Summary: J. Bentham on The Declaration of Rights
J. Bentham wrote the book ?? Anarchical Fallacies ?? in 1816. P. Hayden in the book ?? The Philosophy of Human Rights ?? a fragment from Bentham on “The Declaration of Rights”. A 1791 work of the French National Assembly. Bentham is very critical of this statement. This summary consists of a foreword by Hayden on Bentham, followed by Bentham’s criticism of the statement and the first two articles thereof.
J. Bentham, Anarchical Fallacies (1816), excerpts reprinted in P. Hayden, The Philosophy of Human Rights, St. Paul: Paragon House 2001 (ISBN: 1-55778-790-5), pages 118-128.
Hayden about Bentham
Bentham is the foremost utilitarian. Strive for the greatest pleasure for the greatest number. Two primary reasons for behavior: avoiding pain and obtaining pleasure. Political theory: as much happiness as possible for as many people as possible. He rejects natural law. Rights did not arise before government but are the result of laws. Natural law is moral law and therefore harmful to society, because they eliminate unjust laws.
The French Declaration of Rights (VR) claims to cover an unlimited area, but this presents problems with truth and falsity and takes errors too far. The biggest mistake is to give a text like the VR so much governmental strength that it can judge all members, however unequal. The revolution that brought about this declaration is destroying its own future. The more abstract the rule, ie, the more general, the greater the chance of errors. At each point one should have wondered whether it was desirable to implement this point. When doubts arose about the practice, they just assumed that the law was suitable for everyone, regardless of differences and different circumstances. This made it easier to suppress opposition and the Franzen became alienated from their rights. This was the moral, nonsense and misuse of ambiguous words and phrases that could lead to major problems.
The first article is false and ambiguous. People are not born free and do not remain free. People (and humanity) depend on parents at birth and later on their own actions. People are not free at all; so many are born slaves, yet they are free? Free by the laws of nature, slave by human laws. People are also not equal in rights. Look at the legacy of the poorest and richest families, clear inequality. Heredity and inheritance rights etc. are unequal worldwide, not only in France, so people are not equal in rights at birth and will not get that equality for the time being. Moreover, equality is not permanent either. Think of the master and apprentice, the shop assistant and the customer. There are no equal rights. All these inaccuracies follow from the first article.
Article 2 also consists of dangerous nonsense. It claims the existence of untouchable rights. That those rights exist prior to government or law. That governments only exist through agreements of the participants. This is all incorrect. It is a figurative article and as soon as a concrete explanation of the article is requested, dangerous mistakes arise that can lead to wrongdoing. We know from experience that a government comes before the law and the law comes before the rights of the people. The desire for a right does not immediately mean that the right exists. Natural rights are pure nonsense and lead nowhere at all. In order to assess a law as useful or useless, it must be examined per law whether it should be correct, amended or removed. Not with hundreds of other laws in such a general script as the VR. These inviolable rights continue to motivate rebellion against the law. Anti-legal rights and the idea of that is bad. The implementation is not so much wrong, but deliberately misusing vague language to create a bullshit system is wrong. No real rights without real laws. Without these real rights and laws, everything collapses.