Your freedom cannot and must not clash with the freedoms of others, just as your rights cannot clash with the rights of others. Within the range of your own rights, your freedom is absolute. Thus, you cannot have the freedom to kill or to injure your neighbor, because freedom does not sanction the negation of other people’s rights. Freedom is a metaphysical and moral concept that recognizes- and is consistent with- man’s nature. Since man is a rational animal- and since rationality is a matter of choice- he must then act as a human being. Animals do not and cannot understand the concept of freedom and rights simply because they do not possess man’s conceptual faculty. Reason is only man’s tool of survival. Humans are not perceptual or non-sentient animals.
The so naive a claim that freedoms and rights are limited is a fallacy. Such a claim, in fact, is a negation of rights and freedom. There is no such thing as an inherently limited freedom or rights. There is no such thing as a “limited” freedom to think or to act. The process of thinking is an absolute. Once you translate your thoughts into action, that process – and its result- is an absolute. Once you sign a contractual agreement, that is an absolute; the signed contract is also an absolute. Every process of thought or action you make is an absolute. In reality, man cannot even consciously know how to “limit” his thought or action. What then is the point or argument of some people whenever they claim that freedoms or rights are limited? What they mean to say is that freedoms and rights ought to be limited by some external mechanism (e.g., laws, political edicts, or any government decree or legislation).
Whenever some clueless ‘intellectuals’ argue that freedoms and rights are limited, they simply want to limit your freedom to think and to act through man-made laws or political edicts. They know, deep inside or subconsciously, that once you act, that is an absolute, yet they consciously want to limit your thought and actions.
If you consciously or naively buy these kinds of crass arguments, then let me challenge you: “Just give one example of limited freedom or rights?” or “Illustrate how freedom or rights are metaphysically limited?” or “Do you mean to say “something”, which is independent of your consciousness or your own person, must be put in place to limit how you think or how you act?”
But is there any freedom to kill, to rob, to injure others? Let’s go back to the statement above, which states that “freedom is a metaphysical concept that recognizes- and is consistent with- man’s nature.” Freedom- like rights, justice, mercy, capitalism, socialism, love, respect, etc.- is an abstraction, and an abstraction is valid if it had a corresponding referent in reality.
Is there any scientific argument for the existence and validity of rights and freedom? The answer to this question is and must be in the affirmative. To claim that freedom is only an abstraction, thus it has no foundation in reality, is to argue that man perpetually lives in a malevolent universe and that reality is not objective and unknowable. Freedom is the absence of force and compulsion. It is a concept that is ONLY and OUGHT to be applicable in the human world. It cannot apply to the animal world since animals are not sentient beings. Most animals survive through the process of food chain. Animals hunt other animals for food. Food chain is a reality in the animal world. Since humans are rational beings, their most important tool of survival is their mind or reason. Man cannot survive by hunting alone. He must think or develop a method or a certain process of action to guarantee his survival without depleting his essential source of food. This is the reason why man discovered and developed agriculture and certain techniques in raising animals for food. Man cannot survive by simply accepting the harsh realities of nature. He must find ways to adjust nature to himself. Man’s use of his mind and of reason led to the discovery of philosophy, science and technology, education, economics, and a political system that is both practical and moral- capitalism. The technologies that we use and apply today to continue our survival is the very proof that philosophy and science are never opposites but mutually dependent on each other, that abstractions that have foundation in reality benefit man, and that reason is only man’s mean’s of survival.
With regard to the issue of freedom and rights, whether they are indeed limited or not, I am here to continue Ayn Rand’s untangling of David Hume’s IS-OUGHT problem. Since man IS a rational animal, he OUGHT to live according to his nature. Thus, man’s survival on earth requires the discovery and possession of certain entities that are essential to human life. These essential entities can be divided into two: material entities (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc.), and intangible/abstract entities (e.g., rights, freedom, liberty, practical economic system, etc.). It is the second that determines the availability, discovery, and abundance of the first. This means that if a society values individual freedom and rights, individuals can or may be able to guarantee and improve their chances at survival. A free society that recognizes and respects individual rights and freedom will definitely achieve economic success and peace and harmony among men. “The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do.”
Now, to answer the hanging question posed above– No, there is no such thing as a right or freedom to kill, to rob, or to injure others. There are scientific explanations to this definitive answer. They are as follows:
- Man must live according to his own nature. Thus, the alleged “right” to kill or to rob simply indicates that man is no different from non-sentient animals that do not have the conceptual faculty to understand the context of rights and freedom.
- Man requires the aid of an entity tasked with the protection of rights. In today’s language, this entity is called “government”. The only proper role of this government is to protect man’s rights and freedom, not to negate, to limit, or even to abrogate them. To fulfill this duty, a government has the power to promulgate objective laws that must be consistent with, and obedient to, man’s nature and rights. Laws that are violative of man’s nature and rights are, in reality, not laws. Anti-rights laws are a negation of the proper concept of law. That is, laws that contradict man’s nature and rights are, strictly speaking, not laws, but anti-laws. Thus, a government has the lawful, most moral duty to protect the innocent and punish the guilty of rights-violation. Can we establish an objective test for valid law in the applicable legal system? Since the answer to this question is obviously in the affirmative, what then is the objective test for the validity of law and/or legal system? To be valid and objective, laws must: 1) not contradict man’s nature; 2) not violate man’s rights and freedoms; 3) not go against the proper function of government, which is to protect rights and freedom; and 4) not negate or contradict reality.
- Rights and freedoms must not clash with each other. A man’s rights or freedoms end when other’s begin. Just as you have the freedom to guarantee your own survival, others also have the same freedom and right to defend their lives from existential harm or injury. You cannot say, “I have the freedom to kill”. If that’s the case, “others also have the freedom and right to resort to self-defense.” Based on moral law, the initiator of force must be held guilty and punished for disrespecting or violating the rights of others. A society that sanctions the use of arbitrary force is out to reduce human life to a sub-human condition.