Three Day Grace Period" thread, Earl Wrote

Seems like Kim's point is that besides "thou shalt not kill," we should be adding the flip side "shalt-" that we should promote life and its well-being. earl

Path replied:

Exactly, earl. :) If we do nothing to support life and, through our greed and selfishness cause others to have too little to support it, we are killing indirectly. I look at the world and see processes and systems. I cannot ignore my role to play in these complex networks of individual decisions and events. I want my life, as much as possible, to support life, love, peace, and joy.

This raises the question of the balance between Obligations and Rights necessary for a healthy free society to sustain itself. The question of respect for life as seen in abortion is one thing. Yet as a whole, we must consider it in the context of how we accept the relationship between rights and obligations not only for society but also for ourselves.

Simone Weil dealt with this in her book "The need for Roots." She asserts that in order for there to be "rights" there first must be the acceptance of obligations. But if you consider our society and how it has been divided into groups, how many are demanding their rights and how many are asserting their own obligations?

Simone asserts that the appreciation of obligations is a result of a higher influence. If left to our own devices, we become governed by power and force.

I believe we have an obligation to help the less fortunate and all those in times of crisis as with hurricanes etc. But what is the obligation for all people to help themselves? It does seem that this is abused from the natural tendency to demand rights.

Simone suggests that we cannot feel the right balance if we are not open to grace from above. Having become so secular, do you believe our society could ever develop a healthy relationship between rights and obligations? What do you think?

Simone Weil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
What is "our society"? The US as a whole (which is composed of many, many subcutures)? Mainstream white middle class society? Who is this?

After that, then I can offer my opinion.

I will say that I think obligations and rights go hand in hand. My obligations to my brothers and sisters in the world, and to all living beings, ensure that they have what they need for their basic rights to be met.
 
What is "our society"? The US as a whole (which is composed of many, many subcutures)? Mainstream white middle class society? Who is this?

After that, then I can offer my opinion.

I will say that I think obligations and rights go hand in hand. My obligations to my brothers and sisters in the world, and to all living beings, ensure that they have what they need for their basic rights to be met.

Society as a whole includes all members within it. It is made up of many conflicting talents and interests.

It is admirable that you feel this need to help. However, what should be the attitude of those you believe are in need and of society as a whole? Does society as a whole indicate that obligations are valued over rights or that rights are valued over obligations.

President Kennedy once said ""Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." This implies valuing obligations over rights. In reality it seems to be the opposite. Could it ever change?

People valuing obligations take advantage of and are taken advantage of. The same is true of people demanding rights. Could the healthy balance ever be found? Could it ever be sustained without the help from above in the form, of grace?
 
Hi all

On the "Abortion: Three Day Grace Period" thread, Earl Wrote



Path replied:



This raises the question of the balance between Obligations and Rights necessary for a healthy free society to sustain itself. The question of respect for life as seen in abortion is one thing. Yet as a whole, we must consider it in the context of how we accept the relationship between rights and obligations not only for society but also for ourselves.

Simone Weil dealt with this in her book "The need for Roots." She asserts that in order for there to be "rights" there first must be the acceptance of obligations. But if you consider our society and how it has been divided into groups, how many are demanding their rights and how many are asserting their own obligations?

Simone asserts that the appreciation of obligations is a result of a higher influence. If left to our own devices, we become governed by power and force.

I believe we have an obligation to help the less fortunate and all those in times of crisis as with hurricanes etc. But what is the obligation for all people to help themselves? It does seem that this is abused from the natural tendency to demand rights.

Simone suggests that we cannot feel the right balance if we are not open to grace from above. Having become so secular, do you believe our society could ever develop a healthy relationship between rights and obligations? What do you think?

Simone Weil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hmmm? Put in political terms, sounds kind of like a basic Democratic vs. Republican thing. WWJV-"what would Jesus vote?" The guy would probably be too busy healing the lepers and feeding the masses while doling out spiritual comfort and encouragement to go to the polls.:D earl
 
I think the over-arching demand for rights fits in very nicely with a selfish society.

s.
 
Earl and Snoopy

The question is really on a larger scale. It isn't a matter of which politics is better but rather if a free society is capable, regardless of politics, of anything other then what we have? If left to our own devices, must we become selfish and sacrifice freedom because of what we are: our collective nature?

I agree with Simone that obligations are not something normal for secularism as a whole and as a result, we must be open to grace for it to remain free. So the question is in two parts:

1. what would a theoretical healthy balance between obligations and rights be for a person and a free society?

2. Could a society sustain this balance without grace?

Karl marx wrote that revolution is the opiate of the masses. Simone Weil retorted that revolution is the opiate of the masses. Who do you believe is closer to the truth? Must revolution invariably sink back into a different form of the same thing? Can it be any different without the help of grace?
 
I believe the usual definition of "grace" is something which is given freely and not earned. earl
 
I believe the usual definition of "grace" is something which is given freely and not earned. earl

I agree grace is given freely. We canot earn it but we can deny it and normally do. However, there are times for one reason or another that a person just receives it. This happens often with drug addiction or alcoholism where a person is freed of their addiction.

A person can also consciously strive to be open to grace through prayer and meditatation for example. Can a society promote the values by which a person can become themselves and be more open to grace?
 
My comment was intended as apolitical.

s.

I agree. You wrote:

I think the over-arching demand for rights fits in very nicely with a selfish society.
But is a selfish society all we are capable of? Could a society further the balance of obligations with rights? Can it be done without help from above.
 
So far freedom comes in little spurts at random times to small groups. Even in the midst of freedom there can be slavery. Its a rare item.
 
Society as a whole includes all members within it. It is made up of many conflicting talents and interests.

My point is-- do you mean the entirety of humanity as a whole? Or one particular society? And where are the boundaries?

It is admirable that you feel this need to help. However, what should be the attitude of those you believe are in need and of society as a whole?

I am not supposed to be concerned with other people's attitudes. I'm working on the plank in my own eye and the purpose God reveals for my own life. I am to help others no matter what their attitude is, just as Christ calls us to pray for our enemies and love boundlessly, to give even to those who steal from us.

Society as a whole cannot have an attitude as it is not a "real" entity but rather a way to describe an observable phenomenon.

Does society as a whole indicate that obligations are valued over rights or that rights are valued over obligations.

Society is not a being, so it does not indicate only one thing. This matter is contested by individuals within society. I would say that some societies exhibit trends one way or the other. But in my opinion, it is a false dichotomy- rights vs. obligations. That's what I was pointing out.

People valuing obligations take advantage of and are taken advantage of. The same is true of people demanding rights. Could the healthy balance ever be found?

I don't think it's a matter of seeking balance as much as a matter of seeing both as part of one process and operating within this knowledge. It's a transcendence of seeming opposition by understanding the two are part of one process.

Could it ever be sustained without the help from above in the form, of grace?

I don't think God comes from above, but rather from within. God is in and around us, not separate. We live by grace. We may not realize it. It is awakening that is the work of humanity. Living a good life- living a life that meets one's highest potential and God's purpose for life (and therefore optimizes one's obligations to upholding rights for all beings)- this comes from awakening to the grace already present. To me, there is no question of sustaining something without God. God is in the something we are sustaining.
 
Path

My point is-- do you mean the entirety of humanity as a whole? Or one particular society? And where are the boundaries?

All societies are wholes. The largest whole is collective man on earth. Smaller wholes existing within it such as countries. Smaller wholes exist within countries. What ever boundaries are used and form they take , the dynamics are the same.

Society as a whole cannot have an attitude as it is not a "real" entity but rather a way to describe an observable phenomenon.

Society is not a being, so it does not indicate only one thing. This matter is contested by individuals within society. I would say that some societies exhibit trends one way or the other. But in my opinion, it is a false dichotomy- rights vs. obligations. That's what I was pointing out.


Oh yes it is. Plato called it the Beast and Simone Weil describes the beast Society is not conscious so reacts to external influences just like a beast does.

"[SIZE=-1]The Great Beast is introduced in Book VI of The Republic. It represents the prejudices and passions of the masses. To please the Great Beast you call what it delights in Good, and what it dislikes Evil. In America this is called politics." Simone Weil
[/SIZE]

I don't think it's a matter of seeking balance as much as a matter of seeing both as part of one process and operating within this knowledge. It's a transcendence of seeming opposition by understanding the two are part of one process.


True, but the point is people don't understand it so rights becomes dominant and a free society cannot survive this way.

I don't think God comes from above, but rather from within. God is in and around us, not separate. We live by grace. We may not realize it. It is awakening that is the work of humanity. Living a good life- living a life that meets one's highest potential and God's purpose for life (and therefore optimizes one's obligations to upholding rights for all beings)- this comes from awakening to the grace already present. To me, there is no question of sustaining something without God. God is in the something we are sustaining.

We sustain wars. I cannot see this as an act of grace but rather blind obedience to universal laws that has become corrupt in fallen man.

If we lived by grace, everything would be different. Since we don't, everything is as it is.
 
All societies are wholes. The largest whole is collective man on earth. Smaller wholes existing within it such as countries. Smaller wholes exist within countries. What ever boundaries are used and form they take , the dynamics are the same.


Not really. As a social scientist (cultural anthropologist), some dynamics can be found at all social levels but that does not mean all societies operate the same way or that the global world system is the same thing as a local neighborhood. If everything was so simple, there wouldn't be a need for ongoing research and theory to understand it and generate better ways of acting as a collective.

Oh yes it is. Plato called it the Beast and Simone Weil describes the beast Society is not conscious so reacts to external influences just like a beast does.

I should hope we have progressed in our understanding of society since the time of Plato. No offense to Simone, but there are many, many people who work on theory about society. I am not obligated to privilege the few that you do, but rather to use scientific inquiry to understand how society functions, is structured, and so forth. Society cannot be conscious because it is a way to describe a group of individuals. A group of humans is made up of individuals who may each be conscious or not of their actions (and by conscious, I suppose you mean self-aware- as opposed to subconscious and so forth). Even conscious beings do react to external influences. We are in bodies and physical environments, so it behooves us to react to them, or we would not survive very long. Reacting to external cues is the foundation of survival of the body and humanity as a whole, as we are social creatures and we depend on group survival for individual survival. Therefore, we must react to each other so that the group has continuity.

I am not sure why or how it would be preferable to operate without response to external stimuli?

True, but the point is people don't understand it so rights becomes dominant and a free society cannot survive this way.

So we should cave to people's lack of self-awareness and operate on that level, rather than seeking to raise awareness? I'm still looking for the response to the "so what?" question. What is the practical end-point of your thought?

We sustain wars. I cannot see this as an act of grace but rather blind obedience to universal laws that has become corrupt in fallen man.
If we lived by grace, everything would be different. Since we don't, everything is as it is.

My point is that we live in grace. That we live at all is evidence, to me, of grace. That we have freedom of choice is due to grace.

What we do with it is a matter of awareness of the grace that surrounds our every moment. We war and promote inequality and hurt one another due to a lack of awareness of what we really are.

There are no universal laws of how people will behave. But there is lack of awareness that leads to a plethora of problems in our behaviors. Indeed, people are blind, sleep-walking through life.

The Kingdom of God is within us... around us... those who find awareness of it have an obligation to work toward this Kingdom. This means awakening those around them whenever possible by showing the light of God into the world. One can't fight darkness, but by turning on the light, the darkness recedes automatically. Things will become different as people awaken to this Light within and beyond them.

That is my belief.
 
Path

Not really. As a social scientist (cultural anthropologist), some dynamics can be found at all social levels but that does not mean all societies operate the same way or that the global world system is the same thing as a local neighborhood. If everything was so simple, there wouldn't be a need for ongoing research and theory to understand it and generate better ways of acting as a collective.

The form changes but the problems are still the same. Left to our own devices power and force will dominate.

When the cute blonde walks by and two guys are after her, the same problems will produce only different reactions. Its not a matter of the size of the society but rather the shape of the behind on the cute blonde. People can research it all they like but a cute behind is a cute behind.

I should hope we have progressed in our understanding of society since the time of Plato. No offense to Simone, but there are many, people who work on theory about society. I am not obligated to privilege the few that you do, but rather to use scientific inquiry to understand how society functions, is structured, and so forth. Society cannot be conscious because it is a way to describe a group of individuals. A group of humans is made up of individuals who may each be conscious or not of their actions (and by conscious, I suppose you mean self-aware- as opposed to subconscious and so forth). Even conscious beings do react to external influences. We are in bodies and physical environments, so it behooves us to react to them, or we would not survive very long. Reacting to external cues is the foundation of survival of the body and humanity as a whole, as we are social creatures and we depend on group survival for individual survival. Therefore, we must react to each other so that the group has continuity.

Actually it is the opposite. We have progressed in details but have lost the meaning of the big picture. Understanding society is not a question of science but rather the psychology of being we've forgotten about in favor of behaviorism which is one reason we deny our hypocrisy and prefer platitudes.

Of course conscious beings react to external influences. Consciousness is what allows a person to act rather than just react. People are always reacting to each other and are capable of both the greatest compassion and greatest atrocities. It is only the conscious influence that grace allows that can allow people to become more then creatures of only reaction.

So we should cave to people's lack of self-awareness and operate on that level, rather than seeking to raise awareness? I'm still looking for the response to the "so what?" question. What is the practical end-point of your thought?

You are presuming a choice that doesn't exist as we are.

I like Simone's description of a human being. She asserts that a human being is like a plant. Its roots should draw nourishment from a society that has as its goal the creation of individuals rather then individuality being sacrificed to society.

The leaves of the plant draws nourishment from the sun. The human being is similar in that it draws higher nourishment from God's grace making one aware of their objective meaning and purpose.

I see this as the ideal. I just doubt whether it is still possible in a technological age.

My point is that we live in grace. That we live at all is evidence, to me, of grace. That we have freedom of choice is due to grace.

What we do with it is a matter of awareness of the grace that surrounds our every moment. We war and promote inequality and hurt one another due to a lack of awareness of what we really are.

There are no universal laws of how people will behave. But there is lack of awareness that leads to a plethora of problems in our behaviors. Indeed, people are blind, sleep-walking through life.

The Kingdom of God is within us... around us... those who find awareness of it have an obligation to work toward this Kingdom. This means awakening those around them whenever possible by showing the light of God into the world. One can't fight darkness, but by turning on the light, the darkness recedes automatically. Things will become different as people awaken to this Light within and beyond them.

That is my belief.
I respect your belief but believe it to be only a dream. Our being attracts our life both individually and collectively. Society is as it is because of its collective being. IMO you assume a choice that doesn't exist. Regardless of the best intentions, the "Great Beast" follows lawful cycles in response to universal laws.

Ecclesiastes 3

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. 15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

It is very insulting for many to consider that life just happens naturally regardless of platitudes. Everything on earth follows cycles so there will always be a time for war and a time for peace. Cycles are lawful mechanical reactions. A person can only awaken to them consciously which society struggles against as it defends its cycles and self importance while encouraging what it calls the "right" reactions. It is only through consciousness that the proper balance between obligations and rights becomes established. Society frowns on it yet there is a minority striving for consciousness willing to "annoy the Great Beast" and further the conscious influences within society for its own good regardless of the Beast's growls..
 
Nick, we simply have different beliefs. You base yours more (it seems) on Weil and philosophy in general. I base mine on my own mysticism (the experience with the Spirit), a great number of thinkers from a wide variety of religions, and on social science. You may say science is useless in the domain of society, but I staunchly disagree, which is why it is my profession. You think my beliefs are a dream. I think your beliefs ignore how human beings actually operate and how society functions, as well as what the potential of humanity is and the nature of the human spirit. Neuroscience and the social sciences do have a lot to offer in learning about how the human brain works and how groups function. To ignore them is to ignore a lot of data and valid theory, which is fine until you actually try to go out and change society or improve things, or find solutions for social and environmental problems, and then you find that all that data, methodology, theory, and so forth is quite useful.

It comes back to an issue of God and relationship to humanity. I have the impression that for you, God is distant and you think humans can function "on our own," even if this results in horrible consequences.

For me, God is in my own heartbeat and in every breath I take. If I am aware of this, then my potential is limitless in those moments- I am heading toward unity with God and all beings. If I am unaware of this, the grace of God still exists and is still within me, but I do not know it, and so I act unthinkingly and without care.

I choose to believe that God can work in anyone's life as God has in mine. That a "technological age" has nothing much to do with my capacity (or another's) for unity with God and love of all beings. If God can do this in my life, why would I suppose God is incapable of it in others' lives? Why would I limit others by my assumptions of their lack of potential for salvation and awareness?

I do not seem to agree with Simone, and so for you my beliefs and experiences are invalid. I can only say that I read many people, both from religious and spiritual perspectives and from science. But I am not them, and my beliefs are based fundamentally on my own experience of God and Her work in my own life. It may be "just a dream" to someone else, but for me it is a reality I live each day. Such is the nature of things.
 
Nick, we simply have different beliefs. You base yours more (it seems) on Weil and philosophy in general. I base mine on my own mysticism (the experience with the Spirit), a great number of thinkers from a wide variety of religions, and on social science. You may say science is useless in the domain of society, but I staunchly disagree, which is why it is my profession. You think my beliefs are a dream. I think your beliefs ignore how human beings actually operate and how society functions, as well as what the potential of humanity is and the nature of the human spirit. Neuroscience and the social sciences do have a lot to offer in learning about how the human brain works and how groups function. To ignore them is to ignore a lot of data and valid theory, which is fine until you actually try to go out and change society or improve things, or find solutions for social and environmental problems, and then you find that all that data, methodology, theory, and so forth is quite useful.

It comes back to an issue of God and relationship to humanity. I have the impression that for you, God is distant and you think humans can function "on our own," even if this results in horrible consequences.

For me, God is in my own heartbeat and in every breath I take. If I am aware of this, then my potential is limitless in those moments- I am heading toward unity with God and all beings. If I am unaware of this, the grace of God still exists and is still within me, but I do not know it, and so I act unthinkingly and without care.

I choose to believe that God can work in anyone's life as God has in mine. That a "technological age" has nothing much to do with my capacity (or another's) for unity with God and love of all beings. If God can do this in my life, why would I suppose God is incapable of it in others' lives? Why would I limit others by my assumptions of their lack of potential for salvation and awareness?

I do not seem to agree with Simone, and so for you my beliefs and experiences are invalid. I can only say that I read many people, both from religious and spiritual perspectives and from science. But I am not them, and my beliefs are based fundamentally on my own experience of God and Her work in my own life. It may be "just a dream" to someone else, but for me it is a reality I live each day. Such is the nature of things.

Yes Path, we have different beliefs. I would never criticize you for trying to be a good person but I have a mind like a chess player and am drawn to understand the position.

The position in this case is why everything repeats. I've become convinced that because we are as we are, everything is as it is. It seems depressing but if that is how it is, why ignore it? Everything is as it is because it is an expression of man's collective being. I've read it explained as a pillow. You can push down on various sides which just changes another side. The pillow will always compensate for how we push it and regardless of the shape, always will be a pillow.

It is the same with Man as part of the Beast. Compassion is met with atrocity. It is part of the nature of the beast. You believe this nature can change from our volition. I assert that change is only possible with help from above that allows for the experience of a more human emotional perspective.

Yes I agree with Simone and others on this. You want to do good which is a fine thing but I also wonder why even though everything has been said over and over, history repeats itself.

Dr. Jim Grote has studied Simone and I agree with his conclusions since it is also what I've learned. It is a minority position and not politically correct but it still allows me to understand the dynamics of society and how we underestimate the role of prestige regardless of fine speeches.

Jim Grote: Prestige: Simone Weil's Theory of Social Force
 
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