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   > There are no natural contracts.
Do not kill?

More than almost anything else, killing seems fundamental to nature as I understand nature. I would, in fact, say that "kill or be killed" is THE natural contract.

And you could argue that civilization has been one long exercise in striving to replace the contracts of nature with something better.

And I would agree with you. I like not worrying that the guy in the apartment next to me is going to rape me to death just because he can.

I'd amend that to say 'go about your activity without being killed'. For some animals (e.g. carnivores), killing is part of their activity. For humans, it's a choice on where each of us draw the line.

Oh, please. We are advanced beings with complex neocortexes that are capable of ethical reasoning. Surely we can agree on an system in which we can find solutions to our fundamental needs without resorting to killing one another.

Of course, but said system would be unnatural and artificial. Real, yes - but artificial.

I think your use of the term artificial, while apt in the sense of "not existing in non-human nature," is really banking on a series of connotations of artificial that don't apply to the non-natural sense of artificial. Artificial, for example, connotes: unnecessary, inferior to the non-artificial, superfluous, inauthentic. Your point is really something along the lines of linking an ethical system of non-killing to these connotations, which really have nothing to do with whether ethics can be found in non-human nature (which is, of course, a trivial point).

What really matters is why we should inform our thinking with how animals treat each other.

I think you're either misunderstanding or reading too much into my point, siglesias. I'm not suggesting that "kill or be killed" is a great basis for society or an ethical system. Just like with many other facts of nature, we can and often do improve on them by creating structures and constraints atop those facts we find unpleasant. However, those structures and constraits are inherently manufactured in the strictest sense of the word. Society is just a thin veneer atop a very ugly picture, and it's almost always in our best interests to keep that veneer in place. But it is, ultimately, just a veneer.

Frankly, this has little to do with the original post - I just made my original comment in response to someone saying "don't kill" is an example of a natural contract.

I just think that describing our ethical system as "artificial" is a tremendous misapplication of the term, and I think it would give most people evaluating your statement pause.

On the other hand, I do find my aversion to killing rather natural in the sense that I needn't justify too much beyond my own instinct (and, if you should know, ethics as instinct is the subject of research with promising theories[1], but I'm not even talking about that).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

There is a distinction between rights and contracts. There is a natural right to life, liberty, and property. There is not a natural right to the terms of a specific contract. This is Common Law 101.

One of the natural rights protected by the Common Law is the right to enter into contracts and have the terms of those contracts enforced in a court of law. But a contract cannot abrogate a natural right, or such contract is null and void. Thus you cannot enter into a contract to take the life of another person.

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