Reduction of Human Rights into Property Rights – The Scientific Bewilderment

Put precisely, in reductions of this type the secondary science (human rights) employs in its formulation of laws and theories a number of distinctive descriptive predicates that are not included in the basic more general theoretical terms associated with the primary science (property rights).


Reduction, is the explanation of a theory or a set of experimental laws established in one area of study, by another theory usually (though not invariably) formulated for another domain. For the sake of brevity, let’s call the set of experimental laws that is reduced to another theory the Secondary Science and the theory to which the reduction is achieved the Primary Science.

For instance, the reduction of the theory of Human Rights to the theory of Property Rights is the reduction of a secondary science to a primary science. This is the subject of interest in this essay. How does this happen?

Before I explain, it’s important to appreciate the fact that there are a handful of cases in science (for example, the application of point-mass mechanics to the motions of rigid as well as deformable bodies) where a reduction is actually a part of the normal steps in the progressive expansion of a scientific theory where serious perplexities and misunderstandings are not generated. These few cases are not the topic of discussion in this essay.

What I am interested in illustrating is the discomfort generated in the reduction of human rights into the more general theory of property rights – a primary science. There are difficulties that one encounters in reduction where as a consequence, a set of distinctive traits of “Human Rights” is assimilated into what is patently a set of quite dissimilar traits of “Property Rights.” In such a case, the distinctive characteristics of Human Rights fall into the province of a more general theory about Property that are initially designed for handling qualitatively different materials and that does not even include some of the characteristic descriptive terms of the secondary science (the human being and his rights).

In this case the primary science of property rights wipes out familiar distinctions as spurious, and appears to maintain that what are prima facie indisputably different traits of things (the Homo Sapiens as opposed to the Things he owns) are really identical. The acute sense of mystification that is thereby engendered is especially frequent when the secondary science deals with inherent, inalienable, inviolable, macroscopically imprescriptible phenomena such as Human Rights, while the primary science of Property Rights postulates a microscopic constitution (for example, that both the human and his property are made up of atoms with prices and utilities that add up to the total price and utility of the whole body) for those macroscopic realizations of Human Rights. I will supply an example to show the sort of puzzle that is generated.

Let’s assume that some person has come to understand what is meant by “temperature” exclusively in terms of manipulating a mercury thermometer. In the same way that a young philosophy student might understand the use of “Human” to be property exclusively measured by the price of its usefulness (utility). If that individual were told that there is a substance which melts at a temperature of fifteen thousand degrees, he would probably be at a loss to make sense of this statement, and he might even claim that a temperature of fifteen thousand was meaningless. In the same way that this student would be mystified that there’s some “Human” that is not property and whose price is priceless (beyond the measure of utility).

Sticking to the scientific analogy for the sake of brevity and simplicity, in support of his argument this student might maintain that since temperature can be assigned to bodies by only employing a mercury thermometer (that is, since property rights can only be assigned to something with a price) and since the thermometer is vaporized at a little over 350 degrees, the phrase “temperature of fifteen thousand degrees” has no defined sense and therefore is meaningless. In parallel, a property that is priceless is inconceivable.

However his puzzlement would be quickly removed by a little study of elementary physics. He would then discover that the word “temperature” is associated in physics with a more embracing set of rules than the rules that controlled his own use. In particular, he would learn that laboratory scientists employ the word to refer to a certain state of physical bodies, and that variations in this state are often manifested in other ways than by the volume expansion of mercury inside a glass capillary – for example, changes in the electrical resistance of a body or in the generation of electric current.

Accordingly this new student of physics, once the laws are explained that formulate the relationships between instruments such as thermocouples (used to measure changes in state of bodies called their “temperature”), the student understands how the word can be meaningfully employed in situations other than those in which a mercury thermometer is used. Much the same way that the student of philosophy would appreciate the meaning of the word “Human” in situations other than when a price or utility is attached.

The enlargement of the word’s range of application then appears no more puzzling or mysterious as “Human Rights” than does the extension of the word “length,” from its ancient meaning as fixed by using the human foot for determining lengths, to contexts in which a standard bar replaces the human organism as a measuring instrument.

Suppose however, that the layman for whom “temperature” like “Human Rights” thus acquires a more generalized meaning, such as “property rights” now pursues his study of physics into the kinetic theory of gases. Here he discovers that the temperature of a gas is the mean kinetic energy of the molecules which by hypothesis constitute the gas. This information may generate yet a fresh complexity if he’s intelligent enough, and indeed in an acute form.

On the one hand, the layman has not forgotten his earlier lesson. But on the other hand, he is also assured by some authorities he now consults, like myself, that the individual molecules of a gas cannot be said to possess a temperature, and that the meaning of the word is identical “by definition” with the meaning of the “mean kinetic energy of molecules.” In the same manner, the “Human” being cannot be said to be a kind of “property,” whose price and utility is microscopically determined upwards (price is determined by the size of utility or demand), but that the word “Human” by definition is identical to the “mean of the priceless ensemble of attributes of the Homo sapiens.”

Confronted by such apparently conflicting ideas, he may therefore find a host of typically philosophical questions both relevant and inescapable. If the meaning of “Human Rights” is indeed the same as that of “the mean of the priceless ensemble of attributes of the Homo sapiens,” what is the plain man in the street talking about when he says that human rights are inalienable?

Accordingly, when a man in the streets walks into a grocery store to pick up a box of milk at a temperature of ten degrees and learns about the “mean kinetic energy of molecules,” he may come to believe that he is confronted with a serious issue as to what is genuine “reality” and what is only “appearance.” He may then perhaps be persuaded by a traditional philosophical argument that the familiar distinctions between hot and cold (indeed the distinctions between various temperatures of different bodies as specified in terms of instrumental operations), refer to matters that are “subjective” manifestations of an underlying but mysterious physical reality as are “Human Rights.”

Or he may accept the view, supported by a different mode of reasoning, that it is temperature as defined by procedures involving the use of thermometers and other such instruments which is the genuine reality, and that the molecular energies in terms of which the kinetic theory of matter “defines” temperature are just fiction. He may accept the “Human Rights” are only defined by the general theory of price and utility, and that the “ensemble energies” in terms of which “Human Rights” are defined are just fictitious.

Alternatively, if the layman adopts a more sophisticated line of thought, he may perhaps come to regard “Human Rights” or “temperature” as an “emergent” trait, manifested at certain higher levels of the organization of life or nature, respectively, but not at the “lower levels” of physical reality (Human Rights like temperature are incapable of microscopic association with smaller divisions of matter as is “property” and its “price”); and he may then question whether the theory of inviolable, inalienable rights or the kinetic theory, which ostensibly are concerned only with those lower levels, does after all “really explain” the occurrence of emergent traits such as intrinsic “Human Rights” or temperature, respectively.

Perplexities of this sort are frequently generated by new students of science and philosophy. In such a reduction, the subject matter of the primary science (property rights) appears to be qualitatively discontinuous with the materials studied by the secondary science (human rights). Put precisely, in reductions of this type the secondary science (human rights) employs in its formulation of laws and theories a number of distinctive descriptive predicates that are not included in the basic more general theoretical terms associated with the primary science (property rights).



  1. Very impressive essay, the deduction is simple “terminologies of science” are generic, until it placed in a write context, supported by it own etymology….you will be throwing dust to the eye of the layman.

  2. Floored! Simply put another way, Human Rights are Indivisible, they do not have constituent manifestations at a lower microscopic level. On the other hand Property Rights are! Since the set of characteristics that “define” property are its Utility and hence its Price. These things are divisible – marginal utility and the unit price, hence by implication, one may speak of the constituent prices or marginal utilities that add up to the sum of the price and total utility of the said property.

    You either need to have a very deep appreciation of physics or a fair amount of humility to fully understand the nuance here. The perplexity is immense as are the differences, ostensibly, variations in the sets of “definitions” which are not insignificant. Bravo Narmer Amenuti, this made my weekend.

  3. Narmer Amenuti provides a daedal explanation for why he rejects the premise of equating or reducing Human Rights to a more general theory of Property Rights (a reductionist approach). He maintains that Human Rights are inalienable, i.e. inviolable, and that these rights are inherently endowed. This is the first installment of a series of his musing on the matter. It’s the perfect start to a wonderful discussion over the weekend. Can the human be regarded as property, even to himself, to be priced and to be judged as useful or not? Intriguing!


  4. A little learning of the hard sciences is a dangerous thing. There’s no such thing as knowing a little. You either know or don’t know.

  5. For those of us who have discussed reductionist views in science and philosophy with Narmer, we fully understand where this explanation comes from. On beat with a seminal scholar whose works we have discussed before, this explanation of the reduction of human rights to property rights mainly be Economics dilettantes, shows a grasp of the logic of science and structure. Students of philosophy and their troglodyte advisors in graduate school rarely spend time understanding the structure of science and argument. Thank you Narmer, for wading into and bringing clarity to an otherwise perturbed field of poor thinking about Human Rights.

  6. Narmer …I must tip my hat to you for stearing clear of your usual drivel. And although you do not understand the argument, you cannot be faulted for trying. Far better too than the talk of ma’at. Well done!!

  7. Narmer here is a small hint for you: the “right” in “Human Right” is a function of contract.

    It may be pleasing to unrigorous minds to bandy words like “sacred”, “invaluable” and “inalienable” but you and I know – (although from your incoherent article this seems doubtful) – that the lives of men are priced everyday by the market.

    If my talk if “markets” hurts your school-girlish feelings I refer you to the pre-colonial “ounce trade” in West Africa.

    Romantics dally in silly talk of “inalienable rights” — those of us who eschew romance look at demonstrated behaviour and preference.

    • I understand you Haille. Your view of market forces determining the price of the Human is as childish as the new student of physics who cannot comprehend the meaning of a fifteen thousand rise in temperature. Of course, like you, he uses the mercury thermometer just as you use the artificial events of market forces to compute the price of a Human Being.

  8. Narmer … I will let the error you commit vis that analogy stand. I still find it amusing. It’s the price you pay for running articles with friends who always agree with you.


  9. You haven’t shown the error in the analogy yet. I am still listening. Never mind my dear friends, we disagree vehemently on many things as we agree on many! How would you know?

  10. I guess for some pseudo Africans, If an article or idea is not penned by their favorite slave masters, it is not worthy of serious contemplation.

  11. I’ll always put Narmer ahead of Locke, Kant, Hobbes and all those neandetals. Simply cos though the latter two do not posses the expertise on what happens outside their small European snow mountains, they make propositions about the world in general and the so called smart people continue consuming them unquestionably. Narmer on the other hand transcends beyond cultures, continents and and all sorts of boundaries commanding European languages with complicated African limguistic upbringing. Logic and experience, which are fundaments of good education and sanity dictates in this case that Narmer’s thoughts should dictate how we live life and not those dead and gone illiterates. So I’ll always value Narmer’s propositions.

  12. Audu Salisu, you say something that few care to appreciate. But in time they will. You and G Kofi Mude have shown how we must begin to appreciate our own – by doing so we give the power to self for our own appreciation of our own minds and ways of thought. Thank you. Let the dead men of Europe forever lay dead in Europe, together with their divisive illogical minds.

    • Thank you Dade, the discourse on Facebook has really enriched my thoughts.
      Like you said, we must appreciate the ideas of fellow compatriots garnered from the vast and varied experiences we have all acquired as thoroughbred Africans!

  13. In Russia, they call people like Mr Lemar 5’th column neoliberals. They are destined to remain at the peripheral of African intellectual thought.

  14. Which came first: the human or the market? It seems that property rights could not be an essential aspect of the human if the latter predates the former.

  15. Abena …. Had narmer been paying serious attention to the theory he attempts and consequently fails utterly to criticise he might have remembered the gist of it (I enumerated it clearly the other day).

    However because you have asked a question i will respond:

    First the issue under debate is not which came first. But it is almost certain that the concept of property antedates the emergence of homo sapien. Because animals often defend their patches in nature.

    The question that needs to be asked is:

    “what, if any, are the conditions of necessity for property to emerge?”.

    The answer is scarcity.

    Given a superabundance of food, natural resources and time men would have no need for property.

    When men say that they have human rights what they mean in practice is that they wish to exercise exclusive ownership over their bodies and those things that (or which) are an extension of their bodies — e.g. the products of their labour.

    Men exercise property in their bodies partly to delimit the possibility of conflict (this by the way is the functiknal purpose of property) and partly because any action that involves the use of rational persuasion and/or argumentation presupposes exclusive ownership over ones body. (Note that this argument cannot be criticised without contradiction)

    Property is thus, the thing which an organism defends.

  16. What I have presented above is but a summary. I am off to the club. I invite careful criticism (I am aware of the defects of my presentation non of which narmer has come even close to uncovering). If your criticism is good and focused I will elaborate and respond.

  17. I remember a Korean colleague I being booed in class when we proposed that there is a fundamental problem with the notion of promoting scarcity in the face of abundance of resources–in which we saw the only benefit being power for those create the perceived scarcity. This perceived scarcity is simply just an idea that does not reflect the environmental conditions. This is also where African and Asian forms of rights perceptions prevail because they are communal and collective, which is tune with the environmental conditions. For instance in our tribal areas of the north east of Ghana, leaving someone alone to do harm to themselves is an abuse of their rights, so I’ve once seen a Chinese official also argue at a UN discussion session. However, the reverse will be the case in the west–based on perceived individual rights. That is, the idea of creating a perceived scarcity to promote alienation and exclusivity in essence, is a crime against human rights.

  18. First I need to clarify one main point. One cannot speak of Scarcity without talking about Hoarding. One cannot speak of Scarcity without the idea of Wealth (Gluttony, really). Agaliba, note that this self-implicating dichotomy, which I think you comprehend, although I haven’t yet seen you show that you do, but which I propose to you any way, cannot be criticized without contradiction.

    You cannot speak of matter without a thorough understanding of anti-matter. You cannot talk about the “Presence” of a thing without the incumbent idea of the “Absence” of that thing. You, and the kind of philosophy you read ascribe to speaking of the world only in terms of Scarcity, while you use the idea of scarcity in the pursuit of “Wealth.” Although that wealth that Scarcity purports to create is already manifested in the “Abundance” attendant on the idea of Scarcity a priori. It is already there for the civilized mind to appreciate. African philosophy stands in contradistinction from that of the west.

    Audu Salisu then is correct, 100 percent. This perceived dichotomous framework of Scarcity-Gluttony is different from the ideas of the “emergent” traits of the collective or the macroscopic characteristics of the whole (the interplay between Abundance-Scarcity, not the artificial creation of one from the other) – which is where Human Rights live.

    I gather that Agaliba really struggles with the hard sciences here. You haven’t answered Abena’s question neither. You did a poor job skirting it by introducing your lame understanding of evolutionary science. In Africa there’s such a thing as Animal Rights, the west is only yet warming up to it. In Africa there’s such a thing as the rights of the Forest or the River, and the environmentalists in the west are now only slowly warming up to its superior intelligence. Do not conflate what can be owned with what cannot be owned – those priceless, inalienable, inviolable rights of the Human, the River, the Ocean, etc.

    • What a beating you deliver to Agaliba sometimes and he still wakes up… Agaliba is the Periplaneta Americana, a coackroach that just can’t die.

    • Narmer … So if I said that the Galapagos Giant Tortoise is scarce I would have to talk about hoarding? Where did you acquire this gutter logic ?

    • U see, again, this another arrogance u learnt from the west, which you can’t even exercise very well. Who gave you a particular number that there must be of tortoise on this earth for you to claim scarcity in the first place? And please don’t give me the conservationist crap because I will ask you who gave them the numbers they think there must be for scarcity to be real.

  19. Someone wants us to understand how white people imagine the world. Narmer says, No! They are wrong, and that no one needs to see the world in terms of property to be amassed and profited from. That there are certain inalienable rights intrinsic to sheer existence. If you didn’t make it, you can’t say you own it. You didn’t make yourself, you cannot own yourself. And the west says, what??? African and Asia my friend Audu Salisu present a dilemma to the folks from the Alps.

  20. Without Human Rights, how can we own ourselves? With the ideas of property rights, our parents will always own us – since we are the products of their pleasurous work.

    • Solomon …. if you are not your own man, whose pet are you?

      Your second question strikes me as the most interesting.

      What did I say?

      I said that when men speak of human rights they mean only that

      (a) they wish to exercise exclusive ownership over their bodies; and

      (b) those things that (or which) are an extension of their bodies — e.g. the products of their labour.

      Property in this sense has two functions: first it is a pragmatic means of reducing/eliminating conflicts (ie or competing claims to bodiess/scarce resources); second, it serves as one of the basis of law (ie the norms of cooperation).

      A child does indeed belong to its parents until it is no longer a child — until it is able to defend itself.

  21. Solomon Azumah-Gomez, that’s exactly where this crazy ideology of property leads. Soon, when babies can be made out of artificial wombs, they will become the properties of a Plantation Owner in America or Agalibaland.

  22. Narmer Amenuti u made a statement, which to me proves ur think is advanced beyond Agaliba’s. U said “you can’t speak of scarcity without talking about hoarding”. This means logic dictates ur education and not theories from the Alps. You see, this is where people like Agaliba are taken for a spin. Think of what cartels do. The OPEC for instance is fictious scarcity creating organisation in the abundance of oil. The means by which they do so, being solely in control of the west, which is currency. If we will understand and use it the way you just did, only the Saudis, Russians, Venezuelans, would be able to create scarcity because they have it to hoard. Now when you make a statement like that, it means u have pushed away the fiction of scarcity they create in the abudance of resources except real scarcity by those who have to hoard. That means with your connection of scarcity and hoarding, the dollar as a means of scarcity manipulation become senseless. You see? If I tell Agalibsa that you are better Locke and Hobbes he refuses to believe me.

    • So if I said that Galapagos Giant Tortoise is scarce I would have to talk about hoarding? Where from this gutter logic? Did you learn it in north Korea?

      To say that a thing, X, is scarce is to make a synthetic proposition/statement about that thing.

    • At least north Korea can produce and launch their own satellites and rockets while Hobbs and Locke quoting African intellectuals can hardly repair bikes or find innovative ways to help Africa advance. I guess since Locke and Hobbs did not give a blueprint for African development, these African intellectuals who swear by them are at a loss as to how to help Africa advance.

  23. There is an interesting paper in petroleum chemistry published by the Russian and Ukrainian Academy of sciences which shows that there oil is not produced by organic decomposition as taught in western science but is rather continously produced through chemical and geological procces underground. But western science creates the notion of scarcity of oil upon which OPEC and the western oil majors act to control the market. I can share the paper. But I guess Mr Lemar -Agaliba will dismiss it since it is counter to what his intellectual gods claim.

  24. Ok I have to ask you this, Lemar: have u created another FB account and u r using it in parallel to like your own comments? This kwodzo Nyamba account consistently likes everything u say even before they are read.

  25. My old account is blocked — out of my control. Too many false reports. Kwadwo is a well known analyst of some repute. Very very objective quant.

  26. t is interesting though that you think I need the likes. I am a philosopher with a hammer. My role is to destroy shabby thinking.

  27. The Chinese best said it when they defined Philosophy as Reflection about life. Western philosophy is reflection about western life and not universal. African philosophy is reflection about African life. Hegel, Hobbs and Locke and co have no relevance to Africa. I care less about what their ideas are. I find their thinking shabby to my African mind.

  28. Scarcity of Galapagos Giant Tortoise? What does it mean for the layman or the new student of philosophy to say that the giant tortoise is scarce? I will quickly answer: Nothing! He has said nothing.

    My dear friend Audu, I hope M. Agaliba is not confused about the near extinction of the tortoise off the coasts of Tanzania and Ecuador by human actions.

    Scarcity hence is the straw-man’s theory to go into someone else’s country. I will explain this later but I feel that Nefetiti did a wonder job of it already. Find the link below.

    So let me make a quick point. What do we mean when we speak of the scarcity of the giant tortoise in the coniferous forests of Europe? I will give you the answer again: Nothing!

    On the Moon, there are no apples and oranges, even to begin with, let alone to then talk about scarcity at a later time. In Europe then, there are no lions, but one can create scarcity by coming to Africa, stealing lions and putting them in zoos across Europe, and then pointing to them and say, “look, lions are scarce.” Of course in Europe.

    Scarcity then provides the straw-man’s theory to go into Africa to colonize her, to exploit her, to brutalize her, to loot from her, and to enslave her. Scarcity is the uncivilized man’s ideology – this man who cannot sustain himself amply in his own environment. Scarcity is why Europe must come to Africa.

    Scarcity is why the world is being polluted. Since the industrialist must say, cooking pots are scarce in order that he might yet make pots out of steel, aluminum and iron, mined from African soils. Thereby polluting the waters in Ghana.

    What does it mean when the layman who just signed up for my introduction to philosophy class says Oranges are scarce in Sweden? I will tell you the answer again. Nothing!

    Then this layman would ask me why? Why because I could say that about an infinite number of things. I could say X is scarce. What is X? Anything I want to sell to you, and at a price! Hence the reason why Scarcity is so important to the European way of thinking – the barbaric uncivilized way of thinking about life and existence. They cannot seem to become civilized enough to sustain themselves in their coniferous forests hence they must create Scarcity like my dear friend Jonathan has elaborated.

    When one can make such a general statement, such as Scarcity, then one can make that statement about an infinite number of things that are not found in any given location. Only, one has said absolutely nothing! It’s not even a theory – it’s a scheme! It’s the same as saying, mangoes grow in Ghana, and since they don’t grow here in Sweden, let’s go to Ghana and get it, by persuasion or by force.

    This in essence underpins the thinking of the elites of European philosophy. They need to create Scarcity in order that they can be relevant. It’s a narcissistic ideology at its very core.

    Just look at the race to the Moon. One would think it was for a sole scientific endeavor. It’s not! It’s not that esthetic. It’s not for art! It’s only to find something on the Moon, innate to the Moon, and come back to Earth to create a Scarcity here on Earth. It’s lazy, it’s uncivilized, and hell, it’s even monstrous.

    But you see, until that happens, that thing X, which they will one day find on the Moon, is not here on Earth yet. One cannot speak of the scarcity of X until they have brought X here to Mother Earth. Scarcity then is a creation for economic imperialism.

    • Can you make a sense of his rant? — I can’t . KKB a statement that X is scarce is purely a synthetic a posteriori
      statement or proposition about X and it’relation to other objects. Nothing more. Nothing less. I find it irritating to lectured to by one who has absorbed primary school logic.

  29. Hmmmm I just wake up from my X-work to witness such a magnificent debate on FB platform. Alot of key issues has been addressed, the debate define to me clearly one Party seeking to review and re-construct African philosophy to it right perspective and another seeking to debunk and establish western philosophy which is declared standard and universal as a measure to drive it argument.

    That is a superb work done. Let visit the work of “Scarcity” as a scientific construct to appeal to the logic sense of both fraction. Because I remember I was questioned earlier but never had time to reply because there were alot of papers to mark.

    We first of all should come to consensus that every science “word”employed has been generic as earlier stated, and it has it own etymology and would engage you to do few reading thereof to complement my brief response

    “Scarcity” as a theory was hypothetical defined as any resources needed for utilisation but the effort to attain such resource X, increases either in linear or an exponential value, could be classified as “scarce” per economic measurement for easy calculation not much purpose to philosophizing as it mean to an economist.

    Hence in my observation from the debate trends non of the scholars herein debunk the existence of “scarcity” but the concern is it morality, either it artificially created or natural occurrence, if I am right?

    My worried by both parties is the authority to apply such words emphatically without including it conditional terms for successful application or the default of such “word” adopted in the real world per any condition. which is a necessity of a good scientists, driving an empirical argument.

    Conditional Scenario 1.

    Assuming I leave in Y-town, buy 5 bread to feed my family every morning and on the Tuesday of that week, comb through the whole town to search for bread only to get 2 but even have to plead and pay for a high price to attain only this instance and a purpose of economic calculations “scarcity” has set in.
    Such scarcity could not be defined simply as immoral or imperialist lacking a rational analysis to measure factors that contribute to such an “act”.

    So my worried of most of such conceptual analysis stated herein is to over narrate the circumstance through an emotional paradigm, undermining X and Y factors that define the theory in context. Such makes the argument unscientific and classified as a poem.

    • Tweneboah try to be specific in your criticism. You are a PhD for Christ’s sake. I am not afraid of biting even harsh ratio-scientific criticism because I feed on such criticism.

  30. Haille wrote

    ” the ‘right’ in human right is a function of contract……..that the lives of men are priced everyday by the market”.

    This is complete malarkey. Rights are deemed rights simply because they are not conferred on individuals by other individuals otherwise they would be privileges. The market NEVER prices LIVES. I had this discussion with an American Republican in the past and I showed him the error of his ways. The market prices economic transactions, PERIOD. This American tried to prove his point by alluding to life insurance as an example. He claimed that the benefit paid out to the beneficiary was the price on the life of the insurance holder. Really? I thought the amount paid out was a function of the size of the premiums paid by the insurance holder while he was alive. The premiums and the promise to pay a lump sum benefit in the event of the death of the holder is merely an economic transaction if it were a price on the life of the person then HOW come SUICIDE is invariably stated to be a cause of death NOT covered by life insurance? If the insurance is a price on the life of the person then does it matter how that life dies?

    The market prices ,as far as humans are concerned , HUMAN CAPITAL NOT HUMAN LIFE. Human capital is the value the human life brings to bear on economic transactions. Just being alive is not sufficient to receive the attention of the market, you have to bring economic value to the table and it is that value that the market prices. This is common economics.

    • Atiga Jonas Atingdui … You are very disingenious. It is surprising to read such talk from you, a man, from Paga, where they sold slaves of old. Go to Mauritania today, where they sell and buy men like cattle, go there and ask the price of slaves.

    • Haille the sale of slaves is not the sale of lives but labor and their liberty. If it was life they were buying then how come cripples or people with mental retardation don’t get sold?

  31. Suicides are merely excluded contractually. Don’t be silly. You are not even making sense. A slave is merely a “living person who is the legal property of another”

    It is a contradiction in terms to be slave and not be alive.

  32. Atiga Jonas Atingdui, I remember Hails…. starting with that style of philosophizing under the earlier debate, I questioned him of the default in that line of conceptualisation. But who am I to control his intellectual direction only to suggest as a liberalist.

  33. I’m not even going to dwell on African vs Western concept of human rights. I don’t really know what they are. I’m going to default to logic and reasoning. When we say human rights, what are we really talking about? I believe we can sum it up in the “right to life,” since it appears that every other right is applied in the service of the right to life e.g. speech, education, freedom. When people say property rights, what are they saying in essence? I think they are referring to resources outside of themselves (life) that is directed to the sustenance of the self (life). Now, it may appear tautological to make the claim that “I own my life; my life is therefore mine…it’s my property.” Tautological because the “I” doesn’t have an independent existence outside of “life”… but you get the point. So in one frame of thought, life itself could be construed as property; in another frame, the conceptualization of life as property is abundantly sacrilegious. Caveat: life as property needn’t imply that life is tradable like every other commodity, although there wouldn’t be anything objectively wrong with a society that allows its members to trade their lives/themselves on the open market freely. The most you could say is that such a society wouldn’t be primed for survival.

  34. I posit that the latter view, “life as property” is perhaps sacrilegious due to the negative connotation that property has with colonialism, dehumanization, plunder and slavery championed on a large scale by Europeans against other groups. In the colonial paradigm, the life of the non-white was less in value to that of a white. The white person therefore forced the nonwhites to apply their life (labor) to the service and gluttonous sustenance of his life. With that unscientific worldview on the races, the nonwhite therefore transformed into a property with a price tag on it. With this history, it’s understandable that the oppressed community may not take kindly to the word property rights in terms of human rights. Question is, devoid of this history, would we think any differently? I honestly don’t know. What I know is that human rights or more specifically the right to life is premised on the implicit assumption that everyone has the right to apply environmental resources (properties) to sustain their lives. This means that, a) life and the means to sustaining life (properties) are intrinsically linked b) if you deny a person the right to property (in the case of Native Americans for instance), you’re in essence denying them their basic human right to exist. In a way, one can argue that “human rights” or the right to life, is just a fancy or perhaps a “spiritual” way of saying “property rights.” Therefore, “don’t take away my life,” boils down to a) don’t literally kill me and b) don’t deprive me of the means to sustaining my life–by denying me the right to property. Now, the ownership of the said property, whether communal or individual, must not be factored into the equation as yet because it’s irrelevant. Could anyone construct a paradigm where human rights makes sense in and of itself outside of property rights? I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this.

  35. Kwame E. Bidi you seem to use life and labor interchangeably and in so doing you are mixing up two things that we actually seek to distinguish for purposes of this discussion. In what way can a life be traded?

  36. Dwell on the substance. Does the slave have right to life? I don’t think so. Ownership of a human being is same as ownership of human life. If you can’t dispose of your personal property at will, then you don’t truly own it. That’s how I understand it. But that’s not the crust of my submission at all.

    • Kwame … It is possible for a slave to have a right to life if that right it recognised contractually. Take the Historic case of “indentured slaves” or poens who worked the farms of their masters for set years and then gained their freedom. Poens and certainly indentures slaves/labourers could not be killed by their masters.

    • I agree. We can then go back to look at word usage and context since ‘slave’ can be ambiguous.

  37. Kwame E. Bidi and Haille the ‘sacredness’ of life is derived from its unique feature. Locke and co suggested that one claims ownership over a property once one’s labor has been mixed with resources to produce the product or property. That which we don’t make we don’t own EXCEPT through force and that is illegitimate. It is from this premise that life is sacred and not owned since no one made it. Even parents can’t claim ownership of the life, and since no one owns it then it is free right from birth.

    • So, according to your reading of said philosohes, a child who does not produce his wealth but attains it through inheritance has acquired it “forcibly” and illegitimately?

      You should read your political philosophy carefully.

      Of course, I take it for granted that you also realise (as you seem to be agreeing with “Locke and co”) – that according to your reading involuntary transfers (ie taxation, socialism, redistribution of welfare) are illegitimate?

    • Haille really? Why would you claim an inheritance as illegitimate? If my father or relative or friend bequeaths to me property that he acquired legitimately then he owns it and can transfer what he owns to somebody else. I suspect you know this already but just wanted to be mischievous.

  38. Haille I believe I mentioned the unique feature in my last post. Life like land wasn’t made by any individual so who owns it? If we are to go by Locke’s Labor Theory of Property then who owns land and life? Don’t you have to own something in order to sell it?

    • Jonas … Compare your view to mine:

      “When men say that they have human rights what they mean in practice is that they wish to exercise exclusive ownership over their bodies and those things that (or which) are an extension of their bodies — e.g. the products of their labour.

      Men exercise property in their bodies partly to delimit the possibility of conflict (this by the way is the functional purpose of property) and partly because any action that involves the use of rational persuasion and/or argumentation presupposes exclusive ownership over ones body. (Note that this argument cannot be criticised without contradiction)”

    • Jonas try to use the “reply” toggle beneath comments. I type on a very small phone which is a pain to negotiate.

      However …. It is interesting to me that you mention “Locke and co”. Have I at any point stated that i am defending Lockes Labour Theory of Property?

      Atiga Jonas Atingdui if your mum and dad did not make you, who did?

    • I get your point Haille, I am however proffering an alternative viewpoint that uses Locke’s own definition to argue that some appropriation of property or humans is illegitimate.

      You may not have mentioned Locke but the Libertarian views you espouse bear some resemblance to his views.

      Did my mum and dad invent the method of reproduction? I guess they produced their own sperm and ovary as well as the whole reproductive process? Trust me if my parents invented the process they would have patented it and been trillionaires by now

  39. What is a Synthetic Statement. Another silly way of saying, let’s discuss something because I said, “let’s discuss something.” Who makes this nonsense up?

    “A statement that X is scarce is purely a synthetic statement or proposition about X and it’relation to other objects.” ~ Agaliba.

    Agaliba never makes the connection that X’s relation to other objects must be defined a prior, and agreed upon. Then X’s meaning or implication becomes a thing by definition. So Agaliba has said nothing!

    So if I say:

    All Bachelors are unhappy. (This is a synthetic statement/proposition).

    In the hard science, we will throw you out for making a silly statement like this – it serves never to advance knowledge. Another term we use for synthetic statements is “Hypothesis”. But Agaliba cannot know anything about Hypotheses.

    Synthetic statements have no value whatsoever until they are proven to be true using Science. Philosophers talk. In science we prove stuff. The difference is not insignificant. I thought Agaliba was from Ghana? I thought he may have had a couple of years of hihh school training in Maths and Science. But this contraption he borrows from word-smiths in Europe is particularly silly.

    Agaliba, here’s another synthetic statement for you:

    “Big foot people have big dicks.” (Another synthetic statement people discuss on relationship blogs. Go ahead, let’s talk about it.)

    Do you want to discuss that synthetic statement? Sheer nonsense really when people use terms they have no idea bout. Kindergarten logic, nursery understanding of science and grade school musings on a purely English language devoid of any reason.

  40. Atiga Jonas Atingdui: I think the statement, “life is sacred,” sounds very elegant, spiritual and deep but isn’t it simply homo-sapiens obeying the primary instinct of self and species preservation? The tilapia has life too, but humans don’t go about pronouncing the sacredness of the life of tilapia. We kill, eat, and feed them to our favorite species such as dogs. Don’t tell me human life is particularly sacred by virtue of intelligence. That’s opening a pandora box. My point is that any society at all can choose whatever meaning and value they wish to accord to human rights or life. There’s no science to it. The most you could say is that worldview “A” is more efficient at promoting self-and species preservation than worldview “C.” But ultimately there’s nothing inherently true or false about any particular worldview outside of the goal to which they or we define and put it to. To say “life is sacred” isn’t any different than saying “Mohammed/Jesus is a holy man.” Well, to person/society “A,” that statement is utterly ridiculous and useless and that’s totally fine–except that in the real world, power ensures that person/community “A” suffers existential nightmare for harboring such a worldview. Note however that coercion isn’t the truth yardstick. When a critical mass of people begin to see the world in a particular way, there’s often real life consequence for those who don’t. Normally, the consequence then reinforces the truth/divine value of the worldview.

  41. Kwame E. Bidi When you assert that the life of the tilapia fish is also sacred yet humans don’t go about pronouncing it as sacred you are again espousing a western worldview sir. Among Africans and aboriginal peoples all life is sacred which is why when animals are killed a prayer is usually said over the dead animal. So the notion that we distinguish between human life and animal life is true only in relation to the western dichotomy of life. I am not defending or representing that worldview.
    The issue that I want to ascertain is what gives us as humans the confidence or right to proclaim that we own anything on this earth? Using Locke’s own concept of labor theory of property we can see that the African worldview, to me, makes more sense. This is why we only hold things in custody for the next generation because if we really want to get down to specifics we have not created anything original, all our products are from pre-existing resources that we came to meet.

  42. Kwame E. Bidi, aren’t you confusing a discussion about rights with the food chain mime? This is the usual argument of the evolutionist – nothing is sacred because they all just evolved in their own merit. Nothing is therefore “sacred” because there’s no God.

    When we speak of “sacredness” we are not speaking of the God ordained attribute alone. This is a part. But a functional part of the argument is that the fish is “sacred” because the “extinction” of the fish can cause a total collapse of the food chain. The very food chain you see as just property to be used at will.

    Hence, the fish in the Oceans, accordingly to African philosophy also have rights, and these rights must live in harmony with our Human Rights. Our Human rights must respect the fish rights, no matter that we eat fish. Simply we cannot wreak havoc on populations of fish just be’cos, the way industrial societies do. Humans have occupied the Earth for many millennia without bringing her to the brink of collapse. Industrial society, proposed by western ways of thought, with their philosophies of property have already destroyed 50 percent of the world’s species, and counting.

    Let’s keep propping them up that they are so smart. Sometimes being smart is not a matter of decorum, it’s a matter of necessity – wisdom. The planet is under stress but we keep pouting western philosophies that continue to destroy it.

  43. “My point is that any society at all can choose whatever meaning and value they wish to accord to human rights or life. There’s no science to it. The most you could say is that worldview “A” is more efficient at promoting self-and species preservation than worldview “C.” The second sentence addresses Solomon Azumah-Gomez’s legitimate concern about the existential threat posed by the extinction of fishes. So Solo, the female anopheles mosquito has life too, but the only reason why you or your ancestors didn’t pray before slapping them to death has to do with the simple and selfish idea that the mosquito posed a threat to the “sacred” HUMAN LIFE…and hence my observation that “”life [as] sacred,” sounds very elegant, spiritual and deep but isn’t it simply homo-sapiens obeying the primary instinct of self and species preservation?” I hope you and Atiga Jonas Atingdui look beyond the branches and get to the root of the selfish but survival-oriented human motivation premised on the false anthropomorphic doctrine that human life is inherently superior

    • Bidi, would you pray before defending yourself against a predator ?? This your mosquito analogy you’re using to counter the prayer after/before killing an animal specifically for food is a little shaky.

    • It’s only a counter analogy to Solo’s universal claim that “life is sacred to the African.” What he’s not realizing is that life’s sacredness ends exactly where the HUMAN life is threatened.

  44. But Kwame isn’t the very premise that humans can own part of the earth and it’s resources more human-centered? What gives you Kwame the right to own Lake volta instead of the fishes in it?

  45. Frankly, I concede that Kwame, you raised an important confrontation – Human life vs Mosquito life. Now, let’s examine how the Eurocentric ideology rooted in property science resolves the conflict. In America, scientists developed an anti-mosquito to fight disease causing mosquitoes in Brazil. In an attempt to eradicate/stop malaria in Brazil, scientists who are full of themselves, unleashed Zika carrying mosquitoes. Now, I will assert that we cannot fully know how exactly the world works.

    This leads me to the African way of thought. So what if in Africa we hit a Mosquito that wants to deposit a virus in me, dead flat? Well, this is how we manage the harmony between us. In Africa though, we don’t attempt to eradicate the Mosquito altogether since we know quite well that it’s impossible to know everything (good and bad) about the contributions of a mosquito to human life. In Europe the attempt will be, like in the case of Zika, to chase all mosquitoes into complete extinction.

    Now, if you examine the two paradigms of thought, which one values Human life way above Mosquito life – the one that calls mosquitoes to be totally eradicated or the one that only stops a mosquito if the mosquito attempts to deposit a virus in you? Of course, it’s the western one. Again, do not lose sight of the fact that the mosquito in the African way of thinking is allowed to fight back. Only it cannot. Not all the time. But if people are dying out of proportion because of mosquitoes then an African man will find a way to keep mosquitoes out from where he live, if he doesn’t succeed and the mosquito makes a grand entrance upon his blood, the Human also has the right to DEFEND himself. But the Human has no right to eradicate all mosquitoes in the same way that European arrivals in the Americas caused the extinction of many species. Africa frowns upon that.

    So I will reiterate an important point Atiga Jonas Atingdui has raised: The idea of property and the rights of property are central to the idea that Humans are above every other! Even the land they live off of. That to me is the most disturbing ideology of all.

    The African way is the scientific way however. Ask yourself, what is Science? A long studied way of life deemed to ensure the equilibrium that a thing, say a Human Being, has with another thing, say the land on which he lives.

  46. I’m really not that interested in the dichotomy between African vs European thought. As far as this discourse is concerned, I’m only resorting to logic and observable evidence. Making it Western and African only seems to provide a convenient avenue to viscerally rubbish someone’s ideas simply by invoking Westernism or Africanism. Solomon Azumah-Gomez for instance is taking too much liberty with this “African” worldview of the mosquito and the Zika, for example. I’m here rolling my eyes. In essence, you’re telling me that had my own great great grandfather had a system to completely obliterate mosquitoes and thereby save thousands of human lives, that he wouldn’t take it only because it wouldn’t fit into his afro-centric philosophical worldview. I respectfully beg ignorance of that afro-centric ideology. Atiga Jonas Atingdui is mounting John Locke’s views and conveniently smashing it with his own counter views. Well, bro, I don’t even know what Locke’s views are on this matter and I’m not interested in it. Can you forget Locke and talk to the logic of the submissions for a second? Unless someone is literally taking part of River Volta with them to the graves, whether they are saving it for the next generation or not is hardly consequential to the substance of property rights.

  47. By extension, had precolonial Africa come face to face with Ebola virus that they wouldn’t completely eliminate the virus by the logic of “unintended consequences.” I want to dine with you on this afro-centric table, but I can’t seem to swallow the balls of banku you’re throwing at me.

  48. But Kwame E. Bidi, you use a western paradigm of debate or argument, which is “truth value” but you ask me to stick not to my African way of thought in explaining away African philosophy? Which is which? Or do you honestly encourage yourself that the argument you are making is an “objective process”? No it isn’t. There’s not such a thing as “truth value” of a argument or even a statement. Truth Value is a western way of saying that there’s an already established attribute assigned to a proposition in respect of its “truth or falsehood,” which in European classical logic has only two possible values (true or false). I play no such games. I see you are learning from Agaliba well.

    You should note though that by invoking “truth value” you commit the same inescapable part of scientific inquiry by providing “a convenient avenue to viscerally rubbish someone’s ideas simply by invoking” that there’s such a thing as an unbiased inquiry. There’s none. And you should already know that. So that is utter nonsense! As much as you think you are “only resorting to logic and observable evidence,” I urge you to rather read a little into African history other than the rant about if your “great great grandfather had a system to completely obliterate mosquitoes and thereby save… .”

    The answer is yes – whatever you mean by saving lives. You want observable evidence? Africa invented various kinds of poisons in precolonial Africa. My great great grandfather didn’t say we should spray the poison over the Volta Lake since the Mosquitoes breed there! No one did. But in the twentieth century, this was actually done using western acquired forms of thought. DDT was sprayed over water bodies around the world to eradicate the eggs of mosquitoes. Who is sane and who’s insane? Who is saving lives? My great great grandfather or the puppet masters of western science?

    Again, on this other hand, since you yourself have said that you have no idea what African philosophy is or might be, and it seems that you lack the training to know or appreciate it, I urge you to stick to your western “truth value” while I stick to my “observable science” while we debate philosophy. Never did I say you must see it my way. But the idea of “truth value” is a childish over-exuberance about wanting everyone to stop thinking they way they do, and think the way that you do, your way (true) or no way (false)! Pardon me. Come again!

  49. First, I don’t even know what this whole thing with “truth value” is but thanks for attributing it to me anyway. It’s really tiring engaging in a discourse with your style. If someone challenges your proposition based on what would come naturally to a reasonable person, all you do for a response is, “well, you’re challenging me using Western thought, therefore your thought is invalid.” Your assertion that given the know-how, an African philosophical worldview wouldn’t permit mosquitoes or deadly snakes or Ebola virus to be wiped out completely due to unintended consequence is really fantastic. I’m pretty certain that’s just you making things up as you go.

  50. But you are not? How pecksniffian? What mummery! You come to an argument heavily clad in westernisms yet when I point it out , you come sullen and oozing with emotions about “if someone challenges your proposition based on what would come naturally to a reasonable person.” Keep believing that what you think ought to come “naturally” to others. Keep believing that your way of thinking is universal.

  51. This is the point where I say thank you for at least engaging in the discourse. I personally don’t see the value in having such a long discussion but I can guarantee you that I’ll be here again next time with nothing other than logic and common reasoning tools. I hope you don’t casually invoke Westernism as a sufficient excuse for an honestly faulty logic.

  52. Kwame E. Bidi don’t exit the discussion just yet. It’s heating up now ?.

    I think you raise a valid point when you state that human rights feed into the right to life and resources to sustain my life. But doesn’t that go to the heart of what I have been suggesting all along? What is the fundamental logic or reason why my life is a right and it’s sustenance is likewise also a right? If the earth can be owned by individuals then it means benefits to it can be made exclusive which would go against someone’s right to sustain his life. If sustenance of life is a right then access to that resource that sustains life must equally be a right. But if it is a right that every life has then on what basis can we allot property rights that exclude others from using portions of land completely and infinitely? This poses a contradiction of sorts that only gets resolved using the African worldview; no one owns anything fully. We are simply borrowing and holding property in trust for the next generation who have as much right to the earth as we have today.

  53. Atiga Jonas Atingdui: I’m going to attempt a “reasonable” explanation that’s not a defense or a rejection of any established ideology be it Asian, Western or Martian so pls read with open mind. This fictional story is set in the 17th century Northern Ghana. Elder Atiga, a native of Paga, married 5 women and birthed 25 children all within 5 years. Atiga’s family land wasn’t big or fertile enough to adequately feed 30 mouths. The chief of Paga Naa Trump, had recklessly provoked a neighboring town the year before. War is certain in the coming years. Mr. Atiga didn’t want anything to do with the war. He planned to leave Paga to found his own village. By the following year after another disappointing harvest, Atiga and his family headed down south in search of bigger, more fertile lands and freedom from the impending war. Unable to afford donkeys, the Atiga family walked a perilous and unfamiliar terrains for 4 years. Eventually, they found a small lake in the middle of no where and a rather fertile patch of surrounding land, close to 95 acres–enough to sustain the family. The land was enveloped on all sides by barren soil that supported wild cactus and huge rodents. Mr. Atiga named the land after his latest daughter, Mara, who mysteriously died with together with her mom due to snake bite.

    Cont… The journey was long and dangerous. But that’s not the only casualty suffered by the family. Four children and one wife also fell ill on the journey and died. The only nearest village to Mara is Bahati, more than 105 km away. The determined family worked the land tirelessly and prospered. They built a tall fence around the 95-acre property in order to ward off the brazen rodents from destroying crops. The young Atiga boys became men and the girls, women–that’s after 15 years. The oldest boy, Daga had found a cute Bahati girl called Dokena and were due to marry the next moon. When the moon turned, the entire Atiga family walked the 105 km journey to Bahati to meet with Dokena’s family. Everything went great. When the family returned to Mara after 46 days, their village had been resettled by a random family of 10. The Atiga family of 26 (including the newly wed) was outraged. They settled at the outskirt of Mara and were prepared to fight for their land. Mr. Atiga was a reasonable man who was also quite adept at diplomacy. He put his skill to use and was able to get the strangers to surrender. He made them a sweet deal: they’ll help work the Atiga farmland and tend the 5000 cattle for 5 years in exchange for 20 acres of Maraland. Now the questions….

    A) Property rights: Does Maraland belong to Atiga and his family as their property or it belongs to everyone, including the strange settlers? B) Was the deal legitimate? Here’s the [context: The deal entered is a CONTRACT between the two families. The terms of the contract involves labor in exchange for land and access. The labor is essentially a frozen CAPITAL or money. So basically, the Atiga family sold a piece of property that 25 years ago didn’t belong to them or anyone else to the strangers. They are essentially laying exclusive right to this land] C) On his death bed, Mr. Atiga distributed the remaining lands to his 12 sons. Is this legitimate? D) Imagine that 2 sons decided to emigrate indefinitely to Bahati to pursue a different trade: Could they “sell” or “batter” their lands to the wiling strangers, or they are prohibited from selling it because as Jonas puts it, “no one owns anything fully?” I’d love to hear from you all, esp. Atiga Jonas Atingdui and Narmer Amenuti.


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