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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6992/thoughts-on-the-latecomer-and-homesteading-ideas-or-why-the-very-idea-of-ownership-implies-that-only-libertarian-principles-are-justifiable/

Thoughts on the Latecomer and Homesteading Ideas; or, why the very idea of “ownership” implies that only libertarian principles are justifiable

August 15, 2007 by

The following is an edited version of my recent post on a libertarian discussion list. I’ve often noted how Hoppe’s writings on libertarian ethics stress the importance of the “prior-later” distinction and the problems with the “latecomer” ethic. A few thoughts on this, which occurred to me while daydreaming earlier today. Much of it is redundant with what has been said before.

Often we have emphasized the importance of the first-use (Lockean homesteading) rule as the only objective, fair, rational principle for allocating property rights. Hoppe repeatedly blends this in with his defense of the first-use, first-own idea.

Let me first note simply that if there is any dispute about ownership, it recognizes ownership as distinct from mere possession. Ownership may be thought of as the right to possess. As Yiannopoulos notes (2):

Property may be defined as an exclusive right to control an economic good, corporeal or incorporeal; it is the name of a concept that refers to the rights and obligations, privileges and restrictions that govern the relations of man with respect to things of value. People everywhere and at all times desire the possession of things that are necessary for survival or valuable by cultural definition and which, as a result of the demand placed upon them, become scarce. Laws enforced by organized society control the competition for, and guarantee the enjoyment of, these desired things. What is guaranteed to be one’s own is property. …. [Property rights are those] rights that confer a direct and immediate authority over a thing.”

But what is implied in the idea that the right to possess–ownership, that is–is distinct from mere possession? It means that if there is any ownership at all–and those who quarrel over things are all asserting different ownership claims and thus presupposing ownership and its distinction from possession–then it does not accrue merely to those who take things from others. That is, if B takes a thing by force from A, this cannot in and of itself make B the owner. Why? Because if it did, it means that C could take it from B, and thereby become owner. But this just means there is no such thing as ownership; there is only possession. “Might makes right,” so to speak. But this contradicts the presumption that ownership and possession are different.From this very simple idea, we see that the entire Lockean idea of first-use, first-own, follows. Why? Because if taking some good by force from its previous is not sufficient to ground an ownership claim, then by Misesian-style “regression” it becomes obvious that only the first possessor/user can have an ownership claim. Every other person takes it from a previous possessor, and is thus a mere possessor–not an owner. The first possessor–the person who plucks the resource from its unowned state out of the commons–is the only possessor who does not take it from someone else; this is why first possession imbues the homesteader with the unique status of ownership.

I.e., the first user and possessor of a good is either its owner or he is not. If he is not, then who is? The person who takes it from him by force? If forcefully taking possession from a prior owner entitles the new possessor to the thing, then there is no such thing as ownership, but only mere possession. But such a rule – that a later user may acquire something by taking it from the previous owner – does not avoid conflicts, it rather authorizes them.

In other words, we can see not only that Lockean homesteading (which is essential to libertarian ethics) is inextricably bound up with the prior-later distinction (and opposed to the late-comer ethic), but that the very idea of ownership implies that only libertarian-style ownership is justifiable.

***

Now this kind of reasoning is inherent in Hoppe’s repeated emphasis on the latecomer ethic being inherent to all forms of socialism. See, e.g., Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism. Some relevant excerpts are appended below.

Note also de Jasay’s way of putting this: his “let exclusion stand” principle (see extended quotes/discussion below). In a nutshell: de Jasay equates property with its owner’s “excluding” others from using it, for example by fencing in immovable property (e.g. land) or finding or creating (and keeping) movable property. Thus, the principle means “let ownership stand,” i.e., that claims to ownership of property appropriated from the state of nature or acquired ultimately through a chain of title tracing back to such an appropriation should be respected. De Jasay uses this idea to demolish the criticism that homesteading unowned resources unilaterally and unjustifiably imposes on others moral duties to refrain from interfering. He writes:

“The basic defense, however, is quite general and straightforward. It is that if a prospective owner can in fact perform it, taking first possession of a thing is a feasible act of his that is admissible if it is not a tort (in this case not trespass) and violates no right; but this is the case by definition, i.e., by the thing being identified as “unowned” [p. 173].”

In other words, if everyone is generally free to act unless they are violating others rights, there is simply no reason not to allow a person to appropriate unowned property. For who could object, if not another, prior owner? To be entitled to object is to be able to “exclude” the claimant, but the right to exclude is an incident of ownership, and the property is by presumption unowned. No one can validly object to my appropriating unowned property, then, because, assuming feasible actions are free, any objection itself must claim a right, and this itself raises a type of ownership claim.

Note that the de Jasayan idea of “let exclusion stand” or the Hoppean idea that the prior-later distinction is of crucial importance also sheds light on the nature of homesteading itself. Often the question is asked as to what types of acts constitute or are sufficient for homesteading (or “embordering” as Hoppe sometimes refers to it); what type of “labor” must be “mixed with” a thing; and to what property does the homesteading extend? What “counts” as “sufficient” homesteading? Etc. And we can see that in a way the answer to these questions is related to the issue of what is the thing in dispute. In other words, if B claims ownership of a thing possessed (or formerly possessed) by A, then the very framing of the dispute helps to identify what the thing is and what counts as possession of it. If B claims ownership of a given resource, he must want the right to control it according to its nature. Then the question becomes, did someone else previously control it (according to its nature); i.e., did someone else already homestead it, so that B is only a latecomer? This ties in with de Jasay’s “let exclusion stand” principle, which rests on the idea that if someone is actually able to control a resource such that others are excluded, then this exclusion should “stand.” Of course, the physical nature of a given scarce resource and the way in which humans use such resources will determine the nature of actions needed to “control” it and exclude others.

De Jasay, as a matter of fact, considers two basic types of appropriation: “finding and keeping” and “enclosure” (p. 174). The former applies primarily to movable objects that may be found, taken, and hidden or used exclusively. Since the thing has no other owner, prima facie no one is entitled to object to the first possessor claiming ownership.

For immovable property (land), possession is taken by “enclosing” the land and incurring exclusion costs, e.g., erecting a fence (again, similar to Hoppe’s “embordering”–establishing an objective, intersubjectively ascertainable border). As in the case with movables, others’ loss of the opportunity to appropriate the property does not give rise to a claim sufficient to oust the first possessor (if it did, it would be an ownership claim).

One more tie-in to note: as the above discussion makes clear, different types of scarce resources are homesteaded (and controlled) in different ways. E.g., land is appropriated by embordering and/or transforming it; other things, such as movables, things that may be “found, taken, and hidden or used exclusively”, by “finding and keeping” the good in question.

But note that this applies to unowned resources–not to bodies, which are never unowned. Unowned resources, as I point out in How We Come To Own Ourselves, are unowned, non-bodily things appropriated by actors-with-bodies. As I note in that article, appropriation (first use) is the general way of establishing ownership of–an objective link with–an unowned resource; but in the case of bodies, the objective link is established by the unique relationship between a person and “his” body — his direct and immediate control over the body, and the fact that, at least in some sense, a body is a given person and vice versa.

Thus, just as there are different ways to appropriate–first use, or possess–an unowned resource, according to its nature and the way it in which it is controlled, so there is a difference in how ownership is established over one’s body, and over (unowned) things one (already having a body) acquires from the commons. But in all cases, one’s control over the resource in question (and it is “direct and immediate control” in the case of oen’s body) is relevant to ownership claims.

*******

Below are some extended relevant excerpts from Hoppe and de Jasay (or my summary/discussion of de Jasay):

Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, pp. 141-43:

“The basic norms of capitalism were characterized not only by the fact that [p. 142] property and aggression were defined in physical terms; it was of no less importance that in addition property was defined as private, individualized property and that the meaning of original appropriation, which evidently implies making a distinction between prior and later, had been specified. It is with this additional specification as well that socialism comes into conflict. Instead of recognizing the vital importance of the prior-later distinction in deciding between conflicting property claims, socialism proposes norms which in effect state that priority is irrelevant in making such a decision and that late-comers have as much of a right to ownership as first-comers. Clearly, this idea is involved when social-democratic socialism, for instance, makes the natural owners of wealth and/or their heirs pay a tax so that the unfortunate latecomers might be able to participate in its consumption. And this idea is also involved, for instance, when the owner of a natural resource is forced to reduce (or increase) its present exploitation in the interest of posterity. Both times it only makes sense to do so when it is assumed that the person accumulating wealth first, or using the natural resource first, thereby commits an aggression against some late-comers. If they have done nothing wrong, then the late-comers could have no such claim against them.[19]

“What is wrong with this idea of dropping the prior-later distinction as morally irrelevant? First, if the late-comers, i.e., those who did not in fact do something with some scarce goods, had indeed as much of a right to them as the first-comers, i.e., those who did do something with the scarce goods, then literally no one would be allowed to do anything with anything, as one would have to have all of the late-comers’ consent prior to doing whatever one wanted to do. Indeed, as posterity would include one’s children’s children—people, that is, who come so late that one could never possibly ask them—advocating a legal system that does not make use of the prior-later distinction as part of its underlying property theory is simply absurd in [p. 143] that it implies advocating death but must presuppose life to advocate any thing. Neither we, our forefathers, nor our progeny could, do, or will survive and say or argue anything if one were to follow this rule. In order for any person—past, present, or future—to argue anything it must be possible to survive now. Nobody can wait and suspend acting until everyone of an indeterminate class of late-comers happens to appear and agree to what one wants to do. Rather, insofar as a person finds himself alone, he must be able to act, to use, produce, consume goods straightaway, prior to any agreement with people who are simply not around yet (and perhaps never will be). And insofar as a person finds himself in the company of others and there is conflict over how to use a given scarce resource, he must be able to resolve the problem at a definite point in time with a definite number of people instead of having to wait unspecified periods of time for unspecified numbers of people. Simply in order to survive, then, which is a prerequisite to arguing in favor of or against anything, property rights cannot be conceived of as being timeless and nonspecific regarding the number of people concerned. Rather, they must necessarily be thought of as originating through acting at definite points in time for definite acting individuals.[20]

“Furthermore, the idea of abandoning the prior-later distinction, which socialism finds so attractive, would again simply be incompatible with the nonaggression principle as the practical foundation of argumentation. To argue and possibly agree with someone (if only on the fact that there is dis agreement) means to recognize each other’s prior right of exclusive control over his own body. Otherwise, it would be impossible for anyone to first say anything at a definite point in time and for someone else to then be able to reply, or vice versa, as neither the first nor the second speaker would be independent physical decision-making units anymore, at any time. Eliminating the prior-later distinction then, as socialism attempts to do, is tantamount to eliminating the possibility of arguing and reaching agreement. However, [p. 144] as one cannot argue that there is no possibility for discussion without the prior control of every person over his own body being recognized and accepted as fair, a late-comer ethic that does not wish to make this difference could never be agreed upon by anyone. Simply saying that it could implies a contradiction, as one’s being able to say so would presuppose one’s existence as an independent decision-making unit at a definite point in time.”

“19. For an awkward philosophical attempt to justify a late-comer ethic cf. J. Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, 1971, pp.284ff; J. Sterba, The Demands of Justice, Notre Dame, 1980, esp. pp.58ff, pp.137ff ; On the absurdity of such an ethic cf. M. N. Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, Los Angeles, 1972, p.427.

“20. It should be noted here, too, that only if property rights are conceptualized as private property rights originating in time, does it then become possible to make contracts. Clearly enough, contracts are agreements between enumerable physically independent units which are based on the mutual recognition of each contractor’s private ownership claims to things acquired prior to the agreement, and which then concern the transfer of property titles to definite things from a specific prior to a specific later owner. No such thing as contracts could conceivably exist in the framework of a late-comer ethic! [p. 239]“

***

See also my discussion of Hoppe and embordering in the thread to the Owning Thoughts and Labor post. Note first Hoppe’s discussion of the notion of scarcity, from A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism (p. 134):

I will first state this general theory of property as a set of rules applicable to all goods with the purpose of helping one to avoid all possible conflicts by means of uniform principles, and will then demonstrate how this general theory is implied in the nonaggression principle. Since according to the nonaggression principle a person can do with his body whatever he wants as long as he does not thereby aggress against another person’s body, that person could also make use of other scarce means, just as one makes use of one’s own body, provided these other things have not already been appropriated by someone else but are still in a natural, unowned state. As soon as scarce resources are visibly appropriated—as soon as someone “mixes his labor,” as John Locke phrased it,10 with them and there are objective traces of this—then property, i.e., the right of exclusive control, can only be acquired by a contractual transfer of property titles from a previous to a later owner, and any attempt to unilaterally delimit this exclusive control of previous owners or any unsolicited transformation of the physical characteristics of the scarce means in question is, in strict analogy with aggressions against other people’s bodies, an unjustifiable action.11 [p. 135]

Note hoppe nowhere assumes you own your labor, any more than you own your acts, thoughts, knowledge, intentions, etc., all of which are needed to do possess something. Hoppe focuses on embordering something–being the first to demark an unowned thing as one’s own. As Hoppe writes: “… property claims … which can be derived from past, embordering productive efforts and which can be tied to specific individuals as producers… ” [TSC, p. 13] So, according to Hoppe, it’s not because you own your labor; it’s because you have the best connection to the resource because you were the first; note elsewhere Hoppe focuses repeatedly on the significance of the prior-later distinction.

Hoppe also writes:

Hence, the right to acquire such goods must be assumed to exist. Now, if this is so, and if one does not have the right to acquire such rights of exclusive control over unused, nature-given things through one’s own work, i.e., by doing something with things with which no one else had ever done anything before, and if other people had the right to disregard one’s ownership claim with respect to such things which they had not worked on or put to some particular use before, then this would only be possible if one could acquire property titles not through labor, i.e., by establishing some objective, intersubjectively controllable link between a particular person and a particular scarce resource, but simply by verbal declaration; by decree. [] The separation is based on the observation that some particular scarce resource had in fact – for everyone to see and verify, as objective indicators for this would exist – been made an expression or materialization of one’s own will, or, as the case may be, of someone else’s will.” (TSC, pp. 135-136; see also pp. 142-144)

Here Hoppe talks about acquiring property by one’s labor, which he equates to “establishing some objective, intersubjectively controllable link between a particular person and a particular scarce resource”, and which he contrasts with “simply by verbal declaration; by decree”. I.e., for Hoppe, ownership of a thing is established by establishing an objective link between the person and the resource. Once this is done, that person has the best claim to it, by virtue of the prior-later distinction. Nowhere does Hoppe accept the ridiculous notion that you “own” your “labor.”

***

Also, from my review of de Jasay’s great book, against politics:

“As noted above, however, de Jasay does not seem to believe that normative propositions can be justified, and he does not really try to do so. He just uses the occasional “should” and normative premise where it is unavoidable and appears to simply presume that the reader shares these (uncontroversial) premises, perhaps counting on the reader’s own good will or love of consistency. For example, he merely asserts that “[i]t is dubious in the extreme that a political authority is entitled to employ its power of coercion for imposing value choices on society . . . and on individual members” (p. 151). Yet the force of the normative concepts “dubious” and “entitled” here is diluted by the lack of even an attempt at justification.

De Jasay’s argument is thus a hypothetical one—and I am not sure if he would disagree for I am not sure he thinks anything better is possible—for it relies for its persuasiveness on the listener already valuing (for some reason) the goals of justice, efficiency, and order. Nevertheless, because most of these principles are certainly sound and justifiable anyway (for example, using Rothbard’s or Hoppe’s ethical theory), and because de Jasay’s critical and analytical skills are so acute, much of interest emerges from this essay.

His three principles of politics are: (1) if in doubt, abstain from political action (pp. 147 et seq.); (2) the feasible is presumed free (pp. 158 et seq.); and (3) let exclusion stand (pp. 171 et seq.). … … I found the justification of principle (3), “let exclusion stand,” to be of most interest, especially the discussion of homesteading or appropriation of unowned goods. De Jasay equates property with its owner’s “excluding” others from using it, for example by fencing in immovable property (land) or finding or creating (and keeping) movable property (corporeal, tangible objects). Thus, the principle means “let ownership stand,” i.e., that claims to ownership of property appropriated from the state of nature or acquired ultimately through a chain of title tracing back to such an appropriation should be respected.

The basic defense of the Lockean proposition that the first or original appropriator of property is entitled to appropriate it draws on his previous “feasible” principle (2) as well as his distinction between rights and liberties. Others have objected to the idea that one can appropriate unowned property on the grounds that such an action unilaterally (and thus unjustifiably) imposes on others moral duties to refrain from interfering.

The basic defense, however, is quite general and straightforward. It is that if a prospective owner can in fact perform it, taking first possession of a thing is a feasible act of his that is admissible if it is not a tort (in this case not trespass) and violates no right; but this is the case by definition, i.e., by the thing being identified as “unowned” [p. 173].

Thus, by treating individuals as being free to act unless it contravenes a right (claim) of another, there is simply no reason not to allow a person to appropriate unowned property. For who could object, if not another, prior owner? To be entitled to object is to be able to “exclude” the claimant, but the right to exclude is an incident of ownership, and the property is by presumption unowned. No one can validly object to my appropriating unowned property, then, because, assuming feasible actions are free, any objection itself must claim a right, and this itself raises a type of ownership claim.[2]

[1]See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, ch. 7; idem, Economics and Ethics of Private Property, chs. 8-11.

[2]Similar reasoning is employed in my estoppel theory of rights to preclude someone from denying the rights that they necessarily presume exist in a certain context (punishment). This theory is related to and draws on Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. See Kinsella, “A Libertarian Theory of Punishment and Rights”; idem, “New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory.” Hoppe’s insights into why the first appropriator has a better moral claim than late-comers is also of relevance here. See Hans-Hermann Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, p.141-44; idem, Economics and Ethics of Private Property, p. 191-93.

Also, an excerpt from my Defending Argumentation Ethics:

Objective Links: First Use, Verbal Claims, and the Prior-Later Distinction

So now we come to libertarianism. It turns out that libertarianism is the only theory of rights that satisfies the presuppositions of discourse, because only it advocates assigning ownership by means of objective links between the owner and the property. This link, of course, is first use, or original appropriation. Only the norm assigning ownership in a thing to its first user, or his transferee in title, could fulfill this requirement, or the other presuppositions of argumentation.

There is clearly an objective link between the person who first begins to use something, and emborders it, and all others in the world. Everyone can see this. No goods are ever subject to conflict unless they are first acquired by someone. The first user and possessor of a good is either its owner or he is not. If he is not, then who is? The person who takes it from him by force? If forcefully taking possession from a prior owner entitles the new possessor to the thing, then there is no such thing as ownership, but only mere possession. But such a rule – that a later user may acquire something by taking it from the previous owner – does not avoid conflicts, it rather authorizes them. It is nothing more than mights-makes-right writ large. This is not what peaceful, cooperative, conflict-free argumentative justification is about.

What about the person who verbally declares that he owns the good that another has appropriated? Again, this rule is not justifiable because it does not avoid conflicts – because everyone in the world can simultaneously decree that they own any thing. With multiple claimants for a piece of property, each having an “equally good” verbal decree, there is no way to avoid conflict by allocating ownership to a particular person. No way, other than an objective link, that is, which again shows why there must be an objective link between the claimant and the resource.

As Hoppe states:

“Hence, the right to acquire such goods must be assumed to exist. Now, if this is so, and if one does not have the right to acquire such rights of exclusive control over unused, nature-given things through one’s own work, i.e., by doing something with things with which no one else had ever done anything before, and if other people had the right to disregard one’s ownership claim with respect to such things which they had not worked on or put to some particular use before, then this would only be possible if one could acquire property titles not through labor, i.e., by establishing some objective, intersubjectively controllable link between a particular person and a particular scarce resource, but simply by verbal declaration; by decree. [] The separation is based on the observation that some particular scarce resource had in fact – for everyone to see and verify, as objective indicators for this would exist – been made an expression or materialization of one’s own will, or, as the case may be, of someone else’s will.” (TSC, pp. 135-136; see also pp. 142-144)

As Hoppe notes, assigning ownership based on verbal decree would be incompatible with the “nonaggression principle regarding bodies,” which is presupposed due to the cooperative, peaceful, conflict-free nature of argumentative justification. Moreover, it would not addess the problem of conflict avoidance, as explained above.

Thus, Hoppe is correct, when he writes:

“Hence, one is forced to conclude that the socialist ethic is a complete failure. In all of its practical versions, it is no better than a rule such as ‘I can hit you, but you cannot hit me,’ which even fails to pass the universalization test. And if it did adopt universalizable rules, which would basically amount to saying ‘everybody can hit everybody else,’ such rulings could not conceivably be said to be universally acceptable on account of their very material specification. Simply to say and argue so must presuppose a person’s property right over his own body. Thus, only the first-come-first-own ethic of capitalism can be defended effectively as it is implied in argumentation. And no other ethic could be so justified, as justifying something in the course of argumentation implies presupposing the validity of precisely this ethic of the natural theory of property.” (144)

***

Excerpt from my How We Come To Own Ourselves:

Recall that the purpose of property rights is to permit conflicts over scarce (rivalrous) resources to be avoided. To fulfill this purpose, property titles to particular resources are assigned to particular owners. The assignment must not, however, be random, arbitrary, or biased, if it is to actually be a property norm and possibly help conflict to be avoided. What this means is that title has to be assigned to one of the competing claimants based on “the existence of an objective, intersubjectively ascertainable link between owner and the” resource claimed.[3]

Thus, it is the concept of objective link between claimants and a claimed resource that determines property ownership. First use is merely what constitutes the objective link in the case of previously unowned resources. In this case, the only objective link to the thing is that between the first user — the appropriator — and the thing. Any other supposed link is not objective, and is merely based on verbal decree, or on some type of formulation that violates the prior-later distinction. But the prior-later distinction is crucial if property rights are to actually establish rights, and to make conflict avoidable. Moreover, ownership claims cannot be based on mere verbal decree, as this also would not help to reduce conflict, since any number of people could simply decree their ownership of the thing.[4]

So for homesteaded things — previously unowned resources — the objective link is first use. It has to be by the nature of the situation.

[4]Hoppe elaborates on these themes in ch. 1, 2, and 7 of A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism.

{ 116 comments }

Mark Humphrey August 21, 2007 at 3:52 pm

Paul Edwards: Thanks for your comments; I will read carefully and respond, perhaps tonight.

TGGP August 21, 2007 at 7:34 pm

The idea of a normal human life can be confusing, because humans determine the moral character of their lives through free will.
I don’t believe in free-will.

One can look around and see people who develope their abilities and confidence, their success and happiness, to a high degree
Like Bill Clinton or Robert Mugabe?

others lead morally impoverished lives burdoned by tragedy partly or mostly of their own choosing
Are there not people who lead “morally impoverished” lives with no tragedy and people who lead blameless but tragic lives?

Again, that which is natural to an individual of a species is that which fullfills the potential of that species.
If I use nanobots and steroids to create an artificial apple that is redder, plumper and juicier than any apple that has ever before existed, is that then “natural”? You should also recognize that disease and death are “natural” and that since they are possible they must be considered “potentials”, and it is no more objective to describe their potential as “fulfilled” when they have one outcome than another. We should also not deny that diseases and other parasites fulfill their potential at the expense of others!

If you’re a subjectivist, TGGP, and if you decide to think carefully and long about the implications of that position (no disrespect intended, here), I am willing to bet you’ll discover big inconsistencies of that position
I do not believe in any normative truths that could conflict with anything. I have thought long on it and have not discovered what you believe I would.

your own attitudes about what is proper in life.
I regard those as subjective preferences, just as my tastes in food, music and movies are.

For example, when was the last time you blamed or congratulated someone?
I will blame and congratulate when I think doing so will lead to results I desire.

Mark Humphrey August 24, 2007 at 4:40 pm

Paul, Thanks for your comments; I don’t agree. I wrote a lengthy post, then lost it somehow. So I’ll make my remarks brief.

You offer no proof that your premises about ethics are true. You want them to be true, but you haven’t proven them to be true. For example, you assert that peace is the ultimate standard of ethical principles, i.e. ethics is rules designed to achieve peace. But why? Many people want peace, but they consider that value less important than environmentalism, or getting Hitler or Saddam, or redistributing other people’s money. Why should they prefer peace to ending global warming?

You state that ethics exists to avoid conflicts. But why? Many people seek conflict, for political and personal goals. Perhaps they don’t like the costs associated with conflict, but they like the results, when they win. Often, they think–and they’re right–that conflict is necessary to their pursuit of certain values. One can show that those values are warped–are non-values–but not by positing that the purpose of ethics is to spare people conflict. This idea doesn’t explain where ethics comes from, and why it applies to everyone, even if they don’t understand that ethics is objectively real.

Your assertions about my speaking implying freedom to speak doesn’t follow logically. If I hold up a married couple at night in their home, and demand to see the contents of their safe, my speaking this ddemand certainly does not presuppose my value of freedom, or peace, or the avoidance of conflict.

I like your observation that without objective–that means capable of being proven through reason–moral values, normative standards, people could never avoid conflicts. Ayn Rand wrote a great essay: “The Roots of War”, wherein she explains why people must uphold reason as man’s only proper means of acquiring knowlege, objective normative standards are not possible. Without reason, no ultimate epistemological standard
eexists for people to determine what is knowlege and what is unfounded fantasy or belief.

TCCP: If we lack free will, there is no point in discussing anything. For the idea of proof, of evidence, or logic, of KNOWLEGE, all presuppose the ability of the thinker to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

Anthony August 24, 2007 at 5:30 pm

Two points:

1) The point of AE is that no _ethic_ contrary to the libertarian ethic can be argumentatively justified (whereby ethic we mean a set of rules for avoiding conflict over scarce resources.)

2) You’re speaking that demand does already contain an implicit premise: you assert ownership over yourself. But this isn’t argumentation in the first place. This is not a peaceful pursuit of the truth, would you not agree?

Mark Humphrey August 25, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Anthony: I think I understand argumentation ethics, which sets out to demonstrate that one implicitly assumes an idea that one asserts is false, in the process of asserting that idea. This approach works in any denial of existence, or in any argument that man lacks free will. Clealy, one must exist to deny existence. Just as clearly, one must possess the mental capability of distinguishing between facts and illusions to argue that one lacks the ability to make those distinctions (i.e. that one lacks free will).

Now to state that Jones implicitly asserts his right to speak, or to live, in the process of making a peaceful argument to another person raises difficulties that do not exist in the two examples I suggested above.

The first problem is that, as you concede in your comment, no one demonstrates by argumentation ethics that ethical principles exist. For argumentation ethics only seeks to establish the contradictions in other “non-libertarian” ethical rules. But if no ethical principles existed in
the first place, by what reasonable criteria would one protest the imposition of a dictatorship? By what reasonable criteria would one argue that environmentalist policy that creates human suffering for the sake of “nature” is wrong? True, political collectivists cannot prove that their hegemony is just, but that hasn’t stopped them in the past. Our only means of turning back statism is to demonstrate that statism is morally wrong. AE doesn’t accomplish that.

A second difficulty with AE is that it doesn’t prove that one affirms the existence of “libertarian ethics” by the act of living, or speaking, or possessing property, or defending oneself from attack by another. What those actions implicitly demonstrate is that one chooses to live, or speak, or etc. The actions demonstrate nothing beyond this preference. The actions do not prove that one “should” live, or speak, or etc.

A third problem resides in the phrase “peaceful argumentation”. This phrase refers, I assume, to talk aimed at persuading another. But the talker doesn’t affirm natural rights by talking. How could he possibly do so? The thinker who imagines that the talker has affirmed natural rights cannot define the identity, or source, or nature of the principle he claims the talker is implicitly affirming!

A fourth problem is the notion that by speaking, one thereby asserts “ownership” over oneself. This is meaningless, because it confuses and merges together two entirely distinct uses of the term “ownership”. The first use refers to possession descriptively, but non-normatively; without regard to ethical considerations. The second use refers to an ethical norm; one is justified in possession. But recognizing that a human being may think and act of his own initiative does not establish that his doing so is “just”. For what is “libertarian justice”? Thinking and acting of one’s own initiative. Why? No answer is given.

Mark Humphrey August 25, 2007 at 2:43 pm

Anthony:

One last comment about AE. One can easily prove that various kinds of collectivist “rights” or “duties” are bunk. For such rights and duties are never proven, and in fact are asserted by thinkers who attack reason at its philosophical roots. But if reason were somehow deficient or misleading, then all “facts” would be flawed, including facts about ethics. Collectivists always assert knowlege about ethics and politics by some form of revalation, divine or secular.

So “argumentation ethics” is not necessary to proving that collectivist ethical claims are unproven and riddled with contradictions. Anyone who is willing to think about collectivism can identify the absurdities. However, most people don’t think, not because they’re stupid, but because they passively believe what they’ve been taught, that one must not trust reason. One must trust Authority.

To make sense of ethics, there are no shortcuts to understanding. That implies understanding of why objective moral values exist, why people need moral values (including someone stranded on a desert island, where no other people live), why moral values are a requirement for human living.

In his book on ethics, Rothbard admits that he doesn’t deal with underlying problems of moral philosophy. Rothbard tried to skip over those problems to establish “libertarian ethics” justifying private property. He failed in this endeavor.

Paul Edwards August 25, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Mark,

M: Paul, Thanks for your comments; I don’t agree. I wrote a lengthy post, then lost it somehow. So I’ll make my remarks brief.

My pleasure, more below.

M: You offer no proof that your premises about ethics are true. You want them to be true, but you haven’t proven them to be true. For example, you assert that peace is the ultimate standard of ethical principles, i.e. ethics is rules designed to achieve peace. But why? Many people want peace, but they consider that value less important than environmentalism, or getting Hitler or Saddam, or redistributing other people’s money. Why should they prefer peace to ending global warming?

Ok, why indeed should they not prefer anything at all over peace? After all, it is also true that your common criminal obviously has at least a few priorities that trump in his mind, the goal of peace and justice. Why should his ethic as well as any other not prevail either? We do need an answer.

The answer is this: none of any of these other ethics can be justified. So see if you can agree with me here: whatever ethic you wish to propose or suggest, you’re going to have to propose or suggest it, and also defend it; and each of these can only be done via argumentation. So as long as you agree that an ethic is about a set of normative rules of social interaction, and this is what we agree we will discuss, it immediately becomes apparent that we must and implicitly will adopt and agree to some fundamental normative rules if only to discuss what normative rules we wish to agree to. You see where i’m going already, I think. What does and must argumentation presuppose? Do you not agree that it is and must be a cooperative undertaking involving the peaceful interaction of at least two people who are and logically must be pursuing truth and valid conclusions based on reason and logic and necessarily not by threat of force? And that this is to say that argumentation presupposes precisely the ethic that I claim is the purpose of an ethic in the first place?

So we recognize that argumentation itself logically presupposes a set of rules of interaction that are peaceful, and it presupposes the use of logic and universalizability of propositions. Yet on top of this, argumentation is a practical affair, meaning it also presupposes survival. All propositions that come out of argumentation must logically be consistent with these presuppositions or they are a dialectical contradiction and therefore invalid.

So then what status does all this render the fight for say, coercive egalitarianism? It cannot be justified on several fronts. It violates private property, which is demonstrated to be a presupposition of peaceful survival, a presupposition of argumentation. It violates the following: self-ownership: it claims to be able to partially enslave some to the advantage of others. Homesteading: it claims latecomers to have an arbitrary claim on the first user’s property. Contract: it destroys the nature of contract which stipulates that both parties to an agreement must be voluntarily participating. Finally, it violates the other peaceful mode of survival we know: that only those who add their own labor to their own property own the property that results. In short, egalitarianism violates the fundamental presuppositions of argumentation. It cannot be justified.

M: You state that ethics exists to avoid conflicts. But why? Many people seek conflict, for political and personal goals. Perhaps they don’t like the costs associated with conflict, but they like the results, when they win. Often, they think–and they’re right–that conflict is necessary to their pursuit of certain values. One can show that those values are warped–are non-values–but not by positing that the purpose of ethics is to spare people conflict. This idea doesn’t explain where ethics comes from, and why it applies to everyone, even if they don’t understand that ethics is objectively real.

Yes. You are describing the psychology of the politician, the thief, murderer, socialist, rapist and the mob under the influence of democratic mentality. Their disregard for peaceful cooperation and justice is not really relevant to the question. The question is what rules can be justified. As I described above, the rules that can be justified are only the rules that are consistent with the rules logically and necessarily assumed during argumentation – the only act that gives us a chance to attempt to justify our rules of social conduct.

M: Your assertions about my speaking implying freedom to speak doesn’t follow logically. If I hold up a married couple at night in their home, and demand to see the contents of their safe, my speaking this ddemand certainly does not presuppose my value of freedom, or peace, or the avoidance of conflict.

My assertions are not in regard to speaking in general, or threats, or even making verbal sounds that are incomprehensible to others. My assertions are in regard specifically to argumentation, which is both logically, and practically a cooperative matter of applying logic in the pursuit of truthful conclusions. If one intends to persuade by the force of logic, then he necessarily cannot be threatening.

M: I like your observation that without objective–that means capable of being proven through reason–moral values, normative standards, people could never avoid conflicts. Ayn Rand wrote a great essay: “The Roots of War”, wherein she explains why people must uphold reason as man’s only proper means of acquiring knowlege, objective normative standards are not possible. Without reason, no ultimate epistemological standard eexists for people to determine what is knowlege and what is unfounded fantasy or belief.

I think that the missing key that AE provides is that argumentation demonstrates the arguer’s logical acknowledgment of the value of the libertarian ethic. From there, reason dictates not only that such an ethic is exclusively justified, but that it is the ethic that all those who wish to justify their actions should follow.

Anthony August 25, 2007 at 6:24 pm

Great answer Paul.

Paul Edwards August 26, 2007 at 2:08 am

That is very kind of you to say, thank-you Anthony.

Björn Lundahl August 26, 2007 at 6:19 am

It is not always a good thing to be superficial

“I don’t think Rothbard, or Hoppe or Kinsella will be able to persuade Mr. Mugabe and those like him. Since those least prone to respecting the property of others are the biggest problems, I think it would be sensible for libertarians to devote more time to considering how to deal with them rather than ethical philosophers.”

Why “deal with them” if they could not ethically be proven to be doing anything wrong? Without any ethical norms we could not really tell why we should “deal with them” in the first place.

Secondly, the world is ruled by ideas. If we understand this we have laid a foundation for change. If we do not understand it people like Mr. Mugabe will be powerful. To argue that this is not so is contradictious as this is an idea itself.

How could “libertarians devote more time considering how to deal with them” if ideas are powerless”? How to consider something and make a conclusion if it is not allowed to be an idea?

Does anyone really doubt the influence that Karl Marx’s ideas once had (and still have)? Or religious believes? Does it not exist people who believe in the principle of democracy? Is the concept of democracy powerless or powerful in today’s world?

Wouldn’t the world be different if most of the adults believed in a libertarian ethic from a world in which most of the adults believed in Nazism?

Did Marxists try to convince John D. Rockefeller of the rightfulness of Marxism or did they try to get support elsewhere? Why should libertarians be any different in this regard and try to convince criminals like Mr. Mugabe of the rightfulness of justice?

Apart from this I would also like to mention that I believe that very foundation for cooperation among people is that they gain by cooperating and not because of “tribal sentiments”. I think Mises was correct in believing this.

From the book Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises:

“Within the frame of social cooperation there can emerge between members of society feelings of sympathy and friendship and a sense of belonging together. These feelings are the source of man’s most delightful and most sublime experiences. They are the most precious adornment of life; they lift the animal species man to the heights of a really human existence. However, they are not, as some have asserted, the agents that have brought about social relationships. They are fruits of social cooperation, they thrive only within its frame; they did not precede the establishment of social relations and are not the seed from which they spring.

The fundamental facts that brought about cooperation, society, and civilization and transformed the animal man into a human being are the facts that work performed under the division of labor is more productive than isolated work and that man’s reason is capable of recognizing this truth. But for these facts men would have forever remained deadly foes of one another, irreconcilable rivals in their endeavors to secure a portion of the scarce supply of means of sustenance provided by nature. Each man would have been forced to view all other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his own appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors. No sympathy could possibly develop under such a state of affairs.”

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap8sec1.asp#p143

From history we cannot either derive objective property rights, only logics can. “Communal systems” and “collective ownership” can be justified as much as individual ownership as long as they remain voluntarily arrangements and are derived from a libertarian ethic.

Anthony August 26, 2007 at 8:19 am

I still find it amazing that the common charge against libertarians is that we’re extremely atomistic. It indicates a general ignorance of Mises’s writings and of Austrolibertarianism. Perhaps mainstream libertarians are to blame for the image.

Björn Lundahl August 26, 2007 at 11:36 am

I missed this:

Stephan Kinsella “Tom, if I read you right, I find the views you are expressing here utterly confused and incorrect. You are making several errors. Eg., you are blaming the victim; equating might with right; etc. TGGP’s point is NOT “well-said”–he is saying that libertarians “will not be able to persuade” certain criminals; and that since this is “the biggest problem,” “it would be sensible for libertarians to devote more time to considering how to deal with them rather than ethical philosophers.” This is so astoundingly stupid I almost do not know how to respond to it. First, it is indeed true that responding to a thug is a technical problem. Why this should be the job of libertarian ethicists is beyond me. Libertarian principles *are directed at ethical people not at criminals*. If you establish there are rights against non-aggression and subsidiary rights to defend or retaliate, then the civilized person who is threatened or victimized by criminals knows he is justified in banding toghether with other civilized people to treat the criminals as technical problems. The comments above betray no awareness of the division of labor.

TokyoTom compounds TGGP’s positivistic, nihilistic error when he writes, “You guys want to talk about ethical systems, but what really counts is the ability to defend one’s property.” What ‘really counts”!? For who? For what purpose? You might as well argue that libertarianism is flawed since it does not tell you what kind of lock to put on your house! Ridicoulous.”

Yes, Stephan you are absolutely right. Their “points” are utterly ridiculous and silly.

Björn Lundahl August 26, 2007 at 11:52 am

Criticism and a replies regarding Hans-Hermann Hoppe´s ethical proof.

The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, By Hans-Hermann Hoppe, pages 243 and 244:

“Rasmussen is different. He has fewer difficulties recognizing the nature of my argument, but then asks me in turn “So what?” Why should an a priori proof of the libertarian property theory make any difference? Why not engage in aggression anyway? Why indeed?! But then, why should the proof that 1+1=2 make any difference? One certainly can still act on the belief that it was 1+1=3. The obvious answer is “because a propositional justification exists for doing one thing, but not for doing another.” But why should we be reasonable, is the next come-back. Again the answer is obvious: For one thing, because it would be impossible to argue against it; and further, because the proponent raising this question would already affirm the use of reason in his act of questioning it. This still might not suffice and everyone knows that it does not: for even if the libertarian ethic and argumentative reasoning must be regarded as ultimately justified, this still does not preclude that people will act on the basis of unjustified beliefs either because they don’t know, they don’t care, or they prefer not to know. I fail to see why this should be surprising or make the proof somehow defective. More than this cannot be done by propositional argument.

Rasmussen seems to think that if I could get an “ought” derived from somewhere (something that Yeager claims I am trying to do, though I explicitly denied this), then things would be improved. But this is simply an illusory hope. For even if Rasmussen had proven the proposition that one “ought” to be reasonable and “ought” to act according to the libertarian property ethic this would be just another propositional argument. It could no more assure that people will do what they ought to do than my proof can guarantee that they will do what is justified. So where is the difference; and what is all the fuss about? There is and remains a difference between establishing a truth claim and installing a desire to act upon the truth – with “ought” or without it. It is great, for sure, if a proof can install this desire. But even if it does not, this can hardly be held against it. And it also does not subtract anything from its merit if in some or even many cases a few raw utilitarian assertions prove more successful in persuading of libertarianism than it can do. A proof is still a proof: and socio-psychology remains socio-psychology.”

Rasmussen. “But why should we be reasonable, is the next come-back.”

Björn: This “question” could also serve as an “answer” to any argument for anything and why should we not be reasonable?

Hoppe wrote (see above) that “Rasmussen seems to think that if I could get an “ought” derived from somewhere.”

Björn: If everyone or at least if most people believed that the proof is a valid proof, it would be almost impossible for governments to act against it and ignore it or should they “argue” “we know that our activity is criminal but we believe it is good for society anyway. We are criminals but so what?”

In other words, in practise an “is” can, in such a case, therefore be derived to also be an “ought.”

Mark Humphrey August 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Paul Edwards: Here is where we begin to disagree:

“So as long as you agree that an ethic is about a set of normative rules of social interaction, and this is what we agree we will discuss, it immediately becomes apparent that we must and implicitly will adopt and agree to some fundamental normative rules if only to discuss what normative rules we wish to agree to.”

As I have tried to make clear, this staement is false because of logical incoherency. How do I know this? Show me a rule that you contend both parties to a discussion implicitly agree to, and I’ll be happy to show you that both parties need not agree to this “implicit rule”.

“Do you not agree that it is and must be a cooperative undertaking involving the peaceful interaction of at least two people who are and logically must be pursuing truth and valid conclusions based on reason and logic and necessarily not by threat of force?”

This is clearly false. Two religious zealots argue about their beliefs about morality and God’s will; each tries to impress upon the other the importance of accepting on faith his fervently held convictions about right and wrong. Their discussion is about ethics, based on faith rather than on reason. Because they reject reason as somehow misleading or “limited” as concerns any inquiry into ultimate issues, they thereby renounce the ultimate and objective standard by which thinking people can acquire knowlege, including answers to highly abstract and difficult questions about what is morally right and wrong. Having renounced the ultimate and objective standard of reason, their disagreements about issues of faith–of God’s will and of proper religious moral doctrine–lead to disputes about how the other should act. These disputes can ultimately be resolved only through violence. Ayn Rand wrote about this idea in her famous essay entitled “The Roots of War”.

Philosophical shortcuts do not work, because our knowlege is logically integrated. One cannot devise valid rules of “libertarian ethics” without prior careful thinking about the kind of being to which the rules are supposed to apply. In other words, good concepts in ethics must stand on good concepts in personal morality, which stand on good concepts in epistemology (the nature of knowlege), which stand on good concepts in metaphysics (the nature of reality). With no disrespect for Rothbard and Hoppe, they have tried to fashion “axioms” of “libertarian ethics”, built upon a foundation of intellectual neglect.

Finally, just as there is no “libertarian math” or “libertarian biology”, but only good principles of math or biology; it is non-sensical to write of “libertarian economics” or “libertarian morality”. There is only good or bad economics, valid or false ideas about moral philosophy. Knowlege, including about ethics, doesn’t start with political philosophy, as Rothbard and Hoppe believe. Political philosophy flows logically from prior knowlege in philosophy.

Religious faith cannot provide this knowlege.

Paul Edwards August 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Mark,

M: Paul Edwards: Here is where we begin to disagree:

M: “So as long as you agree that an ethic is about a set of normative rules of social interaction, and this is what we agree we will discuss, it immediately becomes apparent that we must and implicitly will adopt and agree to some fundamental normative rules if only to discuss what normative rules we wish to agree to.”

M: As I have tried to make clear, this staement is false because of logical incoherency. How do I know this? Show me a rule that you contend both parties to a discussion implicitly agree to, and I’ll be happy to show you that both parties need not agree to this “implicit rule”.

M: “Do you not agree that it is and must be a cooperative undertaking involving the peaceful interaction of at least two people who are and logically must be pursuing truth and valid conclusions based on reason and logic and necessarily not by threat of force?”

M: This is clearly false. Two religious zealots argue about their beliefs about morality and God’s will; each tries to impress upon the other the importance of accepting on faith his fervently held convictions about right and wrong. Their discussion is about ethics, based on faith rather than on reason.

If their talk is devoid of reason, then it is not argumentation. It is merely brow-beating and appeal to authority. I will repeat my contention: the logical – logical – and necessary assumption of true argumentation is that we must appeal to reason and the nature of things to support our conclusions. It is irrelevant that people do not do this, or that they have a psychologically different intention in mind when they supposedly argue. A true and valid argument presupposes resort only to facts, logic, and reason. To say that people pretend to do this and yet do not does not alter the fundamental nature and definition of the argument. I am certain that you, for instance, would not acknowledge that you are intentionally invoking anything but reason in your argument to me. And this is as it should be, because you would not otherwise be participating in true argumentation.

M: Because they reject reason as somehow misleading or “limited” as concerns any inquiry into ultimate issues, they thereby renounce the ultimate and objective standard by which thinking people can acquire knowlege, including answers to highly abstract and difficult questions about what is morally right and wrong. Having renounced the ultimate and objective standard of reason, their disagreements about issues of faith–of God’s will and of proper religious moral doctrine–lead to disputes about how the other should act. These disputes can ultimately be resolved only through violence. Ayn Rand wrote about this idea in her famous essay entitled “The Roots of War”.

I do not claim that people will necessarily not resort to violence, nor that they necessarily will resort to reason and argumentation and an appeal to justice. All I am contending is that true argumentation which depends on peace and reason towards the pursuit of truth and justice, logically rules out of court the application of violence or the threat of violence to this end. I also contend that it is only through the act of reasoned argumentation that anything at all, including an ethic, can be justified.

M: Philosophical shortcuts do not work, because our knowlege is logically integrated. One cannot devise valid rules of “libertarian ethics” without prior careful thinking about the kind of being to which the rules are supposed to apply.

By all means, do this careful thinking and then devise away. My claim is that when you are done, you will agree with HHH and his A-E thesis.

M: In other words, good concepts in ethics must stand on good concepts in personal morality, which stand on good concepts in epistemology (the nature of knowlege), which stand on good concepts in metaphysics (the nature of reality). With no disrespect for Rothbard and Hoppe, they have tried to fashion “axioms” of “libertarian ethics”, built upon a foundation of intellectual neglect.

Okie dokie. LOL.

M: Finally, just as there is no “libertarian math” or “libertarian biology”, but only good principles of math or biology; it is non-sensical to write of “libertarian economics” or “libertarian morality”. There is only good or bad economics, valid or false ideas about moral philosophy. Knowlege, including about ethics, doesn’t start with political philosophy, as Rothbard and Hoppe believe. Political philosophy flows logically from prior knowlege in philosophy.

Religious faith cannot provide this knowlege.

Mark Humphrey August 26, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Paul Edwards: Your comments are excellent, but I think you do not understand my criticism of the Rothbard-Hoppe take on ethics.

I’ll take time tomorrow to respond to your interesting comments.

Mark Humphrey August 27, 2007 at 5:02 pm

To Paul Edwards:

If two people enter into an argument about how they should conduct themselves with respect to another, and if both look to facts, evidence, and logic as the standard by which they decide this issue, then certain implications can be deduced from their action. These include:
1) The debaters are alive
2) The debaters can “think”
3) The debaters think reason is the proper means of figuring stuff out.

Do these implications lead anywhere? I don’t think so. Why not? Because what two particular people happen to think, or how they choose to argue, doesn’t inform us about the particulars of man’s nature. Implications flow, not from the “act” or “choice” of two people engaging in reasoned debate, but from the fact that man is a particular sort of being living in a world that is non-mysterious and intelligible. The particular choice one makes, to argue reasonably, or to play football or pool, or to build bridges or houses, or to steal and murder, doesn’t by itself imply the realm of moral values. Moral values are implied by the fact that man must choose appropriately, in ways congruent with the requirements of his nature, to be able to live a proper life. Moral values are not implied by a particular choice; they’re implied by the fact that man can only live by thinking and choosing.

But let’s set that issue aside for a moment, and consider the implications of the fact that a person, ANY person, has the natural ability to think properly, i.e. to form concepts based on evidence, facts, and logical integration. Let’s assume that one infers that man has this unique ability from observing himself, and another, in reasoned debate. Several implications follow, including all of moral philosophy. These include: 1) Man is a thinking being, who must choose to risk the effort to think. Thinking and the choice it implies are individual activities.
2) Therefore one man cannot command the thought processes of another man.
3) No one can figure anything out, or make choices necessary to living, without reasoning.
4) Therefore, the kind of thinking one engages in, whether or not one thinks logically and coherently, whether or not one respects facts as such, or chooses to selectively ignore facts, is crucially important to being able to figure stuff out and succeed at the challenge of living.
5) Therefore, one should think properly, i.e. one should be rational.

Here we’ve arrived at the cardinal virtue in service to the ultimate standard of value: one’s life. The fact that one ought to be rational, in clear mental contact with reality, implies ethical individualism.

However, if one were less careful in his observations about the kind of creature that man happens to be, less insightful in his observations about the sort of universe that man inhabits, he might conclude that man can acquire knowlege through various forms of faith–religious or secular–or various forms of mysticism and superstition. Or he might beleive that knowlege was impossible to man. Such false ideas about man and the world imply collectivist, rather than individualist, ethical implications. If learning ultimately depends on revelation from God, or from a political leader, or from the collective unconscious (interpreted and revealed by a political or religious leader), then each individual is unimportant, because his individual thinking is unimportant to his survival. In this case, ethical behavior flows from proper subordination and obediance to the authority through whom revelation is achieved.

If Rothbard and Hoppe thought that ethical individualism is implied by an act of reasoned debate, then they could reach this conclusion only by explicitly identifying reason as an epistemological absolute, i.e. as man’s only proper means of learning. Thus, rationality would be an objective moral value to R&H. That is, their route to ethical norms would necessarily presuppose PERSONAL MORAL VALUES, such as rationality. That is, without first figuring out a code of personal moral values that necessarily apply to everyone, H&R could not proceed to a system of “libertarian ethics”.

The fact that Mr. Edwards, in his defense of R&H, found it necessary to identify reason as the prerequisite to reaching valid implications about ethics, supports my point.

However, Rothbard (and I assume Hoppe) explicitly deny the relevance or fundamental importance of personal morality to their system of “libertarian ethics”. In fact, I have the impression from reading an earlier post about an exchange between Hoppe and Rasmussen, that Hoppe really thinks he can reach normative conclusions about property, without asserting that one “should” choose to respect private property. I think that is incoherent. (But this may well be unfair to Hoppe, whose book on property I have not read.)

Paul Edwards August 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Mark,

“To Paul Edwards:

“If two people enter into an argument about how they should conduct themselves with respect to another, and if both look to facts, evidence, and logic as the standard by which they decide this issue, then certain implications can be deduced from their action. These include:

1) The debaters are alive
2) The debaters can “think”
3) The debaters think reason is the proper means of figuring stuff out.

“Do these implications lead anywhere? I don’t think so….”

Sure they do, Mark. Logically, those things imply the following:

1. The debaters presume they each and the other exists, has a right to exist and to control themselves, which acknowledges not only self-ownership during the argumentation, but a prior right to appropriate for themselves the means to survive to participate in the argumentation.

2. The debaters presume that each will depend on reason, and peaceful cooperation, and not violence, to come to a truthful reasoned conclusion. They logically presume peace to pursue truth.

In as far as they intend to actually carry out what can be logically described as argumentation, they will implicitly, and before they even begin discourse, agree to these norms. These norms, when all fleshed out and fully elaborated, are known as the libertarian ethic.

Because they are logically presupposed during argumentation, all normative proposals that contradict any of these presuppositions represent a performative contradiction and are ruled out of court by force of logic during the discussion. Therefore, no propositions that are contrary to libertarian principles can be justified during argumentation. And since argumentation is the only method humans have of producing a justification of anything, if it can’t be justified during argumentation, it simply cannot be justified ever, and remains forever unjustifiable, or unjustified, period.

All of what I have just said is true independent of “what two particular people happen to think or how they choose to argue”. Either they subscribe to reason or they don’t. If they don’t, they exist outside of anything we can reasonably claim to be a system of justice and if they are aggressive in libertarian lights, then they are merely technical problem to be dealt with violently, just as any irrational animal such as a wolf or a cougar would be.

The a priori of argumentation is a fundamental reflection of the rational nature of man. As HHH has pointed out, because it is an action, it is a sub-category of human action and in that sense it is lesser than it. On the other hand it is in another sense it is superior and preeminent over action in that it is the one action necessary to allow us to discuss and understand the idea of action in the first place.

Therefore, understanding the logical nature of argumentation, and its presuppositions can be instrumental in understanding the fundamental nature of acting man. It is indisputably instrumental in determining a valid ethic for social interaction.

TGGP August 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm

TCCP: If we lack free will, there is no point in discussing anything. For the idea of proof, of evidence, or logic, of KNOWLEGE, all presuppose the ability of the thinker to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
Computers can distinguish between true and false. In a sense, that is all they can do. Just 0 and 1. The enzymes that replicate DNA can distinguish between A and T, C and G. None have free will.

Collectivists always assert knowlege about ethics and politics by some form of revalation, divine or secular.
They wouldn’t consider it “revelation” any more than anyone here’s acceptance of libertarianism. Argumentation ethics were invented by Habermas, who is notoriously left-wing.

Yes. You are describing the psychology of the politician, the thief, murderer, socialist, rapist and the mob under the influence of democratic mentality. Their disregard for peaceful cooperation and justice is not really relevant to the question.
They are extremely relevant to my well-being, since they are the ones who threaten to harm it.

Why “deal with them” if they could not ethically be proven to be doing anything wrong? Without any ethical norms we could not really tell why we should “deal with them” in the first place.
For the same reason I do anything: I am subjectively dissatisfied with the status quo.

Secondly, the world is ruled by ideas. If we understand this we have laid a foundation for change. If we do not understand it people like Mr. Mugabe will be powerful. To argue that this is not so is contradictious as this is an idea itself.
Most of Mugabe’s supporters are likely illiterate. He did not get where he is because he wrote philosophy, and it is not philosophy that will unseat him. People have tried protesting his actions, but his thugs drive them off. What use are all your ideas when he has the power?

Does anyone really doubt the influence that Karl Marx’s ideas once had (and still have)? Or religious believes? Does it not exist people who believe in the principle of democracy? Is the concept of democracy powerless or powerful in today’s world?
Karl Marx thought communism was a historical inevitability, the logical end result of capitalism. He was wrong and his ideas went nowhere until the Leninist Bolsheviks deviated from Marxist orthodoxy and created a revolutionary vanguard that would implement the dictatorship of the proletariat where they could, even if that place lacked capitalism. Murray Rothbard considered himself a disciple of Lenin’s strategy, but his vanguard was not a vanguard like Lenin’s vanguard (to paraphrase a commie saying). The Bolsheviks did not wait for their ideas to gain majority support (the Mensheviks outnumbered them among Russian marxists, and not all revolutionaries were marxists). They took the initiative and seized power when the opportunity presented itself. Libertarians have no idea how to do that.

Wouldn’t the world be different if most of the adults believed in a libertarian ethic from a world in which most of the adults believed in Nazism?
I have been reading Bertrand de Jouvenel’s “On Power”, and it seems to me that beliefs and philosophy offer no defense against the state. All will be seized by it for its own use, even those formulated to oppose it. The people who believed in a libertarian ethic might decide they must spread it around the world, and powerless Nazis might decide just to create nasty propaganda rather than actually doing anything. I don’t know. The Chinese and Vietnamese are still officially communist, Singapore is run by the “People’s Action Party” and English people I come across are glad they gave up on Cromwell’s commonwealth to go back to monarchy, but none of those things seem relevant.

Did Marxists try to convince John D. Rockefeller of the rightfulness of Marxism or did they try to get support elsewhere? Why should libertarians be any different in this regard and try to convince criminals like Mr. Mugabe of the rightfulness of justice?
I don’t think Mugabe will be convinced, that’s my point. What is needed is the capability to evade or deter his depradations.

Apart from this I would also like to mention that I believe that very foundation for cooperation among people is that they gain by cooperating and not because of “tribal sentiments”. I think Mises was correct in believing this.
Primitive peoples give up things to other tribe members, so the others benefit at their expense. The state was not formed through a social contract, it was created by acts of domination. Tribal sentiment still runs high. Daniel Klein talked about this in “The People’s Romance“, which I think even Rothbard was a victim of (see his writings on populism and the American war of independence).

It is merely brow-beating and appeal to authority.
Illogical, fallacious argument is still argument.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 1:05 am

The power of ideas.

” . . . the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.”

The last half of the last paragraph in John Maynard Keynes’s book General Theory of Employment Interest and Money.

Human Action:

“The nineteenth-century success of free trade ideas was effected by the theories of classical economics. The prestige of these ideas was so great that those whose selfish class interests they hurt could not hinder their endorsements by public opinion and their realization by legislative measures. It is ideas that make history, and not history that makes ideas.”

Ludwig von Mises

http://mises.org/humanaction/chap3sec3.asp#p84

A proposition made by Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

“States, as powerful and invincible as they might seem, ultimately owe their existence to ideas and, since ideas can in principle change instantaneously, states can be brought down and crumble practically overnight.”

http://www.freelythinking.com/quotes.htm

A quote from the book “The Ethics of Liberty”, by Murray Rothbard:

“Ideology has always been vital to the continued existence of the State, as attested by the systematic use of ideology since the ancient Oriental empires. The specific content of the ideology has, of course, changed over time, in accordance with changing conditions and cultures. In the Oriental despotisms, the Emperor was often held by the Church to be himself divine; in our more secular age, the argument runs more to “the public good” and the “general welfare.”But the purpose is always the same: to convince the public that what the State does is not, as one might think, crime on a gigantic scale, but something necessary and vital that must be supported and obeyed. The reason that ideology is so vital to the State is that it always rests, in essence, on the support of the majority of the public. This support obtains whether the State is a “democracy,” a dictatorship, or an absolute monarchy. For the support rests in the willingness of the majority (not, to repeat, of every individual) to go along with the system: to pay the taxes, to go without much complaint to fight the State’s wars, to obey the State’s rules and decrees. This support need not be active enthusiasm to be effective; it can just as well be passive resignation. But support there must be. For if the bulk of the public were really convinced of the illegitimacy of the State, if it were convinced that the State is nothing more nor less than a bandit gang writ large, then the State would soon collapse to take on no more status or breadth of existence than another Mafia gang. Hence the necessity of the State’s employment of ideologists; and hence the necessity of the State’s age-old alliance with the Court Intellectuals who weave the apologia for State rule”.

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/twentytwo.asp

“Human history is in essence a history of ideas.” (H.G. Wells)

“In every great time there is some one idea at work which is more powerful than any other, and which shapes the events of the time and determines their ultimate issues.” – Francis Bacon

Because of the power of ideas, the following can be concluded:

If an amount of people that supports the state is great enough, the state will be powerful.

If an amount of people that supports the democratic principle is great enough, the democratic principle will be powerful.

If an amount of people that supports communism is great enough, communism will be powerful.

If an amount of people that supports religion is great enough, religion will be powerful.

If an amount of people that supports libertarian ethics is great enough, libertarian ethics will be powerful.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 1:29 am

The point is, of course, that if for an example a small amount of people would try to make a Marxist revolution in the US by brutally taking over the government, they would not be successful.

Why is this so?

Because people generally do not want a Marxist run state and they do want elected people to run the government.

All the weaponry might supports and harmonizes with those ideas that are prevailing.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 1:46 am

The power of ideas is an axiom

Ideas are only thoughts.

There would not be any point in communicating with each other at all if ideas would not make the slightest difference.

Man cannot exist without any thoughts-ideas.

Anthony August 28, 2007 at 6:31 am

Good posts Bjorn. I cannot understand what is with this denigration of ethical theorizing. If some libertarians cannot appreciate the value of it and are so intent on strategizing, then they ought to publish some works with their own ideas on the matter and work to agitate the public, instead of complaining about work concerning ideology.

TGGP August 28, 2007 at 11:55 am

You can stuff your Keynes. Philip Converse actually presented data in “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics”. He found that for most people, they do not have any ideology and do not know what it meant by terms like “liberal” or “conservative” and so on. The State was created out of domination, not consent, and domination alone is all that is necessary for it. Monarchy did not reign because most people were monarchists nor did any ancient empire seize huge territories because the inhabitants of those areas wanted them to.

The point is, of course, that if for an example a small amount of people would try to make a Marxist revolution in the US by brutally taking over the government, they would not be successful.

Why is this so?
Because the Iraq War is so different from World War 1, because we are not transitioning from an agrarian economy and because for all their stupidity the Bush regime is still craftier about seizing and holding power than the Romanovs were.

Man cannot exist without any thoughts-ideas.
Sure they can. Jellyfish can exist without them. If I caused enough brain damage to some men to make them like jellyfish, they would still exist.

If some libertarians cannot appreciate the value of it and are so intent on strategizing, then they ought to publish some works with their own ideas on the matter and work to agitate the public, instead of complaining about work concerning ideology.
I already explained above, you must not have been paying attention. I am not a “professional libertarian”, I just comment in my spare time. I am not engaged in either ethical philosophy or strategy, but if I was going to be an activist I would put my efforts into the latter since it could actually obtain liberty. I criticize those libertarians who believe themselves to be altruistically working for liberty when they contribute nothing to strategy and instead expend their efforts in areas that do not actually bring anybody any liberty.

Anthony August 28, 2007 at 12:29 pm

And as I stated, I find these critiques misdirected. If you want to criticize someone, aim at actual libertarian strategists. You may not appreciate the role libertarian ethicists (and other philosophers) play, but they are crucial in the battlefield of intellectual ideas.

Bjorn is entirely correct in his contention that ideas strongly aid the State’s perceived legitimacy – it too is a form of domination (hence Hitler’s strong focus on propaganda as a tool of rulership.) And I fail to see how man qua man can exist without thoughts without being reduced to some sort of vegetable.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Thanks Anthony!

Now we are jellyfishes. Mans typical characteristics (or mans nature) are the same as jellyfishes. Who could tell the difference? Very good argument! Maybe I should advice my employer to employ some of them. They must be very cheap to hire. Our customers will surely appreciate their services.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 3:45 pm

The nature of man (The Ethics of liberty):

”The individual man’s capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animals or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, or to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.”

http://mises.org/resources/cbf8fe63-40ec-48a6-8290-0de466d86096

For a New Liberty:

“The species man, therefore, has a specifiable nature, as does the world around him and the ways of interaction between them. To put it with undue brevity, the activity of each inorganic and organic entity is determined by its own nature and by the nature of the other entities with which it comes in contact. Specifically, while the behavior of plants and at least the lower animals is determined by their biological nature or perhaps by their “instincts,” the nature of man is such that each individual person must, in order to act, choose his own ends and employ his own means in order to attain them. Possessing no automatic instincts, each man must learn about himself and the world, use his mind to select values, learn about cause and effect, and act purposively to maintain himself and advance his life. Since men can think, feel, evaluate, and act only as individuals, it becomes vitally necessary for each man’s survival and prosperity that he be free to learn, choose, develop his faculties, and act upon his knowl¬edge and values.”

http://mises.org/resources/12ea1d7b-28fd-4706-943d-c6100639a5eb

Human Action:

“Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.”

http://mises.org/resources/4979fc72-aa02-407e-9604-7904fbc9b872

From answers.com:

“Humans, or human beings, are bipedal primates belonging to the mammalian species Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man” or “knowing man”) in the family Hominidae (the great apes).[1][2] Humans have a highly developed brain capable of abstract reasoning, language, and introspection. This mental capability, combined with an erect body carriage that frees their upper limbs for manipulating objects, has allowed humans to make far greater use of tools than any other species. Humans originated in Africa about 200,000 years ago, but now they inhabit every continent, with a total population of over 6.5 billion as of 2007.

Like most primates, humans are social by nature; however, humans are particularly adept at utilizing systems of communication for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of cooperating and competing groups, ranging in scale from small families and partnerships to species-wide political, scientific and economic unions. Social interactions between humans have also established an extremely wide variety of traditions, rituals, ethics, values, social norms, and laws which form the basis of human society. Humans also have a marked appreciation for beauty and aesthetics which, combined with the human desire for self-expression, has led to cultural innovations such as art, literature and music.

Humans are also noted for their desire to understand and influence the world around them, seeking to explain and manipulate natural phenomena through science, philosophy, mythology and religion. This natural curiosity has led to the development of advanced tools and skills; humans are the only known species to build fires, cook their food, clothe themselves, and use numerous other technologies.”

http://www.answers.com/topic/human?cat=health

Well, then, if those characteristics of man cease to exist, man ceases also to exist. Some other organism might be left but not the human species.

Or in other words:

Murray Rothbard, “Fundamentals of human action” (praxeology):

“All human beings act by virtue of their existence and their nature as human beings. We could not conceive of human beings who do not act purposefully, who have no ends in view that they desire and attempt to attain. Things that did not act, that did not behave purposefully, would no longer be classified as human.”

Paul Edwards August 28, 2007 at 4:56 pm

TGGP : “Illogical, fallacious argument is still argument.”

To the extent that this is true, it is true only from an irrelevant psychological standpoint. From a logical standpoint argumentation presupposes only valid logic and the pursuit of truth. Only with logic can a true justification be given and so therefore, it is only from a logical standpoint that A-E addresses and reveals the ethic that argumentation implies.

Paul Edwards August 28, 2007 at 5:31 pm

TGGP : Quoting me, you write “Yes. You are describing the psychology of the politician, the thief, murderer, socialist, rapist and the mob under the influence of democratic mentality. Their disregard for peaceful cooperation and justice is not really relevant to the question.”

To this you answer, “They are extremely relevant to my well-being, since they are the ones who threaten to harm it”, which ignores the point I try to make, and yet makes no point of its own which anyone here could disagree with.

The questions I would ask you is Do you subscribe to a just social order? Do you not think that what you do and what others do should be justifiable? Logically, the fact that you do attempt to justify your views on this forum implies you do. Each time you post you act as if you believe in justifications. It is the content of your posts that sometimes introduce confusion because they are contradictory to the implications of your acts of posting. You cannot justify a position that justification is not worthy or valid – it is a contradiction.

The point I make is that the libertarian ethic is justifiable and that contradictory ethics cannot be justified. We agree that criminals of all stripes, private and public pose a threat to our property and our well being. I further contend that it is worthwhile to know what acts are criminal and on what basis, so that we can more confidently and appropriately respond to them.

TGGP August 28, 2007 at 6:51 pm

If you want to criticize someone, aim at actual libertarian strategists.
I have spent time at Mencius Moldbug’s site criticizing him. However my main problem with libertarian strategists is not so much that their plans are bad (though they may be) but that there are so few of them and so many ethicists!

You may not appreciate the role libertarian ethicists (and other philosophers) play, but they are crucial in the battlefield of intellectual ideas.
I do not believe this is the case. Do you have any evidence to present against that of Philip Converse?

And I fail to see how man qua man can exist without thoughts without being reduced to some sort of vegetable.
Perhaps in comparison to philosophers the majority of humanity is semi-vegetative. So now what do we do?

Now we are jellyfishes. Mans typical characteristics (or mans nature) are the same as jellyfishes. Who could tell the difference?
I would consider a man with brain damage to still be a man, because I would use genetics to determine species rather than philosophy. Intelligence is normally distributed (i.e a Gaussian or bell-curve). Many people are not really capable of following the arguments of Marx or Rand (who weren’t even professional philosophers able to obtain academic posts). Even among people that are intelligent, many don’t put much thought into such issues for the good reason that they derive no benefit from it. Your response may be to say that they are not acting like man qua man which must be a reasonable, rational thinking person living a fully examined life. So what, I say. We must deal with reality as it is, and if men are actually sheep we must focus on sheep.

All human beings act by virtue of their existence and their nature as human beings. We could not conceive of human beings who do not act purposefully, who have no ends in view that they desire and attempt to attain. Things that did not act, that did not behave purposefully, would no longer be classified as human.
Many human actions are not thought out but rationalized post-facto. They are like kicking when the doctor hits your knee with the reflex-mallet. In addition, a free-market can function with mindless automatons. See this.

To the extent that this is true, it is true only from an irrelevant psychological standpoint. From a logical standpoint argumentation presupposes only valid logic and the pursuit of truth. Only with logic can a true justification be given and so therefore, it is only from a logical standpoint that A-E addresses and reveals the ethic that argumentation implies.
If two people actually disagree, at least one must be incorrect. Does that mean no more than one person is actually arguing?

The questions I would ask you is Do you subscribe to a just social order? Do you not think that what you do and what others do should be justifiable? Logically, the fact that you do attempt to justify your views on this forum implies you do.
I am an emotivist/Stirnerite egoist. I do not believe anything is objectively justifiable. I do not believe normative statements have any truth value.

You cannot justify a position that justification is not worthy or valid – it is a contradiction.
Worthy and valid are two different things. Validity is not justified, it is shown. I am not trying to say here that normative beliefs are good or bad, only that they are unfalsifiable and thus cannot be correct or incorrect.

The point I make is that the libertarian ethic is justifiable and that contradictory ethics cannot be justified.
I will agree with the latter point, but not the former because I do not believe anything is objectively justifiable. Even Hoppe and Kinsella rather than justifying anything only attempt to show that something else is unjustified.

I further contend that it is worthwhile to know what acts are criminal and on what basis, so that we can more confidently and appropriately respond to them.
I do not need to know that the man attacking me is unjustified, only that I do not want to be attacked. Knowing I am “justified” does not make me more confident. If being “righteous” in an ethical libertarian sense resulted in success, the thugs we see running countries would not be so successful.

Anthony August 28, 2007 at 7:07 pm

In my view there are not enough ethicists.

At any rate, Converse, from what I can tell, was dealing with conscious endorsement of an ideology. But that is hardly the point – propaganda and bad ideas tend to be indoctrinated at a subconscious level. Until they are brought to question these notions, they acquiesce to them.

Anthony August 28, 2007 at 7:09 pm

A clarfiication: ‘they’ – referring to those who are indoctrinated.

Mark Humphrey August 28, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Paul Edwards: Perhaps you’re correct about the logical implications of two persons engaged in reasoned discussion. Having thought a little more about it, I’m not sure. I am sure that the particulars of man’s nature and the nature of the universe we live in (no contradictions, the law of identity) logically implies a clearly defineable moral code and esthetic and ethical norms. I’m not sure–but will have to think more–that it makes sense to infer this from the actions of any two other people. Doing so seems to me, maybe, to suggest the primacy of consciousness over the primacy of existence, since this approach concentrates on the specific content of two individual minds. In contrast, by deducing objective moral and ethical values from the observable nature of man, primacy is vested in facts over consciousness. But I’m not clear right now. I think I’ll read Hoppe’s book on property to get better understanding.

TGGP: You have succumbed to a logical fallacy that all determinists embrace–a fallacy that has been identified as such going back, or so I’ve read, all the way to the ancients in Greece. The fallacy is assuming the ability to make conscious distinctions, logical or otherwise, for yourself, the determinist; while simultaneously denying that this ability to make conscious distinctions exists for anyone else.

In other words, you posit that one’s feelings and thoughts are ultimately determined by some influence–however you choose to define it–outside the province of one’s will or mind. This proposition requires that all thoughts/feelings about everything is so determined. One can’t evade this determinism, even temporarily or partially, according to the logical implications of determinism, otherwise one’s thoughts/feelings would not really be determined.

Therefore, the determinist’s thoughts/feelings about any and every subject are, by the meaning of his argument, determined. Therefore, the determinst’s thoughts/feelings about the issue of freewill versus determinism are beyond his control, determined by elements outside his mental capabilities. And so it follows that if determinism were true, the determinist, like everyone else, would lack the personal power to distinguish between falsehoods and truth, facts and fantasy, good and bad, etc. All those distinctions, according to the determinist, are merely illusions, inexorable consequences of the forces that supposedly rule human life.

I don’t intend to be condescending when I emphasize to you: there’s no way around this fallacy.

However, when you criticize others on this thread, as we all do, you assume that which you deny: that we all have the capacity to distinguish between truth and falsehood. For if we lacked this ability, and if you truly believed that we lack this ability, what basis would you have to criticize (or praise) anyone for anything?

There is a great book by Nathaniel Branden that discusses this issue, entitled “The Art of Living Consciously”. The book discusses the intersection of the philosophy of epistemology and psychology.

Mark Humphrey August 28, 2007 at 7:18 pm

TGGP:And so it follows that if determinism were true, the determinist, like everyone else, would lack the personal power to distinguish between falsehoods and truth, facts and fantasy, good and bad, etc. All those distinctions, according to the determinist, are merely illusions, inexorable consequences of the forces that supposedly rule human life.

In reference to the above, I forget to make this clear: Since the determinist can’t make non-illusory distinctions, he can’t establish that determinism is true and valid. For knowlege, including of determinism, presupposes the capacity to distinguish between the logical and illogical, truth or falsehood. In other words, for the determinist, human beings lack conscious intelligence. This criticism applies as well to your ideas about computers and DNA, because your ideas presuppose your ability to think and choose.

Björn Lundahl August 28, 2007 at 7:24 pm

A parrot is blathering.

TGGP August 28, 2007 at 11:40 pm

At any rate, Converse, from what I can tell, was dealing with conscious endorsement of an ideology. But that is hardly the point – propaganda and bad ideas tend to be indoctrinated at a subconscious level.
Propaganda is something handed down from a propagandist. Many (like the illiterates of Zimbabwe) don’t know what it says. The beliefs of the general public are more gut-feelings. They are remarkably consistent and don’t fit squarely into virtually any ideology (ideologists tend to think more and have coherent, if wrong, beliefs). Economists have been complaining about the same errors (protectionism, anti-market bias) from the days of Smith and Bastiat and they just don’t seem to die. They are found all around the world where people believe in many different things. No propagandist accomplished this coup.

I am sure that the particulars of man’s nature and the nature of the universe we live in (no contradictions, the law of identity) logically implies a clearly defineable moral code and esthetic and ethical norms.
Why are you so sure?

the primacy of consciousness over the primacy of existence
I have no idea what that means. That’s how positivist I am!

The fallacy is assuming the ability to make conscious distinctions, logical or otherwise, for yourself, the determinist; while simultaneously denying that this ability to make conscious distinctions exists for anyone else.
Quote me where I do so. I fully admit all my actions are pre-determined and I have no free-will, and furthermore that my conception of a platonic self is merely the subjective product of my brain evolved to enhance the likelihood of the spread of my genes.

In other words, you posit that one’s feelings and thoughts are ultimately determined by some influence–however you choose to define it–outside the province of one’s will or mind.
“The state of the universe billions of years ago plus some quantum coin flips” is something like how Greene & Cohen put it.

Therefore, the determinist’s thoughts/feelings about any and every subject are, by the meaning of his argument, determined. Therefore, the determinst’s thoughts/feelings about the issue of freewill versus determinism are beyond his control, determined by elements outside his mental capabilities.
Mostly true, although I would say that my mental capabilities are pre-determined and that they are a major factor in my beliefs and actions.

And so it follows that if determinism were true, the determinist, like everyone else, would lack the personal power to distinguish between falsehoods and truth, facts and fantasy, good and bad, etc.
False, remember my mention of computers and DNA/RNA which I hope you will agree do not have free will.

All those distinctions, according to the determinist, are merely illusions, inexorable consequences of the forces that supposedly rule human life.
No, there really is information: “a difference that makes a difference“. If you really want to get into issues of fallibility and subjectivism you might note that we could be living in a simulation and I have no idea what the “real” world is like, but in that case I don’t care about the “real” world, but only what I experience and believed had been real.

However, when you criticize others on this thread, as we all do, you assume that which you deny: that we all have the capacity to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
I certainly don’t believe anyone here or elsewhere is infallible, but given that you have read and responded to my comments I know that you can detect and remember difference and make actions based on it.

For if we lacked this ability, and if you truly believed that we lack this ability, what basis would you have to criticize (or praise) anyone for anything?
On what basis do I criticize Gone With the Wind or praise King Crimson? Because I like or dislike them!

There is a great book by Nathaniel Branden that discusses this issue, entitled “The Art of Living Consciously”. The book discusses the intersection of the philosophy of epistemology and psychology.
Given my views of the Rands/Brandens and my Szaszian take on psychology, I think I’ll put that off for a while.

In reference to the above, I forget to make this clear: Since the determinist can’t make non-illusory distinctions, he can’t establish that determinism is true and valid.
To test determinism we could look for indeterminacy in the brain. It does in fact exist there, in the form of quantum behavior. Since this is not a special characteristic of the brain but is in fact involved everywhere matter/energy (same thing according to Einstein) exist, it would be rather meaningless to refer to it as “consciousness” or “free-will”.

This criticism applies as well to your ideas about computers and DNA, because your ideas presuppose your ability to think and choose.
So do they have free-will or are they unable to detect difference?

A parrot is blathering.
Way to contribute, Björn.

Björn Lundahl August 29, 2007 at 1:52 am

Verdict: Hoppe and Rothbard are wrong.

Subjectivist or jellyfish. There are men who cannot argue such as imbeciles so they are therefore dead wrong. They cannot be creative and property rights are of no use for them either. As those imbeciles exist, this is true.

Helicopter Ben. But Hoppe and Rothbard are implicitly referring to mans nature when they argue for the principles of justice. The typical characteristics of what we define man can create and make use of property rights. If man did not have those characteristics we would not exist. So we must suppose that those characteristics are objective and true.

Subjectivist or jellyfish. No, no, no, I am a subjectivist and a positivist too for that matter, so I do not believe in that. It is so easy and so good to be a subjectivist, positivist and a moral relativist. I can always say that you are wrong. For example how do you know that you exist? Prove it.

Helicopter Ben. But you are arguing, you cannot argue if you do not exist. You must accept the fact that you exist.

Subjectivist or jellyfish. I am not arguing. Prove that. And as I said I am a subjectivist so I do not believe in things like the existence. Don’t you read my comments? I have already told you so. How many times do I need to do that?

Helicopter Ben. A parrot is blathering.

Subjectivist or jellyfish. That was easy. Now I have proved that Hoppe and Rothbard are dead wrong.

Anthony August 29, 2007 at 6:56 am

TGGP: “Propaganda is something handed down from a propagandist. Many (like the illiterates of Zimbabwe) don’t know what it says. The beliefs of the general public are more gut-feelings. They are remarkably consistent and don’t fit squarely into virtually any ideology (ideologists tend to think more and have coherent, if wrong, beliefs). Economists have been complaining about the same errors (protectionism, anti-market bias) from the days of Smith and Bastiat and they just don’t seem to die. They are found all around the world where people believe in many different things. No propagandist accomplished this coup.”

Yes, but literacy has never been a requirement for more subtle, pervasive form of propaganda (radio broadcasts, TV etc.) I am not sure to what extent propaganda exists in such forms in Zimbabwe, and I am not sure to what extent Mugabe’s rule is seen as legitimate, but in the West such propaganda certainly does exist.

Anthony August 29, 2007 at 7:03 am

Bjorn, exactly the same thoughts were passing through my mind yesterday. It seems a little too easy for these moral nihilists/subjectivists to brush aside ethical theory. I wonder what philosophers have to say about it – that will be my next topic of inquiry.

TGGP, what does ignorance of the primacy of consciousness etc. have to do with being positivist? They’re Randian terms. :) Socialism is an example of a primacy of consciousness ideology.

TGGP August 29, 2007 at 9:27 am

If man did not have those characteristics we would not exist.
Jellyfish and imbeciles do not have those characteristics, yet they exist.

It is so easy and so good to be a subjectivist, positivist and a moral relativist.
Just wait a darn tootin’ second, I don’t believe in any objective good so it cannot therefore be good to be those things!

For example how do you know that you exist?
I have not been arguing that anyone does not exist. I admit the possibility that I could be a simulation, but then when I say “exists” it should be taken to mean not what actually exists outside the simulation but what is being simulated in the world I experience, since that is all I am aware of and can talk about.

I am not arguing.
I was actually the one for a very open definition of “arguing”, as others stated that using fallacies or incorrect logic did not constitute arguing. I say as long as one expresses that they disagree and offers statements (however nonsensical) in support of that disagreement, they are arguing.

And as I said I am a subjectivist so I do not believe in things like the existence.
Mises was a subjectivist. That did not mean he thought he or anyone else did not exist. I just don’t think normative statements have any truth value. It is not “existence” (keeping in mind the caveat in the third paragraph of this post) that I am skeptical of, but consciousness. I think it is ill-defined.

Regarding Hoppe and Rothbard, they do not have any scientific expertise on human beings so I don’t see any reason to take them as authorities. Perhaps they know a lot about economics, but as the Catallarchy link showed many truths of economics are still valid for mindless automatons. I have pointed to Converse for real evidence of what humans are actually like, and those who want to make claims about the nature of man are welcome to provide evidence rather than unsupported statements to the contrary.

Yes, but literacy has never been a requirement for more subtle, pervasive form of propaganda (radio broadcasts, TV etc.)
Neither of those existed in the days of Adam Smith and Bastiat, but the same dumb ideas were still extremely popular.

in the West such propaganda certainly does exist.
Do you mean like public service announcements or Partnership for a Drug-Free America types of things? Those don’t seem significant to me. There is Fox News, but it’s massively popular because it fills a niche that wasn’t being satisfied before. People watch it of their own accord because it tells them things they already believe. Many Fox News viewers thought Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and WMDs were discovered in Iraq, even though Fox News itself does not make such ridiculous claims. People who believe such things are simply more inclined to watch Fox News.

Socialism is an example of a primacy of consciousness ideology.
I don’t usually hear socialists talk much about consciousness. Marxists talk about “class consciousness”, but they seem to have given up on that angle a while back since the proletariat didn’t behave like they expected.

ktibuk August 29, 2007 at 9:53 am

It is kind of funny that TGGP proves that AE is not really sufficient to justify libertarian ethics.

Since AE requires reson and many people choose not to use it, Argumentaiton ethics dont prove anything. Opponent can even be in a exchange of words that can be branded as argument but it is not an argument if one side choses not to use reason.

As Bjorn put it, just like “talking or arguing” with a parrot.

And it is also funny that people who easliy deny reality like TGGP can do so only when they talk about it.

When it comes to living they, maybe not knowingly, acknowledge reality and act upon it.

I cant imagine TGGP thinking, “this might be a simulation” and not get away when a car is coming at him on the street.

He would just get out of the way, otherwise he wouldnt be here typing words devoid of reason.

Anthony August 29, 2007 at 12:15 pm

“Neither of those existed in the days of Adam Smith and Bastiat, but the same dumb ideas were still extremely popular.”

It existed, yet in more antiquated forms (e.g. the Church.)

“Do you mean like public service announcements or Partnership for a Drug-Free America types of things? Those don’t seem significant to me. There is Fox News, but it’s massively popular because it fills a niche that wasn’t being satisfied before. People watch it of their own accord because it tells them things they already believe. Many Fox News viewers thought Saddam was responsible for 9/11 and WMDs were discovered in Iraq, even though Fox News itself does not make such ridiculous claims. People who believe such things are simply more inclined to watch Fox News.”

I mean news reports, television programmes, radio broadcasts, tabloids, anything that can be put to such use. Perhaps some people see these sources as a confirmation of what they already “knew”. Perhaps they are also a means of making sure that that belief does not fade away.

“I don’t usually hear socialists talk much about consciousness. Marxists talk about “class consciousness”, but they seem to have given up on that angle a while back since the proletariat didn’t behave like they expected.”

You admitted you do not understand what the term means. How, then, can you proceed to say whether or not socialism is described by it? Primacy of consciousness is a viewpoint, which according to Rand, ignores reality entirely and seeks to mould it according to utopian desires (e.g. ignoring the calculational impossibility of socialism.)

Ktibuk, it’d be handy if most socialists admitted that they are not appealing to reason. :P

Mark Humphrey August 29, 2007 at 2:23 pm

The phrases “primacy of existence” and “primacy of consciousness” are indeed Objectivist expressions. They refer to concepts that are really useful in trying to make sense of abstract ideas from philosophy.

The “primacy of existence” holds that existence logically preceeds consciousness. That is, to be aware, one must first exist. To be aware of something, something must first exist. In short, consciousness presupposes existence. Nothing strange or controversial here, at least to anyone who is sane.

The “primacy of consciousness” holds that consciousness logically preceeds existence. This is truly insanity projected onto philosophy, because if consciousness logically preceeded existence, existence would be a product of one’s consciousness. Philosophical doctrines influential throuout the last 150 or 200 years actually imnplicitly embrace the primacy of consciousness.

In introductory philosophy classes in lower institutions of learning–public high schools or community colleges, for example–a simple little problem is presented to uncurious students, as follows: “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody happens to be there to witness this event, did the tree actually fall?”

I’ll leave it to readers (if there are any) to ponder this profound and weighty issue.

TGGP August 29, 2007 at 3:58 pm

And it is also funny that people who easliy deny reality like TGGP can do so only when they talk about it. When it comes to living they, maybe not knowingly, acknowledge reality and act upon it. I cant imagine TGGP thinking, “this might be a simulation” and not get away when a car is coming at him on the street. He would just get out of the way, otherwise he wouldnt be here typing words devoid of reason.
The simulation angle isn’t important to my argument and it seems to have caused enough confusion that I regret mentioning it. I was only acknowledging it to dismiss it. If it is actually the case that I am living in a simulation, then I do not care about the “real” world outside the simulation, only the old world I had been experiencing, so it is as if the simulation is real (it seems that way to me), so I will indeed move my simulated self out of the way of the simulated truck.

tabloids
The government wants us to believe in bat-boy? Seriously, imagine there are two kinds of media providers. Type 1 focuses on giving the customers what they want. Type 2 has some compromise between that and propagandizing. Who is going to succeed in the market? Type 1.

You admitted you do not understand what the term means. How, then, can you proceed to say whether or not socialism is described by it?
I don’t have to know what a term means in order to remember whether people use the word “consciousness”.

which according to Rand
I haven’t read Rand, so it is best to explain a term like that before using it in order for others to understand.

“If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody happens to be there to witness this event, did the tree actually fall?” I’ll leave it to readers (if there are any) to ponder this profound and weighty issue.
I like what Eliezer Yudkowsky had to say about that one.

Paul Edwards August 29, 2007 at 6:13 pm

TGGP:

“If two people actually disagree, at least one must be incorrect. Does that mean no more than one person is actually arguing?”

It means that neither has been convinced by the force of the other’s reasoning that the other has come to a correct or valid conclusion. However, throughout the process, each has logically and implicitly presupposed that the other is intending to apply correct and accurate reasoning to their arguments – to be put to the test by possibly better and more correct and accurate reasoning. The only question in each mind to be determined is whether the other has succeeded – and in the example you cite, the conclusion remains No.

“I am an emotivist/Stirnerite egoist. I do not believe anything is objectively justifiable. I do not believe normative statements have any truth value.”

Would you contend then, that your desire or willingness to violently defend yourself and your family from murderers, rapists and thieves has not an iota of a superior moral justification over the criminal actions of these murderers and thieves in the first place? I doubt you subscribe to such a morally vacuous philosophy, given how much time and effort you appear to put to justifying your views on this forum.

“Worthy and valid are two different things. Validity is not justified, it is shown.”

Semantics. How will you “show” that validity is shown rather than justified? Perhaps you will present a justification for such a proposal?

“I am not trying to say here that normative beliefs are good or bad, only that they are unfalsifiable and thus cannot be correct or incorrect.”

So therefore, is the belief that murder is bad on an equal logical footing to the belief that murder is good? Are such things, in your mind, really merely in the eye of the beholder? Is the torture and murder carried out on Hitler’s orders, in reality, on an equal moral foundation as peaceful cooperation?

“I will agree with the latter point, but not the former because I do not believe anything is objectively justifiable. Even Hoppe and Kinsella rather than justifying anything only attempt to show that something else is unjustified.”

They demonstrate what is unjustified by showing it to be a contradiction to that which can be justified. So, yes, they in fact do justify the libertarian ethic. They do this by demonstrating that it is the libertarian ethic that must logically be presupposed during the logical act of argumentation – the act that must be carried out in order to attempt to present any justification.

“I do not need to know that the man attacking me is unjustified, only that I do not want to be attacked. Knowing I am “justified” does not make me more confident. If being “righteous” in an ethical libertarian sense resulted in success, the thugs we see running countries would not be so successful.”

And yet conversely, your attacker may only need to know that he wants to attack you – in fact we know this to be the case. I would argue that your knowing that you are “justified” in defending yourself makes it possible for you to answer your peace loving critics when they ask you why they should not attack you in compensation for your violent act (your defense). When you put up a valid justification of self defense, they will see reason, given that they seek peace just as you do. As another consolation, you can look at your family in the eyes when you tell them your reason for acting violently was consistent with justice, and not injustice. It may matter.

TGGP August 29, 2007 at 11:34 pm

It means that neither has been convinced by the force of the other’s reasoning that the other has come to a correct or valid conclusion. However, throughout the process, each has logically and implicitly presupposed that the other is intending to apply correct and accurate reasoning to their arguments – to be put to the test by possibly better and more correct and accurate reasoning. The only question in each mind to be determined is whether the other has succeeded – and in the example you cite, the conclusion remains No.
I don’t see where we disagree there. I was merely pointing out that arguing and arguing correctly are two distinct things.

Would you contend then, that your desire or willingness to violently defend yourself and your family from murderers, rapists and thieves has not an iota of a superior moral justification over the criminal actions of these murderers and thieves in the first place?
Not objectively.

I doubt you subscribe to such a morally vacuous philosophy, given how much time and effort you appear to put to justifying your views on this forum.
Well, it turns out you were wrong to assume so.

Semantics.
Indeed.

How will you “show” that validity is shown rather than justified?
Validity is correctness, or truth. The truth is what is rather than what ought. What is is demonstrated all the time and if one person’s judgement is not trusted a machine can analyze it objectively. Worthiness entails value judgements, which are subjective rather than objective.

So therefore, is the belief that murder is bad on an equal logical footing to the belief that murder is good? Are such things, in your mind, really merely in the eye of the beholder? Is the torture and murder carried out on Hitler’s orders, in reality, on an equal moral foundation as peaceful cooperation?
In an objective sense, yes. I happen to disapprove of such things, but my opinion does not count for much.

They demonstrate what is unjustified by showing it to be a contradiction to that which can be justified. So, yes, they in fact do justify the libertarian ethic. They do this by demonstrating that it is the libertarian ethic that must logically be presupposed during the logical act of argumentation – the act that must be carried out in order to attempt to present any justification.
Aside from my belief that nothing can be justified, there are still flaws with the argument. It presupposes that correct things are argued, when it might the case that the set of things that may be argued are all false (I am not saying this is the case, only that they do not consider this). Furthermore, it is not true that one must presuppose anything in order to argue. I can believe I am in the right to bash you over the head for disagreeing with me, but have merely elected not to do so at the present (or perhaps I am incapable of doing so, such as with arguments over a distance on the internet). The “master arguing with a slave” was the best example I can remember there.

I would argue that your knowing that you are “justified” in defending yourself makes it possible for you to answer your peace loving critics
If they are peace loving I am probably not that concerned with what they think since they are less likely to attack me.

when they ask you why they should not attack you
Peace loving attackers, how odd!

When you put up a valid justification of self defense
Or an invalid but convincing one, they might be easily fooled.

they will see reason
People have not seen reason for quite a long time. You do realize that libertarianism is a very unpopular ideology, right?

given that they seek peace just as you do.
If I sought peace I wouldn’t have attacked, and neither would they.

As another consolation, you can look at your family in the eyes when you tell them your reason for acting violently was consistent with justice, and not injustice. It may matter.
If my family believed in the god Quetzcoatl the rainbow serpent I could justify my actions by saying I had his blessing, even though I do not believe he exists and I don’t think you do either. They would probably be satisfied that mean Mr. Mugabe is off our backs without much explanation from me though.

Paul Edwards August 30, 2007 at 12:35 am

T: Well, it turns out you were wrong to assume so.

P: If you say so.

T: Validity is correctness, or truth. The truth is what is rather than what ought.

P: But presuming I value the truth, is it not true that I ought to agree with the above, if it is indeed the truth?

T: What is is demonstrated all the time and if one person’s judgement is not trusted a machine can analyze it objectively. Worthiness entails value judgements, which are subjective rather than objective.

P: Your comments were both an attempt at a justification of your position, and an attempt to show its validity, by the way.

T: “In an objective sense, yes. I happen to disapprove of such things, but my opinion does not count for much.”

P: What your opinion counts for in the grand scheme of things in this world, is not actually the issue; it is whether or not your professed view is logically consistent with how you present that view. Is this “objective sense” as you put it, to mean that you have an objective view, or only a subjective opinion not based in reason, which disapproves of Hitler? Are you conceding that there is nothing superior to your view that his actions were wrong, compared to his view that his actions were right? Would you two simply agree with each other that you have different values, neither superior to the other? I guess you have already answered in the affirmative to this. Not everyone has such courage of their convictions. My hat is off to you.

T: It presupposes that correct things are argued,

P: Yes it does. In order to satisfactorily justify anything, one logically must argue correctly, logically, factually, and truthfully. This is a logical necessity. A true justification does not succeed by force, fraud, deceit or plain brute ignorance. A true justification must necessarily be made via correct arguments.

T: when it might the case that the set of things that may be argued are all false (I am not saying this is the case, only that they do not consider this).

P: Pardon the repetition, but, if a true justification is to be given, argumentation must proceed with truth and reason. Again this is not something that requires psychological “buy-in” by the participants of argumentation. It is something that simply stands as a logical requirement of true argumentation. One cannot logically argue that one cannot argue – although he can certainly physically attempt to do so. And one cannot logically present a successful justification based on force and fraud. It must proceed with reason and truth. Both of these are fundamental necessary truths.

T: Furthermore, it is not true that one must presuppose anything in order to argue. I can believe

P: What you might believe is irrelevant. You might be insane, or perhaps a criminal who is not interested in truth or justice. You might be a compulsive liar, or simply intent on demonstrating your cleverness by misleading another. This is all quite beside the point. What is relevant is the logical presupposition of argumentation. And that is peaceful cooperative logical reasoned discourse directed towards arriving at truthful propositions.

T: I am in the right to bash you over the head for disagreeing with me, but have merely elected not to do so at the present

P: All this means is that you are uninterested or incapable of argumentation and justification. In this case, you are the ethical equivalent of the wolf or cougar, fit to be dispensed with according to the violent threat that you pose to civilized humans. The question of justification is only pertinent to those interested in it and willing and capable of respecting civilized laws of justice.

T: (or perhaps I am incapable of doing so, such as with arguments over a distance on the internet). The “master arguing with a slave” was the best example I can remember there.

P: So to recap, this argument that some people are uninterested in justice is merely a tangential irrelevant observation turned sideways and made to look relevant to the discussion. What is relevant is that among those who are interested in justification of their behavior must do their justifying through argumentation, and to do this, they must – logically – in advance, agree to norms of civilized behavior. They must logically agree to the libertarian ethic to even attempt to justify their propositions. And they cannot justify any ethic that is a contradiction to these norms.

Björn Lundahl August 30, 2007 at 2:08 am

Very long time ago I was a moral relativist. I thought that it was very obvious that not any ethical principle is objectively or axiomatically true. This because people do obviously have different opinions. So how could I tell which opinion is truer and more correct than the other guys opinion? It seemed to be like telling that the colour red is objectively more beautiful and correct colour than blue! It didn’t sound very plausible. Generally nearly all people also seemed to support the idea of moral relativism. Rothbard was the man that started my rethinking. I also thought one day that it was a little peculiar that generally societies forbade physical violence and theft. If all principles are purely subjectively undertaken, why do societies generally forbid physical violence and theft (with exceptions of course) and this has also been going on for thousands of years? Rightly or wrongly societies are ultimately guided by some moral principles whether we like it or not. In our societies laws must be enacted to keep the peace. Obviously the principle of democracy and utilitarianism couldn’t logically be defended as true and just.

Later I realized that the truthfulness of some ethical principles do not rest upon if all people support them or not. What supports them is whether they can be derived from an axiom and by this procedure be logically defended.

Rothbard gave me the glints why the principle of none violence and theft are ethically true and just. Further investigation and analyzing supported this.

My conclusion was that the principle of none violence and theft which regulates the relations between people are objectively true borders of justice but within those spheres that is the lives of the individuals, are only guided and subjectively undertaken and are also only a matter of individual tastes.

The superficial belief in moral relativism is the very cause of the high crime rates we have in our societies.

Peter August 30, 2007 at 3:31 am

Computers can distinguish between true and false.

No they can’t.

as others stated that using fallacies or incorrect logic did not constitute arguing

If, when you involve yourself in “argument” using fallacies or incorrect logic, your opponent points out the problem, you can recognize that you were making an error and correct it, that’s a legitimate argument. If there was no disagreement, there’d be no need for argument in the first place; and if the argument is resolvable (not merely a matter of opinion), there must obviously have been some fallacy in at least one of the participants’ initial positions. If you persist in the use of fallacies/logical errors after having them pointed out, you’re not really arguing, except in the childish sense (“are too!”, “am not!”, “are too!”, “am not!”), are you?! That’s all anyone is saying.

TLWP Sam August 30, 2007 at 10:01 am

Oh, I think I get it now. I think what TGGP and possibly TokyoTom (and heck I was thinking of asking it) is that talk of being nice isn’t good enough to make the world a better place. Or some seem to imply that some could get ahead by using force and fraud but it wouldn’t last long so it’s better not to use it. But that baloney because the whole of history and present proves otherwise, plenty of people have done quite nicely with force and fraud. Or that the world is far from Libertopia is another proof that people don’t play nicely.

But then I realised that Mark, Anthony. Björn, etc were simply talking about living their own lives without personal contradiction and not talking about trying to the world. Much clearer now. :P

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