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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9610/revisiting-argumentation-ethics/

Revisiting Argumentation Ethics

March 13, 2009 by

Since 1988 I’ve been fascinated with Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s “argumentation ethics” defense of libertarian rights. This was around the time I was exposed to the legal concept “estoppel” in a contracts law class, which I ended up using in my own arguments for libertarian rights. I gave an overview of Hoppe’s and related rights theories in my 1996 JLS article New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory, and in the Discourse Ethics Wikipedia article, which I started.

When Hoppe’s theory was sprung on the libertarian world in the late 1980s, a number of thinkers weighed in, including Rothbard, David Conway, David Friedman, Tibor Machan, Loren Lomasky, Leland Yeager, Douglas Rasmussen, and others (linked here). Rothbard, in particular, saw the magnitude of Hoppe’s achievement (as I noted in The Other Fields of Praxeology: War, Games, Voting… and Ethics?; see also the related comments in my post Hoppe and Intellectual Property: On Standing on the Shoulders of Giants). He wrote:

In a dazzling breakthrough for political philosophy in general and for libertarianism in particular, he has managed to transcend the famous is/ought, fact/value dichotomy that has plagued philosophy since the days of the scholastics, and that had brought modern libertarianism into a tiresome deadlock. Not only that: Hans Hoppe has managed to establish the case for anarcho-capitalist-Lockean rights in an unprecedentedly hard-core manner, one that makes my own natural law/natural rights position seem almost wimpy in comparison.

Rothbard, Beyond Is and Ought; see also Rothbard, Hoppephobia. Tantalizingly, Rothbard concludes his piece:

A future research program for Hoppe and other libertarian philosophers would be (a) to see how far axiomatics can be extended into other spheres of ethics, or (b) to see if and how this axiomatic could be integrated into the standard natural law approach. These questions provide fascinating philosophical opportunities. Hoppe has lifted the American movement out of decades of sterile debate and deadlock, and provided us a route for future development of the libertarian discipline.

(Hoppe’s responses to some of his earlier critics, collected and reprinted in the Appendix to his 1993 book The Economics and Ethics of Private Property is powerful and decisive.)

Since then there have been other commentaries on Hoppe’s argument, including Roderick Long’s The Hoppriori Argument (stating that, though he has some misgivings and is not yet convinced, “I think a Hoppe-style argument might well work”); and Murphy and Callahan’s Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethic: A Critique, Anti-state.com (Sept. 19, 2002). I tried to explain–no doubt inadequately–some problems I had with Murphy and Callahan’s critique in my article Defending Argumentation Ethics: Reply to Murphy & Callahan, Anti-state.com (Sept. 19, 2002); there was an ensuing discussion in the anti-state.com forum, but if memory serves, M&C never did respond directly to most of my points. Nor did they in their 2006 JLS article, based on their 2002 Anti-state piece (it did not so much as cite my previous criticism of their earlier piece). The Murphy-Callahan critique of Hoppe was also itself criticized in a draft paper by Frank van Dun.

This week Libertarian Papers published two interesting pieces on argumentation ethics: Frank van Dun’s powerful, sublime, and deeply learned Argumentation Ethics and the Philosophy of Freedom (based on his earlier working paper mentioned above), and Marian Eabrasu’s thorough and scholarly A Reply to the Current Critiques Formulated Against Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics.

It’s a veritable feast for libertarian argumentation ethicists and Hoppeites!

***

Some may also find of interest my post Extreme Praxeology. My post Quotes on the Logic of Liberty contains a number of gorgeous quotes from famous and libertarian thinkers compatible with many of Hoppe’s themes and arguments; and Hoppe’s argumentation ethics section of his website links to a number of other thinkers who have endorsed or adopted arguments similar to Hoppe’s, as does my New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory and the Wikipedia article on Discourse Ethics.

{ 49 comments }

Gene Callahan March 14, 2009 at 1:36 am

“but if memory serves, M&C never did respond directly to most of my points.”

Well, that’s because those ‘points’ entirely failed to come to terms with our case.

Gene Callahan March 14, 2009 at 1:49 am

Just to give a brief example, Aristotle’s politics certainly were ‘universalizable’, contrary to your complaint — they apply to all rational beings, which, for him, meant Greeks! Similalrly, Plato’s politics in *The Republic* are ‘universalizable’ — only the philosopher-kings are fully rational, so they must rule. Disputing those designations of ‘rational beings’ gets you nowhere — Hoppe contends that the mere fact of arguing implies anarcho-capitalism, so dragging in some other argument about why such definitions of who has rights are wrong is, in itself, an admission that Hoppe’s case fails, since it needs to be supplemented with further arguments to justify anarcho-capitalism.

CN March 14, 2009 at 6:41 am

Actually what Hoppe does is to imply natural rights, what social order comes of it could be many as long as people participate in it voluntary (like “democracy” – as long there is a reasonable secession right and accepted procedure of reclaimg it we could say that “democracy” is a voluntary social order in full use of the natural rights of obeying majoraty rules).

Brian Macker March 14, 2009 at 11:18 am

Argumentation ethics is the idea that denying libertarian values in fact rests on the denial of rational discourse in and of itself. Which would be a useful argument if the vast majority of people cared about rationality, and rational discourse. The prevalence of religions show that they don’t.

Islam for instance doesn’t care about self ownership. Everyone is owned by Allah, and if you are not following Allah’s rules then you are wrong. No argument about it, they just kill you.

Sure they pretend at argumentation but the purpose isn’t about persuading for the sake of getting cooperation between equals. The purpose is to inform the non-believer of the rules, with the believer as the authority figure backed by Allah. There is no equality between Allah’s word and mere personal beliefs.

Allah brought you into this world and his believers have the right to take you out.

Kevin March 14, 2009 at 11:39 am

I’m hoisting a discussion from the libertarian papers comment section. I’ll push the argument against Hoppe again here. I’ll start by laying out a formalization of the conclusion:

Argument presupposes that we have legitimate control of kind X over our Y at time Z.

Counterargument: The argument fails to determinately fix the content of X, Y, or Z.

Take time Z. Perhaps while we’re arguing we have to presume legitimate control at the time, but why longer? Why not minimally slim time slices indexed to utterances? Take Y – what do we have control over? Our bodies? Our property? Our mouths? Our vocal tracts? And take X – what kind of legitimate control are we talking about? Do we have a claim-right on others that any person outside of the argument must respect? Only those inside of the argument? Do we have fully extensive property rights over ourselves as the result of the argument? Or only those rights required to make the argument? And if the latter, the set of rights required is pretty slim – none, in fact – because we could make the argument legitimately without having a right over ourselves or without any normative relations obtaining between us and our interlocutor.

There are more ambiguous dimensions, but these three will do for now.

Basically, I’m putting Gene’s point more formally. The argument is subject to wide range of indeterminacy and so does not establish its conclusion.

Note that it won’t do to argue that the universality assumption rules out particularistic maxims – because there’s no non-arbitrary way to select only one universalizable maxim out of the argument’s ambiguous conclusion.

klein munch March 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Raivo Pommer
raimo1@hot.ee

Viefiel bezahlt EURO im Jahre 2010

Für 2008 hat Klein laut Geschäftsbericht an Vergütung insgesamt 3,3 Millionen Euro erhalten, davon waren 2,4 Millionen Euro Sonderbonus. Diese Sonderzahlung erfolgte im Zuge des Einstiegs der Deutschen Bank und wurde gezahlt, obwohl die Postbank erstmals seit vielen Jahren einen Verlust machte. Das Minus für 2008 lag unterm Strich bei 821 Millionen Euro.

Insgesamt erhielt der gesamte Postbank-Vorstand einen Sonderbonus von 11,5 Millionen Euro wegen des Einstiegs der Deutschen Bank. Appel rechtfertigte die Zahlungen als notwendige Halteprämie, da sonst Gefahr bestanden hätte, dass Vorstände angesichts der Gespräche der Mutter Post für einen Verkauf das Geldinstitut verlassen hätten können. Ein normaler Jahresbonus wurde nicht gezahlt.

Das Gehaltsgefüge der Postbank sei «sehr moderat», sagte Klein dem «Spiegel». Die Bank sei «kein Täter, sondern eher ein Opfer der Finanzkrise». Er verteidigte auch den Sonderbonus. Es sei um einen «ungewöhnlichsten Unternehmensverkaufsprozesse der jüngeren Geschichte gegangen». Unter den Managern der Postbank habe «große Verunsicherung» geherrscht.

Econ Guy March 14, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Kevin,

“Perhaps while we’re arguing we have to presume legitimate control at the time, but why longer?

Suppose the proof was 2+2=4. Let me apply your criticism to this proof.

Argument that 2+2=4 at time Z.

Counterargument: The argument fails to determinately fix the fact that 2+2=4.

Perhaps while we are arguing we have to presume that 2+2=4 at that time, but why any longer?

Kevin March 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

The math analogy fails. We don’t think mathematical laws are true because we presuppose it in argument. That’s a fine indicator of its truth, to be sure, but that’s not the truth-maker. The reason we think it is universally true is because it cannot be conceived to be false. But the self-ownership thesis is not like that. Lots of reasonable people deny it and while I affirm a version of it, it is certainly not a truth that cannot be *conceived* to be false. Hoppe must argue that *because* there’s a performative contradiction in denying the thesis of self-ownership that *therefore* it is universally valid. But I don’t see any reason to accept the implication.

Peter March 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Islam for instance doesn’t care about self ownership. Everyone is owned by Allah, and if you are not following Allah’s rules then you are wrong. No argument about it, they just kill you.

Have you ever actually met a muslim? I lived in an Islamic country for a while. I wasn’t “owned by Allah” or “follow Allah’s rules”, and I wasn’t killed even one time!

Peter March 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm

We don’t think mathematical laws are true because we presuppose it in argument.

Yes we do.

The reason we think it is universally true is because it cannot be conceived to be false.

Sure it can…and we have different mathematics depending on which “truths” we decide to accept. E.g., Euclidean vs. non-Euclidean geometry; or whether or not you accept the axiom of choice, or the continuum hypothesis, etc. If you want to know which mathematical axiomatic system corresponds to reality (assuming reality corresponds to mathematics at all – an assumption we have to make, but know of no reason for), you have to do experiments to find out.

Lee Kelly March 14, 2009 at 7:45 pm

If Hoppe is arguing validly, then he is arguing circularly and has justified nothing. It’s that simple. Anyone who doesn’t get why no logical argument can justify its conclusion does not understand how logic works.

Econ Guy March 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Kevin,

“We don’t think mathematical laws are true because we presuppose it in argument … The reason we think it is universally true is because it cannot be conceived to be false. But the self-ownership thesis is not like that. Lots of reasonable people deny it.”

This is an unsatisfactory answer because you misunderstand the is/ought dichotomy. In your view of the dichotomy, if every person operated with the belief that 2+2=5 then such a statement would be an “is” statement. If every person operated with the belief that 2+2=5, then you could say “But the 2+2=4 thesis is not like that. Lots of reasonable people deny it.”

“Is” statements have nothing to do with the operation of human beings or whether “reasonable” people deny it. Whether human beings operate as if 2+2=5 does not affect the facts of reality (that 2+2=4). Likewise, human operations do not falsify the fact that we all own our bodies.

Your misunderstanding of the dichotomy is probably why you are unimpressed with Rothbard’s statement: “[Hoppe] has managed to transcend the famous is/ought, fact/value dichotomy.”

P.S.

The title “self-ownership thesis” is equally absurd as the title “2+2=4 thesis”.

DNA March 14, 2009 at 8:34 pm

An alternative response to MC is that, at worst, Hoppe assumes (as do most libertarians, eg MC) that the class of rational beings encompasses all of humanity. Within this class, only a private property ethic is justifiable. It may remain an empirical question just what subsets of humanity are rational, but that’s a different question and any claimant of an ethical system presupposes it’s applicability to some subset of humanity.

Stephan Kinsella March 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

Gene, re your point that my article was not cited by you because it “entirely failed to come to terms with our case”–no doubt, no doubt. Perhaps van Dun’s and Eabrasu’s pieces are more worthy of a response.

Re your universalizability comments: as a friend wrote me: “Um, is he serious? This is a weak argument. At best it shows that Aristotle failed to correctly identify certain things as rational agents. Getting the definitions right, and correctly applying concepts is always an issue. Illuminating. The question he could’ve posed is “why universalise?”"

In my article, and in our previous exchange on the anti-state discussion forum, I tried to articulate some of my concerns with your treatment of this issue. In the article, I had written:

I am really at a loss as to where MC would part company with this theory. Do they deny, for example, that there is scarcity in the world, or that conflicts are possible? I doubt it. Do they deny that universalizability is not a requirement for justified norms? I doubt it, unless they are also ethical skeptics, in which case I wonder why they consider themselves libertarians.


What about universalizability? I am not sure if MC really reject the universalizability requirement–but if they do, I fail to see how they can themselves adhere to any notion of rights; rejecting universalizability means that any norm whatsoever can be proposed, by simply making up a particularistic reason for it. Without the universalizability principle, literally “anything goes,” which of course leads to ethical relativism and/or skepticism. I will assume that MC are not ethical relativists or skeptics and thus do not reject universalizability. But I am not sure they fully appreciate this principle.

Consider this comment by MC: “To simply declare that ownership rights must be ‘universalizable’ is no help, either; after all, communists could cite the same principle to ‘prove’ that everyone should have equal shares to all property.” MC write here as if they are totally unaware that Hoppe has explicitly stated that “the universalization principle only provides a purely formal criterion for morality” (TSC, p. 131). Of course, even if socialism’s principles were reformulated in a completetly universalizable way, it will still be inconsistent with other norms presupposed in argumentation, as noted above.

And regarding universalizability, MC also state:

“Finally, we wish to note that, even if the above problems are overlooked, it’s still the case that Hoppe has only proven self-ownership for the individuals in the debate. This is because, even on Hoppe’s own grounds, someone denying the libertarian ethic would only be engaging in contradiction if he tried to justify his preferred doctrine to its ‘victims.’

“For example, so long as Aristotle only argued with other Greeks about the inferiority of barbarians and their natural status as slaves, then he would not be engaging in a performative contradiction. He could quite consistently grant self-ownership to his Greek debating opponent, while denying it to those whom he deems naturally inferior. [] Aristotle need only contend [that] barbarians [] are not as rational as Greeks.”

Do MC think that merely “deeming” or “contending” something to be so is automatically compatible with universalizability? I believe they are simply misapplying the universalizability principle here (or, rather, failing to apply it). For Aristotle to grant rights to himself and Greeks, but not to other individuals, would simply be particularistic. He would have to show that there is some reason, objectively grounded in the nature of things, that justifies rights in Greeks but not in other people identical to Greeks in all respects except for their Greekness. Again, either the universalizability requirement is taken seriously, or it is not. If not, the door to ethical skepticism is opened wide.

In the forum, here and here

I am astonished at the cavalier attitude expressed to the universalization principle, by many of the commentators herein. As I said, either you take it seriously or you don’t.

I then noted:

the most recent comments by others, about universalizability, further confirms my view that most of these critics here have an appallingly dismissive view of the crucial concept of universalizability. It may not be obvious at first glance, but someone so cavalier with the universalizability requirement is really the same as a die-hard irrational or aggressive person, or radical moral skeptic: it is hard to have rational communication with them. It is like speaking with someone who refuses to recognize the law of contradiction or the fact that they exist. One has little choice but to walk away from adamant or stubborn skepticism.

… argumentation, even by your standards, must put SOME limits on what can be proposed. And another point is that IF you are libertarians, you agree with me and Hoppe that libertarian rights are “good” or just (for some reason–I have no idea what your or Gene’s justification for rights are, or if you even have one), THEN you would think that has SOME implications for permissible norms, or at least ranges thereof, that can coherently be proposed during argumentation.

Now while only some non-libertarian norms would make human life impossible, all non-libertarian norms do not satisfy other presuppositions of argumentation, such as universalizability and conflict-avoidance.

So let me be clear: if you propose any non-libertarian norm, that norm must be non-universalizable and/or fail to set forth a property allocation system that makes conflict avoidance possible (a rule that is particularizable or arbitrary just won’t do that).

And the further point is this: what makes it clear is that the first-user rule is the ONLY acceptable method of conflict-resolution is to examine the alternatives. The only alternatives, fundamentally, are either nonsense, or don’t solve conflict, or make human life impossible. For example, one could propose that EVERYONE has to have a vote to decide how to use a piece of property; i.e., universal communism. Such a rule, IF followed, would indeed mean death for all. Yes, such a rule would render life impossible. Because, as Hoppe explicitly argues, we would be forever seeking permission and forever unable to act. The point is to conceptually identify the basically different types of possible norms, the alternatives to first-use. “Communism,” literally meant and actually followed, means death for all, because it makes use of scarce resoures impossible. (Gene, as an Austrian, pay heed to the similarity to Mises’ view that socialism is “impossible”; and the fact that all REAL socialisms of course were only mixed economies, otherwise the market would have ground to a total halt; the fact that the commie government allows a black market to operate to some degree to keep from total starvation and disaster is hardly a justification for the communistic part of the policy which, if followed rigorously, would lead to death for all, hardly shows that the death-tending commie principles are thus “okay”)

Other systems, or hybrids or diluted versions, rely on verbal decree. But a system of verbal decree would either (depending how you formulate it) make life impossible (again, you could never get permission b/c new, different verbal commands would be arriving all the time) OR would not solve conflict b/c simultaneous, incompatible verbal decrees are possible.

IF (big IF) you can somehow show SOME objective link, that is universalizable and addresses conflict-avoidance, and is superior to first-use–let me know. Hoppe has tried to show how this rule is natural, is consistent with all the norms presupposed in argumentation, and indeed implied by many of these norms. And he has shown how all the alternatives are fundamentally inconsistent with these norms–they are non-universalizable, or fail to avoid conflict.

But, you won’t try to do this–because that would granting that the test for justifiable norms IS the necessity of being a universalizable, conflict-avoiding norm, and of course that would immediately lead to justification of the first-use libertarian principles. And for some reason, that seems to be intolerable, even to many libertarians.

Callahan replied: “My cynical view: “the nature of things” means whatever you want it to in order to get to the conclusion you want anyway.”

My response:

Right. As as I suspected, you do not seem to accept the validity of the universalizability principle. Which, as I indicated, leads to skepticism, which of course goes hand in hand with cynicism. Of course someone skeptical of the validity of any objective normative knowledge would get a burr in his *ss about Hoppe’s audacity at claiming to have an objective proof of rights. Not that I’m accusing YOU of this Gene; whether the shoe fits or not is merely a contingent question.

Gene, I’d ask you to confirm or deny that you reject the universalizability principle–but I won’t hold out hope that you will do this. But if you would confirm it, I’d say–you are subject to this criticism (about the nature of things) yourself. And if you deny it, I’d ask you–do you really realize the implications of such a denial?

Now Murphy seems to have a more defensible, less skeptical, less cynical view: “All I (and I think Gene) have argued is that “universalizability” doesn’t really help much in deciding between concrete systems.”

Okay–but surely it would not allow you to simply assert that non-Greeks are not rational, to suffice to get a Greek-favoring ethical rule to pass the universalization test? Obviously Callahan thinks it does–that the universalization test means nothing (this is what I think can lead to skepticism). Murphy simply thinks it does not help much, presumably since you can re-work your ethics so that they are universalizable. But this is basically what I argued in defending Hoppe:

Thus universalizability acts as a first-level “filter” that weeds out all particularistic norms. This reduces the universe of possibly justified normative claims but does not finish the job since many incompatible and unethical norms could be reworded in universalizable ways.

It is for this reason that Hoppe next examines other, more substantive, presuppositions inherent in argument itself.

Or, as I wrote in the forum:

The point is, IF you are trying to justify something, without marching ahead and doing it without trying to inquire into its legitimacy, you have already entered the stage of trying to find non-arbitrary reasons. If the reasons are simply arbitrary, that’s no better than not seeking to justify it at all

… We are talking specifically about force- and conflict-related norms. Hoppe never says it’s always easy or that we are infallible. So what? The point is simply to recognize that in justifying, universalizable reasons must be given. Particularizable ones, are really just arbitrary and not really reasons at all; they are examples of when the attempt to justify has stopped. What is and what is not universalizable or particularizable is of course not always immediately clear or obvious. So? The point is to first admit the principle, in general, as a limit on permissible nor-propositioning. And then, it’s easy to see that some norms are NOT universalizable. Some are clearly not, and these cannot be justified.

NEXT, if you want to re-work them into universalizable ones, then the question is, are these norms addressed at what the justification seeks? Justification for force-wielding action inherently presupposes that force needs a justification. Can you not see that the kernel of this impulse is the idea that force, prima facie, is illegitimate? This is just why justification (of conflict related actions) always has to imply libertarianism. Justification is inherently peaceful, cooperative, an attempt to solve what is presumed to be a problem, namely conflict. If conflict is viewed as “bad” then of course, a norm that adopts conflict as good or promotes it cannot be justified, since justifying is a search for solution to conflict.

In another comment, I wrote:

Non aggression implies seeking for a conflict- free solution which implies assigning property rights in an objective, universalizable way. This implies that particularistic, arbitrary rules won’t work, they don’t serve as objective links. “you can say” the “oldest guy gets it” as a rule, but others could propose a million other verbal arbitrary rules that would be inconsistent, so conflict is not avoided.

Let me be clear: if you are saying you don’t think first-use is an objective link between owner and resrouce, or you don’t think it’s the only or best objective link–then let’s discuss that. Do you grant there must be an objective link? Becuase if you grant that, I think Hoppe’s won. Then it’s only sweeping up. Do you grant this? Is your only reservation that it is not the only objective link; or do you dispute the necessity of an objective link at all?

“just because you believe ‘property rights’ should be respected, doesn’t necessarily make you a Rothbardian (which is sometimes taken to mean ‘libertarian’ I think).”

No, but if you do, you have accepted the validity of norms concerning scarce resources, in particular libertarian norms. Thus it seems a bit rich to feign incredulity when another libertarian actually takes seriously the notion that there is something special and unique about the status of our rules, as opposed to others. Here you are, as a libertarian, believing (for some reason), that libertarian rights are objectively superior to other. And when this distinction is relied upon in an argument you try to argue there is no objective distinction. I don’t get you people.

Similarly, as I wrote to Murphy, who asked:

“What about a second-user rule? So far as I see it, Hoppe and Kinsella just eliminate that one by saying it’s aggression and patently stupid. But it’s not aggression if it’s the definition of just owner, and I don’t think ‘stupid’ is a criterion now for ruling out norms.”

My reply:

No, it’s not stupid–it’s just incorrect. Asserting a second-user rule is adopting the principle that any arbitrary rule can be asserted and adopted. (Can you really argue with a straight face that the first-user rule is arbitrary? Here is where Rothbard is right that original appropriation is the “natural” position–it does not mean necessarily that there is natural law or anything, but it does mean that first use is not just arbitrary, but it is a clear, objective link between owner and property.) If you adopt this rule, then what’s to prevent someone else from asserting the third-user rule? In fact, the “third user” IS a “second user” with respect to the (first?) “second user”. In other words, this second-user rule does not fulfill the conflict-avoidance function since it endorses any arbitrary rule (like, third, fourth etc. user).

Bob: think about this. If you ARE a libertarian, for whatever reason, you must also favor the “superiority” of the first-user rule over competing rules. Ask yourself WHY. There must be SOME reason. Whatever this reason is, doesn’t your own view that he first-use rule is “better” than others, actually support the contentions I’m making? All I’m saying is that the first-user has a better claim to property than late-comers. You actually agree with this (necessarily, as a libertarian). So what’s the problem?

Mark Humphrey March 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Steven, thanks for bringing up this interesting subject, which has annoyed and fascinated me in the past. My understanding about this is patchy and incomplete. Thanks also for mentioning in your Mises article that Tibor Machan had offered comments about this issue. I Yahooed and read his article on the subject. Here’s the link:
http://www.stephankinsella.com/texts/machan_dialogue.pdf

I’ll read your article soon. I ought to read it before saying anything more. But a few points occur to me.

I do not think the approach from argumentation provides a logical short cut to establishing moral standards, including individual rights. There are two basic reasons for my concluding this.

First, I assume Hoppe’s argument is essentially like Rothbard’s in Man Economy and State. That is, Rothbard argued that either people own themselves, or everyone owns everyone else, but not himself. Since the second proposition is clearly absurd, we are left with the first as true. But this is a circular argument that presupposes that which it sets out to prove: the existence of moral standards. For “ownership” is an ethical principle. Until one proves that ownership is a valid principle that reflects real conditions of human living, Rothbard’s argument is a floating abstraction.

Second, to demonstrate that ownership is a valid principle, one must establish exactly what it is. That is, what is its purpose? Social utility? To resolve disputes? Why should one necessarily value dispute resolution, or value resolution based on assertions about self ownership? Why should one not settle for moral agnosticism?

And further, what is the source of self ownership? God? Social utility (the need to get along..)? Human nature?

I don’t think one can adequately explain the source and nature of “self ownership” without making clear what it means to be human; by identifying volition and the ability to think rationally as distinctive human traits; by defining moral principles as principles of proper human choice; by making clear that moral choice implies an ultimate standard of choice, namely one’s properly realized potential for life; and by bringing these insights together coherently in moral philosophy.

Probably, my comment is a little annoying, because I haven’t read your paper. I’ll try to do so this weekend.

Brian Macker March 14, 2009 at 10:47 pm

“Have you ever actually met a Muslim?”

Yes, I’ve supervised and reported to Muslims. I’ve directly asked one who came from Pakistan, “Given my beliefs, what would happen to me if I migrated to your country and expressed them?” He said, “They’d kill you”. I further asked him, “Do you think that is right that you can move here and I can’t move there.” His reply, “Yes”.

Brian Macker March 14, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Peter,

Did you ever have open arguments in these Muslim countries about the fact that the Qur’an isn’t the infallible word of Allah? Did you try to explain your right to persuade Muslims of your own religious beliefs, since they feel they have a right to come to ours and spread theirs?

Dmitry Chernikov March 15, 2009 at 12:20 am

So, when Big Boy Caprice tells D.A. Fletcher: “I don’t care if Tracy puts one and one together, don’t matter to me. You’re still workin’ for me. You’re on my side. You’re not out! You’re not out! When you are dead, then you are out! You are mine, I own you!,” is he contradicting himself?

Peter March 15, 2009 at 5:31 am

I’ve directly asked one who came from Pakistan, “Given my beliefs, what would happen to me if I migrated to your country and expressed them?” He said, “They’d kill you”.

I guess he was joking.

Did you try to explain your right to persuade Muslims of your own religious beliefs

I have no religious beliefs; but yes, I argued over the existence of gods with Muslims. There are a few crazy fundies who might kill you if they thought they could get away with it – but there are Christian fundies in the US who’d do the same – and a handful of the loony types that fly planes into buildings, but you’d have to go looking for one. The vast majority of Muslims are no more likely to kill you over religion or any other dispute than anybody else. (In fact, I’d be far more wary of arguing about religion in public in Alabama than I would in Pakistan)

scineram March 15, 2009 at 8:11 am

“Yes we do.”

I do not. The principles of argumentation have nothing whatsoever to do with such basic arithmetic.

“This is an unsatisfactory answer because you misunderstand the is/ought dichotomy. In your view of the dichotomy, if every person operated with the belief that 2+2=5 then such a statement would be an “is” statement. If every person operated with the belief that 2+2=5, then you could say “But the 2+2=4 thesis is not like that. Lots of reasonable people deny it.”

“Is” statements have nothing to do with the operation of human beings or whether “reasonable” people deny it. Whether human beings operate as if 2+2=5 does not affect the facts of reality (that 2+2=4). Likewise, human operations do not falsify the fact that we all own our bodies.”

The issue is can you prove we own our bodies? I am saying you cannot, because it is not an is statement. I am not saying 2+2=5 is not an is statement. I am saying you owning yourself is not.

Brian Macker March 15, 2009 at 8:41 am

No he was being honest. It was a quite serious discussion. He’s a Wahhabi. We’re you in Pakistan, or one of the Muslim countries like Indonesia that received an Islam mollified by having to pass through many other cultures?

You see my impression from talking to Muslims is that they don’t see atheists so much as a threat as an opportunity for conversion at first. That can change.

Yes, of course most Muslims don’t take what their religion teaches seriously. Many Muslims like many Christians are closet non-believers in the first place. I’ve met those, but are they really “muslim”?

I certainly don’t expect my Muslim coworkers to come over and stab me in the night. They aren’t however going to toleration equality of rights with the likes of Jews and Christians in a Muslim country. Things are quite different when they are in control.

I don’t expect it yet in the US. But of course if I visit Britain, that’s a different story:

“A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: ‘If you go back to the studio, we’ll break your legs.’”

That’s why despite the fact that we invaded and conquered both Afghanistan and Iraq we did not set up constitutions that allowed for religious freedom. They would not have had that.

That’s also why they hate Israel. Islam is rabidly anti-semetic. Has the same kind of rules for Jews as blacks got in the deep south. Those uppity Jews in Israel had the nerve to migrate there to buy up land in their homeland and establish rule for themselves, in a BRITISH protectorate. You see they sided with the Nazis and had fantasies of exterminating the Jews, then lost.

That Muslim coworker I was talking about also discussed 9/11 and Israel with me. We talked about what was common knowledge in Pakistan, and the Muslim world as he understood it. Well, it’s totally crazy if you ask me.

Any Jewish conspiracy theorist would be proud. Turns out that Americans and Jews are these nearly all powerful creatures that have their fingers in everything. All these bombings, Saddam’s attack on Kuwait, mosques being blown up. All orchestrated by Jews and Americans.

BTW, ever meet a Nazi. I have, and they are quite pleasant socially. They also claim the holocaust is a lie, etc. That would be one of my sons best friends grandfather. I wouldn’t have even known this about him if it weren’t for the fact that the mother of my son’s friend told me the kinds of things her grandfather would tell her out of earshot of people like me. It came up around 9/11 when we were talking about intolerance.

Are you aware that they run an apartheid system over there in Pakistan? One where they beat non-Muslims to death over drinking from a public water cup, sort of like the old south for blacks. That is, of course, not if you are a “guest” American. Islam has different rules about treating guests and potential converts.

Here’s a story from Pakistan:

“LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) — A Christian stone mason received critical injuries, including dislocation of his shoulder after he was seen drinking water from a public facility, by a Muslim man on June 6 (Tuesday) just outside the eastern city of Lahore, the Pakistan Christian Post (PCP) has reported.

Nasir Ashraf, the Christian mason was working at the construction site of a school. The trouble for him began while he was returning to the site. Confronting him with anger the Muslim man asked him as to why he drank water from the public facility by using a glass that was placed at the water tank.

“Why did you drink water from this glass since you are a Christian?” the PCP quoted the Muslim man as asking Nasir.

“The man accused the mason of polluting the glass and proceeded to destroy it. The Muslim man then summoned a crowd by shouting, “This Christian polluted our glass,” and encouraged them to beat him up”, the PCP report said.

“The crowd began beating Nasir, eventually pushing him off a ledge. The fall dislocated his shoulder, broke his collarbone in two places and knocked him unconscious,” it said.”

So how many atheist have been beaten up in Alabama for drinking from the public water cup? How many Islamic clerics have been murdered and how many Mosques burned down because some somebody drew a cartoon of Jesus in some other country.

How many have been stoned in Alabama for marrying a non-Christian?

How many Christians (or atheists) visiting Muslim countries have felt compelled to chop their wives heads off because they were becoming too Easternized and wanted a divorce? How many have killed their children for Easternizing?

I’ve been down south, and I’m quite open about my atheism. Never had a problem. My entire family down there knows I’m an atheist.

I read a biography by a Muslim from Egypt a few years ago. The guy was a Muslim cleric, who was taking advanced courses at Al-Azhar university, the most respected religious university in the area. He was working on an advanced religious degree. It dawned on him that the Islamic rules were a double standard, not peaceful at all, and he started questioning his belief.

He started asking questions of others like “Why if Islam is peaceful do we teach X” and he was immediately brought before administration for questioning. He soon found himself imprisoned for his own good. Eventually there were attempts on his own life including by his family. Yes, his family wanted him dead. He eventually had to flee Egypt.

That’s a main stream religious institution. Sort of like Harvard or Yale here. That’s the guys family. That’s a trained cleric at the most respected Islamic institution in the world.

All observation is interpreted by theory. Does your theory about the effects of Islam on Muslims fit these examples. Mine does. Mine also encompasses your own experiences. I don’t expect most people to want to kill others unless influenced by an ideology.

Don’t for a minute think that they were tolerating your discussion because of Hoppean concerns for self ownership. Islam allows slavery, and slavery is still alive in some Muslim countries.

Hell one of the top clerics, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan, in Saudi Arabia is calling for the return of slavery. He’s the guy who wrote the textbook “Monotheism” that is used in Saudi schools and here in the US to teach Saudi high school students studying abroad.

When he says, “Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam.”, he means it. Jihad being the process of converting the world to Islam by force.

Don’t for a minute think that they are tolerating your discussion because they believe you have the same rights as any Muslim. If so then why aren’t their laws different? Believe even less that they would stand up for your rights. Most won’t as is quite evident from what they protest. Beauty pageants get them out in droves. Kill a nun, not so much.

BTW, some the Muslims that I was working with lied to me about Islam. When I actually read the Qur’an it was quite different than they explained, as was Mohammad’s behavior, and also Islamic law.

When 9/11 happened and I started paying attention to actual conditions in their countries of origin, what their clerics preach, etc. I also realized they were lying about Islamic law, and beliefs. They have one face they show to the non-Muslim, and another for themselves.

Nope, my Muslim co-worker wasn’t kidding. It was a rare moment of honesty.

I certainly don’t trust your judgment if you honestly believe the chances of being beat to death over religion is higher in Alabama than Muslim countries. Start paying attention to the newspaper.

You think they are so tolerant but Muslims kill other Muslims over religion every day. Persecution of Bah’ia and Ahmadiyya is commonplace. Sunni kill Shia, and vice versa. Open your eyes. How the hell does that fit your theories on the influence of Islam, and it’s views on self ownership, and tolerance of free speech.

How many Baptists have blow up thousand year old (or even one year old) Catholic churches in Alabama lately?

You want me to start quoting Islamic clerics and the Qur’an on these subjects? Not guys on the fringe but the most respected clerics in the world. It won’t support your views.

You claim that there is no requirement for you to follow Allah’s law in Muslim countries but I think you are deluding yourself. Here’s an example that contradicts your belief. A story of a British woman who is charged with adultery for having a cup of tea with a man.

I just think you were under their radar. I’d like to see you try to date a woman in western style in one of those countries. It would serve you right if you rot in jail for acting as a apologist for Islam.

Likewise the behavior of most respected representatives of Muslim countries from around the world operating in the UN. You believe they are for free speech, and self ownership. Yet they are pushing through a resolution to ban free speech worldwide when it comes to their religion. Hows that for respect for argumentation?

Certainly you are out of touch with reality.

When I used to talk with my Wahabbi friend about libertarianism he would claim that Islam was for it all. “Yes, it is like this in Islam” and “These are the teachings of Mohammed.” Then however when he would speak later on some other occasion it would be something that completely contradicted what he had said earlier. Thing is he believes both at the same time.

For example, he told me a religious story which the “moral of the story” was “Kill for religion, not for personal reasons”. I tried to tell him that this was not a “good value” and in fact completely alien to libertarian values. He didn’t get it. In fact he was proud of the moral to this story and how Mohammad had enlightened this fellow.

Nor did he understand why a ban on charging interest was not contradictory with libertarianism. Nor the kind of oppression that goes on in Pakistan. Nor why placing gun turrets in civilian areas to fire on other innocent civilians isn’t right.

BTW, he’s one of the nicest people I know, to all appearances in normal social settings talking about most subjects, most of the time. I just know what to ask.

Brian Macker March 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

I’m siding with Freeman on this. He hits the nail on the head with his article, The Trouble with Hoppe Which was in your link.

Hoppe’s argument fails philosophically in the same way that some of Ayn Rands “proofs” fail. In fact Hoppe’s argument sounds like a variation on Rand.

A slave might argue that he shouldn’t be whipped so hard, according to the rules, and this can be entirely compatible with his acceptance of the rules that placed him in slavery. He might really believe in might makes right, and that the strong should enslave the weak. He was proven weak by his capture.

If he argued for his freedom on the basis of freedom for all men that would be a different story. It would be a contradiction for him to be a slave owner in that case.

Not every argument entails freedom for all men. As is quite clear if you listen to Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan advocate the return of slavery for non-Muslims. He wants a return to enslaving non-Muslims in order to spread the faith. Clearly that argument does not entail any contradiction on his part, he’s Muslim.

One can be a consistent religious bigot or racist and advocate slavery.

Brainpolice March 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

The criticisms of Hoppe in the Liberty Symposium article are mostly fairly spot on. Hoppe’s argumentation ethics is not valid for a number of reasons: it conflates is and ought, I.E. it confuses the fact that something is owned with the ethic that it should be owned, and it presupposes precisely what it tries to prove without making an extended argument for it. It ends up functioning as a way to actually avoid having to engage in extended argumentation, much like Stefan Molyneux’s universally preferable behavior.

But I will not give my full critique of it here – that’ll be reserved for part of my book.

Brainpolice March 15, 2009 at 11:41 am

The fact of the matter is that the NAP, self-ownership and property rights are not axoimatic in that they are not irreducable first principles. They are derived from and intertwined with other principles. They cannot be reasonably substantiated without reference to other concepts, and hence they cannot be substantiated as axoimatic goods “in themselves”.

Brainpolice March 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

Yes, I’ve decided against holding my silence.

The argument that “self-ownership” is implicitly proven via the act of argumentation itself is a confused misnomer because it conflates the fact that you excersize control over your person with “self-ownership” as an ethical concept, I.E. “self-ownership” as the idea that your person should not be controlled by others. These are two entirely different questions – “self-ownership” in the former sense is ontological, while “self-ownership” in the latter sense is ethical.

There is no way to directly and absolutely derive one from the other – the fact that I purposefully act, in and of itself, does not prove that others ought to not interfere with my action. At best, all it proves is that I purposefully act. Nor does the fact that I purposefully act inherently imply that I share a particular ethical theory of justified action (namely, an explicitly libertarian ethic of personal sovereignty).

Obviously, “self-ownership” in the ethical sense is not an ontological given, otherwise the world would inherently be libertarian already. Hence, “self-ownership” in the libertarian sense in by no means some sort of unavoidable fact of nature, since it is regularly transgressed upon. People might all purposefully act, but they do not have “full self-ownership” in the sense of a personal sovereignty from interference with their person by others.

The same goes for “property rights”. The fact that someone owns something in and of itself is not “property rights”, it’s simply ownership. The fact that someone currently owns something, in and of itself, is not a “proof of property rights” – unless your notion of “property rights” is “might makes right” or something along those lines. Clearly, libertarians do not wish to propose that “might makes right”, so this is rather confusing.

This rhetorical trickery implicit in argumentation ethics avoids having to actually make a positive case for these things – we can just assume them as an axoimatic given and poo-poo anyone who argues with us as if they are denying some sort of obvious metaphysical given at the level of “existance” itself.

Roderick T. Long March 15, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I accept universalisability, but I think it needs to be grounded in something; it’s not a self-evident starting-point.

Brainpolice March 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Thankyou for summing up the problem that way, Roderick. I also accept universalizability, but do not accept a strictly “axoimatic” approach to libertarianism.

Brainpolice March 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I also cannot help but put foreward a problem I see with an ontological concept of “self-ownership”, as in the descriptive statement that “you own yourself” or “I own myself”, aside from the fact that it should not be conflated with “self-ownership” in an ethical sense (I can ontologically have “self-ownership” while being a slave).

I think that the performative contradiction argument may fail against the statement that “I don’t own myself, I am myself”. The statement is essentially rejecting “the self” as an absolute dualism: “There is only one me”. I could very well say that “I am owned by noone” or “I should be owned by noone”. The concept of “self-ownership” as a dualism can be questioned thus:

Is this an absolute mind/body dichotomy? Who is it that is doing the owning? If I own it, then it is not me, right? Or if I am owned, then I am not the owner, right? How can I be both the owned and the owner at the same time? Doesn’t the concept of property entail a relationality between owner and owned, but not an absolute unity (I.E. the owner does not become owned by what they own)?

Hence we reach the slippery slope of Cartesian mind/body and mind/matter dualism, and some form of monism (or perhaps something along the Lines of John Searle’s views on the mind) seems necessary to escape the trap. The idea that “the mind owns the body” seems a little strange to say the least. Furthemore, the body to my knowledge is not, in a libertarian paradigm, something to be traded or bought and sold in any literal sense.

It consequentially seems somewhat fallacious to concieve of personal sovereignty as a property right in and of itself, since it is not exactly the same as a property right in an external object. The independance of the subject itself is what’s in question. Presumably, by “self-ownership” we really intend to refer to something along the lines of “personal sovereignty” or “individual sovereignty”, which can more accurately be expressed as the idea that people cannot be owned, that they are not subject to the arbitrary decision-making power of others.

Argumentation ethics seems to conflate this ethical premise with an ontological and espistemological question of the existance and nature of “the self”.

Curt Howland March 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Everybody knows 2+2=5, for extremely large values of 2.

The one and only reason 2+2 is generally equal to 4 is because we have pre-defined both 2 and 4.

Brian Macker March 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Nobody owns people. Ownership is the right to exclusive control. Rights are established by agreement. We are already hardwired to control our own bodies. We need no agreement to establish what already exists. Thus we need no ownership of our bodies to control them. It’s a fact that we already do have control of ourselves.

Danny Shahar March 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm
Michael A. Clem March 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm

I find Frank van Dun’s paper interesting, and I think it does deal with some of the objections raised. Ultimately, it seems as if AE “proves” its case only if one assumes that rational behavior is desirable, that is, if one wants to be rational, then libertarianism is the only rational, non-contradictory position. There is only one means to that particular end, and all other means fail to achieve that end. Of course, it does not prove that rational behavior is desirable, and certainly plenty of people choose not to be rational, but I would think there is enough empirical and historical data to show that rational behavior is indeed desirable.
Thus, once again, the context of an “absolute” statement (in this case, AE) must necessarily be limited for it to be true, otherwise it surely fails. The distinction or delimitation of this context seems to evade most people, including Murphy and Callahan.
My problem with AE may be that I don’t fully understand it (although Dun’s paper is illuminating), but it doesn’t really seem to be persuasive.

chris george March 15, 2009 at 9:41 pm

“Nobody owns people. Ownership is the right to exclusive control. Rights are established by agreement. We are already hardwired to control our own bodies. We need no agreement to establish what already exists. Thus we need no ownership of our bodies to control them. It’s a fact that we already do have control of ourselves.”

You assume that “ownership” and “rights” exists. You could be right, but you might be wrong. Since you might be wrong, the argument that follows based on the assumption is invalid.

impressive March 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

This discussion has been nominated for the “Philosophical Epeen Flexing Comment Thread of the Year” award! Gratz to all involved!

Dmitry Chernikov March 16, 2009 at 12:49 am
Peter March 16, 2009 at 6:51 am

Nobody owns people. Ownership is the right to exclusive control. Rights are established by agreement. We are already hardwired to control our own bodies. We need no agreement to establish what already exists. Thus we need no ownership of our bodies to control them. It’s a fact that we already do have control of ourselves.

Which, as you said, is the definition of ownership – therefore we own outselves. QED.

Brainpolice March 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

“Which, as you said, is the definition of ownership – therefore we own outselves.”

To me, the definition of ownership inherently signifies a relationship between a person and an object. Therefore, we cannot possibly own ourselves, because we are the person/subject. If you are to say that “we” are doing the owning, then it cannot be “us” that is owned. If you are to say that “we” are the owned, then it cannot be “us” that is doing the owning. Welcome to the logical trap of self-ownership as a dualism.

Also, note what was said in the statement you were responding to: he said that ownership is the RIGHT to exclusive control. Not the FACT of exclusive control per se. He’s saying that, by default, we already do in some sense have such control. However, this doesn’t prove the RIGHT to exclusive control, all it proves is what we already knew – that we purposefully act. You’re conflating the fact that people purposefully act with the ethic of personal sovereignty.

FTG March 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I also cannot help but put forward a problem I see with an ontological concept of “self-ownership”, as in the descriptive statement that “you own yourself” or “I own myself”, aside from the fact that it should not be conflated with “self-ownership” in an ethical sense (I can ontologically have “self-ownership” while being a slave).

You can be a slave in a voluntary way (accept a masters orders) or you can be slaved by someone by force. Either way, you accept self-ownership and sovereignty by accepting being a slave or not accepting being a slave. The point of the argument is that you cannot avoid having self ownership because the contrary is impossible – you cannot own someone’s else body with your mind, nor can the master control his slave’s body with his mind – he has to resort to COERCION in order to achieve a result, but only because YOU as a slave own you own body. The master requires your acquiescence, otherwise he gets nothing, precisely because he cannot OWN your body.

Brian Macker March 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Peter,
“Which, as you said, is the definition of ownership – therefore we own ourselves. QED”

Nope. Ownership is the right to control, not direct control. Otherwise if I steal your car I am the owner. Control and right to control are different things.

“You assume that “ownership” and “rights” exists. “
Because they do just like marriage exists.

Brainpolice March 16, 2009 at 6:46 pm

“You can be a slave in a voluntary way (accept a masters orders) or you can be slaved by someone by force. Either way, you accept self-ownership and sovereignty by accepting being a slave or not accepting being a slave. The point of the argument is that you cannot avoid having self ownership because the contrary is impossible – you cannot own someone’s else body with your mind, nor can the master control his slave’s body with his mind – he has to resort to COERCION in order to achieve a result, but only because YOU as a slave own you own body. The master requires your acquiescence, otherwise he gets nothing, precisely because he cannot OWN your body.”

I’m sorry, but Walter Block’s “voluntary slavery” notion is confused. Slavery qua slavery is not voluntary, and it is impossible to alienate the will from the body. Hence, rights are inalienable.

Once again, my entire point is that you are redefining “self-ownership” to be an ontological thing, the mere fact that you have a will and purposefully act. But that is not “self-ownership” as an ethic of personal sovereignty.

“Self-ownership” as an ethic of personal sovereignty is NOT intrinsic, it’s a goal. The fact that you cannot directly control someone’s mind doesn’t mean that the person actually has personal sovereignty. All it means is that that have their own will. Having a will does NOT equal “self-ownership” in an ethical sense.

When libertarians speak of “self-ownership”, presumably they do not meant to imply that we are inherently free in this way. The entire fallacy of the Hoppean argument is that it is conflating is and ought. It conflates the fact of purposeful action with the sovereignty to act without interference.

The fact that I have a will is not “proof of self-ownership”, it’s proof that I have a will. The notion that the fact that I have a will is “proof” of the ethic that my person should not be infringed upon is simply philosophically absurd. The idea that a slave is a “self-owner” in a libertarian sense is outrageous.

This entire thing is based on bad philosophy.

Brainpolice March 16, 2009 at 6:59 pm

This entire confusion can be cleared up if people would accept that ethics are not ontological facts. Argumentation ethics blatantly conflates libertarian ethics with ontological facts.

That I physiologically have control of my own body may be an ontological fact, but that is not the same thing as “self-ownership” as an ethic of personal sovereignty. I could physiologically have control of my own body while being a slave, and thus to argue that I am “free” or that the ethic that I should be “free” is implicitly proven by the fact that I act as such is to conflate ethics and ontology.

While it might be true that having such a physiological capacity to purposefully act is a logical prerequisite for having rights, the capacity itself is not what it means to have rights. Rights are not intrinsic in this sense – we do not all inherently have the *actualization* of rights, otherwise there would be no need to talk of them prescriptively and we’d all already live in a purely libertarian world.

Hence, the attempt to “prove” such ethical propositions *as if* they are ontological facts of nature, as if they are intrinsic properties that we have, is to completely drop context and try to derive an is from an ought in an absurd way. If they were ontological facts, then they would not be ethical propositions in the first place, it would just be an inherent trait.

Using such a method, one could argue thus: I have control over America, therefore this proves that I have an objective right to control America. There is no absolute or direct logical connection between the two, this is just bare fallacious assertion. The same goes for “I have property, therefore I have an objective right to this property”. Oh, yea? What if it’s a thief’s property? This is context-dropping and oversimplification to the Nth degree.

Peter March 16, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I do not. The principles of argumentation have nothing whatsoever to do with such basic arithmetic.

Ever heard of this little thing called a “proof”; I hear mathematicians are big on those.

Peter March 17, 2009 at 12:04 am

No he was being honest. It was a quite serious discussion. He’s a Wahhabi. We’re you in Pakistan, or one of the Muslim countries like Indonesia that received an Islam mollified by having to pass through many other cultures?

If he told you you’d be killed if you went to Pakistan he wasn’t being honest. I was in Indonesia for four years and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) for two. I’ve never been to Pakistan, but I know people who’ve been there (many times), and they all came back alive and well.

That’s also why they hate Israel. Islam is rabidly anti-semetic.

That’s hilarious, since the majority of Muslims (Arabs) are Semitic. And historically, Jews have been better treated in Muslim lands than in Christian lands.

You claim that there is no requirement for you to follow Allah’s law in Muslim countries. [...] I just think you were under their radar.

Nope. During Ramadan, police go around cafes and restaurants making sure there are no locals eating lunch, etc. They don’t bother the foreigners.

Likewise the behavior of most respected representatives of Muslim countries from around the world operating in the UN. You believe they are for free speech, and self ownership.

I do? That’s news to me; I thought I believed the polar opposite! I’m not saying Islam is a good thing – it isn’t. No religion is. All I’m saying is you don’t need to cower under your bed fearing you’ll be killed by any Muslim you meet. No need to demonize them.

Peter March 17, 2009 at 12:07 am

Nope. Ownership is the right to control, not direct control. Otherwise if I steal your car I am the owner. Control and right to control are different things.

You’re suggesting we don’t have a right to control ourselves?

Michael A. Clem March 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

Let me try a paraphrase of AE and see if it makes sense–correct me if I’m wrong about what it says.
Essentially, nothing can be justified without making an argument in favor of it. Argumentation requires certain assumptions or premises that are basically libertarian in nature, and thus, any argument against libertarianism is a logical contradiction (or performative contradiction). No non-libertarian position can be justified, and thus, no non-libertarian position is legitimate, but requires coercion to be put into practice.
Does that sound about right? If so, it seems logically correct, leaving its only possible weakness in the premises that argumentaion supposedly requires. However, one must also consider what one means by “winning” the argument, and succeeding at justifying it, because that part seems rather vague. People are not equal in their arguing abilities, and people certainly do argue for contrary positions–how do we know when an argument succeeds or fails?

Dmitry Chernikov March 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Mitchell Jones writes: “Being alive surely presupposes access to food; but, just as surely, it does not presuppose that you have a right to access to food, or even that the particular food to which you have access is yours by right. (Consuming stolen food can sustain life and the ability to argue.)” This is reminiscent of Rothbard: “Similarly, if someone says that every man has a ‘natural right’ to three square meals a day, it is glaringly obvious that this is a fallacious natural law or natural rights theory; for there are innumerable times and places where it is physically impossible to provide three square meals for all, or even for the majority, of the population.” (The Ethics of Liberty, 43) But perhaps in order to argue as efficiently as possible, the debaters need three square meals a day. Has Hoppe proven too much again?

Brian Macker March 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Peter,

“That’s hilarious, since the majority of Muslims (Arabs) are Semitic.”

No, what’s hilarious is that I know what Semitic means but you don’t know what antisemitic means. Hint: hotdogs aren’t made of dog meat.

“All I’m saying is you don’t need to cower under your bed fearing you’ll be killed by any Muslim you meet. No need to demonize them.”

I don’t. I was making a point about Islamic philosophic grounding. You were too dense to get that. It was a discussion about the philosophical basis of Islam, not Muslims in general. I said, “Islam for instance doesn’t care about self ownership.” It doesn’t. Islam advocates murder and force in dealing with non-believers.

The “they” in my comment refers to those who take these religious rules seriously. There are plenty of those. Historically Islam has killed over 90 million people.

Suppose I had said the following:

“Communism for instance doesn’t care about property rights. Property is owned by the State, and if you are not following the States rules then you are wrong. No argument about it, they just take your stuff and if you resist, kill you.”

Would you then feel obligated to inform me that “most communists are nice people, and wouldn’t think of trying to steal my stuff, or murder me”. Would you inform me how you had traveled to the USSR and not once been put in the Gulag. Do you really need to go out of your way to do that?

You need to start reading anti-Islamic writing the same way you’d read anti-communist writing.

I’ll badmouth Islam and those who kill in it’s name all I want.

Brian Macker March 18, 2009 at 11:37 pm

“You’re suggesting we don’t have a right to control ourselves?”

No, I’m saying that our self control does not amount to ownership. You don’t need a right to control yourself because your control is inalienable.

I think this is a case where the English language is a stumbling block preventing communication. There is a subtle equivocation that is going on in this conversation because we do not have separate words for the kind of external control over inanimate objects we have, and the kind of internal control we have of our bodies.

Let’s use the word animatrol to refer specifically and exclusively to the kind of internal control we have over our selves (our body which includes our brain and thus our thoughts). Let’s use the word extrol to mean external control.

Now be careful. I am pretending that we are using a language in which it makes no sense to literally say “I animatroled my self”. Because that would imply that they our bodies are external to ourselves. It would be like saying, “I run passed my self”, since you can only run passed external objects.

Individuals animatrol of them selves is not alienable. As actors we cannot turn over the animatrolation of our bodies to others. Nor can we turn over animatrolation of our minds to others (in the sense of controlling our thoughts since I mean a broader control than mere body part movement).

A right is an entitlement. In the case of ownership the entitlement is to exclusive extrol of some entity. We need this exclusivity because it is possible for several different actors to simultaneously try to extrol an object, and in ways that conflict.

In the case of extrol ownership in this sense is possible. It is possible to have an entitlement to exclusivity of extrol of some entity. The entitlement prevents conflict of uses, and also conflicts of plans.

The whole purpose of the ownership, the entitlement, is to prevent the conflict of uses, and plans. That’s what justifies it.

Since extrol is external it is also possible to give or trade away the entitlement to such extrol, or merely immediate active extrol of an object.

Since it is impossible for someone to animatrol another persons self (or body) the issue of exclusivity doesn’t even arise. There is no need to resolve a conflict here. There is no need to entitle you to animatrol of yourself because no one else can animatrol you, nor can your animatrolation be alienated. Nor can you give or trade away your animtrol.

So not only can’t you own animtrol, you can sell it, nor give it away. Nor is there any potential conflict over it. In other words you cannot own yourself.

Now it is possible for others to treat a slave as if he were an inanimate object. They can certainly attempt extrol over him.

It also makes sense with regards to other actors (slave masters) that they will want the entitlement to exclusive extrol over the slave in order to eliminate conflict. They might even want to give or trade the entitlement to extrol of the slave to others. In other words, the word ownership in slavery makes sense if the slave is treated as an inanimate object, not as another actor.

There are a problem with this that cause it not to be true ownership. The problem is that the slave is not an inanimate object.

Slaves exhibit animatrol, internal control. Thus they do have control over themselves even if they don’t have ownership over themselves, as I stated above. As you will see they don’t need to have self ownership in order to make the slave masters claims to true ownership false.

The slaves animatrol, internal control, can and will conflict with any extrol, external control, attempted by the slaver. All that need happen is for the slave to have different goals or plans. Even if harmonious at one time it can still come to conflict when the slave and the masters interests diverge. Since a person cannot alienate their animatrol this is always a potential even if they are “willing slaves”.

A slave is also an actor in exactly the same sense as your potential slave master. Thus the kind of ownership of slavery does not in fact resolve all conflicts of control between all actors. There is still the conflict between the owner and the slave.

Thus slave ownership does not resolve conflicts of uses and plans.

The owners claim of entitlement to exclusive extrol, and thus control, over the slave’s self is in fact impossible. The slave is in fact an actor whose uses and plans for his own self will conflict with the slavers.

Since this entitlement does not fully serve the purpose of ownership it is not true ownership. It rests on the falsehood that other actors are inanimate.

The only possible way to resolve this conflict is not through exclusivity of extrol, a false ownership, but through freedom.

Jeremy L. July 5, 2009 at 9:02 pm

This similarity reflects the tradition of German language philosophy shared by both Mises and Habermas (originator of argumentation ethics). They both explicitly acknowledge enormous debts to Kant.

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