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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13598/argumentation-and-self-ownership/

Argumentation and Self-Ownership

August 17, 2010 by

In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you must accept that each of you owns yourself. Rejecting private property, then, is tantamount to rejecting the possibility of rational argument. FULL ARTICLE by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

{ 138 comments }

Kerem Tibuk August 17, 2010 at 8:52 am

“However, the position of property titles being acquired through declaration is incompatible with the above-justified nonaggression principle regarding bodies. For one thing, if one could indeed appropriate property by decree, this would imply that it would also be possible for one to simply declare another person’s body to be one’s own. Clearly enough, this would conflict with the ruling of the nonaggression principle, which makes a sharp distinction between one’s own body and the body of another person.”

Wow, do you mean that we need the “Lockean Proviso” against the argument for slavery?

This must be news to Kinsella and Tucker.

Allen Weingarten August 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

This is another fine article by Robert Murphy, as it gets to the philosophical basics. Opposition to the principle of nonaggression is contradictory in its premises, precluding survivability and feasibility.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm

This was written by Hans-Hermann Hoppe, not Robert Murphy.

Jonathan M. F. Catalán August 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm

My problem with Hoppe’s property right ethics goes farther than this, but this passage strikes me as absurd,

For one thing, if one could indeed appropriate property by decree, this would imply that it would also be possible for one to simply declare another person’s body to be one’s own.

Is it not possible to do so? Have human beings not enslaved other human beings for most, if not all, of human history? Knowing that it’s possible, the only other alternative interpretation of Hoppe is that he sees this act as morally or ethically wrong, based on his non-aggression principle, but it seems to me that this position is a matter of opinion rather than one of objective fact. And herein lies my greater problem with his argumentation ethic in general (and please, do not misinterpret my position as one which ethically condones slavery).

His argument comes down to the notion that private property must naturally exist, and not be the product of “decree”, otherwise his non-aggression principle is wrong, or is at least conflicted with. For me, it follows that his non-aggression principle is simply not ground on reality, if it’s his argument that his non-aggression principle is something that exists naturally. It makes much more sense to me to see property rights as a development that has continued since the beginning of human society (illustrated by the facts that independent societies at different levels of capital accumulation and with different extensions of the division of labor each are at a different stage in property rights development). The non-aggression principle is just an extension of property rights development, where it makes sense for people in a community not to aggressor each other, since that would be counterproductive to man’s ultimate goal of meeting desired ends.

Or, maybe I misinterpret Hoppe (which may be probable)?

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Jonathan,

Hoppe’s point is that there are various presuppositions to the very process of formulating norms, argumentative discourse, and that certain objective norms can be deduced from these necessary presuppositions. Hence, self-ownership is universally true because it is a requirement for argument; that is, you cannot argue that you do not own yourself, nor can you argue that your argumentative opponent does not own himself since in that case you are not arguing, but rather delivering a monologue. The non-aggression principle is a corollary of self-ownership itself in that if aggression is legitimate, then the idea of exclusive control is meaningless and so argument is impossible. If anything, Hoppe’s understanding of self-ownership goes beyond your biological definition–according to your definition, if someone could devise a way to directly control your body with his own neural impulses, he would have established a competing and legitimate claim to ownership of your body, whereas Hoppe’s definition makes such a claim illegitimate.

For external private property, Hoppe’s argument is a bit different from what you present. He says that if there is no private property in external goods, then all of mankind will die out. Since the existence of mankind is a prerequisite of argument, there can be no norm which requires the death of all mankind. He does not propose that the life of any given person must be maintained, merely the survival of thinking beings in general.

Your point about slavery is merely that people do not always observe these universal norms, but if anything this confirms the status of private property as a norm. If private property were physically inviolable, then it would be a law of nature akin to gravity rather than a moral law.

More generally, your proposal that private property and the NAP are social constructs rather than objective norms doesn’t contribute anything that Hoppe’s proposal does not except perhaps that it is more amenable to sociology.

Hope this helps.

Jonathan M. F. Catalán August 17, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Thanks Thinker,

This definitely cleared up Hoppe’s thesis. If you are willing and have the time, could you go further into the following?

The non-aggression principle is a corollary of self-ownership itself in that if aggression is legitimate, then the idea of exclusive control is meaningless and so argument is impossible.

Also, on the following,

He says that if there is no private property in external goods, then all of mankind will die out.

While this may true, I don’t see how this makes private property an objective right. Claiming something as yours may be necessary for your survival (for example, the food that you eat), but what does this have to do with you having an absolute right to that food? You eat that food irregardless of whatever rights you have, just like a beggar may steal food even if someone already has a claim on it.

Again, thank you!

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Jonathan,

On your first question, if you and I are engaged in argument, then we both must accept that we each own ourselves, that is, we each have the exclusive right to control our respective bodies. This statement itself implies the NAP because if your right to control your body may be infringed on by others, then it is not exclusive. It may be asked, why should self-ownership be exclusive? Because if your control over your body may justly be violated, then you may justly be prevented from arguing, defeating the whole purpose. Also, if your control over your body may justly be violated, you may justly be compelled to “argue” in a way that you would not otherwise have, at which point I am not arguing with you, but with whoever else controls your body. Thus, for you and me to argue, we must each accept that we have the right of exclusive control of our respective bodies.

On your second question, this deals with both the distinction between moral and actual behavior and between individuals and mankind as a whole. Yes, people may act contrary to ethical norms in order to survive, but that is not the point. The point is that if private property is illegitimate, then in order for men to act morally, all mankind must die out, preventing argument. That a beggar may steal food to survive does not disprove this point because it deals solely with a single individual–there is no objective reason that the beggar not having food will necessarily cause the death of all mankind or otherwise prevent argument at all. That of course doesn’t stop the beggar from stealing food, but it means that his doing so is illegitimate. This is a matter of ethics rather than biology, psychology, or what have you. Also, at this stage of his deduction, Hoppe is not attempting to justify any particular property rights, merely the existence of property rights in general. You have an objective right to your food because you have homesteaded and produced it yourself or acquired it through the voluntary transfer of property titles (assuming this is how you actually acquired it), but Hoppe hasn’t gotten there just yet.

You’re welcome, and I hope this also helps.

The Kid Salami August 18, 2010 at 4:23 am

“On your first question, if you and I are engaged in argument, then we both must accept that we each own ourselves, that is, we each have the exclusive right to control our respective bodies.”

But surely this contains one big giant assumption – that an “argument” is the way to settle any dispute. What about when acting as per the result of an “argument” – even one accepted by both sides – is found to be inconsistent with the laws of physics, what then?

Michael A. Clem August 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Argumentation ethics is about arguing ethics (and by implication political philosophy). AE is not supposed to resolve questions of physical science, artistic merit, etc.

scineram August 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

“that is, you cannot argue that you do not own yourself, nor can you argue that your argumentative opponent does not own himself since in that case you are not arguing, but rather delivering a monologue.”

This part, which is crucial, is just nonsense. Ability to argue has nothing to do with this.

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 6:33 pm

scineram,

On the contrary, ability to argue is the entire point. Argumentation ethics starts with the presuppositions of argument, without which it is impossible to argue. If I do not own myself, then I cannot even make the statement that I do not own myself. If I make a number of statements at you, but do not recognize that you own yourself, then I am not arguing with you, I am soliloquizing. Thus, no norms can be established without the presupposition of self-ownership by the involved individuals.

Jonathan M. F. Catalán August 18, 2010 at 12:32 am

Honestly, this strikes me as a way of getting around any possible legitimacy of slavery, rather than some break-through method of establishing self-ownership. It just seems that Hoppe was not content with the biological reasons for self-ownership, because then it wouldn’t imply the natural existence of a non-aggression principle.

JGiles August 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

You are assuming that someone without self-ownership cannot make or respond to statements. Why? That seems to be an unsupported assumption to me.

tralphkays August 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

[In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you must accept that each of you owns yourself. Rejecting private property, then, is tantamount to rejecting the possibility of rational argument.] Complete bullshit! Anyone who disagrees is automatically declared irrational, this is insulting and beneath the already low standards of reasonable discussion on this site.

Russ the Apostate August 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm

“Complete bullshit! Anyone who disagrees is automatically declared irrational, this is insulting and beneath the already low standards of reasonable discussion on this site.”

Yes, but it’s not surprising that the sort of person who is attracted to the idea of “apodictically certain” economic theory would also be attracted to the idea of an apodictically certain theory of rights.

One problem I can see with AE is that, even if it is correct, then all I would have to do to not acknowledge that others have rights is not argue with them, but use force instead. What would Hoppe have to say to a baseball bat to the head?

Raynor August 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

“What would Hoppe have to say to a baseball bat to the head?”

He’d say it’s okay to do so if the people in question are hedonists, parasites, environmentalists, homosexuals, communists, pot heads, or those who enjoy listening to rock music.

Matthew Swaringen August 17, 2010 at 5:43 pm

This is simply inaccurate. You are taking words of his out of context and aside from that you can find explanations of the quotes you are misrepresenting elsewhere.

Raynor August 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Okay, I’m sorry. In Hoppe’s ideal world, libertines and the time-preference challenged would be physically expelled, like afterbirth from the uterus, from his utopian hippie covenant. Is that better my love?

“You are taking words of his out of context”

Is that so? Because ex-Hoppeans and certain acquaintances of Hoppe beg to differ.

Beefcake the Mighty August 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

“Is that so? Because ex-Hoppeans and certain acquaintances of Hoppe beg to differ.”

Yeah? Like who?

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

“In Hoppe’s ideal world, libertines and the time-preference challenged would be physically expelled, like afterbirth from the uterus, from his utopian hippie covenant. Is that better my love?”

Oh my God you obviously have never read Democracy – The God That Failed. I have utterly no respect for these ridiculous, empty and absolutely dishonest portrayals of Hoppe, which are all coming from a single footnote in his book, that says in full, “*In a covenant established to protect the family order* (my emphasis), they would reserve the right to forcefully remove those who live an alternative lifestyle.”

Yes, a nudist colony can kick out people for wearing clothes. Unless they’re not free.

Inquisitor August 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Nothing? It’s an impossibility proof. He’s only concerned with theories advanced argumentatively. People who just resort to force would be treated as technical obstacles, i.e. much like a mosquito would be, unless they choose to reason. He goes some way to offer a positive argument that’s outlined in Kinsella’s How we come to own ourselves. I’m not sure what you expect his theory to do and he even deals with this objection.

Raynor August 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm

“Yeah? Like who?”

Oh, you know. Great minds such as Gene Callahan, Tom Palmer, and Brainpolice.

Beefcake the Mighty August 18, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Who?

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I expect this kind of argumentation from someone who is doing nothing but trying to misrepresent someone. Yeah, maybe at some point some idiot quoted Hoppe and added a bunch of stupidity to it. And that is an attack of Hoppe’s ideas?

Nothing more than a pathetic “guilty by association” argument, which I know you are using because you’re trying to mislead.

Raynor August 18, 2010 at 1:54 pm

“*In a covenant established to protect the family order* (my emphasis), they would reserve the right to forcefully remove those who live an alternative lifestyle.”

Yes, a nudist colony can kick out people for wearing clothes. Unless they’re not free.

You just had to make a whole lot of omissions and parrot Hoppe, didn’t you?

Luckily, here’s one ex-Hoppean, to whom I was referring to, that delivers a very cogent argument. It pretty much sums up my position on this issue.

http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/17104/336452.aspx#336452

Beefcake the Mighty August 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm

This is the best you can do?

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm

“You just had to make a whole lot of omissions and parrot Hoppe, didn’t you?”

Omissions such as…?

“Luckily, here’s one ex-Hoppean, to whom I was referring to, that delivers a very cogent argument. It pretty much sums up my position on this issue.”

Please refer to my previous response.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Concerning the ex-Hoppe people in this link, they seem to be arguing that because they misunderstood Hoppe, it’s Hoppe’s problem.

Everyone who brings up his thing about homosexuals and time preference (for which the ACLU defended him) and that little quote from Democracy is either purposefully misunderstanding him or does not have the capacity to understand him.

Also some of those arguments are hopelessly positivist (the only statements that are correct are those that have supporting empirical evidence… show me empirical evidence for Newton’s law of motion)

Mike P August 18, 2010 at 1:47 am

You would have to assert self ownership in order to attack someone with a bat. But if the only way to “refute” an argument is through violence, that pretty much proves it true. The government doesn’t use force because it has a strong argument. It uses force because the people in the government know they would not be able to convince anyone.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

“You would have to assert self ownership in order to attack someone with a bat.”

You would also deny your victim his ownership over his body, and you contradict yourself. Does a person own his body or not?

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:45 pm

“One problem I can see with AE is that, even if it is correct”

One problem I see with the way many people think about issues is they reject something even it is correct.

Michael A. Clem August 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I, too, have this kind of problem with AE. Someone who so willingly uses force is obviously not going to be persuaded by AE, and isn’t really expected to be–it’s simply a matter of showing what kind of person you’re dealing with. However, even with those willing to argue, AE just seems too technical (the NAP is implied by arguing) to be persuasive.

Matthew Swaringen August 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm

You believe you are wrong? If you believe you are right, then you think others don’t think properly as you do (either irrational, or ignorant, as Hoppe says).

If you think they do think properly and aren’t ignorant but come to different conclusions, then you are left with the notion that no one can ever know if he is right or not, and discussions aren’t worth having.

Bruce Koerber August 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Boundaries In Ethics Are Not Limited By The Human Mind.

Even though humans are rational that does not necessarily mean that the only source of ethics is from a human mind. It is like our discussion about ideas coming from the invisible world and brought to the visible world, as a discovery for instance. That invisible world is far greater than a single human mind can comprehend but tidbits may be captured.

In the same way the human mind may contribute bits and pieces to the way ethics is applied in this world but that does not mean that the human mind is the source of ethics. To take that approach is analogous to trying to use empiricism to capture that which is subjective.

Bala August 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm

” In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you must accept that each of you owns yourself. ”

In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you need to recognise that the approach of arguing and seeking agreement will lead to greater well-being for yourself than will using force to impose your will over the other person. Self-ownership, therefore, does not follow as a logical conclusion. That’s just one of the huge cracks in AE. It’s puerile.

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Bala,

True, if you decide that it would be more beneficial to you to not establish norms, then you do not do so. However, this does not disprove self-ownership or argumentation ethics in general. By declining to engage in argument, you are effectively saying, “Morality does not concern me.” Rather than a denial or refutation of ethics, this constitutes merely an expression of personal preference, not a comment on which (if any) norms exist. If you believe norms will be beneficial, you may take part in argument to formulate them, and in order to do so you must assume self-ownership. Stated another way: if there are norms, self-ownership is a norm.

Note: you cannot argue that there are no norms, as you assume their existence in the very act of arguing.

Bala August 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm

” However, this does not disprove self-ownership or argumentation ethics in general. ”

My attempt was only to show that what AE claims as it’s proof is not a proof. I am not attempting to “disprove” it.

” By declining to engage in argument, you are effectively saying, “Morality does not concern me.” ”

My point simply is that morality/ethics lies at the base of the very concept “property”. AE therefore puts the cart before the horse.

” If you believe norms will be beneficial, you may take part in argument to formulate them ”

You may but do not need to. Rational thinking without argumentation can help me figure out the norms for my conduct as well as the concept “property”. Argumentation can only be a means to get acceptance for these norms.

” and in order to do so you must assume self-ownership ”

Not necessary. Being a rational animal with a volitional consciousness is enough. Self-ownership is, at the very best, superfluous.

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Bala,

“My point simply is that morality/ethics lies at the base of the very concept “property”. AE therefore puts the cart before the horse.”

AE simply points out that argument requires certain presuppositions that have normative implications. It seems that you are misidentifying the “cart” and the “horse.” The cart (argument) cannot go anywhere without the horse (presuppositions). Analysis of these presuppositions yields various normative conclusions.

As for property, AE does not presuppose property, rather it takes some of the presuppositions of argument and determines that they have normative conclusions best described by the term “property.” I’ve explained what specific presuppositions AE analyzes to reach this conclusion above, so I won’t repeat them here.

“Rational thinking without argumentation can help me figure out the norms for my conduct as well as the concept “property”. Argumentation can only be a means to get acceptance for these norms.”

You may formulate and abide by whatever “norms” you wish, but mere internal rational thought cannot provide you with an ethic, merely a systematizing of your preferences. It does not tell you what you should do in an ethical sense. Whatever marvelous ideas you may have to the effect of a personal code, they all ultimately resort to a single justification: “Because that’s what I want.” There are no presuppositions in mere internal contemplation that yield normative conclusions. Argument, critical interaction with another person, is required to establish any kind of norm because it alone provides you with the necessary presuppositions.

“Being a rational animal with a volitional consciousness is enough. Self-ownership is, at the very best, superfluous.”

On the contrary, you may be a rational animal with a volitional consciousness, but in order to engage in argument, you must assume that it is legitimate for you to use your physical body, and likewise for your argumentative opponent (see above). Self-ownership is the vital piece that allows consciousness to influence and express itself in the physical world. Perhaps some form of telepathy would remove this necessity, but the parapsychologists are still working on that.

“Alternatively, you may fail to be rational and choose the club as many criminals and dictators do.”

Not so. Criminals and dictators are rational, just like everyone else. They simply act contrary to norms. If anything, this verifies the potential for these norms to be such: if a norm could not be violated, then it would not be a norm but a law of nature.

Bala August 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm

” You may formulate and abide by whatever “norms” you wish, but mere internal rational thought cannot provide you with an ethic, merely a systematizing of your preferences. It does not tell you what you should do in an ethical sense. Whatever marvelous ideas you may have to the effect of a personal code, they all ultimately resort to a single justification: “Because that’s what I want.” ”

Firstly, I am not talking of “mere internal rational thought”. Secondly, this discussion cannot go further unless we agree on a definition of the concept “ethics”.

Here’s mine (I use the term ethics and morals interchangeably)

****************************
A moral code is a system of teleological measurement which grades the choices and actions open to man, according to the degree to which they achieve or frustrate the code’s standard of value. The standard is the end, to which man’s actions are the means.

A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly.
****************************
I quote from Galt’s speech: “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.

Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. Since everything man needs has to be discovered by his own mind and produced by his own effort, the two essentials of the method of survival proper to a rational being are: thinking and productive work.
****************************
Mine is the ethics of self-interest. What’s your’s?

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Bala,

“Rational thinking without argumentation…”
“I am not talking of “mere internal rational thought”.”

Then I would be curious to know what kind of rational thought you are talking about, since there are only two possibilities: “mere internal rational thought,” or rational thought in concert with an external consciousness, also known as argument.

To your definitions of ethics I would add one very important characteristic: a moral code must be violable. If it is not possible to violate the precepts of a moral code, then it is not a moral code, but merely an inherent characteristic of the universe independent of man’s consciousness in the same sense as the laws of physics.

Your “Objectivist ethics” has several flaws. For one, it assumes that man’s life is something good to be maintained. Why is it evil for a man to decide to be suicidal? Second, Galt is contradictory in that he says various things must be accepted by choice, but if you must do something then you have no choice. Essentially, Galt is talking nonsense.

Third, without your baseless assumptions providing direction, your philosophy amounts to, as you say, “self-interest.” However, you (and Ayn Rand before you) make the mistake of transforming a law of nature into a moral imperative: “man acts in accordance with his values” is transformed into “man should act in accordance with his values.” This cannot be a moral code because it is inviolable–man cannot choose to act contrary to his values.

“it’s not “Because that’s what I want.” but “because I choose to”.”

However, you choose based on your wants, so ultimately, “because I choose to” is justified with “because that’s what I want.”

Bala August 17, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Thinker,

” To your definitions of ethics I would add one very important characteristic: a moral code must be violable. ”

Mine is very much violable. I just face the consequences of violation. That could be unhappiness, pain, suffering and maybe even death.

” If it is not possible to violate the precepts of a moral code, then it is not a moral code, but merely an inherent characteristic of the universe independent of man’s consciousness in the same sense as the laws of physics. ”

Are you trying to say that a moral code has to be independent of nature and reality? Are you trying to say that morals exist in a different realm? Just seeking clarifications.

” Your “Objectivist ethics” has several flaws. For one, it assumes that man’s life is something good to be maintained. ”

It does not assume that man’s life is something good to be maintained. It only says that for man, even living and continuing to live is by choice. Man can consciously and deliberately act to end his life, unlike most other living entities. Heard of the phrase “horse sense”?

” Why is it evil for a man to decide to be suicidal? ”

Objectivist ethics does not say that it is evil to be suicidal. It only says that suicide means he end of life. In fact, Objectivist ethics helps identify circumstances under which ending one’s life is a better option than continued life.

” However, you (and Ayn Rand before you) make the mistake of transforming a law of nature into a moral imperative: “man acts in accordance with his values” is transformed into “man should act in accordance with his values.” ”

You misunderstand completely. The statement “man should act in accordance with his values” flows from the fact that acting in violation of his values will cause man to frustrate the code’s standard of value. That would be an internal contradiction and hence irrational.

The primary choice is to act to sustain life rather then to end it. Once that is made, Objectivist ethics only says that subsequent choices need to be consistent with it rather than being contradictory to it.

“because that’s what I want.” does not mean irrational. It only means that I am the centre of my world.

That apart, I think we share some disagreement on the proper use of the word “should”.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 12:09 am

Bala,

Starting off, my definition of “should” is that of a moral imperative. If someone “should” do something, that means there is some commandment in some moral code which states that such an action is the appropriate one to take in order to remain in keeping with the precepts of the code. I think the true difference between us is in the distinction between that which is moral and that which is wise: I recognize that there is such a distinction; you do not.

“Mine is very much violable. I just face the consequences of violation. That could be unhappiness, pain, suffering and maybe even death.”

Violations of your “moral code” may be described thus: if man is stupid, he suffers. This is not a statement about morals; it is a statement of a highly probable causal relationship. It is possible for man to act stupidly and not suffer at all. It may, in general, be easier to avoid suffering by acting wisely, but you do not provide an imperative requiring man to sustain his life and happiness (note: he does tend to try to sustain his life and necessarily acts to improve his happiness, but the first is a general tendency and the second a law of action; there is no moral aspect to this whatsoever).

“Are you trying to say that a moral code has to be independent of nature and reality? Are you trying to say that morals exist in a different realm?”

I am saying that all values, moral and otherwise, are not intrinsic to the universe, but come from man’s consciousness and interaction with the world. More specifically, a moral code is an intellectual (note: not emotive) system whereby actions are judged as good or evil.

“The statement “man should act in accordance with his values” flows from the fact that acting in violation of his values will cause man to frustrate the code’s standard of value. That would be an internal contradiction and hence irrational.”

Let me emphasize again, it is impossible for man to act contrary to his values. He certainly may act stupidly, in ways that do not actually provide him with the satisfaction of the ends he desires. He may even choose his values poorly, but he still acts in accordance with them in seeking his greater satisfaction. This seems to be a fundamental difference between Rand and Mises.

“The primary choice is to act to sustain life rather then to end it. Once that is made, Objectivist ethics only says that subsequent choices need to be consistent with it rather than being contradictory to it.”

Essentially, Objectivist ethics may be summarized thus: if man acts wisely, he will more effectively secure his life and happiness. To this I respond: duh.

““because that’s what I want.” does not mean irrational. It only means that I am the centre of my world.”

Again, duh. Your values are at the center of your world–that is the whole point of values. Nor did I ever say that “because that’s what I want” is irrational–it is the basis of all action. However, to attempt to base a moral code on this principle is impossible as it is impossible to act contrary to your wants. Also, “because that’s what I want” is emotive rather than intellectual–when contained within a single individual (that is, when not used in argument), reason can only tell us what means will effectively achieve our ends–so it is inappropriate for formulating a moral code in that sense as well.

Allen Weingarten August 18, 2010 at 2:12 am

“Mine is the ethics of self-interest. What’s your’s?”

Mine is ‘self-enhancement’ which contains uplifting the inner man as well as his material advantages, and employs attitudes as well as values. (Note that this formulation is not susceptible to attack by misrepresentation of the term ‘selfish’.)

Bala August 18, 2010 at 6:43 am

Thinker,

” Let me emphasize again, it is impossible for man to act contrary to his values. ”

As I have limited time, I am addressing just this statement of yours as I see it as central to your argument.

You are fundamentally incorrect. It is metaphysically possible for a human being to choose values that cannot be simultaneously advanced. Under such circumstances, furthering one value necessarily frustrates the other.

p.s. Such a situation can occur when values are chosen arbitrarily or irrationally

Bala August 18, 2010 at 6:48 am

Thinker,

” reason can only tell us what means will effectively achieve our ends–so it is inappropriate for formulating a moral code in that sense as well. ”

This statement is fundamentally erroneous. However, addressing it in detail requires you to answer my basic questions. Those include
1. What is the definition of the concept “ethics”?
2. Why does man need a code of ethics?
3. How does man form a code of ethics?
4. How does man use/apply a code of ethics?

Once you answer these, we can have a discussion. Until then, it will just be your assertions against mine.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

Bala,

“It is metaphysically possible for a human being to choose values that cannot be simultaneously advanced.”

Without disputing your statement metaphysically, it is epistemologically impossible for us to know when such a case exists. The only way by which we may determine what a person’s values are is by observing him act. If person A takes action which satisfies goal X, but frustrates goal Y, then I have determined with the greatest certainty possible that A values X above Y. So while your statement may very well be true, such a situation as you describe is indistinguishable from a case in which one’s values are consistent.

“What is the definition of the concept “ethics”?”

I have taken your definition, with refinement. I insist that a moral code must be consciously violable–that is, man must be able to choose to not follow the code. Man cannot choose to violate your code because he always chooses what seems to him to be the best choice. You object that his judgment may be faulty, but still, he has not consciously violated your “code.”

“Why does man need a code of ethics?”

As an ethicist, I don’t care why man might want or “need” a code of ethics. I simply take the fact that, if he does want such a thing, he must make various presuppositions.”How does man form a code of ethics?”

There are two ways that we have been discussing: internal rational thought, and interactive rational thought (argument). Internal rational thought cannot provide a code of ethics because all of its judgments are ultimately justified merely by personal preferences, according to which man acts in any case. You may suppose there are cases in which man may act contrary to his preferences, but these are objectively indistinguishable from actions in accordance with his preferences. Argument, on the other hand, requires various presuppositions before it can occur, providing an epistemologically objective basis for normative analysis.

One problem in your reasoning is that you are proposing certain metaphysical states, but ignoring the epistemological problem of identifying them.

“How does man use/apply a code of ethics?”

He applies (or does not apply) an ethical code through action.

michael August 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

“Mine is the ethics of self-interest. What’s your’s?”

Bala: It looks like you are saying that what’s good for me is the only good worth considering. Would that be accurate?

Bala August 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Missed out a point. Following up on what I have said, it’s not “Because that’s what I want.” but “because I choose to”. Rational man with a volitional consciousness is the singularity in the system of equations that constitute the laws that govern the universe. Unless of course, you subscribe to determinism.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Exactly. If you are free to choose, your actions must be limited to those that do not deny the freedom of choice to others. Or you’re just being internally contradictory.

Bala August 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

” if you decide that it would be more beneficial to you to not establish norms, then you do not do so ”

Alternatively, you may fail to be rational and choose the club as many criminals and dictators do.

Inquisitor August 17, 2010 at 10:24 pm

In which case you can be treated with force (or occlusion). Where’s the issue?

Bala August 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I agree. That’s precisely my point. The fact that I can be treated with force if I choose to use the club myself is what should force me to preclude the use of the club. Choosing the club means that I am not being rational by ignoring the inevitable consequences of my actions. That’s like saying “I am free to make my choices as well as escape the consequences thereof.” Such a statement constitutes brazen evasion of reality and hence can only be called irrational (though it may be logic of the Peter Surda variety).

I hope the issue is clear.

Thinker August 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

You can be treated with force whether you use the club or not. Even if you use the club, it is not necessarily true that someone will use the club against you. The consequences of an action are those things which happen as a result of that action. You may say that it is wrong to ignore what should be the consequences of an action, but it is merely short-sighted to ignore the actual consequences of that action (unless short-sightedness is immoral, in which case so may be near-sightedness if it leads to what you call “irrational action,” which happens to be a contradiction in terms).

Bala August 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm

” You can be treated with force whether you use the club or not. Even if you use the club, it is not necessarily true that someone will use the club against you. ”

I agree.

” The consequences of an action are those things which happen as a result of that action. ”

The consequence is that I cannot claim defence from the initiation of force on the “principle” that initiation of force is immoral.

” unless short-sightedness is immoral ”

Shortsightedness is definitely irrational because it is an omission or the deliberate evasion of the long-range consequences of one’s choices. Man’s nature being that of a rational animal, being irrational is contradictory to man’s nature.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 12:20 am

Bala,

“The consequence is that I cannot claim defence from the initiation of force on the “principle” that initiation of force is immoral.”

Yes, you can. All you have to do is claim that you were acting immorally when you initiated force against another. This means that it is still illegitimate for someone to initiate force against you, but allows for certain individuals (those who you harmed and their appointed agents) to use force against you without initiating force.

“Shortsightedness is definitely irrational because it is an omission or the deliberate evasion of the long-range consequences of one’s choices. Man’s nature being that of a rational animal, being irrational is contradictory to man’s nature.”

You seem to be using “irrational” and “immoral” as synonyms. Your point here seems to be: stupidity is evil. This goes back to the distinction between morality and wisdom–you may be less effective in achieving your satisfaction if you act stupidly, but this provides no moral imperative.

Bala August 18, 2010 at 6:27 am

Thinker,

” You seem to be using “irrational” and “immoral” as synonyms. Your point here seems to be: stupidity is evil. ”

That is not my point. Put very simply, in the ethics of self interest, it is immoral to deliberately act to harm oneself if one has chosen to act to sustain life. To act irrationally when the standard of value is one’s own life is to harm oneself. Therefore, the “irrational” is “immoral”.

However, to jump to the conclusion that that means “stupidity is evil” requires you to make the jump to say that “immoral” means “evil”. That’s your jump, not mine.

All this apart, I said a little earlier that this discussion cannot proceed further unless you give your definition of “ethics”. It would be good if you can do that. While doing so, I also request you to answer a straight question – Why does man need a code of ethics?

Jay Lakner August 18, 2010 at 6:33 am

Bala wrote:
“Why does man need a code of ethics?”

As much as I’d love to jump in here and start another massive debate, I think I’ll give it a miss this time. (I have too much work to do over the next couple of weeks)

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 10:51 am

Bala,

“” You seem to be using “irrational” and “immoral” as synonyms. Your point here seems to be: stupidity is evil.

”That is not my point…Therefore, the “irrational” is “immoral”.”

Thus, you confirm my first statement.

“However, to jump to the conclusion that that means “stupidity is evil” requires you to make the jump to say that “immoral” means “evil”.”

“Immoral” and “evil” are synonyms, though they do have different connotations. It is not a “jump,” but merely a use of language.

Taking these two semantic considerations to be resolved, I fail to see what your objection is. Please clarify.

Bala August 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thinker,

” “Immoral” and “evil” are synonyms, though they do have different connotations ”

Wrong. “Immoral” stands for that which contradicts a man’s held moral code. It is a label applied to actions. “Evil” denotes the nature of entities. To conflate the two represents a very fundamental error.

” Taking these two semantic considerations to be resolved, I fail to see what your objection is. Please clarify. ”

Now that I have shown what appeared to you to be a semantic consideration to be a fundamental and serious error on your part, I hope my objection is clear.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 11:37 am

Bala,

While I am not convinced of your distinction between “immoral” and “evil,” I will not contest the matter. I still fail to see your objection (if any) to the restatement of your point as “stupidity is evil” given that you now know that it was my intention to use “evil” as a synonym for “immoral.” Essentially, I don’t see your problem (assuming you have one) with the statement “stupidity is immoral.”

Bala August 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

Thinker

” it is epistemologically impossible for us to know when such a case exists. The only way by which we may determine what a person’s values are is by observing him act ”

Whether it is epistemologically possible or not depends on what one’s epistemology is. Mine is reason. Further, the issue is not A trying to determine B’s values but A trying to choose his values and form a hierarchical code of such values. Your statement only betrays the fact that you have completely failed to understand the issue under discussion.

” Man cannot choose to violate your code because he always chooses what seems to him to be the best choice ”

No. Man’s consciousness is volitional. Man is capable of suspending his rationality and making arbitrary choices. By doing so, he is violating his code.

” As an ethicist, I don’t care why man might want or “need” a code of ethics. ”

This is actually a shocking admission. Proper understanding of ethics has to start from scratch – understanding man’s nature, his circumstances, the definition of ethics and the role ethics plays in his life. Failing that, one would be talking utter rot. Your statement is tantamount to saying that ethics is nothing more than a set of arbitrary assumptions and that it is pointless and impossible to talk of one code being better than another.

” There are two ways that we have been discussing: internal rational thought, and interactive rational thought (argument). ”

Firstly, there is no such thing as “internal rational thought”. Rationality starts with the processing of percepts received from reality and about reality to form concepts. It is by nature “interactive”, though not necessarily through “argument”.

Secondly, you are making the assumption that man is not capable of using his rationality to figure out or even try to figure out what he “ought” to do. You are thereby surreptitiously dismissing the very possibility of a rational code of ethics. If this is what you want to do, there is nothing for me to discuss with you.

” Internal rational thought cannot provide a code of ethics because all of its judgments are ultimately justified merely by personal preferences, according to which man acts in any case. ”

You seem to share Peter Surda’s disease. When man uses his rationality to determine what is in his rational, long-range self-interest, it is wrong to call it “personal preferences”. Choosing food that enhances health over food that diminishes it is not equivalent to a choice of a red shirt over a blue one. You are misusing Mises’ statement that all values are subjective. He made it in the context of developing an economic theory. Your attempt to apply it to philosophy is rather weak.

” One problem in your reasoning is that you are proposing certain metaphysical states, but ignoring the epistemological problem of identifying them. ”

The epistemological problem is entire yours because you are confused as to who is trying to determine the values of the person concerned.

” He applies (or does not apply) an ethical code through action ”

Confusion apparent again. This is how his use of his code of values is manifested to the outside observers. That is not how the man himself uses his code. The code guides his actions. “Guide” implies that it helps him to choose from available courses of action. What you are failing to understand is that using a code of values also involves reason.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Bala,

“the issue is not A trying to determine B’s values but A trying to choose his values and form a hierarchical code of such values.”

The issue of “A trying to choose his values and form a hierarchical code of such values” is resolved whether conscious reason is involved or not. Reason may help A determine which values will most effectively lead to his satisfaction, but this is not a moral issue. Also, this is not what we are discussing. We are discussing how norms are established: you say they are determined individually; I say they must involve argument. My purpose in pointing out that your idea of conflicting values cannot be observed was to show that it is meaningless to discuss such a situation as it cannot be identified. You may develop what theories you wish about cases that can exist only in your mind, but these have grounding on the external reality.

“Your statement only betrays the fact that you have completely failed to understand the issue under discussion.”

I could say the same about many of your statements with the same validity.

“Man is capable of suspending his rationality and making arbitrary choices.”

What you are proposing is that A may, on balance, prefer action X to action Y and still take action Y. This is impossible. Man cannot decide to act contrary to his preferences, since by acting contrary to a certain set of “preferences,” he demonstrates a preference for contrary action.

“Your statement is tantamount to saying that ethics is nothing more than a set of arbitrary assumptions and that it is pointless and impossible to talk of one code being better than another.”

On the contrary, I am saying that the reasons that people may desire ethics are immaterial to the ethics themselves. A person may seek to develop a system of ethics with the desire to act immorally, which requires a moral standard, but this does not make the ethics any less valid. Ethical systems can be compared to each other by using an objective standard, which AE provides. Though you seem to have forgotten this part of the discussion, AE points out that there are certain presuppositions to the formation of norms that have normative implications. That is, if someone wants norms, they must assume certain norms in order establish any others. Ethical systems can be analyzed on the basis of how well they adhere to the necessary objective standard. If two codes both meet the objective standard, then, indeed, there can be no moral comparison between them, as they are both objectively moral. Likewise, if two codes both fail to meet the objective standard, they are also morally incomparable, as they are both objectively immoral. However, if one code meets the objective standard, but the other does not, then the first is necessarily superior to the second.

“there is no such thing as “internal rational thought”. Rationality starts with the processing of percepts received from reality and about reality to form concepts. It is by nature “interactive”, though not necessarily through “argument”.”

“Internal rational thought” means that all thinking is done by one mind. “Interactive rational thought” means that the thinking done is spread out over multiple minds. It is meaningless to speak of interaction with the universe, as only conscious beings act. Thus, “interactive rational thought” means discourse with another being, or argument.

“You are thereby surreptitiously dismissing the very possibility of a rational code of ethics.”

I am saying that it is meaningless for a single consciousness to claim to be developing an moral code rather than a mere refinement of his preferences.

“When man uses his rationality to determine what is in his rational, long-range self-interest, it is wrong to call it “personal preferences”.”

Man may use his reason to determine what is in his long-range self-interest, but whether his long-range self-interest is more important than his short-range self interest cannot be determined by reason. It is a matter of personal preference which he rates more highly.

Ultimately, the problem that your “moral code” faces is that it requires a reason for action other than personal preference. There is no such “other” reason.

Bala August 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Thinker,

I am afraid our differences are too wide to be bridged.

” I am saying that it is meaningless for a single consciousness to claim to be developing an moral code rather than a mere refinement of his preferences. ”

This statement of yours is why it will be. As I see it, you are failing to understand that a solitary man has as much a need (if not a stronger one) for a moral code than one in the midst of others.

Man faces a fundamental question every conscious moment of his life – What should I do? Answering this question right is of utmost importance to man. It an existential question. To live is to exist and to die is to cease to exist. Reality always presents man with options to choose from. Man has the difficult task of choosing from the options available. If he chooses right, he thrives. If he chooses wrongly, he suffers. Morality/Ethics is the science that enables man to sift “right” from “wrong”.

Man may try to act without an ethical code. He may act on whim or as you put it, his personal preference. Doing so, however, leaves him exposed to the consequences of making wrong choices. That could mean pain, suffering and even death.

Man’s primary means of finding the answer to that primary question is his power of reason. It is his mind that tells him what enhances his life and what diminishes it. His mind evaluates different courses of action with respect to his standard of value and helps him make his choice.

Argumentation can only play a minor role in this. It can help a man broaden and deepen his understanding by dipping into the knowledge of others and by having additional rational minds working on the same issue (thereby even helping him identify errors in reasoning and identification), thus enhancing the quality of his choices. However, the choices are still his.

Norms are formed ONLY in the human mind. Argumentation is only a means of validating one’s process of reasoning. It cannot tell you what you should value. Only the individual can because the living individual is the source of all values.

Of course, if you say that to prefer life over death or pleasure over pain or joy over suffering is a matter of personal preference, I have nothing more to say.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Bala,

I’ll not bother trying to correct all of your multitudinous errors, but just focus on one of the big ones.

Your fundamental problem is that your philosophy requires a motive for action other than personal preference. You have not provided any alternative motive; in fact you cannot provide such a motive. Your moral philosophy without such an alternative motive boils down to this: if man acts wisely, he benefits, and if he acts stupidly, he suffers, so man should act wisely. This is not a moral code, as it is impossible for man to consciously act contrary to it. He may act stupidly, but his intention is always to act in that way which seems most wise to him.

Note: personal preference is not necessarily the same as whim–it may be supremely thought out or wholly un-thought out. Which is preferable is up to the individual.

Bala August 23, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Thinker,

Sorry about the break. Was on a short vacation. Had a few thoughts while I was driving.

” I’ll not bother trying to correct all of your multitudinous errors, but just focus on one of the big ones. ”

It is not a good technique of argumentation to claim that there are many mistakes. That would be smearing.

” Your fundamental problem is that your philosophy requires a motive for action other than personal preference. ”

I see a more fundamental problem with your approach. “Preference” is something possible only to a conscious being that has engaged in prior valuation. No “preference’ is possible unless there is a pre-existing hierarchy of values including a standard of value.

A code of ethics is a hierarchy of values guiding man’s actions in the face of choices. in simple terms, it is the framework that makes “preference” possible.

” You have not provided any alternative motive ”

I don’t see why I should. You are the one insisting on the “alternative motive”. My code of ethics takes my own life as the standard of value. As per this code, that is sufficient for this code of ethics to be applied.

That said, I fail to understand why a moral/ethical code should have anything other than the life of the individual himself as the standard of value. Are you saying that ethical codes originate outside the individual? I suspect you would because that corroborates your statement that “norms” evolve from argument.

” Your moral philosophy without such an alternative motive boils down to this: if man acts wisely, he benefits, and if he acts stupidly, he suffers, so man should act wisely. ”

This is a highly unintelligent way of phrasing it. The way you have worded it, it is as though what is “wise” is known before-hand. That is precisely the point of a code of ethics – to help man “know” what is “wise” an what isn’t. “Stupid” and “Wise” can be known only with the use of a proper moral code. Logic can only tell you which actions will lead to which consequences. It cannot help you differentiate the “desirable” from the “undesirable”. That requires a living entity that has a code of values a.k.a. an ethical code.

” as it is impossible for man to consciously act contrary to it. ”

This condition of yours makes no sense. If you subscribe to a moral code, you can’t be violating it simultaneously. Your statement indicates that you want an ethical code to permit having your cake and eating it too.

Amanojack August 17, 2010 at 11:04 pm

It’s baaaaack!!

Can we can this nonsensical argument once and for all? It just makes libertarians look bad: http://mises.org/Community/forums/p/9952/241419.aspx#241419

Bala August 17, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I like the way you split it into “fact” and “right”. It’s been on my mind and I’ve been wanting to put it down for quite some time. Thanks for saving me the trouble.

Yes. I find AE puerile too. It is based on a complete mix-up between “is” and “ought”.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Um, did you read this thing by Hoppe? He specifically stated that there is a difference between what “ought” and what “is”, and even explains what it would mean to equate the two.

Michal J. Gorecki August 18, 2010 at 1:22 am

This is just “obejctivist” philosophical rubbish. Actual control over anything including our own body has nothing to do with any kind of “right” . This is no transgression from “is” to “ought”, just a vulgar petitio principii.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 1:35 am

You said it poorly, but you are absolutely right. A basic course in philosophy would help this discussion enormously.

Michal J. Gorecki August 18, 2010 at 2:13 am

The very concept of “right” presuppose an abstract system of rules which is able to give us the answer whether given state of affairs (control over our body) is valid, invalid oraz indifferent. The problem with Objectivism is that you cannot seriously speak of rights if there is no reference to anything with the highest (and supreme) authority to say what is right or wrong, This could be God or the Constitution or indivudual sheer will.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 2:19 am

That is utter nonsense.

Michal J. Gorecki August 18, 2010 at 2:35 am

Nonsense? Not so much. Have you ever heard about H. Kelsen (a friend of Mises by the way)?

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 2:49 am

Still nonsense.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm

“The problem with Objectivism”

Hoppe, an Objectivist!? Yeah, objectivists are busy telling everyone why 9/11 means we get to nuke Iran along with all the innocents over there. I don’t recall Hoppe going down this road, or pulling anything else from the Rand Church either.

Rand was not the first person to identify the existence of objective reality, nor will she be the last. She did, however, argue that objective reality is the *only* reality, and from what I gather libertarians almost universally reject that.

“you cannot seriously speak of rights if there is no reference to anything with the highest (and supreme) authority to say what is right or wrong, This could be God or the Constitution or indivudual sheer will.”

You can’t seriously speak of rights if there *is* a reference to an authority. In that case, it becomes slavery to the authority. Rights are a recognition of will, the ability to make choices, and there are objective (not a matter of opinon) actions that deny this to others.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

“This is just “obejctivist” philosophical rubbish.”

So, what, there’s no objectivity? Is a philosophical discussion necessary to establish that 2 + 2 = 4?

“Actual control over anything including our own body has nothing to do with any kind of “right” .”

To what else could the concept of “rights” possibly pertain?

“This is no transgression from “is” to “ought””

And no one said it is. He’s talking about “ought”, not “is”, and never tries to pull one out of the other, but rather condemns this very argument near the beginning.

“just a vulgar petitio principii.”

As long as you say so.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 1:48 am

To repeat, the intro to this article reads: [In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you must accept that each of you owns yourself. Rejecting private property, then, is tantamount to rejecting the possibility of rational argument.] This is a claim that anyone who takes a contrary position is irrational. That is a dishonest and insulting rhetorical trick. I would propose one of many alternative and rational arguments to oppose this view. The term ” ownership” presupposes two things, the one that is owned and the one that does the owning, it is irrational to assume that they can be one and the same.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 1:57 am

Further, if something can be both owner and the thing that is owned, how can we deny self ownership to things such as rocks, or gold nuggets or pieces of land?

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 2:02 am

Further again, what is it about me that allows my self ownership to trump the self ownership of, lets say, a cow? If we are both property that may be owned, what differentiates us?

Bala August 18, 2010 at 6:51 am

All I can say is “Good questions”.

mpolzkill August 18, 2010 at 7:43 am

“If we are both property that may be owned, what differentiates us (humans and cows)?”

Your hopefully superior ability to object to being “owned” by another person. That many humans don’t seem to have this is a very large problem.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 11:09 am

tralphkays,

“This is a claim that anyone who takes a contrary position is irrational. That is a dishonest and insulting rhetorical trick.”

In order to argue, you must make certain presuppositions. If you propose a norm which violates these presuppositions, you are proposing that it is immoral to argue. Thus, in order to act morally, man must not argue, and thus cannot establish norms, including the one which states that it is immoral to argue. This is not a “rhetorical trick,” it is a logical demonstration of inconsistent reasoning.

“The term ” ownership” presupposes two things, the one that is owned and the one that does the owning, it is irrational to assume that they can be one and the same.”

“Ownership” does not presuppose two things. It indicates that there is a being with just authority over some thing. It does not require that the being and the thing be distinct.

“if something can be both owner and the thing that is owned, how can we deny self ownership to things such as rocks, or gold nuggets or pieces of land?”

Those things you list do not have consciousness, or at the very least have not demonstrated that they possess consciousness. Consciousness is a requirement for a being, and only a being can own anything.

“what is it about me that allows my self ownership to trump the self ownership of, lets say, a cow? If we are both property that may be owned, what differentiates us?”

A cow does not own itself because it is not demonstrably capable of understanding the concept of ownership, as it has not developed a language to convey this information. Thus, conflicts between you and a cow do not deal with issues of self-ownership, and so are not moral problems.

Donald Rowe August 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm

“A cow does not own itself because it is not demonstrably capable of understanding the concept of ownership, as it has not developed a *language* to convey this information.”

Confirmation of a suspicion that you don’t know cow *language*.

JGiles August 18, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Nonsense. In order to argue with someone, I do NOT need to presuppose that either of us own ourselves; I need merely presuppose that, at this particular moment, we are USING ourselves. “Rights” never enter in. In point of fact they don’t exist.

Rights are in no way natural; they are an intellectual construct, used to support the moral and economic structures that people prefer. The man lost at sea without food has no “right” to own himself; he will be dead soon regardless of what he does, and the fish will own his body. A man has no “right” to own a house that is on fire, regardless of his having paid for it or built it with his own hands; it will burn, and some of his “property” be destroyed, regardless of his wishes. The earth, if anything, will own the ash.

The actions of man are no more or less affected by artificial “rights” than the actions of nature. The man cut down by a robber is in the same position as the man drowning at sea; the victim of arson, as the victim of lightning. There is only one difference; man can be persuaded to acquiesce to a given code or rights, either by argument or force.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm

“Nonsense. In order to argue with someone, I do NOT need to presuppose that either of us own ourselves; I need merely presuppose that, at this particular moment, we are USING ourselves.”

Ownership means nothing other than exclusive use, and because one’s body is a rivalrous good (one’s use of a body implies no one else is using it), the only way it can be used is exclusively. Thus, you prove Hoppe’s point: to argue, you must use your body, you must use it exclusively, and we call that “ownership”. To not own one’s body could only mean it is being used by someone else (or not being used at all), and you find yourself unable to argue.

JGiles August 18, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Well, I own my car, but I’m not using it at the moment. Does that mean I don’t REALLY own it right now?

And since I’m not using it, and it’s out of my sight, there is nothing to stop it from (assuming it were conscious) using itself.

To say that we do not “own” anything we aren’t using is to radically redefine the word.

In addition, this is entirely separate from my other point, which is that the very concept of “ownership” is, well, just a concept. There are no natural rights.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm

“Well, I own my car, but I’m not using it at the moment. Does that mean I don’t REALLY own it right now?”

This is the difference between property and property rights. The “owner” of something can only be he who is using it at the moment. But the *rightful* owner is defined by the ethics, in this case the homesteading rule. The argument here is that if you rejected this claim and allowed anyone other than the first owner to be permanently the rightful owner (unless said owner transfers the title), then other people have just as much a claim to your body as you do, and it would unjustified for you to make your argument because you are ignoring other people’s rightful claims over your body. In other words, choosing a different rule for transferring property rights, for example making mere claims, you couldn’t possible ever justify using your own body because attempting to make the claim that you can will itself be an unjustified action, happening before you claim your body! Only when it is justified to take ownership by first using does your own implicit claim to your ability to argue become justified.

This is the difference between “is” and “ought”. Property “is”, while property rights “ought” to be. Sure it is not physically impossible to “justify” (argue for) a different ethic than the non-aggression axiom, but it is unjustifiable. As soon as we give any other definition for what is “justified” and what is “unjustifiable” we, in doing so, label the very action of arguing this as unjustifiable. Thus one can not conform to one’s own system of ethics while performing any kind of action, including the act of arguing this system, unless that ethic stems from the non-aggression axiom.

It’s really quite simple: arguing that you can initiate force is really just informing others that you’re not gonna argue about it.

JGiles August 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm

The issue between us, sweatervest, is that we’re arguing from different paradigms.

Let me ask you a few questions.

1. Why do I NEED to “justify” my use of my body? I am using my body; everyone else can like it or lump it. If someone else makes a claim on my body, my response is not “That claim is unjustified, let me sit down and explain why”, but “Come have a go and see what happens to you”.

2. What does it mean to be the “rightful” owner of a thing? Aren’t you simply assuming that one claim must be “rightful” and none of the others are?

3. You say that ignoring other people’s “rightful” claims would be “unjustified”. Why?

Please understand that I am not saying that I don’t APPROVE of property rights and self-ownership; I am simply pointing out that the personal property system is not objective and not natural. There IS no “natural” system of rights. All such systems are artificial. That being so, I contend that making arguments such as “socialism is immoral” is pointless. It isn’t immoral under Marx’s system, evidently. At most, you could say “The morals of socialism are internally inconsistent”, which is true.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm

“Why do I NEED to “justify” my use of my body? I am using my body; everyone else can like it or lump it.”

Then they can stop you, and then you can’t use your body. If you don’t need to justify your actions, then neither do robbers, rapists, murderers, etc. and then all you can do is sit back and watch the world happen. What we’re interested in is understanding why some societies tend to increase the standard of living of people (give them more options) while others tend to decrease it, and at different rates. What kind of human behavior escalates conflicts and ends up destroying the very society in question? What kind of human behavior doesn’t do this?

What Hoppe is arguing is that there is an objective reason why objectively existing societies either function or do not. The only assumption of human behavior is self-interest. That is, the actions of humans are *intended* to get more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. Their actions are illogical if and only if the indended consequences do not match the *actual* consequences. No one wants society to crumble. No one wants to fight a war (the ones who start wars are really good at removing themselves entirely from the battle), so when lots of wars happen it must be because people are acting illogically. What we discover through argumentation ethics is that any behavior that deviates from a libertarian non-aggression axiom is illogical in the sense that acting on it will not cause the intended consequences. Sure, a politician that starts a war but doesn’t fight it might really know what’s going on, and isn’t acting illogically, but all the people who march into battle because they thing they are fighting for something they think is good are acting extremely illogically, because their actions cause exactly the opposite of the intended consequences. The extent to which a society deviates from the non-aggression axiom and its logical implications is the extent to which it destroys itself.

“What does it mean to be the “rightful” owner of a thing? Aren’t you simply assuming that one claim must be “rightful” and none of the others are?”

That is the purpose of ethics. Just like the purpose of physics is to determine what is possible and what is not, ethics aims to determine what is justifiable and what is not… justifiable is an empty word, though, and what argumentation ethics does is establish that justifiable is none other than logically consistent, that is an action that will result in the intended consequences.

“You say that ignoring other people’s “rightful” claims would be “unjustified”. Why?”

Because by doing so you are making a claim and not ignoring it. To me unjustified means self-contradictory in this sense. There’s no way for you to consistently say your claim is justified while others’ are not: A is not A. This fails the universal test, because it assigns different boundaries of justifiable behavior to different actors, which implies that one actor is distiguishable from all the rest, but an actor is only distinguishable by its actions so this is circular logic: the one person that gets to do what other’s cannot do is the one that gets to do what others cannot do. This is illogical because as soon as someone else violates this he distinguishes himself as one that can rightly do so, which can only mean that the other actor (the original distiguishable one) cannot stop him, which is what I mean when I say A is not A. It is impossible for both of those situations to exist. If A can stop B, then B can’t stop A.

“I am simply pointing out that the personal property system is not objective and not natural. There IS no “natural” system of rights. All such systems are artificial.”

All this does is render the entire discussion of ethics meaningless. First of all, the distinction between natural and artificial is artificial :p (it’s a matter of opinion), but I think what you really mean is that ethics is none other than what people agree is just and unjust. But see this makes no sense, for if there is agreement then there is simply no conflict! To perform an ethical analysis of a situation in which no conflict arises is a waste. Ethics must be what is employed when there is *disagreement*. Only then is there a conflict of interest that needs to somehow be *resolved*, with one party not being able to get what it wants. What Hoppe argues is that there is one way to do this that is logically consistent with its ability to do so, and that is the non-aggression axiom. Otherwise it’s just peoples’ whims, and those kinds of societies go flying down the tubes because they lead to disorder, not order.

“That being so, I contend that making arguments such as “socialism is immoral” is pointless. It isn’t immoral under Marx’s system, evidently. At most, you could say “The morals of socialism are internally inconsistent”, which is true.”

Exactly, so by claiming that Marxism isn’t immoral, you are actually claiming that it is. Example: Marxism claims that theories coming from individuals that are part of a social class are automatically immoral, therefore Marxism is immoral. To say it isn’t immoral would at least involve rejecting Marxism (so at least the Marxist cannot claim that Marxism isn’t immoral).

Finally I should say that the claim that there is no objective approach to ethics is an empty claim. Perhaps that is the case, but I have heard little argumentation towards this point other than to flatly reject that the objective approach is possible.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Allow me to attempt to clarify something: if you don’t want to justify your actions then that just means you’re not gonna talk about ethics. Sure, that’s possible, but it doesn’t really pertain to the discussion here. What we are talking about is if you tried to justify your actions, would doing so imply through your own argument that you are not justified in your actions? What Hoppe is attempting to show is that this is always the case if you use any definition of “justified” other than the one provided by the non-aggression axiom.

Sure, most criminals don’t try to justify their actions, and probably would admit plenty of times that it isn’t justified. But some criminals, like politicians, do try to justify their actions: we’re saying that must be illogical.

JGiles August 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm

“Then they can stop you, and then you can’t use your body. If you don’t need to justify your actions, then neither do robbers, rapists, murderers, etc. and then all you can do is sit back and watch the world happen”

No, all I can do is defend myself. My paradigm in no way eschews violence. I entirely agree that rapists and murderers have no need to “justify” themselves on theoretical grounds, any more than I do. That doesn’t mean I’ll allow them to do whatever they want to me or my family and friends, it simply means that I acknowledge that I am acting out of my own feelings and prejudices. I believe my feelings and prejudices to be superior to those of wanna-be murderers and rapists.

“No one wants society to crumble. No one wants to fight a war (the ones who start wars are really good at removing themselves entirely from the battle), so when lots of wars happen it must be because people are acting illogically. What we discover through argumentation ethics is that any behavior that deviates from a libertarian non-aggression axiom is illogical in the sense that acting on it will not cause the intended consequences.”

I disagree. There are (and have been, historically) plenty of people who disagree so strongly with one society or another that they’re willing to do quite a lot, up to and including personally fighting to destroy it; or, commonly, they simply have personal agendas which necessitate destruction.

Alexander. Caesar. Charlemagne. William the Conqueror. Genghis Khan. Lenin. Churchill. Mao. In fact, many of the most famous people in history. Their intended consequences wouldn’t even have been possible if they had adhered to the nonaggression principle. In order to achieve their aims, violence was necessary, and the consequences of their actions were exactly what they intended. Notice that I make no judgment on the aims themselves; positive or negative, they happened. And it is absolutely ludicrous to say that it was “illogical” for Genghis Khan or Mao to use violence.

“Sure, a politician that starts a war but doesn’t fight it might really know what’s going on, and isn’t acting illogically, but all the people who march into battle because they thing they are fighting for something they think is good are acting extremely illogically, because their actions cause exactly the opposite of the intended consequences.”

Fighting to defend what you think good is illogical? This is news to me. Tell me, were the British soldiers at Waterloo being illogical? They were there to stop Napoleon from reconquering the Continent. Did they “cause exactly the opposite of the intended consequences”?

“what argumentation ethics does is establish that justifiable is none other than logically consistent, that is an action that will result in the intended consequences.”

Two things. First, you cannot possibly know what action will result in the intended consequences, because there are countless variables affecting every single decision ever made and the outcome thereof. In so far as argumentation ethics claims to make that calculation, it is intellectually bankrupt.
Second, if what is logical is justifiable, and anything that results in the desired consequences is logical, then it must be that Krystallnacht was eminently justifiable, as it resulted in exactly what the Nazis intended. And so was the Battle of Hastings, as it resulted in exactly what William wanted. Neither followed the nonaggression principle in any way.

“This is illogical because as soon as someone else violates this he distinguishes himself as one that can rightly do so, which can only mean that the other actor (the original distiguishable one) cannot stop him, which is what I mean when I say A is not A. It is impossible for both of those situations to exist. If A can stop B, then B can’t stop A.”

“Can’t” stop him? Only if he is physically prevented from doing so.

You misunderstand me. I’m not saying that one person is justified. I’m saying NO-ONE is justified in the sense you mean, or that everyone is, and that a system which purports to decide which among many is justified is, inherently, subjective. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it must be realized. No single system of thought is absolute truth. All internally consistent systems are equal to all others.

“First of all, the distinction between natural and artificial is artificial :p (it’s a matter of opinion), but I think what you really mean is that ethics is none other than what people agree is just and unjust. But see this makes no sense, for if there is agreement then there is simply no conflict! To perform an ethical analysis of a situation in which no conflict arises is a waste. Ethics must be what is employed when there is *disagreement*.”

It makes perfect sense. An ethical system is what a certain group agrees is just and unjust, and how they determine same. They employ this system to justify themselves when their interests collide with those of another group, using a different but equally valid (or invalid) system. Conflict results, and the winner generally takes home all the marbles.

In order to resolve an argument using an ethical system, you first have to persuade one or both sides to ABANDON their current system and use another one, and then the disagreement collapses to an obvious conclusion. If the system adopted by both parties is what was used by one party previously, that party will have an advantage in the resolution. If it’s a third-party system, neither party will necessarily have an advantage, but neither party will accept the ruling, either. For instance, using African bushmen tribal custom to arbitrate a disagreement between a monarchist and an ancap will probably get you a result that neither will agree to live with.

“Example: Marxism claims that theories coming from individuals that are part of a social class are automatically immoral, therefore Marxism is immoral. To say it isn’t immoral would at least involve rejecting Marxism (so at least the Marxist cannot claim that Marxism isn’t immoral).”

That is certainly a problem with Marxism, but it is an internal problem. The outsider (like me) CAN say that Marxism isn’t immoral; it’s simply not a complete or valid ethical theory, because it invalidates itself. That statement has nothign to do with morality. Since “morality” is inherently subjective, Marxism CAN’T be objectively immoral; it is, obviously, immoral to ancaps, and apparently also to Marxists.

“What Hoppe is attempting to show is that this is always the case if you use any definition of “justified” other than the one provided by the non-aggression axiom.”

And what I am trying to suggest is that this is the case if adn ONLY if you look at things solely through the ethical framework of Hoppe, and assume that non-aggression is objectively, inherently moral.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Can property own other property? How would that be possible? If I own something, it is by definition property, if I own myself then I am property, if I am property, then I cannot own anything. Self ownership is a rather stupid circular argument. People are not property. To claim self ownership is to reject private property, and that gets us to this quote:[Rejecting private property, then, is tantamount to rejecting the possibility of rational argument.]

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

tralphkays,

“Can property own other property?”

Yes.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

How? Please describe one example, not using people, of property owning property.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm

People are a unique case in that they have consciousness and can thus engage in argument. Property is a necessary corollary to the presuppositions of argument. That which cannot engage in argument cannot own anything.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

So you cannot show even one example of property owning property. Only by begging the question and assuming the very thing that you are trying to prove, namely that people are property, can you construct your argument. A logical fallacy.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Your point is addressed in the essay. Did you bother to read it, or did you, having read the introduction, merely pronounce yourself competent to discuss it seriously?

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Again you evade my point. To quote you [People are a unique case in that they have consciousness and can thus engage in argument. Property is a necessary corollary to the presuppositions of argument. That which cannot engage in argument cannot own anything.] Nothing in this statement (which is completely false, except for the last sentence, by the way) shows that people are property. This statement presupposes self ownership, that people are property, that is begging the question, a logical fallacy.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

“People are a unique case in that they have consciousness…”

This statement is correct.

“…and can thus engage in argument.”

This statement is also correct. Consciousness is a prerequisite to argument. That which is not conscious cannot argue.

“Property is a necessary corollary to the presuppositions of argument.”

This has been explained ad nauseum. Perhaps you would care to give a rebuttal?

I must ask again: did you read the essay, or are you merely making pronouncements on its validity from ignorance?

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 5:00 pm

“Property is a necessary corollary to the presuppositions of argument.” I have given a rebuttal to this argument, which you choose to ignore, that argument is based on a logical fallacy.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm

If you are complaining about the fact that it is logically inconsistent to argue that humans are not property, then that’s too bad. Otherwise, I do not see your point. Perhaps you should rephrase it.

sweatervest August 18, 2010 at 1:44 pm

“This is a claim that anyone who takes a contrary position is irrational. That is a dishonest and insulting rhetorical trick.”

This very statement is nothing more than the use of strong rhetoric to make an empty accusation of Hoppe’s argument. I daresay you are attempting to trick people by calling Hoppe “insulting”, which hardly matters anyways. The truth can be insulting.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

Thinker, you took a contrary position, according to your own argument that makes you irrational……

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

tralphkays,

I rather said, “Suppose such-and-such contrary position is advanced, what are its implications?” and found that they contradicted the inherent presuppositions of argument, thus demonstrating the contrary position to be internally inconsistent.

Also, nothing in AE deals with irrationality, merely logical consistency.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Basing property rights on “self ownership” is logically flawed, the term ownership pre-supposes property rights, it derives its meaning from property rights. It is begging the question to assume some kind of property as the basis for establishing property.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 5:42 pm

You have implicitly answered my question about whether you had read the essay–you conspicuously haven’t. Hoppe demonstrates that self-ownership is necessary for argument. He then shows that external property is also necessary for argument. The one is not derived from the other.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I read the article, Hoppe says that self-ownership is necessary for argument, he certainly does not prove it, further he fails to prove that humans own themselves, he assumes that and steps right into a logical fallacy. If self ownership is not proven and people still argue rationally, then self ownership is not necessary for argument. Hoppe does derive property rights from self ownership.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I said essay, not article–they didn’t excerpt the entire article and Hoppe’s justification for self-ownership was on the previous page. In that sense, I suppose it’s perfectly reasonable for you be skeptical.

Let me quote from the relevant section of The Economics and Ethics of Private Property (pg. 317-318):

“It is only as long as there is at least an implicit recognition of each individual’s property right in his or her own body that argumentation can take place. Only if this right is recognized is it possible for someone to agree to what has been said in an argument and can what has been said be validated, or is it possible to say no and to agree only on the fact that there is disagreement. Indeed, anyone who would try to justify any norm would have to presuppose the property right in one’s body as a valid norm, simply in order to say this is what I claim to be true and objective. Any person who would try to dispute the property right in one’s own body would become caught up in a contradiction.”

This is a critical portion of the essay, and shame of Mises Daily for not including it.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm

This means nothing at all, it is not a property right that makes argumentation possible, it is existence that does that. A theory that recognises that property derives from the existence of humans based on the concept that humans cannot be owned and that it is not logically consistent to assert ones own right to exist while denying someone else that right is all that is necessary. To use a circular argument that postulates a property (the self) that is completely outside the definition of property is an attack on the very concepts of property and ownership.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Let’s walk through your proposal, shall we:

1. Humans exist.
2. Humans cannot be owned (there can be no property rights in humans).
Problem–what constitutes the “human” that cannot be owned? His mind? His body? Both? If his mind, this is acceptable; if his body or both, then he may not act. If you don’t like the term “self-ownership,” perhaps you would prefer the term “body-ownership?”
3. …I’m not quite sure what to put here. Even assuming that 2. is true, how exactly to do you justify your claim that it is “not logically consistent to assert ones own right to exist while denying someone else that right?” Perhaps on the basis of the universalization principle of AE? Even so, you have not shown that these statements are sufficient to allow argument. You do not demonstrate how I may not claim that it is illegitimate for you to make use of your body? Hoppe explains it in that if I do so, it is then impossible to engage in argument, because I am not arguing, but rather soliloquizing. On the other hand, I must assume that it is legitimate for me to use my body, or else I could not make any claim at all; and you must hold these assumptions as well. You may say that I can, physically, make a “claim,” even if I do not consider it legitimate, but consider this: if the act of arguing is illegitimate, then in order for us to act morally, we must deny ourselves knowledge of morality, including that argument is immoral. This is contradictory, and thus cannot be consistent with argument. We call the necessary legitimacy of the use of one’s physical body “property.” If you have a better term, please feel free to provide it.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Not one thing that you say here establishes ownership, or requires ownership of ones self.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

You are correct in saying that it does not establish self-ownership metaphysically, but that is not the point. The point is merely to show that if you want norms, you must assume self-ownership. If you do not assume self-ownership, then you cannot establish norms. If you don’t want norms, that’s fine, but it does not invalidate argumentation ethics.

Bala August 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm

tralphkays,

” This means nothing at all, it is not a property right that makes argumentation possible, it is existence that does that. ”

You wouldn’t believe how many months I have been trying to drive this point through. Nice to see someone on this forum who sees things this way. I though I was in a small minority that thought AE is puerile. No more so. Thanks.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm

[if his body or both, then he may not act], a completely unproven and unsupported statement, also it is begging the question, a logical fallacy.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 8:03 pm

To own something means to have the exclusive right to use it. If I do not have the exclusive right to use my body, then I cannot act, as I am then infringing on the just claims of others. You may object that this only applies if there are norms to be obeyed, but this is precisely the point. We are engaging in argument to determine norms, and I have already shown how no norms can be permitted that prevent argument.

Also, could you use quotation marks instead of brackets? It makes things a bit easier.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm

“To own something means to have the exclusive right to use it.” So what? That does not suffice to establish self ownership. That does not eliminate the seperation of owner from property. This mind-body dichotomy is a waste of time, any part of your body or ‘self’ that can be seperated from you without destruction of the ‘self’ may be property, but it does not make the ‘self’ property. Existence is a fact, and existence is clearly all that is required for me to act. Postulating self ownership and the classification of ‘self’ as property cannot be logically supported by assuming the conclusion, that is the logical fallacy of begging the question.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 9:59 pm

“So what? That does not suffice to establish self ownership.”

Indeed. You have to keep reading what I wrote. We are dealing with action solely in a normative context. That you act in the physical sense does not depend on self-ownership; it does if we presuppose that you are required to act accord to norms. And I have already demonstrated how we must presuppose that we are acting morally in order to argue and establish norms.

“That does not eliminate the seperation of owner from property. ”

Perhaps you should answer this question: why must the owner of a property be distinct from that property? You have not actually explained why there must be a separate owner, merely assumed it. Unless you justify this proposal, you do not have any basis for your complaint against the idea of self-ownership.

“This mind-body dichotomy is a waste of time, any part of your body or ‘self’ that can be seperated from you without destruction of the ‘self’ may be property, but it does not make the ‘self’ property. Existence is a fact, and existence is clearly all that is required for me to act.”

Rocks exist, yet rocks do not act. Existence is not sufficient for action; it requires consciousness and an ability to intentionally affect the physical world. In order to act normatively, you must establish norms. In order to establish norms, you must argue, and to argue you must assume self-ownership for the arguing parties. Your objection is based on the claim that one’s physical body cannot be owned, for which you have provided no justification. In fact, the definition of ownership that I provided, and that you apparently accepted–to own something means to have the exclusive right to use it–certainly does allow for one’s physical body to be owned. Also, extrapolating from your statement, “any part of your body or ‘self’ that can be seperated from you without destruction of the ‘self’ may be property,” even provides a way to justify the potential for self-ownership: as I can remove each of the atoms in my body from it without destroying my body, I can own each of my body’s component atoms, which is indistinguishable from owning my body as a whole. You are objecting without presenting any basis, and even providing the means to refute your objection, so, again, justify your stance.

“before there where any humans, was there property?”

Only if there were acting physical beings before humans, which to my knowledge there were not.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 10:19 pm

how cute, chiding me for making an “assumption”

Bala August 18, 2010 at 10:28 pm

” Only if there were acting physical beings before humans, which to my knowledge there were not. ”

This is most puerile. It is not “action” but man’s rational faculty, his power of reason that developed the concept “property”. Your failure to recognise this is at the root of your inability to reject AE for the nonsense it is.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Bala,

Indeed, just like all other concepts, property is a creation of man’s mind. However, unless a concept manifests physically, it is objectively meaningless. Concepts manifest physically through human action. As I have said above, you may create whatever theories you like about things which only exist in your mind, but these have no bearing on physical reality.

Thinker August 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Hmm…that last comment didn’t come out right.

…until it fixes itself before my eyes.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Another question for you, before there where any humans, was there property?

michael August 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Virtually every mammal and bird on earth has a territory that it defends. I’ve heard it stated that the only exception to the rule is the sidewinder, who just travels the world over and lives anywhere.

Territory is not just land but its resources. So this drive to own territory is very deep, far deeper than just being human.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Wow!

Bala August 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm

tralpkays,

It is with good reason that I call michael a birdbrain.

mpolzkill August 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Why was that so dumb? These basic drives are a big part of what creates “property”. And earlier Donald answered “Thinker” answering Ralph:

“A cow does not own itself because it is not demonstrably capable of understanding the concept of ownership, as it has not developed a *language* to convey this information.”

Confirmation of a suspicion that you don’t know cow *language*.

“I liked that a lot. Dogs know when they are owned by a human or another dog or when they own themselves.

Bala August 18, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Thinker,

Why should there be “ownership”? Why should there be “norms”? All you have shown is an arbitrary choice of trying to employ argumentation to identify norms.

That apart, all “norms” are concepts. All “concepts” are formed in the human mind. They do not exist in a floating consciousness. “Concepts” are formed in the human mind by applying reason to the material provided by the senses (I challenge you to show another way by which man forms concepts).

So, all “norms” exist as “concepts” in the human mind and nowhere else. It is nor argumentation that produces he norms but the human mind. Argumentation is just a tool to sharpen one’s reasoning by using the rational faculty of more than 1 human being.

You are guilty of overrating argumentation and deifying it.

Thinker August 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

Bala,

Your questions should be switched: why should there be “norms”? why should there be “ownership”?

First, if there are no presupposed norms, then the question “why should there be norms?” is meaningless, as the word “should” requires some moral standard, so the answer to your question is that there must be norms so that your question can be meaningful. Of course, your question doesn’t have to be meaningful; likewise, norms do not have to exist.

Second, there “should” be ownership because it is a prerequisite to argument. If we want to argue, we must assume the existence of ownership. Again, we don’t have to argue, and so ownership does not have to exist.

I challenge you to show me a concept that is wholly unrelated to action.

Similarly, I challenge you to show the distinction between “norms” crafted by a single reasoning person and a mere systematizing and refining of that person’s preferences.

You are guilty of overrating individual reason and deifying it. Your entire philosophy requires that there be another motive for action than personal preference, yet you have not provided such a motive. Unless you can explain how man can act contrary to his preference, you have no leg to stand on.

mpolzkill August 19, 2010 at 10:44 am

“You are guilty of overrating individual reason and deifying it.”

=

Randian

Bala August 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

Thinker,

” First, if there are no presupposed norms, then the question “why should there be norms?” is meaningless, as the word “should” requires some moral standard, so the answer to your question is that there must be norms so that your question can be meaningful. ”

This is a rather poor answer as it presupposes that “moral standard” as I use it and “norms” as you do are one an the same. I am sorry to say that they are not.

My question does not require “norms” to exist in order to be answered. On the other hand, it requires a moral code which then serves the purpose of helping the individual establish “norms”. The cause is the moral code. The effect is the “norms”.

” Second, there “should” be ownership because it is a prerequisite to argument. ”

Absolutely meaningless. Ownership is not a prerequisite to argument (and this is the fundamental error of AE) . All I need to enter an argument is to choose argument over a club. This choice requires an entity with a volitional consciousness actively valuing different options on a scale of values. All the entity needs to do is to understand the outcomes of the two options using reason, value one outcome over another and hence choose a particular course of action. “Ownership” does not come in anywhere in this.

” I challenge you to show me a concept that is wholly unrelated to action. ”

This is too simple. I’ll give you 3 – “Existence”, “Identity”, “Consciousness”

And here is a challenge thrown back at you. I challenge you to show how “preference” is not preceded by “valuation” and how demonstrating a preference is not expressing one’s valuations. I also challenge you to show how “preference” is possible without valuation. In continuation, I challenge you to show how valuation is possible without a rational entity with a volitional consciousness engaging in the valuation. I challenge you to show how such a valuation is possible without a standard of value.

” Similarly, I challenge you to show the distinction between “norms” crafted by a single reasoning person and a mere systematizing and refining of that person’s preferences ”

This is even simpler. I would respond by saying that there isn’t any such distinction. In fact, I would go on to say that absent “preference”, argumentation is impossible. However, my counter challenge to you remains the same.

” You are guilty of overrating individual reason and deifying it. ”

I am only saying that reason is man’s ONLY means of “knowing”. I am also saying that “reason” is what makes valuation and an ethical code possible. Finally, I am also saying that choosing argumentation over the club is made possible by reason and nothing else. If that’s “deifying”……

” Your entire philosophy requires that there be another motive for action than personal preference, yet you have not provided such a motive. ”

It does not. It all starts with choice. To choose is to prefer. So, your repeated questioning on the illusory alternate motive is rather pointless.

” Unless you can explain how man can act contrary to his preference, ”

Why should I? I see no reason to do so. Your repeated insistence does not make it necessary.

That apart, this question is as meaningless as it can get. Action follows choice. To choose is to prefer. (And taking that a couple of steps further, to prefer is to value. To value is to use a standard of value). So, to ask for action that contradicts preference is a self-contradiction. I wonder what your motive is in insisting on this.

tralphkays August 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm

So far the only thing I have seen convincingly shown here is that a belief in self ownership makes rational discussion impossible.

mpolzkill August 19, 2010 at 7:51 am

I agree that the comments and the article are mostly a tangle of blabber that I have barely read, but what’s your definition of “own” Ralph? The word comes from “owe”: the more you owe (or think you owe) someone, the more that person owns you. I would think that Bala would completely understand that and say that he owns himself.

tralphkays August 19, 2010 at 9:51 am

I could not care less about AE, but the concept of ‘self ownership’ is a serious corruption of all of the terms used to describe it, and is an attack on private property rights. The proponents of ‘self ownership’ jump back and forth over the question of the ‘mind-body’ dichotomy as a way to confuse the issues. Note that they fall back to the position that a person owns their body when the impossibility of owning ones ‘self’ is established. They ignore that this position necessarily involves postulating a ‘self’ that is seperate from the ‘body’, a dubious philosophical proposition indeed. This is also a contradiction of their claim that owner and property can be the same entity, owning ones ‘body’ seperates the ‘self’ that does the owning from the ‘body’ that is owned. The ‘mind-body’ dichotomy is a red herring and adds nothing to the discussion. Their argument hinges on corrupting the meaning of concepts in such a way as to make them meaningless. Defining ‘owning’ as having exclusive right to use something does not suffice either, the word ‘use’ implies a ‘user’, just as the word ‘act’ implies an ‘actor’. Unifying the ‘act’ and the ‘actor’ as a single concept destroys a valuable distinction. Postulating ‘property’ that can also be ‘owner’ is likewise a corruption of the concepts. By definition some thing that is property cannot ‘own’ anything, if it did ‘own’ something then it could not in turn be ‘owned’. Self ownership means that the self is property, being property it cannot own anything, a complete contradiction. People are not property, people create the concept of property and apply it to their world.

mpolzkill August 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

Semantics from hell. Well, I’m sure the people who own us would be amused by the way we pass the time here.

tralphkays August 19, 2010 at 10:32 am

I think the people who own me are facing foreclosure, the bank gets me soon.

tralphkays August 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

“In order to argue and seek agreement with another person, you must accept that each of you owns yourself.” Nonsense, all that is necessary is that both of you agree that neither of you own the other.

mpolzkill August 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Good enough for me.

tralphkays August 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I wonder what Kinsella would have to say about this overwhelming attitude that people must “own” themselves, at its heart is a false belief that everything that exists is “ownable”. Ideas and people are not property, neither, by their very nature, can be “owned”.

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