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Liberty is not the ultimate value

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Clayton Posted: Sat, Jun 25 2011 4:53 PM

I have often heard it suggested that libertarianism is a philosophy or moral position where liberty is the ultimate value to which all other values take a back seat or something to this effect. The idea of "liberty as the ultimate value" is a corruption of classical liberalism - more in line with libertinism - and serves as just another statist narrative, as in this example. If liberty is an ultimate value, then even killing and war are justified in order to attain it. This explains the contradiction of the common sight of a pick-up truck with a military veteran sticker on one side and a "Live Free or Die" emblem on the other side.

Valuation is individual and subjective. "I value this old antique I inherited from my grandmother very much." When valuation is rightly understood, the only possible 'ultimate value' is satisfaction itself. Satisfaction of one's wants, the attainment of one's own goal states is the only possible value to which all other values can be a means.

Killing and war cannot be justified by "liberty" because liberty is not an ultimate value. It is better to leave a ruler be who has many people in the grip of his power than to invade in the name of "liberty" only to have him pull the grenade pin and take down half his subjects with himself. Only an individual may decide for himself or herself whether liberty is a higher value than their own life. To make that decision on behalf of others is immoral. The extensive involvement of the US in dictator-toppling (dictators which, invariably, the US aided, abetted or even installed) is built square on the corruption of liberalism into "liberty at any cost!" People must decide for themselves what costs are bearable in the eradication of rulers and tyrants.

The tenor of the linked NYT article is basically, "Yes, NATO governments are killing lots of Libyans who were carrying on a more or less peaceful existence before NATO involvement but it's worth it because some people in part of Libya have finally gotten to taste liberty." Disgusting.

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Nielsio replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 5:52 PM

+1

 

Clayton,

Would you like this to be posted on my website? What you'd need to do is create an account and post it in the Office section ( http://www.vforvoluntary.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?fid=3 ). I will then move the post to the Blog section ( http://www.vforvoluntary.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?fid=14 and http://www.vforvoluntary.com/blog , and posts show up on the front-page).

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Clayton replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 7:19 PM

@Nielsio: Sure thing...

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Phaedros replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 8:22 PM

I think Ayn Rand and any other classical liberal already addresses this. Life is obviously above liberty and encroaching on other peoples lives or liberty is obviously a contradiction. So what was the point of your post again?

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Phaedros replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 8:25 PM

"The extensive involvement of the US in dictator-toppling (dictators which, invariably, the US aided, abetted or even installed) is built square on the corruption of liberalism into "liberty at any cost!""

Lol total non-sequitor and a strawman of libertarianism turning into "liberty at any cost". As Walter Block repeatedly says, and others, libertarianism is a political philosophy wherein the only thing that politics should be concerned with is liberty. That doesn't mean that people don't have other values, etc.

Tumblr The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants. ~Albert Camus
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John Ess replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 8:45 PM

I think when it comes down it, if you really needed a war or death to defend liberty, it'd be worth it.  For instance, some woman who wants to avoid rape will need to use some amount of force to repel them.  I don't think that is libertine.  Unless you think it is libertine to wear the clothes you want and not get attacked.

The problem with war and a lot of the 'just war' thing is that they have no interest in liberty.  And it is not a matter of liberty vs. none.  But about protecting the state and its interests, of course.  But I can see if people fight a war on their own turf, if liberty is at stake.  As I can understand someone who fights the US military to protect their own freedom from this aggression.  (Though I'm not under the illusion that many who are fighting hold liberty as their absolute, they are fighting rather than not fighting.  And pacifism will not gain them 'life' instead of liberty).

And there is the fact that when people think they are fighting for freedom or some violent act for freedom, usually it is suicide.  It is not a realistic attempt at gaining freedom.  There is no guarantee that fighting will gain liberty.  So one can still value liberty above all and avoid fighting.  If you can calculate reasonably.  I suppose the guy in the pickup truck thinks that he is actually making a choice.  But he hasn't.  And he hasn't gained freedom.

I also think that if 'liberty' is a principle, you have to universalize it.  So people who hold this as a value, will be breaking with principle if they deny it to others.  So one would not kill someone else in order to attain it.  For instance, in the case where I want free food so I kill someone to get it.  This would be nonsense.  It'd be like someone who holds Christianity as the highest value, but wants some system that will deny the others from going to church.  Maybe so he can have the church to himself.  Obviously, no one will think that.  Neither is a zero sum game to get what they want.

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So we're going total moral relativism now?

How is it even possible to know one's real values if one is not free?

Saying that a slave who doesn't rebel against his master is valuing his life more than his freedom is an completely absurd way to see this situation. Only if the 'slave' were free to be 'enslaved' it would be immoral to attack the slave master.

If there are government shills on newspapers distorting this concept to justify their despicable defense of mass murder it doesn't matter, they're being dishonest and should be denounced for it.

But saying that by the very fact one is alive he may be accepting every abuse being inflicted upon him is an atrocious thing to say.

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Conza88 replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 11:22 PM

"Libertarianism, then, is a philosophy seeking a policy. But what else can a libertarian philosophy say about strategy, about “policy”? In the first place, surely-again in Acton’s words-it must say that liberty is the “highest political end,” the overriding goal of libertarian philosophy. Highest political end, of course, does not mean “highest end” for man in general. Indeed, every individual has a variety of personal ends and differing hierarchies of importance for these goals on his personal scale of values. Political philosophy is that subset of ethical philosophy which deals specifically with politics, that is, the proper role of violence in human life (and hence the explication of such concepts as crime and property). Indeed, a libertarian world would beone in which every individual would at last be free to seek and pursue his own ends-to “pursue happiness,” in the felicitous Jeffersonian phrase."

- TEOL, chp 30

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 12:42 AM

libertarianism is a political philosophy

If it is a political philosophy then, like all political philosophies, it is immoral and anti-human. Politics is always and without exception immoral because any political system, however small, necessarily violates the moral principle of universalizability (aka "what's good for the goose is good for the gander"). There is no proper goal of politics at all. To say there is a proper goal of politics is as absurd as saying there is a proper goal of crime because politics is necessarily criminal.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 12:54 AM

The problem with war and a lot of the 'just war' thing is that they have no interest in liberty.  And it is not a matter of liberty vs. none.  But about protecting the state and its interests, of course.  But I can see if people fight a war on their own turf, if liberty is at stake.

I'm becoming more and more skeptical that there has ever been a just war at all. This is not because I believe violence is never justifiable, it clearly is sometimes justifiable. It's just that I don't know of any form of organized fighting force that has ever been free of aggressive tendencies, though perhaps some have come close (medieval Europe, and maybe some tribal cultures). The idea of a highly organized yet purely property defensive army has never existed that I know of. So, every war has involved some aspect of aggression on both sides, even when one side was apparently just defending itself.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 1:13 AM

Saying that a slave who doesn't rebel against his master is valuing his life more than his freedom is an completely absurd way to see this situation.

While the State is essentially a slaveholder there are some crucial differences. First, a slaveholder - in the usual sense of the word - is someone who aggressed against his slaves much more grievously than States can manage to aggress against their subjects. This is not because States are less immoral than slaveholders, it is simply an arithmetic consequence of the slave-to-slaveholder versus subject-to-Prince ratio. Second, States are in a more precarious position than slaveholders vis-a-vis the security with which they can continue expropriating their victims. Princes are regularly deposed by their competitors. This means that slaveholders don't prepare themselves to 'take the slaves down with them' as States do. Most governments have contingency plans that involve calculated internment and/or extermination of their own subjects to defend against "bioweapons" and other such spectres. Such contingency plans are easy to re-purpose. We saw this pattern deployed with Hussein's terrorization of the Shia majority and Mubarak's terrorization of the rioters. But the long-term costs of political upheaval are much more grave than the first casualties... look at Iraq. It is a protracted political battle between entrenched powers seeking to undercut US imperial rule and other US-aligned political powers seeking to solidify the new colonial political structure. Over a million Iraqis have died in the cross-fire. Those million+ corpses have been "liberated" but not in the sense that we ordinarily associate with the idea of liberty.

Only if the 'slave' were free to be 'enslaved' it would be immoral to attack the slave master.

No, I think we can acknowledge that the slaveholder is engaging in immoral and illegal behavior without being compelled to intervene. Intervention does not follow automatically from the existence of immoral or illegal behavior. I can imagine a charity which funds political liberation and I suppose that this could act as a rationalizing force on this kind of behavior since the killing of innocents by such a charity would entail legal liability. The US government is not liable in any practical sense for its war crimes and this is precisely why it is so aggressive.

But saying that by the very fact one is alive he may be accepting every abuse being inflicted upon him is an atrocious thing to say.

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that I have no business deciding to free a country from its government even if that means killing piles and piles of those very people in order to accomplish it. Strict liability should hold at every point. My only point is that the Establishment co-opts and corrupts the language of liberty in order to render it impotent. Ron Paul can sit up in a podium and drone on and on about liberty all he wants, but how many Iraqis or Libyans has Ron Paul freed? None! And what's worse, he opposes funding the very organization which is responsible for freeing millions of Iraqis and is involved in the current liberation of Libya.

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The way Z.  Brzezinski looks at it is that, "organized violence is preferable to anarchic violence because it becomes an extension of the social order."  http://wearechange.org.uk/london/wp-content/themes/arras-theme/resources/misc/Zbigniew%20Brzezinski-Between%20Two%20Ages.pdf

One could say that violence such as the Yakuza in Japan prevents much more possible violence than does say, the U.S. military and it's defense contracting friends at Dyncorp or Xe.  Even though the Yakuza kills and hurt, the scale is minimal and very localized, one might say harmless to the everyday person because it targets the anarchic violence and prevents it from ever becoming hazardous to the general public.  One could say that that is preferable to the lunatics who endorse Dyncorp selling women in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia and the U.S military and/or the violence in the general rioting in EU/ME States today.  They are both rooted in organized violence and both pay lip service to liberty.  Which produces more liberty?

Is it moral relativism or absolutism?

Philosophy leads to justification, for the possiblity, through economic methodology and logic, the output of that economic theory when in practice is what brings us our politics, or, what is politically relevant.

EDIT: And as such, if the country, like the U.S. endorses, philosophically, the economic method of liberation, which appears to be war, (the most effective means of furthering the cause of liberty because it is the most profitable) then is it any wonder why we are where we are today?  We seem to think that making money and liberating people correlate, no?

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The idea of a highly organized yet purely property defensive army has never existed that I know of.

That could be true of standing armies.  Definitely not true of temporary armies created for specific defense scenarios.

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Marko replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 7:13 AM

Of course depending on a person this can be just about anything. For example space exploration. As in: "OK maybe it is kind of wrong to tax low-income type of people, but come on we are talking about exploring the space - that is way more important than anything!"

People always want to force their priorities on other, and state is how you do it.

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Conza88 replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 10:38 AM

If it is a political philosophy then, like all political philosophies, it is immoral and anti-human. Politics is always and without exception immoral because any political system, however small, necessarily violates the moral principle of universalizability (aka "what's good for the goose is good for the gander"). There is no proper goal of politics at all. To say there is a proper goal of politics is as absurd as saying there is a proper goal of crime because politics is necessarily criminal.

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Wow, boy did you ever miss the point. But considering the thread you started, it seems like you're well and truly feeling the urge to rant, so you defined your way out of it, thus setting up a strawman. Amazing contribution! *claps*  Do you have a valid criticism of Libertarianism / Rothbard and Hoppe? If so, I'm yet to see it. And yes I've already read your 'opinion' on the matter, I think you'll find that in the threads we've already discussed this - I'm still waiting for a response.

"Political philosophy is that subset of ethical philosophy which deals specifically with politics, that is, the proper role of violence in human life (and hence the explication of such concepts as crime and property)."

...

Does this not help clarify?

"For we are not, in constructing a theory of liberty and property, i.e., a "political" ethic, concerned with all personal moral principles. We are not herewith concerned whether it is moral or immoral for someone to lie, to be a good person, to develop his faculties, or be kind or mean to his neighbors. We are concerned, in this sort of discussion, solely with such "political ethical" questions as the proper role of violence, the sphere of rights, or the definitions of criminality and aggression. Whether or not it is moral or immoral for "Smith" - the fellow excluded by the owner from the plank or the lifeboat - to force someone else out of the lifeboat, or whether he should die heroically instead, is not our concern, and not the proper concern of a theory of political ethics.[5]" - Lifeboat Scenario by Rothbard, TEOL

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 8:15 PM

Definitely not true of temporary armies created for specific defense scenarios.

Are such armies highly organized or ad hoc? It seems to me that the 24x7 professionals will win out every time. A Delta Force operative experiences more hours in real battle than 100 regular infantrymen, even ones that are forward deployed in armed conflicts. Such individuals are vastly more experienced in battle and, therefore, vastly more deadly.

The idea of farmers and factory-workers grabbing their ARs and banding together in City Hall is absurd (not saying you're suggesting this, but I have heard it suggested). Professional fighters will mow down throngs of part-time fighters every time.

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Cortes replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 9:41 PM
Clayton:

Professional fighters will mow down throngs of part-time fighters every time.

Clayton -

The Iraqi insurgents would disagree with you.
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Mens Rea replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:06 PM

Clayton said:

"When valuation is rightly understood, the only possible 'ultimate value' is satisfaction itself. Satisfaction of one's wants, the attainment of one's own goal states is the only possible value to which all other values can be a means."

Since being alive is necessary in order to have goals isn't life really the ultimate end?

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Anenome replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:20 PM
 
 

Frederique Bastiao:

So we're going total moral relativism now?

How is it even possible to know one's real values if one is not free?

Saying that a slave who doesn't rebel against his master is valuing his life more than his freedom is an completely absurd way to see this situation. Only if the 'slave' were free to be 'enslaved' it would be immoral to attack the slave master.

If there are government shills on newspapers distorting this concept to justify their despicable defense of mass murder it doesn't matter, they're being dishonest and should be denounced for it.

But saying that by the very fact one is alive he may be accepting every abuse being inflicted upon him is an atrocious thing to say.

I agree. To justify some sort of international pacifism by saying that people whom are literally enslaved by their government haven't started a war to end their government that holds them by a noose, and therefore it would be wrong to help them? How does that make any sense.

Twist, ridiculous logic. The case of saving people in another country whom are oppressed is different only in magnitude from seeing a woman being aggressed against on the street and stepping in to stop the aggression.

Can you force people to be free? Heck no. But you can sure stop aggression against them morally all day long.

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Anenome replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:26 PM
 
 

Clayton:

libertarianism is a political philosophy

If it is a political philosophy then, like all political philosophies, it is immoral and anti-human. Politics is always and without exception immoral because any political system, however small, necessarily violates the moral principle of universalizability (aka "what's good for the goose is good for the gander"). There is no proper goal of politics at all. To say there is a proper goal of politics is as absurd as saying there is a proper goal of crime because politics is necessarily criminal.

This is false. I've been working on a political theory in which the political system is predicated on individualism and produces a society free of aggression of any sort. And it is a system that would produce true freedom without hardly trying, because it rejects the socialist ethic of majority rule, among other new concepts.

If government is a group of people whom have a monopoly on coercion within a jurisdiction, then if they restrict their use of coercion to stopping aggression, they do a good thing. It is possible therefore, in principle, for a government to use force and never aggress.

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gotlucky replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:34 PM

Anenome:

It is possible therefore, in principle, for a government to use force and never aggress.

It is possible in theory that a government could have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and never aggress, but it is also possible in theory that everyone in America could burn all their cash tomorrow at noon.

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hashem replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:43 PM

Clayton:
If liberty is an ultimate value, then even killing and war are justified in order to attain it.

Implying killing isn't justified in pursuit of liberty.

As I pointed out in a thread somewhere, my recent mindset has been that moral norms exist to limit competition for power. The relevant response to your statement, then, is: who has the most liberty? Obviously, it is those with the most power, and though they may not kill directly they certainly commission the requisit killing.

The human brain is good for recognizing patterns and overcoming obstacles to power. Who are you to say killing is not justified?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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"Since being alive is necessary in order to have goals isn't life really the ultimate end?"

Wouldn't this just mean life is not the ultimate END, since it implies that life is just the MEANS? If so, following the same premise you provide, it makes the goals one has a more likely candidate for the ultimate end.

The only one worth following is the one who leads... not the one who pulls; for it is not the direction that condemns the puller, it is the rope that he holds.

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gotlucky replied on Mon, Jun 18 2012 11:50 PM

hashem:

As I pointed out in a thread somewhere, my recent mindset has been that moral norms exist to limit competition for power. 

Not to nitpick, but moral norms exist to resolve disputes and hopefully to prevent disputes.  If they limit competition for power, then it is a by-product.

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hashem replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:00 AM

True, the whole role VS function thing. But I think (I hope) I'm able to get my point across. The assumed purpose being to convince people "evil" is "wrong", the actual effect being to limit competition for power.

So who's to say killing isn't justified in the pursuit of liberty? Clearly, the story of history is that liberty is achieved by rejecting moral norms.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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gotlucky replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:13 AM

hashem:

So who's to say killing isn't justified in the pursuit of liberty? Clearly, the story of history is that liberty is achieved by rejecting moral norms.

Well, social and moral norms aren't always in line with liberty, sad.  But the state is even worse.  The state fucks with moral norms.  Instead of people resolving their conflicts and having the results become norms, the state just dictates what things ought to be, and pretty much all of it is against liberty.

In my opinion, killing in and of itself is neither justified nor unjustified, in pursuit of liberty or whatever.  The circumstances are entirely relevant.  To me, the means are more important than the ends, or the ends do not justify the means.  Murder for the sake of liberty is perverse, in my opinion.

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hashem replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:27 AM

Murder for the sake of liberty is perverse, in my opinion.
Clearly there is an element of truth in what you say, because it seems the most powerful people don't do the killing. Rather, they commission people with nothing to live for to do the killing for them.

Maybe it just has to do with the human brain's dislike of eliminating value, and we percieve extreme value and potential in other humans.

But still, isn't your statement "murder for the sake of liberty is perverse, in my opinion" influenced by the moral norms you value, which are severely influenced by general moral norms throughout history which, in my theory, are perpetuated to limit competition for power--which is really limiting competition for liberty?

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 10:09 AM

But still, isn't your statement "murder for the sake of liberty is perverse, in my opinion" influenced by the moral norms you value, which are severely influenced by general moral norms throughout history which, in my theory, are perpetuated to limit competition for power--which is really limiting competition for liberty?

You're confusing liberty with enslavement (of others). You're essentially arguing that the enslavement of others is the highest attainable degree of freedom which is like saying that committing murder is the highest attainable degree of moral behavior. When we speak of liberty, we are speaking of the liberty of the population but not a communitized or averaged liberty (which would still include enslavement).

Social norms can conceivably serve any end which Nature has in mind and, of course, they clearly do presently "limit competition for power". However, it is a fallacy to conclude that because something is natural that it is, therefore, moral or as it ought to be.

The appeal of liberal philosophy (as I adopt it), is that it simply asks each individual to calculate right and wrong on the basis of his own satisfaction alone, without respect to the "higher duties" that others ask him or train him to take upon himself and which he would not otherwise have taken on. Without "self-sacrifice", the system of enslavement-through-cooperation collapses and, with it, the grand monopolization of power which is characteristic of the statist social order.

Some people say "we will always have government" - if you define your terms sufficiently broadly then I guess this is true, but so what? The point is not to eradicate government, the point is to eradicate the severe disconnect between our innate moral sense and civic life which has become morally nihilistic and completely unmoored from the facts of human nature. The path forward is to move the locus of government power to smaller scales and reduce political aggregation so each individual's voice is not one in a billion but one in a thousand or one in a hundred.

And all of this - calculation of right and wrong on the basis of one's own satisfaction and scaling down of political structures - is accomplished through two words: originary secession. The moment you stop obeying govrnment statutes because you believe in them and, instead, only out of prudence, you have thereby left the ranks of the self-sacrificial, self-enslaving statists and joined the ranks of those who recognize, with Max Stirner, that the world is their plaything and it is theirs to consume however they see fit to do so. You can attach whatever word you like to it. Some people call it "sovereignty" though I prefer to call it simply liberty.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 10:21 AM

Since being alive is necessary in order to have goals isn't life really the ultimate end?

No. I have yet to find a really good way to explain why this is incorrect but I'll try by pushing it to the extreme. Physical reality is necessary in order to be alive which is necessary in order to have goals, so isn't physical reality really the ultimate end? Or - since the physical world must obey the laws of logic - we could push it one degree further and say that logical consistency is necessary in order to be physically real which is necessary in order to be alive which is necessary in order to have goals, etc.

The other way to see this is mistaken is to look at something that does bring about satisfaction (achieves an end) but which is antithetical to life - euthanasia. People don't just euthanize themselves because they're looking for thrills or whatever but because the pain which they have to endure in life is simply unbearable/unmanageable. Ending their life altogether - rather than continuing on a trajectory of foreseeable, long-run, intense suffering - is actually what satisfies those who make this choice. If life were the ultimate end, this should be impossible. People do it, therefore, it's not impossible. QED.

By saying life is the ultimate end, you've displaced the subject from the self and placed it somewhere else. I am me, therefore, my ends are whatever satisfies me.

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Clayton:
The other way to see this is mistaken is to look at something that does bring about satisfaction (achieves an end) but which is antithetical to life - euthanasia. People don't just euthanize themselves because they're looking for thrills or whatever but because the pain which they have to endure in life is simply unbearable/unmanageable. Ending their life altogether - rather than continuing on a trajectory of foreseeable, long-run, intense suffering - is actually what satisfies those who make this choice. If life were the ultimate end, this should be impossible. People do it, therefore, it's not impossible. QED.

People do things all the time that are non-conducive or even antithetical to their ends though.  This doesn't mean that they don't actually hold that end, only that they are unaware how to properly achieve it.  There are cops who honestly believe that what they do is the primary factor in public safety - they are wrong, but this (on its own) doesn't falsify the claim: "I want to protect peoples property, therefore I will confiscate other peoples' drugs." 

Also, the whole "life as the ultimate end" is interpreted 2 different ways (even objectivists disagree over what Rand meant).  So the first is the literal, survivalist sense.  The second, is in the sense of the good life, flourishing, eudaimonia.  This sense is MUCH more in line with satisfaction, it is just one step removed.  We seek satisfaction because we seek eudaimonia.  The benefit of this, over simple satisfaction, is that it avoids absurd proscriptions like "if murdering a bunch of children makes you happy, and you want to be happy, then you should murder a bunch of children."  Instead, we realize that satisfaction through murder doesn't line up with what it means to be a eudaimon, which is why you seek satisfaction in the first place. 

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 11:34 AM

mikachusetts:
Also, the whole "life as the ultimate end" is interpreted 2 different ways (even objectivists disagree over what Rand meant).  So the first is the literal, survivalist sense. The second, is in the sense of the good life, flourishing, eudaimonia. This sense is MUCH more in line with satisfaction, it is just one step removed.

I really don't see how eudaimonia is at all removed from satisfaction. Terms like "the good life" and "flourishing" embody subjective values, which means they go right back to satisfaction.

mikachusetts:
We seek satisfaction because we seek eudaimonia. The benefit of this, over simple satisfaction, is that it avoids absurd proscriptions like "if murdering a bunch of children makes you happy, and you want to be happy, then you should murder a bunch of children." Instead, we realize that satisfaction through murder doesn't line up with what it means to be a eudaimon, which is why you seek satisfaction in the first place.

Strictly speaking, the absurdity of a proscription like the one you offer above is subjective. Even if everyone were to agree that it's absurd, that doesn't make its absurdity any more of objective.

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Autolykos:
I really don't see how eudaimonia is at all removed from satisfaction. Terms like "the good life" and "flourishing" embody subjective values, which means they go right back to satisfaction.

Becuase you can't achieve eudaimonia by doing whatever you want.  Eudaimonia is highly individualized -- my flourishing isn't the same as yours -- but it isn't a subjective thing.  I can be wrong about what ends are constitutive  of my ultimate end.  I may think that living in my parents basement drinking all day is a good thing, but pursuing that end would not be in line with my own flourishing as an able and intelligent man.

And just to be clear, this isn't my own random musings or even what I necessarily believe, this is just the standard neo-Aristotelian position of people like Long, Plauche, Rasmussen, and Rand.

Strictly speaking, the absurdity of a proscription like the one you offer above is subjective. Even if everyone were to agree that it's absurd, that doesn't make its absurdity any more of objective.

I disagree.  Even putting aside Aristotelian ethics, we can agree that throughout history and in most cultures, killing kids for the fun of it has been seen as an extremely immoral act (extreme in contrast to something like lying).  Let's assume that you're right, and that this is just the subjective valuations of individuals, that the vast majority of humans for as long as we can look back just happened to share the similar feeling that killing kids for fun is wrong.  Doesn't that strike you as a little bit too much of a coincidence?  Don't you think there is a reason why people agree on this? 

I mean, maybe you do think that its just a random occurence, and thats that.  But I think that's a strange position to hold.  If you watch National Geographic and see a mother bear protect her cubs, you don't say "oh gee, that bear just values protecting her young.  Its totally subjective to that bear."  Instead, you recognize that its in the bear's very nature to do that, its just a fact about what mother bears do.  And if you see a bear abandon its cubs, this wouldn't change that fact, it would just be an annomaly.  So when we get to humans, why does the attitude suddenly change? 

 

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:23 PM

People do things all the time that are non-conducive or even antithetical to their ends though.  

This is either a reflection of uncertainty (endemic to action, see Mises HA) or pathological (mental disease of some kind). Which is it in the case of those who choose to euthanize themselves?

Also, the whole "life as the ultimate end" is interpreted 2 different ways (even objectivists disagree over what Rand meant).  So the first is the literal, survivalist sense.  The second, is in the sense of the good life, flourishing, eudaimonia.  This sense is MUCH more in line with satisfaction, it is just one step removed. We seek satisfaction because we seek eudaimonia.  The benefit of this, over simple satisfaction, is that it avoids absurd proscriptions like "if murdering a bunch of children makes you happy, and you want to be happy, then you should murder a bunch of children."  Instead, we realize that satisfaction through murder doesn't line up with what it means to be a eudaimon, which is why you seek satisfaction in the first place.

OK, then I think what we're really talking about is different levels of satisfaction or simply long-run versus short-run satisfaction. Would you disagree that the best life is one that is not only satisfying in the living but also satisfying in the remembrance? But this doesn't involve constructing a standard of virtue or right-living external to one's own satisfaction. It simply requires taking into account long-run satisfaction, that is, the exercise of foresight regarding the long-run consequences of one's actions.

The problem with qualifying satisfaction as the sole measure of virtue is that any other measure is arbitrary and insensible to the individual. It is arbitrary in that as many arguments can be made for any particular virtue as against it. It is insensible in that the individual cannot rely on his in-built senses (pleasure/pain/agreeability/satisfiability/etc.) to make choices, he must consult some arbitrary (because external) reference.

One might argue that the maladaptedness of the human brain to its modern environment makes such "externalization" of morality inevitable. However, I think it is the role of a healthy social order to cause "external" moral standards to be internalized by remapping the costs and benefits of different courses of action. It might actually feel good to simply kill the guy your wife cheated with. But the problem is that his entire family and a good chunk of their friends and the society at large will support retaliation against you, possibly even capital retaliation. That changes the balance - is it worth dying to kill the guy your wife cheated with? Probably not and the result is that, while we have more cheating, we have less killing and vendettas which could be argued to be a good thing on net. Only time will tell.

But the point is that the social order converts the "abstract" ideas of right and wrong into concrete costs/benefits that can be directly sensed by the individual in terms of his own satisfaction. This is much like the process whereby all the information relevant to the price of oranges is compressed into a single number - the price - which you can use to rank the choice of exchanging money for an orange against all the other courses of action you might take instead.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:29 PM

 I can be wrong about what ends are constitutive  of my ultimate end.  I may think that living in my parents basement drinking all day is a good thing, but pursuing that end would not be in line with my own flourishing as an able and intelligent man.

Absolutely agreed. However, what about this fact is not captured by the observation that your short-run ends may be antagonistic to your long-run ends? Isn't flourishing, then, just the "whole package" of satisfaction; getting "the most possible satisfaction out of a whole human life" rather than "do what is the most satisfying to you at this instant without any thought to the long-run consequences"?

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 12:34 PM

mikachusetts:
Becuase you can't achieve eudaimonia by doing whatever you want.  Eudaimonia is highly individualized -- my flourishing isn't the same as yours -- but it isn't a subjective thing.

How not? If you don't think "flourishing" is a value, then what do you think it is?

mikachusetts:
I can be wrong about what ends are constitutive  of my ultimate end. I may think that living in my parents basement drinking all day is a good thing, but pursuing that end would not be in line with my own flourishing as an able and intelligent man.

It depends on whether you value anything higher than living in your parents' basement drinking all day. Regardless, satisfaction is your ultimate end.

mikachusetts:
I disagree.  Even putting aside Aristotelian ethics, we can agree that throughout history and in most cultures, killing kids for the fun of it has been seen as an extremely immoral act (extreme in contrast to something like lying).

Yes, we can certainly agree to that, but that agreement is irrelevant to my point.

mikachusetts:
Let's assume that you're right, and that this is just the subjective valuations of individuals, that the vast majority of humans for as long as we can look back just happened to share the similar feeling that killing kids for fun is wrong. Doesn't that strike you as a little bit too much of a coincidence? Don't you think there is a reason why people agree on this?

I do think there's a reason why the vast majority of people agree on it the vast majority of the time. Again, however, that agreement and the reason for it is beside the point.

Think about commodities that have been used as money throughout history. Was there anything that prima facie said those particular people had to use that particular commodity as money?

Any attempt at trying to prove that any value judgement is somehow objective runs head-first into the is-ought problem.

mikachusetts:
I mean, maybe you do think that its just a random occurence, and thats that. But I think that's a strange position to hold. If you watch National Geographic and see a mother bear protect her cubs, you don't say "oh gee, that bear just values protecting her young. Its totally subjective to that bear." Instead, you recognize that its in the bear's very nature to do that, its just a fact about what mother bears do. And if you see a bear abandon its cubs, this wouldn't change that fact, it would just be an annomaly. So when we get to humans, why does the attitude suddenly change?

How do you reconcile this with Austrian-school economics, which adheres rigorously to the fact of subjective value? The existence of behavioral norms in no way makes those norms objective in the sense of "this is how they must be". They're only objective in the sense that they're observed. There's no independent force in the universe which dictates behavioral norms in advance.

So yes, I'd say that a mother bear deciding to either protect or abandon her cubs involves valuation, and valuation is necessarily subjective. The fact that most mother bears happen to protect their cubs in no way obviates this. You can consider this to be a strange position to hold all you want, but that's also a necessarily subjective value judgement.

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killing kids for the fun of it has been seen as an extremely immoral act 

 

I don't know if this statement is historically true or not.

 

If you watch National Geographic and see a mother bear protect her cubs, you don't say "oh gee, that bear just values protecting her young.  Its totally subjective to that bear.

 

 

Lots of species don't care that much about all their young all the time.  There are "runts of litter",etc.  It's probably best to say that some mothers protect some of their young most of the time.  Some rodents eat their young, some reptiles will abandon a litter to die as it is convienent, some bears will only choose one cub, etc.

But this doesn't change the fact that when it comes to humans, it can change simply "because it can".  We could look at one million and five statistics and some freak of nature accident like finding penicillin which would protect weak humans that were predisposed to death just like every other animal before them (before this freak accident medicine probably killed more than it saved BTW) .  

We are not "humans" as a catagorical imperative to act, the category is not a stagnant biological term - but a term of convenience when dealing with a specific set of rules that we name and come up with.  We are not de facto "Man-Apes", but unique actors.

Furthermore, who says that anomalies and the extremely improbable are not unimportant?  Things like the bullet that shot Archduke Ferdinand, the meteor that killed the Dinosaurs, 9/11,etc,etc,atc are things that will rock any given model at any given time

 I think there is a danger of a type of confirmation bias that could happen.

 

 

 

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I'm kind of busy at work, so I'm only responding to a few points.  Don't take it as a dodge from the other ones.

Think about commodities that have been used as money throughout history. Was there anything that prima facie said those particular people had to use that particular commodity as money?

No, but there are factors that effect one commodity becoming money over another.  Non-perishibility, dvisibility, recongizeability, etc. -- these factors effect what becomes money and what doesn't.  That gold and silver became monies is no coincidence, its simply because they were desireable commodities which also met the various other criteria better than any other commodity on hand.

Ceteris paribus, if gold didn't have these properties (even if it was still highly desired), it would not have become as widespread a medium of exchange as it did. 

Any attempt at trying to prove that any value judgement is somehow objective runs head-first into the is-ought problem.

I think the is-ought gap is over-extended and invoked as a quick excuse without being properly understood.  I also think that you have something else in mind than I do when you talk about value judgements being objective.

Simply put, some values are constitutive of others.  That is, you can't actually achieve some ends without also aiming at a variety of other ends. 

If you value end X, and end X requires that you also value Y and Z, then you ought to value Y and Z. 

Everyone values end X, therefore everyone ought to value Y and Z.

This is roughly the logical format of the neo-Aristotelians.  If you think this runs aground of the is-ought gap, than so does any statement about means and ends, such as "if you want to satisfy your hunger, than you ought to eat something."  The only places you can argue the syllogism above is whether or not there are constitutive values, and whether or not everyone holds the same end.  I'm not going to argue those points though, because I don't agree / understand the justifications for them.

How do you reconcile this with Austrian-school economics, which adheres rigorously to the fact of subjective value? The existence of behavioral norms in no way makes those norms objective in the sense of "this is how they must be". They're only objective in the sense that they're observed. There's no independent force in the universe which dictates behavioral norms in advance.

First off, I've never seen someone use objective to mean "this is how it must be."  The statement "that tree has green leaves" is objective, but it doesn't mean that under different circumstances, it couldn't have been otherwise.  And I don't think I implied anything that would suggest some independent force in the universe which dictates norms in advance. 

But regarding Austrianism, I don't see a problem.  Value subjectivism, as it relates to AE, is simply the fact that the value of goods comes from the various individual preferences for that good, and not from the nature of the good itself.  It says that if someone acts, it is because they value the expected end of that action over all other expected ends.  This is all that AE requires regarding value subjectivism.

So if it turns out that we can say "that value was incorrect," or "this value is moral, but not that one," this hasn't changed a single thing.  If I point out that some items became money becuase people recognized inherent traits in those items which made them better mediums of exchange than others, then again, this hasn't change a thing.

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Haven't read any of the thread..

Liberty isn't a value at all. However, it is a precondition to express values.

I'm not sure I even agree with that, but I wanted to throw it out there.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 4:10 PM

Liberty isn't a value at all. However, it is a precondition to express values.

I'm  not sure I ever agree with that, but I wanted to throw it out there.

I agree with that but I don't think a lot of libertarians do - they hold liberty (themselves and others being free) as a summum bonum.

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gotlucky replied on Tue, Jun 19 2012 4:25 PM

Clayton:

I agree with that but I don't think a lot of libertarians do - they hold liberty (themselves and others being free) as a summum bonum.

Oh libertarians only claim to hold it as the highest good.  Most of us, at least those of us who live in America, will probably never move to another place that has more liberty (certainly there are, even if Americans always claim America is the freest nation).

So, while we might say liberty is our highest good, our actions speak otherwise.  For most of us, we could probably say that, ceteris paribus, we value freedom more than anything else.  

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