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Archive for July, 2009

Emboldened emphasis mine.

Who in today’s world would dare admit to being prejudiced? Not many. In the modern mind, to be prejudiced is to be racist, narrow-minded and backward. We are all supposed to be free-thinkers, to question everything we have been taught, to own our mind as completely as one would a home of his own construction. But this is simply not possible. No person can question everything and rethink, from first principles, all of their beliefs. Prejudice (the acceptance of inherited ideas as truth without questioning them) is a fact of human life (for both good and bad) and always will be. Why, then, do modern people insist on believing in an idea that, because it is impossible, requires intellectual dishonesty?

Dalrymple points out the real reason behind the modern popularity of the idea of the totally free-thinking individual: we don’t want any restrictions on our actions but rather complete license to do whatever we please. The modern embrace of the pure rationalism championed by the likes of Descartes and Mill is simply an excuse for a philosophical disputatiousness that rejects all authority regarding moral behavior, whether that authority is religion, history or social convention. Custom and etiquette are diminished, and society thus loses important regulators of anti-social behavior, whether it’s illegitimacy or littering. Without self-policing of one’s behavior, the law is the only force that can mediate the resulting rights conflicts, and thus it should not be surprising that the government’s power grows to the point of authoritarianism.
– “Prejudice“, The Skeptical Doctor

Oh, snap. That was a delicious summary.

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Steve @ The Skeptical Doctor presents us with an essay presenting Theodore Dalrymple’s case against healthcare as a basic human right. From what I gather, much of this is spoken of in his book An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Medicine. Something tells me that I’ll be adding this book to my library queue very soon.

Some highlights from the essay:

The first step is to dismiss out of hand the absurd idea that anyone has a right to healthcare. No one has a right to healthcare. Indeed, where could such a right come from? The increasing tendency in modern society to treat all goods, and all human desiderata, as the American Declaration of Independence treats life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is extremely foolish, for reasons I shall explain. The problem of the metaphysical origin of human rights will not go away. It should be remembered that the American Declaration of Independence asserted the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the belief that all men were created equal and that these rights were endowed upon them by their creator. In other words, the Declaration was, if not a religious, than at least a theist, document. Take away God, and the origin of the rights asserted becomes completely mysterious.
– Theodore Dalrymple, The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Medicine

It does not follow in the least, of course, that healthcare should not be available for people. The satisfaction of rights does not exhaust moral duties. A society in which the ill are well treated is better (at least in this regard, though not necessarily in others, since health is not the whole purpose of human existence) than one in which they are not. No one would want to see a society in which the ill were denied help: but this is because human kindness, decency, solidarity and sympathy demand that we succour the sick, not because the sick have rights.
– Thomas Dalrymple, The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Medicine

Hayes does not distinguish between moral responsibility and the kind of inescapable philosophical demand that requires recognition in law. For him, the choice seems to be that we either establish a legal right to healthcare or we allow the poor to die. He does not seem to believe that compassion and charity can exist even when it is not legally required.
– Steve, “A Right to Healthcare?”

Read the essay in full here.

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