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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13682/beyond-is-and-ought/

Beyond Is and Ought

August 24, 2010 by

Hoppe has lifted the American libertarian movement out of decades of sterile debate and deadlock, and provided us a route for future development of the libertarian discipline. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard

{ 534 comments }

Bala August 27, 2010 at 9:42 pm

At the end of the day, “property” is an “ought”. All attempts by people out here to try to escape this reality (including Hoppe who is not directly in this discussion) are looking outright hilarious.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 5:52 am

Bala, I have problems finding the correct location for reply, so I’ll reply here at the end.

You said that it is not possible to make a statement without making any assumptions. I gave you one that either of us could make.

Maybe I was a bit imprecise in the formulation. Make that “It is impossible to determine whether a statement is correct or not without making assumptions”. Also, whether it is possible to apriori know that an assumption is true does not negate the falsificationist approach. So, you are dodging.

Also, on a side note, in addition to showing you an example where there is a conflict of freedoms of actions of people, there is also the converse problem. If you inflict pain to someone without influencing his ability to move, is that a violation of right? But which right? That person’s freedom of action is inviolate, and since they do not own their body, their property right was also inviolate. So, if that action should be impermissible, there must be a third right separate from those above.

I am only insisting that you properly demonstrate all your assumptions and all your implications.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

Jay Lakner,

” It depends what you mean by “oughts”. I generally tend to avoid the word because it can cause confusion. ”

Oh!! I generally take “oughts” to mean the answer to the question “What should I do?”. I can’t escape the feeling that as a living being, this is an existential question and that finding the right answer will determine whether or not I exist and what kind of existence I will lead. So, I fail to see why it could cause any confusion. It seems to me to be the most fundamental of all questions facing any and every human.

” When I say there are no objective oughts, I am saying that no action is more right than any other. Right and wrong are concepts developed by the interpersonal relationships between people and have no meaning in objective reality. ”

Do you mean to say that if I have chosen to stay alive, well and happy, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? As an example (I know I have posed the question to @Hayekian too), are you saying that for Crusoe, marooned as he is on an island and having chosen to stay alive, well and happy, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? Are you saying that for a person who has chosen to stay alive and well, it does not matter that certain choices increase his well-being and certain choices diminish it? Are you saying that to call the former the “right” choice and the latter the “wrong” choice is faulty?

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 8:43 am

Bala,

All “oughts” need to be accompanied by the end you are aiming to achieve.

I ought to find a better way of catching fish if I don’t want to starve.
I ought to wear a helmet while riding my bike if I don’t want to risk head injury.
I ought to shower regularly if I don’t want to smell bad to others.
I ought to control the centre in chess if I don’t want to get into a difficult position.
I ought to educate myself in a subject before posting online if I don’t want to make a fool of myself.
And so on.

You seem to be claiming that the end aim of all humans is to “live”. But as I have pointed out elsewhere, other aims are often higher on the value scales of people than living.

For example, let’s say you value your child’s life greater than your own.
I ought to dive in front of a bus (pushing my child to safety) if I want my child to live.
I ought to distract the murderer (allowing my child to flee to saftey) if I want my child to live.

In other situations, people value their reputation higher than life.
I ought to go down with my sinking ship if I want to be remembered as an honorable captain.
I ought to hold the line against overwhelming enemies (as opposed to fleeing) if I want to be remembered as a great soldier.

So oughts are subjective. They depend on the end you aim to achieve. And this depends on your scale of values.

Property rights are effectively a set of oughts that a whole community generally agree upon. So when I say ““Ought” is a subjective term used by communities to ensure peaceful cooperation amongst their members”, I am talking about these collectively agreed upon “oughts”.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

Jay Lakner,

” All “oughts” need to be accompanied by the end you are aiming to achieve. ”

I have no disagreement with this. However, your next statement

” You seem to be claiming that the end aim of all humans is to “live”. ”

is a misrepresentation of my point. I am saying that even “staying alive” is a choice to be made by human beings. Even that choice depends on the circumstances. There is always a possibility of circumstances where death is a better option than life or where the risk of death may not deter a human being from picking specific choices.

For instance, a terminally ill person may decide that the pain of the illness far outweighs the happiness he gets from other sources and may choose death over life.

A father seeing his daughter in the way of a speeding vehicle may choose the high probability of death in the attempt to save his daughter over the certainty of his survival by not attempting to do so because the anguish of losing his daughter, especially with the knowledge that he may have been able to save her by attempting to do so, far outweighs any other happiness he may get in the remainder of his living days. (I am sure I would do that for my daughter).

However, these are lifeboat situations where the high probability of pain and anguish caused by not choosing death or the high probability of it overrides by far the possible happiness of continued life.

At the same time, my point is not that human beings “ought” to value their own life above all. I am saying that staying alive is the primary choice that makes all other choices possible and necessary. My point is that having made this (like you and I have) it is necessary for a rational human being to make his subsequent choices consistent with it. Not doing so would be a contradiction of the primary choice. As human beings, we experience pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, happiness and suffering. These are the barometers that we use to make the choices we need to make consistent with our primary choice.

” So oughts are subjective. They depend on the end you aim to achieve. And this depends on your scale of values. ”

Once again, I have no disagreement with the first two statements. In fact, I do not even disagree with the third one, except that I am trying to address the basic question of how is man to form a scale of values? In particular, I am addressing the questions of the choices a man needs to make, including the primary choice of staying alive, and how man is to evaluate different options available to him, the absolute need of a standard of value and using this standard of value to rank his values so that he may then use this hierarchy to make his choices in consonance with them.

“Property” is a concept that can just as well evolve from this process of valuing as from your (ill-defined and ill-fated) attempts through AE.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

Bala,

Firstly, do not put me in the AE crowd. I have said many times that I have not yet done a systematic study of AE and it’s ramifications. Until I have studied it and “wrapped my head around” it, I won’t be making any arguments in favour or against it.

Secondly, you keep insisting that man chooses his scale of values. Why would you make this assumption?
Animals have a compelling desire to survive because they are genetically programmed to. Animals that don’t have this genetic tendency die out.
There is no “choice” involved. I have an overwhelming desire to continue living not because I choose to live but because that is a hard-wired aspect of my genetics.

The scale of values for any human develops from a combination of genetics, environment and previous experiences.

You claim you made the choice to live? But why did you make this choice? You made it because you feel an urge to live. But you don’t feel this urge because of the choice you made, you made the choice because you feel the urge.
You’ve made the mistake of mixing up cause and effect.
Cause: Feeling the urge to live.
Effect: Choosing to live.
It doesn’t work the other way around. Your genetics comes first, before any choice you could ever possibly make.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Jay Lakner,

” You claim you made the choice to live? But why did you make this choice? You made it because you feel an urge to live. But you don’t feel this urge because of the choice you made, you made the choice because you feel the urge. ”

This just does not add up. You failed to ask another question. “Why do you feel the urge to live?”. If you had asked it, I would have answered “Because a life where the total happiness exceeds the total suffering still seems possible. Because from where I stand, there is still phenomenal scope to greatly enhance my happiness and probably die a much happier man”. That the urge to live is not innate is demonstrated by people who commit suicide. That should put paid to your claim about genetics, environment and previous experiences. Not that they are wrong but because you have omitted the most important element of them all – what you see as possible in the future.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Bala,

I didn’t feel the need to mention specifics in order to get my point across. I thought any kind of rough example would suffice. Of course I should have guessed that you’d ignore my point and start nit-picking at the specifics of my example. A pretty standard duck-and-cover debate tactic.

The point, which you elegantly managed to ignore, was that you do not choose your values. Your values, whatever the hell they are, form from a combination of genetics, environment and past experiences. Choices are then made based on these values.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Jay Lakner,

I can understand that you say what you say because you are a determinist. That does not mean I have to agree. I think you just made one helluva claim – that man does not choose his values but that his values are automatically determined by his genes and/or absorbed passively from the environment, i.e., that man’s mind is a blank slate on which various forces including his experiences write their own story . That is just an assertion though it goes well with your determinism. So, it is good to note that the discussion has come down to your assertion against mine. I guess we will have to leave it at that and recognise that while we may agree at a superficial level, we have deep, unbridgeable differences.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Bala,

Do you not see the circularity in your position?
You cannot simultaneously argue that man makes choices based on his values and also that man chooses his values.

If man chooses his values, and his choices are determined by his values, then his values are determined by his values. Clearly a circular argument.

Irrespective of whether one believes in free will or determinism, one’s position must be logically consistent.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Jay Lakner,

The perception of circularity is an outcome of failing to see that a hierarchy of values is a continuously evolving framework. It is not a static given. Its starts as nothing and evolves continuously. Values move up and down the hierarchy continuously with each new choice being made.

Just to take a simple example, I choose not to take away A’s watch which, had it been mine, would have been of considerable value to me. However, where I stand today, the principle “right to property” is of greater value to me than the watch can ever be. So, when the option presents itself to pinch A’s watch, I choose not to do so because that would frustrate a higher value to attain a lower value.

On the other hand, when I was a kid, my father only taught me that I should not take what is not mine. That was not the version of “property” rights I possess today, but it was good enough to make me return the extra Rs. 10 that a shopkeeper would occasionally return (by mistake).

Just trying to show how the hierarchy of values evolves as we grow, learn and make choices. So, the claim that it is circular does not hold.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Jay Lakner,

Just adding. The feeling of circularity gets removed when we realise that it all starts with an arbitrary and pre-moral choice to value staying alive, well and happy. Subsequent value choices depend on that original choice.

As the Oracle says to Neo, “You did not come here to make a choice. You already made it. You are just trying to understand it.”

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Bala,

You have not addressed my point. You’re trying to side-step it.

Like I originally said, your values are determined by your genetics, environment and past experiences.

All you have done is validated my point. With each new experience, your values change. They must do because past experiences are partly what determine your values.

But you do not ‘choose’ your values. Your values determine your choices. The claim that you choose your values would be a circular argument because that means your values determine your values which is nonsensical.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Bala wrote:
“The feeling of circularity gets removed when we realise that it all starts with an arbitrary and pre-moral choice to value staying alive, well and happy.”

So it’s an arbitrary choice now? Choosing to live has nothing to do with first valuing your life, which in turn has nothing to do with your genetic coding, environment and past experiences?

This claim (which is ridiculous) still doesn’t remove the circularity of your argument. Your choices in life are based on your values. You cannot choose your values because that would mean your values are based on your values.

Matthew Swaringen August 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I’m not sure circularity is a problem here.

Your existing values plus your experiences with those values (any negative experiences undermining or positive experiences re-enforcing those values) result in your current values. So I don’t think it’s “circular” so much as that which is builds upon that which has been.

The way that you interpret experience is related to your values, but I think choice or “free-will” has a role there, and thus to some extent in values (whether or or not such a thing actually exists, I think there is at least an element of random-chance built into humanity. We do not always do what we would be expected to do).

Russ the Apostate August 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

“You cannot choose your values because that would mean your values are based on your values.”

The choices you make about values today are based on your values today, which are at least partially the result of past choices. You may not choose your earliest values, that is true; they may be the result only of indoctrination and/or genetics. But you can make choices about values based on your current values. I don’t see any real contradiction here. It’s just personal evolution.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm

But hang on guys.

By definition, every choice you make is determined by your scale of values.

How can you possibly use your scale of values to make a choice to change your scale of values? It’s impossible. It defies the very definition of choice.

On what basis do you make the choice to change your values? You can’t be using your scale of values as the basis, otherwise you wouldn’t change it.

If I value Holdens more than Fords and then I receive reliable information that Holdens are defective, I don’t then “choose” to place Fords above Holdens in my scale of values. The change automatically occurs once I’ve learnt the new information. I might choose whether or not to believe the new information, but I certainly don’t choose the new state of my values afterwards.

You have to be careful here when considering what exactly occurs when your values change.

You have a set of values.
An experience occurs.
You learn from the experience.
You have a new set of values.

You have to be careful not to conflate “choice” with “learning”.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Jay Lakner,

” You have not addressed my point. You’re trying to side-step it. ”

No. I have and you are stubbornly refusing to see it. Russ’ and Matthew Swaringen’s posts are (to me) evidence that I am not avoiding. So, let me try responding to the specifics in this and your next post.

” Like I originally said, your values are determined by your genetics, environment and past experiences. ”

I did not say that this is not true. What you are missing is that in addition to the above, there are all the choices we are making in our life. Every new choice enters the hierarchy of values and alters it. Observation of the outcomes of earlier choices (what you would call learning) causes you to restructure the hierarchy. In either case, values move up or down the hierarchy.

Once again, quoting from The Oracle, “The test of any choice is having to make that choice again. So, here I am at it again”. This is just to show that when the outcomes of a choice are favourable, we retain the relative position of the elements of the choice in our value hierarchy. If they are unfavourable, we change the relative positions. Call that learning or evolution (as I would prefer to), but the hierarchy is prone to change with every choice.

One may not choose one’s initial values. They may come from imitation (as children generally do), indoctrination (also very common, especially for religious and traditional values) or a variety of sources. But the essence of being human is that we learn. We learn not just to stuff more knowledge (of existence and of causality within existence) but to review our past choices and see if we were right or not, i.e., whether or not the outcomes are the desired ones or not. This review has the potential to change the hierarchy.

New choices sometimes force changes in the hierarchy from outside. So, the important point is that the hierarchy is never fixed and constantly changing. This does not, however, mean that everything will necessarily change. As Captian Niobe says “Some things in life never change, but some things do”.

” The point, which you elegantly managed to ignore, was that you do not choose your values. ”

You are missing the point that it is only the initial values that are not chosen. As I keep making choices, the essence of refinement is that I am choosing new values and restructuring the hierarchy.

” Your values, whatever the hell they are, form from a combination of genetics, environment and past experiences. ”

You are missing the point that “past experiences” includes, as a subset, observation of the outcomes of previous choices. You have also omitted the ability to learn and restructure one’s hierarchy.

” So it’s an arbitrary choice now? Choosing to live has nothing to do with first valuing your life ”

Wait a sec. In my mind, it always was a pre-moral choice. As Neo says “It all starts with choice”. The primary choice is of life, i.e., staying alive, well and happy. While it is influenced by genetics, environment and experiences, it is also influenced (and more strongly so) by one’s assessment of the prospects for the future. Quoting, for a change, from The Architect (conveying a meaning opposite to what he intended), as humans, “There are many levels of survival we are ready to accept”.

However, if you do not make the primary choice to value life, you cease to exist. Once you make that primary choice, you face new choices. That’s life.

” How can you possibly use your scale of values to make a choice to change your scale of values? It’s impossible. It defies the very definition of choice. ”

No. It is you who seems to be claiming that human beings cannot learn and evolve because learning and evolution, especially when it is refusing to make the same choices, means that the hierarchy has been changed. No-one else but the conscious agent himself changes and can change the hierarchy.

It does not defy the definition of choice. It is the very definition of choice.

” On what basis do you make the choice to change your values? You can’t be using your scale of values as the basis, otherwise you wouldn’t change it. ”

The Oracle once again – “The test of any choice is having to make that choice again. So, here I am at it again”. We, as human beings, learn. Our choices can simultaneously lead to the satisfaction of some value and to the frustration of the other. To err is human. “To err” is to make a wrong choice. The choice was guided by the hierarchy of values. A learning human being then uses this “experience” to tinker with the hierarchy.

The confusion can be resolved if we understand that “outcomes” lie outside the hierarchy. They are the facts that we cannot evade. It is the interaction between outcomes and the existing hierarchy that produces a new hierarchy. It is not just a “pure internal reorganisation” but one triggered by external stimuli.

” If I value Holdens more than Fords ”

Let’s say you buy a Holden at this stage.

Conclusion – Holden above, Ford below in your hierarchy.

” and then I receive reliable information that Holdens are defective, ”

Let’s say the “reliable” information is your own experience as a user of a Holden and those of your friends who have bought a Ford.

Let’s now say that you are now at a stage where you are considering buying and your options are Holdens and Fords.

Let’s say your experience is so bitter and your friends’ eperiences are so pleasant that you choose to buy a Ford.

Conclusion – Ford above, Holden below in your hierarchy.

” I don’t then “choose” to place Fords above Holdens in my scale of values. The change automatically occurs once I’ve learnt the new information. ”

No. You changed it. Nothing in this is automatic.

” You have a set of values.
An experience occurs.
You learn from the experience.
You have a new set of values. ”

There are multiple errors in this. Firstly, it is not a “set of values” but a “hierarchy of values”. Secondly, what is this experience you talk of? It is nothing more than the outcomes of past choices. Of course you learn from them. What they lead to is not a new “set” of values but a new hierarchy. That could imply new values as well as re-ordering of pre-existing values.

” You have to be careful not to conflate “choice” with “learning”. ”

I am very careful. I am the one who is saying that “learning” constitutes revisiting and restructuring one’s hierarchy of values based on the learnings obtained from the outcomes of previous choices and well as other knowledge gathered in the interregnum. You are the one conflating them all into one umbrella term called “experience” and thus rendering ourself incapable of understanding what I am saying.

Russ and Matthew Swaringen,

Thanks for chiming in. It really helps to know once in a while that I am not speaking like a person who has lost his mind.

Jay Lakner August 29, 2010 at 4:50 am

Bala,

Thank you for taking the time to lay out your position.

But everything you have said backs up my argument.

A choice involves performing an action in preference to other actions which are lower on your heirarchy of values.
The reordering of your heirarchy of values cannot be a choice because this action does not occur in preference to other actions on your heirarchy of values. Nor can it ever be.

I maintain my argument that the reordering of your value heirarchy is an automatic process that occurs when you learn from past experiences.

You make the choice to learn. But you cannot make the choice of how this information will alter your scale of values. This would require an alternate heirarchy of values to refer to when choosing one new value over another. But you only have one heirarchy of values.

You wrote:
“I am the one who is saying that “learning” constitutes revisiting and restructuring one’s hierarchy of values based on the learnings obtained from the outcomes of previous choices and well as other knowledge gathered in the interregnum.”

So learning involves the shifting around of values based on new information, the workings of you brain and your present circumstances? Sounds like past experiences, genetics and environment to me.
I am merely pointing out that this “restructuring one’s heirarchy” does not constitute a “choice” on one’s behalf. In order for it to be a choice, you would have to consult your heirarchy of values and perform an action which is higher up than another. This does not occur when one “learns”.
Thus it should be clear that one does not and can not “choose” their values.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 6:27 am

Jay Lakner,

Your claim of automatic changing of values would be true is consciousness is automatic. However, human consciousness is volitional and on that point alone, your entire framework comes crashing down without a support. Volitional consciousness presupposes choice. Hence, you are completely wrong.

Unless of course you insist that consciousness is automatic.

Jay Lakner August 29, 2010 at 6:34 am

Ok let’s have look at a simple example.

Let’s say my value heirarchy goes like this:
Cars that are reliable.
Cars that unreliable.

As a result I might value specific cars in the following order:
Holden.
Ford.

Now my Holden breaks down. In light of this information, the internal workings of my brain lead me to conclude that Ford’s are more reliable than Holdens. My heirarchy of specific cars changes.
I did not “choose” to place Ford’s above Holdens. I did not consult my heirarchy of values for this process because otherwise I would come to the conclusion that Holdens should be of greater value to me than Fords. What happened is that my brain changed which categories Holdens and Fords fit into. My brain now associates Holdens with the unreliable and Fords with reliable (or more reliable).

The question is, has my heirarchy of values actually changed from the experience? I still value reliable cars over unreliable cars. New knowledge may have resulted in specific things changing categories, but my values remain intact.

So the above example is not one of “choosing” values. The heirarchy of values did not actually change. You may feel that you are “choosing” your values when the change is made to value Fords ahead of Holdens, but what you are really doing is altering the categories in which things are placed. (That’s called learning, by the way)

An example of truly being able to “choose” your values would be to choose to value unreliable cars over reliable cars. But how are you going to be able to do this? On what basis do you decide that unreliable cars are now more valuable to you than relaible cars? You can’t consult your value heirarchy, it says the exact opposite.
The sum of your genetics, environment and past experiences have all lead to the conclusion that you value reliable cars over unreliable cars. Only some life-changing new experience could possibly alter this. You cannot alter it from willpower alone.

Jay Lakner August 29, 2010 at 6:46 am

Bala wrote:
“Your claim of automatic changing of values would be true is consciousness is automatic. However, human consciousness is volitional and on that point alone, your entire framework comes crashing down without a support. Volitional consciousness presupposes choice. Hence, you are completely wrong.”

So you are conscious of all the workings of your brain?
Come on Bala, even you know this is not true.
There are the brain operations you are consciously controlling and there are brain operations you are not consciously controlling. You don’t consciously control your breathing (most of the time) or cell reproduction or the electrical impulses your brain sends throughout your nervous system.
I am trying to point out that your heirarchy of values cannot be determined by conscious control. Conscious control involves choice, which in turn involves prefering actions higher on your value scales to actions lower on your value scales. I am trying to demonstrate that you cannot consciously decide what this heirarchy of values is because every conscious thought you have is determined by this heirarchy of values.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 6:53 am

Jay Lakner,

Good example that shows that you are wrong right up there.

” Let’s say my value heirarchy goes like this:
Cars that are reliable.
Cars that unreliable. ”

Right out there, you have placed “reliability” as a value in your hierarchy without even being realising it.

” As a result I might value specific cars in the following order:
Holden.
Ford. ”

When you say “as a result”, you have consulted your value hierarchy with the understanding that Holdens are more reliable and hence placed them higher in the hierarchy.

” Now my Holden breaks down. In light of this information, the internal workings of my brain lead me to conclude that Ford’s are more reliable than Holdens. ”

What is the new information? It is simply that Holdens are not as “reliable” as you originally thought.

” My heirarchy of specific cars changes. ”

The new knowledge alone does not cause the change in the position in the hierarchy. Change happens when you consult your value hierarchy again, recall that reliability is a value higher than “Holdens”, recognise that “Fords” are probably more “reliable” than “Holdens” and then consciously choose to value them more, i.e., move “Fords” higher in your hierarchy than “Holdens”.

” I did not “choose” to place Ford’s above Holdens. ”

What you actually did was to place “reliability” above both “Holdens” and “Fords”. If a third car, say “Hummers’ were to now appear to be more “reliable” and “reliability” is the most important value you see in a car, you would actually place it above both “Holdens” and “Fords”.

” I did not consult my heirarchy of values for this process because otherwise I would come to the conclusion that Holdens should be of greater value to me than Fords. ”

You cannot do so because you have already placed “reliability” above “Holdens” and “Fords”. The only way to do so is to evade the reality that Holdens have demonstrated their unreliable nature.

” What happened is that my brain changed which categories Holdens and Fords fit into. My brain now associates Holdens with the unreliable and Fords with reliable (or more reliable). ”

Yes. But the choice of valuing “Fords” more is on account of the fact that “reliability” is right up there, above them all.

” So the above example is not one of “choosing” values. ”

Not yet. Let me now bring a new scenario. Let’s say you now choose a profession where the power and pick-up of your car are more important than reliability because you see that as more likely to satisfy certain values. Now, these characteristics, “power” and “pick-up” were probably not even present in your value hierarchy. Probably the profession in question was not even known to you earlier. In such a case, the profession as well as the characteristics of “power” and “pick-up” enter your value hierarchy and move above “reliability”. All this happens because you choose to value the new profession above your present profession and therefore choose to value “power’ and “pick-up” over “reliability”

Bala August 29, 2010 at 6:57 am

Jay Lakner,

” There are the brain operations you are consciously controlling and there are brain operations you are not consciously controlling. ”

Volitional consciousness does not presuppose control over every operation of the body. There are involuntary processes and there are voluntary (volitional) processes in the human body. Consciousness is one of the latter.

” Conscious control involves choice, which in turn involves prefering actions higher on your value scales to actions lower on your value scales. ”

But humans are capable of becoming aware of things they did not know of before and bringing them into their value hierarchy.

” I am trying to demonstrate that you cannot consciously decide what this heirarchy of values is because every conscious thought you have is determined by this heirarchy of values. ”

You are trying to deny the role of reason in concept formation. No wonder you sound so wrong.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 7:02 am

Jay Lakner,

Once upon a time, I used to value the concept “Central Banking”. I had a lot of regard for some of my professors at my institute who were former governors of the RBI. I then gained exposure to what Rothbard had to say on the matter. I realised that I had erred. I consulted my value hierarchy which said that my well-being is higher on my hierarchy of values and that valuing “Central Banking” means frustrating the value that is my well-being. So, “Central Banking” moved from value to disvalue.

Once upon a time, I would not buy Gold. Once again, Rothbard happened and today, I have a reasonable stock of Gold.

This is how new knowledge can influence our choice of values and where to place them on our hierarchy.

Jay Lakner August 29, 2010 at 9:41 am

Bala wrote:
“Right out there, you have placed “reliability” as a value in your hierarchy without even being realising it.”

What kind of nonsense is this? Claiming I have made some error when clearly I have not. “Reliabity” on it’s own cannot be a value without context. I might like some “unreliable” things because they add uncertainty and surprise in an otherwise boring situation. Some of my friends are “unreliable” but that’s part of the charm of their character. “Reliable” is an adjective, a describing word. It only makes sense in the context of what you are describing.

“Change happens when you consult your value hierarchy again, recall that reliability is a value higher than “Holdens”, recognise that “Fords” are probably more “reliable” than “Holdens” and then consciously choose to value them more”

No, no and no. As I mentioned above, reliability on it’s own cannot be a value. Reliability is a describing word. It make no sense absent the thing you are describing. You can not value “reliability” above “Holdens”, that’s nonsense. It’s like valuing “tall” above “apples”, again nonsense.
You value reliable cars above less reliable cars. The only question is, which categories do Holdens and Fords fit into?
There is no “choosing” of values in this case, only the discovery of greater knowledge which causes you to place one entity into one category and another entity into another category. Your brain receives sensory information and then forms the concepts of Ford=reliable and Holden=unreliable. This is not a “choice” because you are not consulting your value scales to pick one over the other. This is simply information processing and pattern recognition.

“What you actually did was to place “reliability” above both “Holdens” and “Fords”.”

“You cannot do so because you have already placed “reliability” above “Holdens” and “Fords”.”

“But the choice of valuing “Fords” more is on account of the fact that “reliability” is right up there, above them all.”

I have addressed these already. An adjective cannot be a value all by itself.

“All this happens because you choose to value the new profession above your present profession and therefore choose to value “power’ and “pick-up” over “reliability””

You do not “choose” to value the new profession. Your understanding of reality is altered by experience. This new knowledge (of the existence, or benefits, or whatever, of the new profession) leads you to place the new profession into a different category than your old profession. Once again, this is not a choice. It is information processing and pattern recognition. If this category complies with a value higher on the scale than the category of your old profession, then you will switch professions.
Now the change in profession (note that this is a change in environment) alters your scale of values. Now “powerful cars” move higher up on your value heirarchy than “reliable cars”.
Let’s say that “powerful” cars make the job much easier.
Then really it’s a case of you valuing an easier job over a more difficult job.
So you now associate “powerful cars” with an easier job. And the “non-powerful cars” (which happen to be more reliable) with a more difficult job.

Did you choose this new order of values? No. Why? Because these value alterations occur of as a result of the reorganisation of information in your brain into different categories. It’s information processing and pattern recognition. It is not “choosing”.

You may choose to reorganise the information in your brain consciously, but is that you choosing your values? No. That is simply you choosing to reorganise the information in your brain.
I think this is where you’re stuck. You are mistakenly thinking that the conscious analysis of information is equivalent to choosing your value hierarchy.
A choice is simply performing one action in place of another.
The “act of choosing” (if that even makes any sense) is the process of performing an act on your value hierarchy at the expense of an act which is lower on that hierarchy.
The actions themselves cannot be considered acts of choosing.
The process of receiving sensory information is not an act of choosing. The process of pattern recognition is not an act of choosing. The process of the logical analysis of concepts is not an act of choosing. Performing these processes demonstrates a choice (over processes which are lower of your value scales) but the processes themselves are not choices. In each of these you are not undergoing the process of comparing one value to another. You can choose to perform these processes, but the processes themselves are not a form of “choice”. It’s like saying that the process of running is a form of choosing one value over another, which is simply not true. The act may demonstrate your values scales, but the act itself is not the “act of choosing”.
I hope that doesn’t sound too confusing. The point is that you cannot possibly “choose” your values. You can make choices which causally result in your values being altered, but you cannot make a choice to alter your values. You have no control over the causal effects of your choices, you only have control over the choices themselves.

“You are trying to deny the role of reason in concept formation.”

What kind of nonsensical unsubstantiated assertion is this? Please don’t slip back into Randian debate tactics.

“I consulted my value hierarchy which said that my well-being is higher on my hierarchy of values and that valuing “Central Banking” means frustrating the value that is my well-being. So, “Central Banking” moved from value to disvalue.”

All you realised is that you miscategorised “Central Banking”. You did not “choose” to place “Central Banking” lower on your value scales, the “disvaluing” occurred automatically once your conceptual understanding of the situation was altered.

“Once upon a time, I would not buy Gold. Once again, Rothbard happened and today, I have a reasonable stock of Gold.”

You received sensory information (via reading Rothbard) which your brain interpreted and the result was the reorganisation of gold into a different category. This category happened to be high on your hierarchy of values. So now you buy gold. You did not “choose” to value gold.

“This is how new knowledge can influence our choice of values and where to place them on our hierarchy.”

No, this is how new knowledge can influence our hierarchy of values which in turn directs our actions.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

Jay Lakner,

What garbage are you spilling all over (triggered by your use of “nonsense”)? You need to answer a fundamental question – Is human consciousness volitional or automatic? Stop dodging the question by pointing to involuntary functions.

Failing a direct answer, I see further discussion (where all you are doing is trying to avoid cognitive dissonance creeping into your nonsensical deterministic framework) as pointless.

Just to repeat my point, if consciousness is volitional, choice is real. This applies to values as much as it does to anything else. So, address this or lets stop this once and for all.

mpolzkill August 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

Jay, have you ever engaged in a one-month-long attempt to explain to Bala how light behaves as both a wave and a particle?

Bala August 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

mpolzkill,

That discussion was not about the dual nature of light. It was about whether space is a thing or a non-thing and whether a non-thing can have attributes.

mpolzkill August 29, 2010 at 10:33 am

Yeah, I know. I want a sequel. Gimme my sequel.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 10:42 am

OK Brain-Dead Monkey,

Here’s your sequel. Is human consciousness volitional or automatic?

mpolzkill August 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

Yes.

And you are the funniest slave in Plato’s cave I’ve ever seen, btw.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

b-d-m,

Where did you copy this from? It can’t be original. Monkey see and monkey do, the monkey does the same as you.

And what’s “yes” supposed to mean when the question is “volitional or automatic?”. Need time to search the net and cut-paste a reply?

mpolzkill August 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

Funny one, Randian.

Jay Lakner August 29, 2010 at 11:16 am

Bala,

You know I’m determinist so you know very well that my view is that all human decisions are simply the laws of nature playing out.

However that is not important to this discussion.
I’m adopting your (misguided) view that reality is a combination of causality and free will and using this view to demonstrate that it is a circular argument to say that one can choose their values.

If reality is a combination of free will and causality, then you must be able to separate everything into willful actions and causal actions.

I’ve tried (in vain it seems) to demonstrate that the construction of a person’s hierarchy of values must fit into the category of a causal action.
This is because “choosing” involves performing one action instead of another in accordance with the hierarchy of values. One cannot “choose” their hierarchy of values because that would mean that one’s heirarchy of values is determined by their hierarchy of values.

You have yet to convince me that there is a non-contradictory way for one to choose one’s values.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Jay Lakner,

Stop being evasive. My question was straight and requires only a 1 word answer – Is human consciousness volitional or automatic?

p.s. And i have said enough to show that the human hierarchy of values is a continuously evolving system where every new choice has the potential to dramatically alter the value system. Everything hinges on the answer to my question above, an answer you are consistently evading.

Bala August 29, 2010 at 11:37 pm

Hey b-d-m,

” Funny one, Randian ”

I’ll tell you something more funny – You. Nothing or no one can be a bigger joke than you, especially considering your pathetic attempt to squeeze yourself into this discission.

p.s. Still searching for the elusive pearls of wisdom strewn around by someone else?

Jay Lakner August 30, 2010 at 1:47 am

Bala wrote:
“Stop being evasive. My question was straight and requires only a 1 word answer – Is human consciousness volitional or automatic?”

The only evasive entity in this discussion is your comprehension.
I answered your question in my last post. Do I have to explain it to you?
I am a determinist (therefore I personally believe automatic) however, for the purposes of this discussion I am adopting your view that reality is a combination of free will and causality (therefore in this discussion I am working under the assumption it is volitional).

“p.s. And i have said enough to show that the human hierarchy of values is a continuously evolving system where every new choice has the potential to dramatically alter the value system. Everything hinges on the answer to my question above, an answer you are consistently evading.”

And I have said enough to show that the REASON the human hierarchy of values is a continuously evolving system where every new choice has the potential to dramatically alter the system CANNOT be explained by “one chooses one’s values”.
Nothing hinges on the answer to your question above, an answer I have not once evaded.

Peter Surda August 30, 2010 at 1:51 am

Stop being evasive.

No, you stop being evasive.

Is human consciousness volitional or automatic?

He already answered. Parts are volitional, parts are not.

Let me ask you a question now. Is it possible for a human to intentionally act against their own values? Because, you know, if it is not, then there is no choice involved.

Jay Lakner August 30, 2010 at 2:02 am

Mpolzkill wrote:
“I want a sequel. Gimme my sequel.”

This is kind of a sequel, in a way. I find it funny that any time I assume free will exists, I always end up concluding that it cannot exist. This was unintentional on my part, I just saw circularity in an argument and thought I’d mention it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the argument is circular, but Bala here hasn’t been able to demonstrate why.
I was excited when Matthew Swaringen and Russ chimed in because I thought they would “set me straight”, so to speak. But unfortunately they didn’t continue the argument.
So I am left here with Bala, desperately trying to explain my point of view to him, and hoping he’ll give me a logical explanation why choosing one’s own values is not a circular argument.
(Maybe I have the wrong definition of “choice”? Maybe there is a simple error in my logic? Maybe I am right afterall? Who knows?)

Bala August 30, 2010 at 3:57 am

Peter Surda and Jay Lakner,

Once again, please do not confuse “consciousness” with involuntary functions. “Consciousness” is “awareness”. It does not include the brain’s control over internal organs such as the heart.

Please tell me which part of the consciousness is volitional and which part is automatic.

To Peter Surda,

I have a counter question which addresses your question. Can a human being consciously cease to value something? If so, there is choice.

Peter Surda August 30, 2010 at 4:33 am

I have a counter-counterquestion. Should you consciously cease to value something, what would be the underlying criterion for that decision? Because absent an evalueation criterion, decisions are impossible and therefore there is no choice.

mpolzkill August 30, 2010 at 7:16 am

Really Bala, where is the shame in knowing that I’m not a sui generis wunderkind like you?

I haven’t followed this thread (what thread? I was shocked when you all kept plodding along after most of the threads broke, making it very hard from the outside to figure out what was going on). I only had two small not-even-points: it’s always amusing how Bala is so bewitched by words (sad that Ralph became so bewitched and bothered by the word “own” that he got banned), and I was hoping for some more dissertations by Bala on “black magic”.

Jay Lakner August 30, 2010 at 7:57 am

Bala,

If one is aware that fire is hot, this does not mean that one chose fire to be hot.
Similarly, if one is aware that they cease to value something, this does not mean that they chose not to value it.
I am sitting right now. Why am I sitting? Because this is a more comfortable position than any of my other choices. In other words, in this circumstance I value sitting greater than all the other possible positions. I am aware that I value “greater physical comfort” over “lesser physical comfort”, and I know that sitting fit’s in the “greater” category.
The awareness of this value does not allow me to willfully alter that value. No amount of willpower can lead me to value lesser comfort over greater comfort and hence choose standing ahead of sitting in my present circumstances.
What if I use my “free will” and now stand up? Have my values changed? The answer is no. I am now only standing because circumstances have changed. I value standing greater than sitting at this moment only because “proving a point” is higher on my hierarchy of values than “physical comfort”. Before this discussion, Sitting>standing because only physical comfort was relevant. During the discussion, standing>sitting because proving a point became relevant and proving a point is higher on my value scales than comfort.
The fact is, any action you take to prove you have free will only occurs because you value “proving free will” over any of the alternatives.

So you see, the awareness of your values still does not allow you to consciously alter your values. Any attempt to do so occurs in accordance with your values, not contrary to them. Since it is circular to argue that your values determine your values, the only conclusion one can come to is:
Regardless of one’s state of awareness of their values, it is impossible for one to consciously alter their values.

Jay Lakner August 30, 2010 at 8:19 am

Mpolzkill wrote:
“I was hoping for some more dissertations by Bala on “black magic”.”

Would you settle for some role reversal?

I could accuse Bala of believing in “black magic” for believing that a human can just “choose” anything, at any time, without any criterion for the decision. The ability to just “will” whatever you want ignoring all prior causally related events is indeed a worthy act for any Voodoo master.
You can’t explain it. Don’t even try. Just take it on faith. Man is free to do as he wills. He is also free to will what he wills. He is also free to will the will that directs his will.
It doesn’t matter that punching walls brings you pain, you can choose to value punching walls anyway. Afterall, it’s your choice if you want to value pain. You can choose to value a slow agonising painful death just for kicks. The sky is the limit!
You can even take your entire value hierarchy and turn it upside down on a whim. Now Mises is the Devil, Keynes is God and Krugman is Jesus. Wait a second…

mpolzkill August 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

Every Randian is beyond just having their eyes opened and becoming like god, Jay.

Every Randian *is* a god.Sorry, that’s not quite a role reversal, Bala called Einstein a black magician, my all-time favorite howler.

Always nice to speak to you, Jay

- Blind squirrel who finds an inordinate amount of choice acorns

Jay Lakner August 30, 2010 at 8:49 am

I’m sorry. I tried. I guess I’m just not cut out for this sort of thing.

Nice talking to you too Mpol.

- Cognitively dissonant, nonsensical, deterministic garbage spiller.

Bala August 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Jay Lakner,

I was mulling it over today and realised what is the fundamental problem with your position denying choice. You are assuming that all human action is based on perfect knowledge or, even worse, awareness that one’s knowledge is perfect. Reality of human decision making is far from it.

Every human being is aware that he is acting on the basis of knowledge which is prone to error. Even when it comes to buying a car, you do not prefer Holdens to Fords because you were absolutely sure that the former will serve your purposes better than the latter. You are “taking a call”.

Let me give you a personal example. I had been using small cars till 2007. On the other hand, since 1998, I have been suffering from severe lower back pain with a tendency for repeated disc prolapse. Someone I knew suggested that I go for a car with higher-level seating because such cars tend to take more of the shock onto themselves and pass less on to the driver. Plus the prospect of not having to bend to enter and exit the car was a further attraction.

The only vehicle that qualified by testing (based completely on driving on real bad roads – fairly common in India) cost me Rs. 11 lakh while the costliest car I had bought prior to that cost me just Rs. 6 lakh. We were a family of 2, soon going to be 3, who had no real “need” for a car that large. I grew up riding and loving to ride 2-wheelers and using a car was itself a luxury. So, the price differential was not exactly “justified”, given that it was “justified” by vague reasoning.

There was no way I could have been sure that the bigger and more expensive car would be good for my back in the long run. Theory is all fine and salesman’s assurances are always alluring. However, there is always the possibility that it may not work out after all. Basically, there was no certainty.

Therefore, a decision had to be made – to buy or not to buy. The actual purchase was on a hunch – “I think this will work out”. That it did is a later issue, but I have never forgotten that I bought on a hunch. I guess this is why people in general suffer from post-purchase dissonance – because they buy on a hunch and not on certainty.

Most human action is on a hunch. When I say “A will make me happier and or better off than B will”, I am almost never certain. Experience may only improve the probability of my being right. It could, at any stage, be that I do not know what I am missing by not choosing B over A.

Since you seem to have a big problem understanding the concept of volitional consciousness, let me take a few simple examples that will show what the concept is and how it plays out.

Ever seen an animal that engages in physical exercise because it thinks that is a way to stay fit? The only one I have ever seen is the human animal. Not every one who does regular physical exercise does so because he enjoys it. Enough couch potatoes hit the treadmill because “doctor said so”.

Let us be clear that sleep is nicer and more restful than waking up at 5 am every day to run 5 km. Sitting on the settee and reading a newspaper is more relaxing than doing 50 push-ups and 50 chin-ups and 100 squats or whatever. Even worse is hitting the weights at a gym (and paying to go through pain).

Why do these people take on the pain? Because their volitional consciousness allows them to “see through” the pain and be aware of the benefits that regular exercising “can” have for their health. People give up some of their favourite foods too in the hope that doing so will help them stay fitter.

The very fact that people are ready to take on certainty of pain in the short-term in order to work towards a probability greater gain in the long-term is the most ubiquitous example of volitional consciousness.

Take your own case. You said sitting in a chair is better than any other position, why would you then walk (even if only for part of the way) to work? If at the time you were sitting, the sitting posture was more comfortable than the walking posture, why is it not so at the time you are walking? Why do you then not spend all your time sitting? Is it because your volitional consciousness makes you aware of the benefits that could (emphasis on the “could”) come to you on account of going to work and hence, to do so, you are ready to give up the comfort of sitting and take on the pain of walking? Just asking.

You said

” If one is aware that fire is hot, this does not mean that one chose fire to be hot ”

This is the saddest and the most unintelligent way of putting it. An alternative is to note that human beings can and do act ignoring their awareness. A man who jumps into a fire to save another is probably as conscious of the harm that the fire can do to him as any other person. In my country, people have an interesting practice called “walking on coals”. As part of certain religious rituals, people walk around 30-40 feet on a pit of burning charcoal. Some carry burning camphor on their palm to offer to their deity while some others pop burning camphor into their mouth or place it on their outstretched tongue. Fire is not the only way they cause pain to themselves. Some pierce a spear through one cheek and take it out through the other. Others walk around like a pincushion with pins (real ones) pierced into the skin all over their body.

All these are examples of human beings willing themselves to be aware of things not available for sensory perception and ignoring the material of sensory perception, thus forsaking pleasure and taking on pain. None of these actions that I have identified takes place on the premise of certainty of knowledge. It is all “acting on a hunch”. If this is not an example of volitional consciousness, I wonder what is and what it is.

In sum, I have to agree with you that when action is based on certain knowledge, there is no choice. The problem is that most human actions are not based on certain knowledge. Most of it is, as I said, “acting on a hunch”.

The sun rising at 6:07 am in the east is not a hunch, but that I will be better off if I wake up an hour or so before that and put myself through a painful routine lasting an hour or so before I start off to work is a hunch. Human beings choose because their knowledge in the realm of human action excluding the natural phenomena involved is not certain. Even worse is that they know it is not certain.

Who is pretending to be “god”? Me who says “I am human and can be wrong” or you who says “I know for sure. So how can it be any other way?”

You are a cognitively dissonant, nonsensical, deterministic garbage spiller. Frankly, do you choose to be a determinist or are you certain of the knowledge that makes you a determinist? Just having a good laugh.

Bala August 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Jay Lakner,

Punching a wall hurts, but some people practice punching a wall because their martial arts instructor told them that that is a good way to inure themselves to pain and become better at the martial arts.

Bala August 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Jay Lakner,

” Since it is circular to argue that your values determine your values ”

Circularity my foot.

My hierarchy of values at time instant t1 determine my choice at time instant t2 (t2>t1) and the consequence of my choice becomes visible at time t3 (t3>t2). I reassess the information and at time t4 (t4>t3), I form a new hierarchy of values.

So, I am saying that the hierarchy of values at time t4 is determined by the hierarchy of values at time t1 plus some choices and learnings that happened in between.

Hence, your claim of “circularity” is nothing short of stupid.

Bala August 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

b-d-m,

” Bala called Einstein a black magician, my all-time favorite howler. ”

OK!!! Are “space” and “time” things or non-things? Are they “concepts of existence” or “concepts of consciousness”? Can a “thing” be called a “nothing”? Can a “nothing” have attributes?

Just want your intelligent answers (if that is ever possible). Please….. No cut-paste jobs. Your answers are what I would like to see. I know it is difficult for brain-dead-monkeys to think, but please try, will you?

mpolzkill August 30, 2010 at 11:21 pm

I’m not a physicist, I’m a musician who twenty years ago read a book writen for laymen about Einstein’s revolution in physics, it was pretty convincing, what with the experiments confirming the theories. You are the super genius, I don’t know why you haven’t written a book on what a fraud Einstein was, you should make a million. I grew up with fundamentalist Christian parents, I often wondered why *they* didn’t write world shaking books on the fraud of modern biology.

Bala August 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm

b-d-m,

Ha! Ha! Ha!!!!! Thanks for the good laughs. I just asked for your own thoughts and this is what I get. Just as I thought, you can’t raise a squeak out of a brain-dead-monkey. The real miracle is how it goes chatter chatter chatter the way you do, given that the brain is dead.

p.s. When I want advice on my career, I’ll ask for it. Failing that, stuff it (the advice) up your….. you know what.

p.p.s. I am not a physicist either. My profession is education, though I have taught a little high school physics (Mechanics and all that). So, I too am no expert. That’s probably why my questions are solely at the level of epistemology, i.e., the science of how we know what we know. But how is a brain-dead-monkey to understand this….

mpolzkill August 31, 2010 at 12:09 am

Why would I have any thoughts on your idiotically calling Einstein a black magician? The onus is on you. I have one thought: you’re an idiot to speak authoritatively on subjects you haven’t the first clue about.

And that wasn’t career advice, oh humorless one.

Bala August 31, 2010 at 12:57 am

b-d-m,

I see you are brain-dead as usual. I wasn’t making authoritative statements but raising questions on what I thought was fundamental. In case you did not notice, my questions were not on the maths or the science of it but the epistemology of the whole thing. But then, how is someone who knows just by the “monkey see and monkey do, the monkey does the same as you” approach to understand this? I am sorry I troubled your well dead brain with all this. Ignore me if it hurts too much.

mpolzkill August 31, 2010 at 1:04 am

I know what I know regarding Einstein’s theories by way of the successful experiments, braniac. Of course I ignore your blather except to laugh at your wildest conclusions.

Bala August 31, 2010 at 2:03 am

b-d-m,

Ahhhh!!!! Success………….. That’s an interesting word to use.

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 2:30 am

At the end of the day, “property” is an “ought”.

if i climb up on a tree stump that gives me a view of buffalo grazing on grass and then i decide to exclude any others from this stump (i carve my initials in it and say stump i belongs to me) what is that called??? ought-izing?? property-izing?? or just using something until someone else prevents me from using it???

if i am on the stump viewing the buffalo and someone else comes up and says “leave the stump” , i refuse and they knock me off of it, is that something that something they ought to have done??? or is that just something that is?? one force moving another force. although the force was intended and caused harm to me.

so is property an ought or does it even reach ought status???

is it an ought because a self-owned person can actually harm another self-owned person to get usage of a thing???

when the term intellectual property is used here is that a deliberate attempt to make no sense at all or is it a catch all term for govt attmepts scarci-fy recorded thoughts and action???

since the expression of intellect or perfomed action can never even be a property???

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 8:56 am

yes I will help you. Robinson has as much need to think what to do, as any other mammal has, regardless of whether or not we believe animals think the way we do. In autistic interchange (read mises about that) there is no “property” involved. Property comes in catalaxy as the relationship between actors regarding who can be excluded from the usage of a good

Bala August 28, 2010 at 10:15 am

Jay Lakner,

I fail to understand why this comment is “under moderation”. So, I am posting it again because it is relevant to our current discussion. I hope it gets published.

” It depends what you mean by “oughts”. I generally tend to avoid the word because it can cause confusion. ”

Oh!! I generally take “oughts” to mean the answer to the question “What should I do?”. I can’t escape the feeling that as a living being, this is an existential question and that finding the right answer will determine whether or not I exist and what kind of existence I will lead. So, I fail to see why it could cause any confusion. It seems to me to be the most fundamental of all questions facing any and every human.

” When I say there are no objective oughts, I am saying that no action is more right than any other. Right and wrong are concepts developed by the interpersonal relationships between people and have no meaning in objective reality. ”

Do you mean to say that if I have chosen to stay alive and well, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? As an example (I know I have posed the question to @Hayekian too), are you saying that for Crusoe, marooned as he is on an island and having chosen to stay alive and well, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? Are you saying that for a person who has chosen to stay alive and well, it does not matter that certain choices increase his well-being and certain choices diminish it? Are you saying that to call the former the “right” choice and the latter the “wrong” choice is faulty?

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 1:36 am

My hierarchy of values at time instant t1 determine my choice at time instant t2….

is that not authoritative??

ElwoodPDowd August 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Self-enslavement is a strange concept indeed. Unfortunately in this world we have plenty of experience with people being property. One of the first and most obvious aspects of property is that property cannot own anything, and an examination of the history of people as property makes it clear that even people lose the right to own anything when they become property. Property by definition does not control its fate, else it would not be property. So what is this nonsense of property owning itself? Slavery is an abomination, and those who support the idea of people as property should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe you think it makes sense to say “I am my own slave”, but that is a contradiction and I feel sorry for you.

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

ElwoodPDowd,

To make an object your property, the object first needs to be abandoned.
Let me try to explain.
Any time you make a trade, you are not really “transferring” your ownership to the other person. What you are really doing is placing the item in the other person’s possession and abandoning it. The other person, now possessing an “unowned” object, becomes the owner.
This is why it is impossible to own another living person. How do I transfer ownership of myself to another? I need to place myself in the other person’s possession and then abandon myself. But I can’t abandon myself. It’s impossible. My consciousness cannot leave my living body. It is therefore impossible to transfer ownership of myself to another.

Every human being is the first possesser of themselves and they therefore own themselves. And while they still live, this ownership can never be transferred to anyone else. So self-ownership does not imply slavery. In fact, it implies the exact opposite of slavery.

ElwoodPDowd August 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Self-enslavement is a strange concept indeed. Unfortunately in this world we have plenty of experience with people being property. One of the first and most obvious aspects of property is that property cannot own anything, and an examination of the history of people as property makes it clear that even people lose the right to own anything when they become property. Property by definition does not control its fate, else it would not be property. So what is this nonsense of property owning itself? Slavery is an abomination, and those who support the idea of people as property should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe you think it makes sense to say “I am my own slave”, but that is a contradiction and I feel sorry for you.

ElwoodPDowd August 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

One more time:Self-enslavement is a strange concept indeed. Unfortunately in this world we have plenty of experience with people being property. One of the first and most obvious aspects of property is that property cannot own anything, and an examination of the history of people as property makes it clear that even people lose the right to own anything when they become property. Property by definition does not control its fate, else it would not be property. So what is this nonsense of property owning itself? Slavery is an abomination, and those who support the idea of people as property should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe you think it makes sense to say “I am my own slave”, but that is a contradiction and I feel sorry for you.

Russ the Apostate September 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm

“Bala, it’s just a fact: Hoppe is a formally trained philosopher. Unlike Rand.”

When did Bala say that Hoppe isn’t formally trained, or that Rand was? He didn’t. He said that Hoppe isn’t a “real” philosopher. It would be like me saying that Krugman isn’t a “real” economist. The fact that he has formal training is irrelevant.

Hayekian August 27, 2010 at 6:10 am

Well, we should calm down everybody ;) but I agree with your point, Traphkays. I have the impression some here are thinking that Not-A implies always B, although there are other options in the set, like C, D, E….

As you mentioned there is a third possibility. I even believe it all comes from the dogmatic following of Aristotle and the law of the included middle here. There can be things sui generis, not A but not even not-A. Dulaistic logic has its limits.
further I agree 100 percent that people are not property and that their thinking and the constructed and imagined relationships between them and tagible things gives rise to the concept of ownership.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 7:24 am

tralphkays,

I am able to understand your use of strong language because you are making precisely the same point that I have been for many months now.

” There is a third possibility, namely that people are not property, that their unique status is what gives rise to property in things, and that the question of property and ownership is one of a relationship between people (owners exclusively) and external things (property exclusively). ”

Stephan’s arrogance can provoke such language from the most patient of people. As Russ said, he is a great ambassador indeed for libertarianism. He definitely did have me converted

However, I just thought I would try to explain a little bit of enlightenment that I seem to have got today.

It looks like these guys (Hoppe, Kinsella, Jay Lakner, Peter Surda, et al) are essentially saying that “is” is all that can be handled and that matters. “Oughts” are anyway subjective and it is questionable to derive an “ought” from an “is”. So, they seem to be deriving a scheme based completely on the “is” completely omitting the “ought”.

By doing so, they are trying to transcend the so-called “is-ought dichotomy” and come up with a justification for a libertarian ethical system. In this system “ownership” is just the fact of possession with the power to restrict access to others. “Rights” are just the control one has over a thing. There is no question of any relationship other than that which can be observed and verified. That sort of explains Jay Lakner’s repeated statement that “there is no relationship”.

In simple terms, they want to completely redefine terms such as “ownership” and “property”. I (and I presume you too) see these concepts in the realm of “oughts” while these guys want to see them in the realm of the “is”.

I hope that helps. I however fully understand your frustration with Stephan and his approach.

Beefcake the Mighty August 27, 2010 at 6:22 am

Obviously, the law of the excluded middle cannot possibly be false. If you think there is an exception here, it may well be due to problems with the use of the term “ownership” applied to the self, not the laws of logic themselves.

Hayekian August 27, 2010 at 7:14 am
Peter Surda August 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

I’m not trying to transcend the is-ought dichotomy. I am merely strictly separating them and insisting that they should not be mixed, and that it is necessary to establish the “is” before one can question the “ought”.

Being a falsificationist, I am not trying to determine the “is”, but the “is not”. My approach gives me statistically less results, but those bear a higher certainty. Furthermore, if something “is not”, then it is completely pointless to debate whether it is “ought”.

You can’t trick reality by using vague reasoning. You can only trick people.

Jay Lakner August 27, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Bala,

As you know, I deny the existence of objective “oughts”. How can there be an “is-ought” dichotomy if there is no such thing as an “ought”? There is only “is”. “Ought” is a subjective term used by communities to ensure peaceful cooperation amongst their members.

I know you disagree so there is no point us arguing over this at this time.

I just wanted to point out that I entered into that debate with tralphkays because he was claiming that self-ownership is a logical contradiction.
I looked carefully at the definition of ownership and concluded that there was no contradiction. I also noted that regardless of whether “oughts” are objective or subjective, the definition of ownership remains the same.
The debate seems to centre around his belief that “ownership” describes a relationship to that which is owned. Since “ownership” merely means one has the right to prevent others from performing particular actions, tralphkay’s belief is actually an illusion. “Ownership” does not, in fact, describe a relationship to that which is owned. (except a circular one, ie I own it because I own it)

Now the tone of your post seems to suggest to me that you side with tralphkay’s view on this matter. I can’t understand why. You yourself have said many times that all rights are rights to an action and that the right to an object is an absurdity.
So I would certainly like to hear why you also believe self-ownership to be a logical contradiction. Maybe you have a different definition of “ownership”?

Stephan Kinsella August 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

tralph has been banned for incivility, n.b.

My approach is a rational one in favor of liberty and rights and clarity.

Beefcake the Mighty August 27, 2010 at 8:55 am

Fuck you.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Peter Surda,

” I’m not trying to transcend the is-ought dichotomy. ”

Good joke.

” I am merely strictly separating them and insisting that they should not be mixed ”

Good approach.

” that it is necessary to establish the “is” before one can question the “ought” ”

Multiple problems with this. Firstly, you need to specify if you subscribe to the “is-ought dichotomy or not”. If you do, this statement is absolutely meaningless because the “is” then has no bearing on the “ought” and hence it is unnecessary to establish the “is” before one questions the “ought”.

Secondly, how do you plan to establish the “is”? How do you even “know” what “is”?

” I am not trying to determine the “is”, but the “is not” ”

All the best. Ordinary people (including yours truly) have too much difficulty figuring out what “is” to even have time to try to establish the “is not”. Incidentally, how do you establish the “is not”? Search the entire universe? Using what tools?

” You can’t trick reality by using vague reasoning. ”

Who is trying to “trick” reality?

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 1:41 am

“is”, but the “is not”

why choose is not over is??

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 1:42 am

“is”, but the “is not”

why choose is not over is?? when you cant falsify anymore what do you do?

Hayekian August 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

??? “Fuck you”? is that the best argument you give me, when I show you that you dualistic logic is not all that exists? This is precisely the reason why I consider the MisesU guys more and more a sect.

If someone actually reads a bit mainstream science and says, “look” Mises was smart but he didn’t knew everything of science, then you say “fuck you”?????

Wow… I am impressed by your intellectual skills

Hayekian August 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

With “do not ever prescribe me…” I meant the other totalitarian Hoppeans, probably not you, as we didn’t discuss that topic. So I hope your “fuck you” comes from your feeling that I meant you with the above. Well, to you I actually only wanted to show the links about logic, so my other sentence referred to the overall Hoppean prescription that unfortunatelly few people see. I recommend to get involved with other theories of logic, but don’t want to go into dirty words

Beefcake the Mighty August 27, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’m fully aware of multi-valued logics and I don’t need you to provide wiki links for me. I was rather baffled by your “educate my children” remark (since I don’t give a god-damn about your children or their education and never gave any indication that I do), but in truth the “get educated” remark is what I regarded as out of line, since you clearly have no idea what I know or do not know on this topic and I don’t believe I have been rude to you at any point in this debate. But since you are clearly the expert here, perhaps you can inform me as to how multi-valued logics do not presuppose the validy of binary logic? That is, from the fact that a *particular* binary classification scheme may be inadequate in some sense, that it follows that we should adopt, say, degrees of class membership (in the case of fuzzy logic) rather than refine this binary classification scheme such that binary membership *does* hold. (E.g., perhaps green vs not-green is inadequate for some purpose; it is still the case that an object is either light green or not light green [ie, either dark green or not green].)

Hayekian August 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

You are right, the debate was going hot. We really had no bad debate before, so my “get educated” was inadequate.
All right, in short I mean that often times where we see contradicitions in syllogisms we assume to deduce the opposite to be true. I pointed out that in these cases sometimes there is possibility of a tertium datur.
Just as I indicated above: even if it is true that argumentation presuposes AE than it does only mean that it presuposes AE IN THAT SITUATION OF ARGUMENTATION.
There is not the choice between:”either you argue and thusly estblish the truth of AE ,or you don’t”. There is at least the third alternative: I argue and do not(!) presupose the validity of AE in all situations.

Well the whole point of fuzzy logic to me is that deductive aprioir reasoning is not really science, it is metaphysics. you can almost defend anything with well elaborated syllogisms

Peter Surda August 27, 2010 at 10:18 am

Funny argument from someone claiming that “contradictions do not exist”.

Peter Surda August 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm

One more attempt maybe:

Firstly, you need to specify if you subscribe to the “is-ought dichotomy or not”. If you do, this statement is absolutely meaningless because the “is” then has no bearing on the “ought” and hence it is unnecessary to establish the “is” before one questions the “ought”.

First let’s clarify that I do subscribe to the is-ought dichotomy. Second, you are making a logical error in this claim. While you cannot derive “ought” from “is”, you can derive the futility of the question of “ought” from “is not”.

Incidentally, how do you establish the “is not”?

“Is not” is a synonym for a contradiction. If you are evaluating a set of assumptions, and they lead to a contradiction, at least one of them is wrong.

The reason why I object to your definition of rights is that it leaves unanswered questions and is therefore useless. One (Jay also mentions it) is that you do not explain how to solve a situation where different rights (e.g. right to life and right to property) are in conflict. Another is that you do not explain what the right to life actually means (as I exhaustively tried to elaborate, you need to make additional assumptions in order for evaluation to be possible). What if, for example, you want to act in a way that shortens your lifespan (e.g. commit suicide), but others want to prevent you from doing it? How do you evaluate such a situation from the point of view of rights? Or, even worse: what if you were in an unpleasant situation where way for you to survive it would be to violate other people’s property?

Bala August 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

Please explain which part is funny and why. I am too dumb (as you would have understood by now) to understand cryptic comments.

Peter Surda August 27, 2010 at 11:21 am

Obviously.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 11:55 am

Peter Surda,

That’s some explanation. Thanks for the clarity.

Russ the Apostate August 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm

““Ownership” does not, in fact, describe a relationship to that which is owned.”

Sure it does. The “owner” is the only one who can rightfully control that which is “owned”, and the “owner” has the right to prevent others from controlling how that which is “owned” is used. This is just as you say in your definition of ownership. But “owner/owned” is a relationship, just as “controller/controlled” or “master/slave” would be a relationship.

T. Ralph’s problem is not that ownership is not a relationship. It is that he assumes that the relationship cannot be reflexive. I.e. he assumes that the “owner” and the “owned” cannot be the same. But why can’t they be? If we use the above definition, then the self-owner is the only one who can rightfully control that which is owned (his own body and mind), and has the right to prevent others from controlling how his own body and mind is used. Where is there a contradiction here? If there is one, I cannot see it.

This is not to say that I don’t see other problems with the concept of self-ownership; I do. But logical inconsistency is not one of them.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

” Maybe you have a different definition of “ownership”? ”

Yes. It is not limited to the physical ability to control. It is a moral concept. That I guess rules out any value in further discussion.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 12:50 am

” “Ought” is a subjective term used by communities to ensure peaceful cooperation amongst their members. ”

I don’t know how I missed this earlier. Are you saying that individuals do not face “oughts” and that “oughts” (and hence ethics) originate from society and not the individual?

If so, that would be an interesting position to take.

Russ the Apostate August 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I’m not sure what T. Ralph’s post said that was so uncivil, because it has apparently been memory-holed. But no matter. You are a hypocrite of the first water, Stephan. If you were to be consistent, you would have to ban yourself, as well. You have been nothing but uncivil to T. Ralph for quite a while now during this thread. It’s no wonder if he finally lost his temper.

And if any of the other admins are reading this, you seriously must reconsider whether Stephan should have the privilege of banning others for incivility. It’s so ironic it almost makes one’s head spin.

Russ the Apostate August 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I’m not sure what T. Ralph’s post said that was so uncivil, because it has apparently been memory-holed. But no matter. You are a hypocrite of the first water, Stephan. If you were to be consistent, you would have to ban yourself, as well. You have been nothing but uncivil to T. Ralph for quite a while now during this thread. It’s no wonder if he finally lost his temper.

And if any of the other admins are reading this, you seriously must reconsider whether Stephan should have the privilege of banning others for incivility. It’s so ironic it almost makes one’s head spin.

Peter Surda August 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

The “owner” is the only one who can rightfully control that which is “owned”, and the “owner” has the right to prevent others from controlling how that which is “owned” is used.

“Only one” is equivalent with “others are excluded”.

Jay Lakner August 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Russ wrote:
“But “owner/owned” is a relationship, just as “controller/controlled” or “master/slave” would be a relationship.”

Let’s look at the examples you have provided.

Controller/controlled:
The controller alters the integrity and momentum of that which he controls. Yes this definitely describes a relationship.

Master/Slave:
The slave performs the actions communicated to him by the master.
Yes, once again, this describes a relationship.

Owner/owned:
The owner has the right to exclude other people from altering the integrity or momentum of the owned.
This describes the relationship between the owner and other people, but the relationship between the owner and the owned in not known.

Let’s suppose that other people respect the owner’s rights. Now the statement becomes:
Other people do not alter the integrity or momentum of objects owned by another person.
This describes the relationship between other people and the owned, but gives no indication as to the relationship between the owner and the owned.

I’m sorry Russ, but due to the definition of “ownership”, owner/owned is not a relationship.

ElwoodPDowd August 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Consider this: Self-enslavement is a strange concept indeed. Unfortunately in this world we have plenty of experience with people being property. One of the first and most obvious aspects of property is that property cannot own anything, and an examination of the history of people as property makes it clear that even people lose the right to own anything when they become property. Property by definition does not control its fate, else it would not be property. So what is this nonsense of property owning itself? Slavery is an abomination, and those who support the idea of people as property should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe you think it makes sense to say “I am my own slave”, but that is a contradiction and I feel sorry for you.

Russ the Apostate August 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm

This was in response to SK’s pronunciamento that banned tralph. Why the $%^& isn’t this system putting my posts after the posts I am responding to?

Russ the Apostate August 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Jay Lakner wrote:
“Owner/owned: The owner has the right to exclude other people from altering the integrity or momentum of the owned. This describes the relationship between the owner and other people, but the relationship between the owner and the owned in not known.”

I can’t agree. Basically what you are saying is that ownership is a relationship between the owned and people who do not own it. But what ownership basically implies is that the owner is the only person who can rightfully have any other relationship with the owned object, unless the owner gives non-owners his permission. It is this privileged (rightful) state of the owner with respect to the owned that is the relationship of ownership.

Jay Lakner August 27, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Russ wrote:
“It is this privileged (rightful) state of the owner with respect to the owned that is the relationship of ownership.”

But this is exactly the same relationship one has with an unowned object.

You have the right to use an unowned object.
You have the right to use an object you own.

Your relationship to the object is exactly the same irrespective of whether it is unowned or if you are the owner. Therefore, “ownership” does not describe a special relationship to the object. It only describes a special relationship to everybody else.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Peter Surda,

Assumptions do not constitute “is” statements. So, your response to my post makes no sense. My point that your claim to “establish” the “is not” is empty stands.

Bala August 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Peter Surda,

” The reason why I object to your definition of rights is that it leaves unanswered questions and is therefore useless. ”

I beg to differ. To my understanding, there are no unanswered questions. Any such situation is due to faulty understanding and interpretation from your side.

” One (Jay also mentions it) is that you do not explain how to solve a situation where different rights (e.g. right to life and right to property) are in conflict. ”

My point (has always been and which remains so) is that there is no such conflict. There is no possibility of conflict between rights in a coherent system. Apparent conflicts are errors of understanding and interpretation.

” Another is that you do not explain what the right to life actually means (as I exhaustively tried to elaborate, you need to make additional assumptions in order for evaluation to be possible ”

If force has been initiated, rights are violated. What additional assumption is required?

” What if, for example, you want to act in a way that shortens your lifespan (e.g. commit suicide), but others want to prevent you from doing it? ”

It’s your life. No one can prevent you from doing so. Freedom of action includes the freedom of action to end it.

” what if you were in an unpleasant situation where way for you to survive it would be to violate other people’s property? ”

As I have said, this is the standard error of assuming that 2 different rights “have to” be in conflict. That is untrue. Right to Property is a logical corollary of the Right to Life. Violation of the former automatically implies violation of the latter. Hence, the conflict is actually between one man’s right to life and that of another man. The answer simply is that the “freedom of action” does not include the freedom to violate the rights of others. Hence, the actions of the person trying to violate the property of another person in order to sustain his life are a violation of the principle of the right to life. You have just mixed up the concepts of “life” and “right to life” in your ridiculous situation.

Another way of looking for the hole in your example is that morality deals only with situations involving choice. So, let us understand the choice properly and not in the faulty way you have. The choice is between respecting the right to property of the other person, thus facing certain imminent death and violating the right to property of the other person thus probably facing the consequences of such violation (including retaliation). The “right to life” does not enter the picture at all. So, your so-called conflict only betrays your error.

newson August 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm

to russ:
open the pod bay doors, hal. it is strange how retorts don’t match the comments.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 2:05 am

Assumptions do not constitute “is” statements. So, your response to my post makes no sense. My point that your claim to “establish” the “is not” is empty stands.

You cannot make any statement without an assumption. As I tried to, unsuccessfully, explain in the past, you cannot know for sure whether an assumption is true. However, you can know that a set of assumptions, when it leads to a contradiction, is an untrue set (i.e. at least one of the assumptions is false). In other words, it is possible to make “is not” statements. What is the exact problem you have with this?

Bala August 28, 2010 at 2:13 am

Peter Surda,

Consider the statement

” I exist ”

Please identify the assumptions.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 2:48 am

I beg to differ. To my understanding, there are no unanswered questions. Any such situation is due to faulty understanding and interpretation from your side.

Well well well, do I smell a bit of Kerem here? Dodging and pretending everything is alright?

My point (has always been and which remains so) is that there is no such conflict. There is no possibility of conflict between rights in a coherent system. Apparent conflicts are errors of understanding and interpretation.

That is merely your claim. You never prove it and never handle examples which show conflicts.

If force has been initiated, rights are violated. What additional assumption is required?

You neglect to define force. You move in a circle, using synonyms.

It’s your life. No one can prevent you from doing so. Freedom of action includes the freedom of action to end it.

So right to life is a right to the freedom of action? Ok, we’ll see below.

As I have said, this is the standard error of assuming that 2 different rights “have to” be in conflict.

Merely making a declaration does not make it true. I do not need to assume that rights have to be in a conflict, I merely need to insist that you prove they aren’t.

Hence, the conflict is actually between one man’s right to life and that of another man.

Ok, I see some progress here.

The answer simply is that the “freedom of action” does not include the freedom to violate the rights of others.

This, of course, is a necessary condition. But still it does not explain what happens if there is a conflict over a scarce resource that cannot be property (e.g. people). By being scarce, the freedoms of action cannot be exercised simultaneously.

Let’s make an example. Two men are competing for the favour of the same woman. Or the same job. Or the same customer. Their actions restrict the actions of the other one. Not only for the duration of the time they spent with the object of their desires, but also during the time they are preparing (since preparation changes the chances of the outcome). Which of these restrictions are legitimate and which not? Are some of them the use of force or not?

The choice is between respecting the right to property of the other person, thus facing certain imminent death and violating the right to property of the other person thus probably facing the consequences of such violation (including retaliation). The “right to life” does not enter the picture at all. So, your so-called conflict only betrays your error.

Of course there is a conflict. It is caused by the fact that the scarce resource (the property of the other guy) cannot be at the same time used to save the first guy’s life and remain in the possession of the other guy. Also, a couple of paragraphs above you said that all conflicts are about rights to life of various people. So, this new paragraph makes no sense.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 3:12 am

For a starters, please consult wikipedia. If that is what you meant.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 3:25 am

Peter Surda,

” For a starters, please consult wikipedia. If that is what you meant. ”

No. I did not mean that. I don’t think “I think, therefore I am” makes any sense.

I just meant the statement

“I exist”

Please point out the assumptions without pointing me to any references. I do not have the time to run behind links.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 3:53 am

Well, you first need to define what “I” is, and what “existence” is.

Stephan Kinsella August 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

“I don’t think “I think, therefore I am” makes any sense.”Bala, you are just parroting Rand’s silly criticism here. Better to think for yourself.The proposition “I think, therefore I am” makes perfect sense–you don’t have to be an uncharitable Randroid saying that this is some kind of elevation of subjectivism over the mind, or some other silly complaint. “I think, therefore I am” can be viewed this way, as an epistemological statement: “I [know that] I think, therefore [I know that] I am.” In other words, you can be sure in an apodictic way (Misesians would say this is apriori true knowledge; Rand would (confusingly) call it an “axiom” — see my post Mises and Rand (and Rothbard))) THAT YOU EXIST (and also that “something exists”), because it is impossible to deny this, since you know that you are thinking. If you are thinking, there must be some thinking entity. This is all obvious and common sense.

See Rand’s arguments for “axioms” of existence and consciousness here – http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/consciousness.html — which are very similar. She observes that any awareness or consciousness at all, of anything, has to be awareness of things that exist, and has to be awareness by a conscious agent. Thus, if you know what you “think” (are aware), then you know that you must exist.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 4:10 am

Peter Surda,

” Well, you first need to define what “I” is, and what “existence” is. ”

That’s called playing ping pong. You said that it is not possible to make a statement without making any assumptions. I gave you one that either of us could make. It contains words/concepts whose meaning should be known to both of us. What do you mean by asking me to “define” the two words?

Incidentally, I do understand that it starts with defining the 2 terms. That’s why I carefully chose the statement with the least number of words. However, the onus of proving your claim rests on you, not on me. In effect, I am just saying that I am not ready to play your ping pong.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 5:00 am

@ Bala:
this is why me and a lot of other folks don’t think someone who has only listened to Rothbard and Hoppe knows anything about philosophy. In fact the cogito ergo sum-article in wikipedia would have offered you some critique that also applies to your “i exist” statement. You don’t seem to bother.
I had a discussion with a libertarian rothbardian sense, and I asked him to define “coercion” or “agression” , he eventually relied on “causation of harm” for that. But then I asked do I cause harm to somebody who dies in a ski-accident only because I convinced him to come along to the mountains? It was clearly my action of convincing that caused his death. Then he sayd, no only direct(!) cause-effect-chains would be considered agression. Then I said okay, putting posion in your drink is then no agression, for it is not my action that kills you, but your drinking (the drinking is the direct cause-effect here)
He escaped by saying, well, it is the “intentions” that matter! And all the sudden you are into the realm of hermeneutics, consensus and you ought to please DEFINE what you mean by intention, and so forth.
Once and for all, there is no OBJECTIVE ethics, just as there is no OBJECTIVE standard of what is right and wrong.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 5:23 am

@Hayekian,

” me and a lot of other folks don’t think someone who has only listened to Rothbard and Hoppe knows anything about philosophy ”

I agree heartily.

” this is why ”

I am not able to understand what the “this” refers to.

” In fact the cogito ergo sum-article in wikipedia would have offered you some critique that also applies to your “i exist” statement. You don’t seem to bother. ”

The reason I did not bother is simply that I am just trying to get Peter Surda to justify his claim that it is not possible to make a statement without making some assumptions. Discussing that article would have meant that I would be explaining a lot. I did not see that as worth my time.

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 5:55 am

To Hayekian regarding causality and aggreession:

I recommend Stephan Kinsella’s paper Causation and Aggression. That deals with the topic.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 6:14 am

“I don’t know how I missed this earlier. Are you saying that individuals do not face “oughts” and that “oughts” (and hence ethics) originate from society and not the individual?”

This is the mainstream view I would suppose, so nothing weird or really innovative about it. Robinson Crusoe alone on his island has as much ethics or use of ethics as a lion alone in the desert has. Only if Friday arives, ethics enters the scene as a form of conduct-relationships among members of a network (society)

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

“Are you saying that individuals do not face “oughts” and that “oughts” (and hence ethics) originate from society and not the individual?”

It depends what you mean by “oughts”. I generally tend to avoid the word because it can cause confusion. In the sentence you quoted, the “ought” refers to the respect of property rights.
When I say there are no objective oughts, I am saying that no action is more right than any other. Right and wrong are concepts developed by the interpersonal relationships between people and have no meaning in objective reality.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 7:57 am

@Hayekian,

” This is the mainstream view I would suppose, so nothing weird or really innovative about it. ”

I do understand that it is the mainstream view. That does not imply that it is nothing weird.

” Robinson Crusoe alone on his island has as much ethics or use of ethics as a lion alone in the desert has. ”

You seem to be implying that Robinson Crusoe does not face the question “What should I do?” till Friday lands up. That sounds rather incorrect to me. I keep feeling that Crusoe has a greater need to find the right answer to that question than you and I living in a social set up do because while for us, an error or two could cost a little money or time, for him, similar errors could cost him his life.

Will you help me get over this feeling?

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

no, it doesn’t deal with that topic. It eloquently AVOIDS the crucial questions about it, while making arbitrary side-propositions and assumtions.

in your own either-or framework you can either hold the view that AE is universal – than, i cannot educate my children – or it is not universal , but then forget about it.
I would support the latter : it is not universal and i will forget about it

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

Peter Surda wrote:
“To Hayekian regarding causality and aggreession:

I recommend Stephan Kinsella’s paper Causation and Aggression. That deals with the topic.”

I think this is the link:
http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae7_4_7.pdf

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

yes I will help you. Robinson has as much need to think what to do, as any other mammal has, regardless of whether or not we believe anamals think the way we do.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 8:07 am

Jay Lakner,

” It depends what you mean by “oughts”. I generally tend to avoid the word because it can cause confusion. ”

Oh!! I generally take “oughts” to mean the answer to the question “What should I do?”. I can’t escape the feeling that as a living being, this is an existential question and that finding the right answer will determine whether or not I exist and what kind of existence I will lead. So, I fail to see why it could cause any confusion. It seems to me to be the most fundamental of all questions facing any and every human.

” When I say there are no objective oughts, I am saying that no action is more right than any other. Right and wrong are concepts developed by the interpersonal relationships between people and have no meaning in objective reality. ”

Do you mean to say that if I have chosen to stay alive and well, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? As an example (I know I have posed the question to @Hayekian too), are you saying that for Crusoe, marooned as he is on an island and having chosen to stay alive and well, there is no such thing as the “right course of action”? Are you saying that for a person who has chosen to stay alive and well, it does not matter that certain choices increase his well-being and certain choices diminish it? Are you saying that to call the former the “right” choice and the latter the “wrong” choice is faulty?

Bala August 28, 2010 at 8:17 am

@Hayekian,

Thanks for offering to help. I do understand that Robinson’s need to think of what to do is as important as it is for all other animals, leave alone mammals, I still fail to understand how Robinson is to figure out what he should do. Given that he does not have an automatic way of knowing what he should value and what he should not, what he should value more and what he should value less, I am unable to escape the feeling that if he has chosen to stay alive, well and happy, he has a crying need to form a code of values or rather a hierarchy of values. I cannot escape the feeling either that it is meaningless to talk of values and more so a hierarchy of them unless one has a standard of value and a faculty by which to assess the value. All this sounds suspiciously like an ethical system to me.

Any help in the matter?

Peter Surda August 28, 2010 at 8:56 am

Why should the decisions that do not affect others follow the same rules as those that affect others? The latter ones contain an additional input variable. If you take it into consideration, you cannot apply the same rules to situations where you are alone. If you do not take it into consideration, well then it means other people are irrelevant.

Or, let me rephrase it. Why should there be a relationship between an intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts? Between the questions “what” and “who”?

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 9:04 am

“Given that he does not have an automatic way of knowing what he should value and what he should not, what he should value more and what he should value less, I am unable to escape the feeling that if he has chosen to stay alive, well and happy, he has a crying need to form a code of values or rather a hierarchy of values.”

No, not a crying need of values, but a crying need of knowledge about causal relationships. If Robinson wants to survive he doesn’t need to know abut AE but about the following causal relationships: a rod can help him reaching coconuts in the palms; coconuts can help him reduce his hunger; reducing his hunger will ensure him to survive.
BIology has found out that our insticts work a lot of time through feelings: the feeling of hunger ensures that we will take measures to reduce the unpleasent fealing.

Evolution works in this trial-and-error-mode. Ethics evolve the same way: the tit-for-tat-strategy has been proven to be an efficient one in social networks. That means that trhough millenia, only those tribes survived that developed feelings toward the other and some forms of ethics.

Of course, a value system has each one of us, but we should follow mises instead of rothbard. Mises said correctly that values in preference scales are subjective and we cannot establish which ones are objectively “better”, for this implies bridging the is-ought gap.
Therefore we cannot even claim that the means “violence” is better or worse than the means “cooperation”. all we can assert as scientists is the effects that violence will have in a certain situation and what probable outcome will have the cooperation.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 9:27 am

already in the first page of kinsella’s article it is really vague and arbitrary:

“The difference between action and behavior boils down to intent. Action is an individual’s intentional intervention in the physical world, via certain selected means, with the purpose of attaining a state of affairs that is preferable to the conditions that would prevail in the absence of the action.”

-well, but he never defines “purpose” and “intention”. If animlas do not act , but merely behave, so then they do not have intentions? their bahavior to hunt another animal and eat it then, has not the “purpose” of easing the hunger?

“Mere behavior, by contrast, is a person’s physical movements that are not undertaken intentionally and that do not manifest any purpose, plan, or design.”
- Hm… well cognitive science is nowadays not sure about a dichotomic distinction. Even the concious thoughts on which we base rational decisions come up unintentionally in our mind. You can provoce certain thoughts in human brains as for instance NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming) has shown. Or even my text here provoces certain images and thoughts in your mind that ultimately will affect a decision in your future (for instance the decision to reply to me).

“Mere behavior cannot be aggression; aggression must be deliberate, it must be an action.”

-Okay, if I kill someone who has slept with my wife, I do merely behave , not act, as I am sure that a biological “program” works unconciously: hate and agression arises due to the cheating and so forth. The problem here is, there is no PURE action in a deliberate rational sense. To each and every action there is at least a vast amount of what is here labeled “behaviour”. The distinciton between action and behaviour is arbitrary, scientists actually dont know a seperating line between both. It is better to be seen as two idealized poles of a continuum. Reality is in between, but there is never action, there is only behaviour with some elements we label as “rational” actions, although the rational itself emerges out of inconcious activities in our brains— of course you can doubt all that what i have said if you question any non-”austrian” science in general.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 9:42 am

“The reason I did not bother is simply that I am just trying to get Peter Surda to justify his claim that it is not possible to make a statement without making some assumptions.”

Exactly! ;) the problem for us humans is that we can only work with mental systems or “maps” we design. there might be an objective reality, but we cannot be certain what it is. in fact any statement, be it in natural science or humanities and logic, would have to be made clear through aditional explainations about the assumptions. we are trapped in a regress to infinitum. but we cannot escape that but should deal with it. that means to me, that we can use science as a pattern recognition tool, there it works quite well. but at the same we should never believe to have found the truth while we in fact only have managed to draw a small map of the reality-landscape.

Stephan Kinsella August 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

Bala: “” me and a lot of other folks don’t think someone who has only listened to Rothbard and Hoppe knows anything about philosophy ”

I agree heartily.”

Hoppe is a real philosopher. And your comment is rich given your parroting of Rand’s silly faux-philosophy noted here. http://blog.mises.org/13682/beyond-is-and-ought/comment-page-2/#comment-718769

Jay Lakner August 28, 2010 at 10:07 am

Hayekian,

In that article, Kinsella is first defining the difference between behaviour and purposeful action. Yes there is an arbitrary aspect to it, but that cannot be avoided. Afterall, there is no such thing as free will. But the problem is that there is too much unknown information. By drawing some arbitrary line in the sand and treating actions causally related to thought processes that reach a certain level of complexity as “intentional”, we can form a useful system of justice.

A good parallel is with the game of chess. A good chess player breaks a position down into what is known as “positional elements”. They look at material, central control, open lines, pawn structure, king safety, etc. But you might say that these elements are arbitrary, that ultimately chess can be worked out from start to end by purely calculating all the combinations of possible moves. This is true, but there are too many variations for the human brain to be able to calculate. Chess players need an approximation, a systematic way to come to decisions as to what their next move should be. The system that has worked well for achieving this purpose is called positional judgement and planning.
Good chess players ultimately do a combination of the two. They calculate as far ahead as they possibly can using the “arbitrary” positional elements as their guide.

For human behaviour, we need to do a similar thing. We decide certain actions are “purposeful” and we then calculate the causal chain as far as possible.
There is nothing “unscientific” about this approach. We work from a simplified model of reality and work out the ramifications. At present, with so much unknown information, there is no other method available to us.

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 1:48 am

well, but he never defines “purpose” and “intention”

is blinking and breathing action?? do you intend to blink and breathe? does he have to define intention? is it mysterious??

james b. longacre August 31, 2010 at 1:52 am

well, but he never defines “purpose” and “intention”

is blinking and breathing action?? do you intend to blink and breathe? does he have to define intention? is it mysterious??

are behaviors intentional?? is that what you are unsure about???

Bala August 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

@Hayekian,

I am unable to go past this statement of yours

” No, not a crying need of values, but a crying need of knowledge about causal relationships. ”

I do not and would not disagree with you if you say that man has a need for knowledge about causal relationships. What I am unable to get past is that knowledge of causal relationships can only be a tool in the more important task of making choices. Whether we like it or not, man is faced with choices. Life does not present a man with pre-made choices. Every man needs to make them on his own. He may be guided by his knowledge, but it is the choices that make or break his prospects. He needs to choose right if he is to work towards his purpose.

How is a man to make choices if he does not know how to value them? How is he to estimate the value of any choice unless he has a standard of value? Just to take a parallel, how is anyone to measure length without a standard of length, say a foot or a metre?

While the statement that all values are subjective is an excellent starting point for a treatise on economics, I fail to understand how it is of any use to Robinson Crusoe who is faced with the challenge of making choices where different choices have different outcomes with respect to his primary goal of staying alive, well and happy.

How do I get over this notion?

Bala August 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

Stephan,

” Hoppe is a real philosopher. ”

So sez u. I don’t have to agree. You are priceless.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Stephan,

Thanks for pointing me to that comment of mine. I definitely split my sides laughing reading the way you stuffed words and meanings into Descartes’ mouth to allow his statement to mean something that you and I would obviously agree with. Thanks once again for the comic relief.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 11:09 am

“man needs to make choices”
I agree
“He needs to choose right if he is to work towards his purpose.”
well, if you mean the problem were to make “right” choices, then this would actually not be a real decision. For if any “right” conduct existed, men didn’t need to choose. he could always act simply according to this obective rule. A real decision rests on the notion of uncertainty, i.e. there is no right nor wrong. uncertainty in a dynamic world proposes men the obligation (just as any other biological entity)to trial and error in order to find out what conduct is helps according to the relevant task. if my taks is to feed myself, there are myriads of possible ways to do it. there is no objective right one. but there are some “fit” solutions and other “unfit” solutions. the latter lead to extinction, but they are only known a posteriori.
In the realm of ethical conduct it is the same: there are a priori myriads of ways of how to allocate decision rights to individual actors. One way is pure force, but it wasn’t very efficient or “fit” (in evolutionary terminology). As joint effort in society brings about economies of scale and scope, those societies that develope certain costums or moral codes that made predictable who uses what kind of stuff and who has the rights of revenue of it (usus fructus) are more efficient compared to non-ethical tribes.

But a complete anarcho-capitalist society might be less “fit” than a steered one by a state or ruler, for the latter might be able to respond quicker to enemy attacks (this is only a hypothesis, but history suggests that the early empires had fewer problems to conquer non-state tribal areas than they had conquering state-areas.). Anyways, we cannot claim to have THE BEST ethical system (for instance AE), for this is the pretence of knowledge hayek talked about. It would lead us to social engineering.

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 11:13 am

Jan, that sounds good, I agree to it. But then we both seem to agree, that we cannot reach an objective ethics out of this, right? of course, in legal studies or judge decisions we have to deal with these rather vague but yet established concepts such as behavior or intention. I merely say, we should not treat them in an objective manner and then deduce “truths” from it. AE is a nice concept but it is not the “truth” – and that even if oposing it would be contradictory!

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 11:19 am

I meant Jay, not Jan ;)

Hayekian August 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

sorry, Mr kinsella, that is still making assumptions out of nothing, for instance, bridging from “I think” to “I am”, or even the assertion of an independent I, independent from everything and all other (observers) and so forth.

Bala August 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm

@Hayekian,

” well, if you mean the problem were to make “right” choices, then this would actually not be a real decision. For if any “right” conduct existed, men didn’t need to choose. he could always act simply according to this obective rule. ”

I get the feeling you are making an error in this comment. I am afraid it ignores the point that the phrase “make the right choice” identifies the situation of the decision maker rather than identify one of them as right. What I meant by this statement was that given the prior choice to stay alive, well and happy, man needs to make his subsequent choices in consonance with this primary choice, failing which his choices will be in contradiction with his prior choice. The upshot of making wrong choices is that the person making it soon realises that it was a mistake. Depending on the severity of the outcome, it could cause discomfort, pain, anguish or even death.

What I did not mean by using the phrase “make the right choice” is that a choice is clearly and always the right one and that that knowledge is already available to the decision maker. Your statement forces me to conclude that you are interpreting it in this manner.

Put another way, it is because there are options to choose from, because each of those options could advance or frustrate his primary choices and because man does not get automatic guidance on which is the right choice that there is even a need to make a choice. Further simplified, it is the existence of right and wrong, better and worse choices that man needs to make choices.

So, I am unable to agree with you and instead see you making a very fundamental error.

Stephan Kinsella September 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Bala, it’s just a fact: Hoppe is a formally trained philosopher. Unlike Rand. You claimed Hoppe is not a philosopher. Of course he is. He earned his PhD (1974) and Habilitation (1981) at Frankfurt’s Goethe University.

“Hans Hoppe was schooled in the modern (in his case, Kantian) philosophic tradition, rather than in natural law, acquiring a PhD in philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. He then moved to a dissertation in the philosophy of economics for his “second doctoral,” or Habilitation degree. “”

http://mises.org/daily/3603
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s he studied history, sociology, and philosophy at the universities of Saarbrücken and Frankfurt am Main. His 1974 doctoral dissertation, published in 1976, dealt with the praxeological foundations of epistemology. Its central thesis was that all cognitive processes, and thus the sciences, are but special forms of human action. It followed that the laws of action were also the basic laws of epistemology. Hoppe would soon discover that, a few years before him, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises had come to essentially the same conclusion. “

Stephan Kinsella September 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

That is what it means, Bala.

Stephan Kinsella September 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I don’t konw what you mean. A thinking being knows he is thinking. This implies he exists, and that something exists. To the extent he is aware he is aware of something–so other things exist. This is apodictically true knowledge. It’s really easy to grasp.

Russ the Apostate September 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Stephan Kinsella wrote:
“Bala, it’s just a fact: Hoppe is a formally trained philosopher. Unlike Rand.”

Bala never claimed that Hoppe isn’t formally trained, or that Rand is. He said that Hoppe isn’t a real philosopher. It’s like if I said that Krugman isn’t a real economist, and you replied that he is formally trained. Yeah. So? Argument from authority.

Bala September 2, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Stephan,

Since Russ has demolished this stupid, pathetic argument by appeal to authority for the garbage that it is, I shall not do anything more than thanking him.

Thanks Russ.

Bala September 2, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Stephan,

Define “philosophy” before making your statements.

p.s. Trained in the “Kantian tradition”, was he? That makes him a non-philosopher by training. In fact, it makes him a voodoo artist. Thanks for the clarification, or rather, the frank confession.

Russ the Apostate September 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Sorry for the double post. This forum is acting wonky again.

Bala September 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Stephan,

” I don’t konw what you mean ”

When have you ever known what anyone else is saying? (That was personal)

There is a world of difference between thinking and being aware. Your attempts to mix them up haven’t escaped my attention.

Still trying to seek a rationalisation for your pathetic attempt at stuffing words and meanings into a quote?

Paul Edwards September 3, 2010 at 7:18 pm

“It’s really easy to grasp.”

Unless you’re trying not to.

Stephan Kinsella September 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

What a Randroid thing to say.

Bala September 6, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Stephan,

You are just demonstrating your vacuousness for all to see. I just said “It is hilarious to see you stuffing words and meanings into a quote” (which incidentally was what you were trying to do) and off you go calling me names.

What a prize a#$%^&*e.

p.s. Ban me. It would be a great favour you could do to me. This addiction is killing.

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