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Question for defenders of Argumentation Ethics

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tunk Posted: Wed, May 30 2012 9:00 PM

If I make the statement, "Everybody should physically aggress against everyone else, so long as no one is arguing," am I caught in a performative self-contradiction?

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gotlucky replied on Wed, May 30 2012 9:40 PM

No, but whatever society goes that route ain't gonna last long.

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could you even call such a thing a society?  it isn't even social action is it?

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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The fact that the proposition is an ought-statement places the proposition outside the analysis of AE. Argumentation ethics deals strictly with is-statements because, as Hoppe sees it, ethics is the logic of justifying arguments. What this statement proposes is a guide for how one should behave and there is no justification provided. If it can be rephrased so that it is an is-statement, then (I think) argumentation ethics can scrutinize that proposition.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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gotlucky replied on Wed, May 30 2012 9:47 PM

Touché.

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tunk replied on Wed, May 30 2012 9:58 PM

Ok, then. "It is the case that everyone should aggress against everyone else, so long as no one is arguing." Would this involve a performative contradiction?

ThatOldGuy:
there is no justification provided

Yeah, but what difference would it make? If Hoppe is right, then no rational justification can ever be provided for a non-libertarian ethic.

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ThatOldGuy replied on Wed, May 30 2012 10:20 PM

 

tunk:
"It is the case that everyone should aggress against everyone else, so long as no one is arguing." Would this involve a performative contradiction?

You still say should: this is still an ought-statement. Take the following argument: Taxation is justified because taxation provides for roads and national defense, which are goods.

Taxation requires the use of force to take money from A, B, C, to give to X, Y, Z. Implicit in the ethical "norm" of taxation, then, is a lack of adherence to Kant's categorical imperative (this alone would invalidate any notion of taxation as an ethical norm) as it states that "some have the duty to give up taxes and others have the right to consume those taxes." Further, taxation involves the violation of property rights (theft). Hoppe's contention is that argument presupposes, both, the NAP and property rights to be valid because argument presupposes that both parties assume the first-comer ethic of property appropriation (most evidently by the ownership of their bodies) as well as the fact that there is always the option of agreeing to disagree (no "argument" involves physical violence; the presence of physical violence makes the interaction cease to be recognizable as argument). Hoppe's argument, then, is as follows:

1. Argumentation implies propositional justification.

2. Argumentation implies the use of property rights (specifically, the body as a result of the first-comer ethic).

3. Therefore, no proposition which is contrary to property rights is ethically permissible.

To return to the original proposition regarding taxation: this contention contains a performative contradiction because, while asserting that aggression is justified, the actor is nonetheless relying on the assumed validity of the NAP and property rights to even make his argument. The propositional content of the argument is contrary to the ethic (argumentation) by which it is delivered.

tunk:
If Hoppe is right, then no rational justification can ever be provided for a non-libertarian ethic.

Exactly.

---

Out of curiosity, have you read Hoppe's argumentation ethics? Is this a query for a briefing of them or are you just searching for clarifications?

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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tunk replied on Wed, May 30 2012 10:31 PM

I don't get why it matters if my statement is an ought statement. Aren't all norms statements about what actions ought/ought not to be taken? And isn't Hoppe claiming to show that all non-libertarian norms are unjustifiable?

In any case, let me reword it - "It would be justified for people to aggress against each other, so long as they are not arguing." Am I contradicting myself yet?

I've read the presentation of the argument in ATSC and in a few essays. I think it's basically sound. This is just one lingering objection I have.

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ThatOldGuy replied on Wed, May 30 2012 10:42 PM

 

tunk:
I don't get why it matters if my statement is an ought statement.

It matters because of the fact/value dichotomy. One cannot get to an ought-statement from an is-statement. Hoppe places special emphasis on this divide in his argument.

tunk:
Aren't all norms statements about what actions ought/ought not to be taken? And isn't Hoppe claiming to show that all non-libertarian norms are unjustifiable?

My reading of ethics, so far, is limited to what I've read from Hoppe (in other words, works which I've read purely for insights into ethics; every political tract deals with poltics, which is a branch of ethics [that branch concerned with the legitimate use of force]) so my knowledge of ethics is limited (although, thanks to this thread, I now have a pretty good ethics reading list). Hoppe takes care at the outset of his argument that he is dealing specifically with ethics as the logic of justifying arguments; he separates his argument from the branches of ethics that deal with how one should live their life on the basis of what one thinks to be the case (contained in this branch includes arguments based on, but not limited to, religious teachings and emotive arguments). A rationalist, Hoppe attempts to provide an objective, rational basis for ethics.

tunk:
"It would be justified for people to aggress against each other, so long as they are not arguing." Am I contradicting myself yet?

Awesome.

Yes you are contradicting yourself: the content of this proposition explicitly holds aggression to be legitimate while you deliver the proposition assuming, by what is implied by the act of argument, the validity of private property rights and the NAP.

An example of this proposition in action would be the following: I meet you on the street. I have never before met you in my life. You punch me in the face and steal my wallet (... jerk). What you did is argumentatively unjustifiable (for reasons mentioned above).

NB: Hoppe does not deny that there have been anti-libertarian actions in the past (this is one of the objections to his argument); all his argument states is that such actions are argumentatively unjustifiable (as is aggressing against anyone with or without argument in doing so).

 

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Conza88 replied on Thu, May 31 2012 8:36 AM

"I demonstrate that only the libertarian private property ethic can be justified  argumentatively,  because it is the  praxeological presupposition of  argumentation  as  such;  and  that  any  deviating, non-libertarian ethical proposal can  be  shown to be in  violation of this  demonstrated  preference.  Such a  proposal  can  be  made,  of course, but  its propositional  content  would  contradict  the  ethic  for which one demonstrated a preference by virtue of one’s own act of proposition-making, i.e., by the act of engaging in argum"entation as such. […] Likewise, non-libertarian ethical proposals are falsified by the reality of actually proposing them." [Hoppe 2006, 341]

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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Michel replied on Sun, Jun 3 2012 11:18 AM

I recommend a book about AE, by Stefan Molyneux, 'Universally Preferable Behaviour (UPB)'. It attempts to create a rational framework to aprove or falsify ethic propositions. Very interesting in my opinion. It's available as an e-book for free, here (http://freedomainradio.com/FreeBooks.aspx).

That said, I didn't know that Hoppe wrote on rational ethics, I ought to look into it.

If you want good answers, ask the right questions.
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This should get you started:

Argumentation Ethics

Economic Science and the Austrian Method

The Economics and Ethics of Private Property

Argumentation and Self-Ownership

Breakthrough or Buncombe?

Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide

Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics, Again

Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics: A User Friendly, Neighborly Introduction

The italicized hyperlinks lead to Mises Wiki pages of full books (at the bottom of those pages inculde links to the free versions of the book at Mises.org as well as multiple supplementary sources). There may be only specific chapters dedicated to argumentation ethics in these works, but it's all good stuff.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Michel replied on Sun, Jun 3 2012 5:08 PM

ThatOldGuy:

This should get you started:

Argumentation Ethics

Economic Science and the Austrian Method

The Economics and Ethics of Private Property

Argumentation and Self-Ownership

Breakthrough or Buncombe?

Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise Guide

Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics, Again

Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics: A User Friendly, Neighborly Introduction

The italicized hyperlinks lead to Mises Wiki pages of full books (at the bottom of those pages inculde links to the free versions of the book at Mises.org as well as multiple supplementary sources). There may be only specific chapters dedicated to argumentation ethics in these works, but it's all good stuff.

 

Thanks a lot =D

Although I read quite a lot about libertarianism for quite a long time now, it's always good to have more knowledge/"ammunition" for argumentation (ammunition with a peaceful conotation, of course).

If you want good answers, ask the right questions.
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Michel:
Although I read quite a lot about libertarianism for quite a long time now, it's always good to have more knowledge/"ammunition" for argumentation (ammunition with a peaceful conotation, of course).

If you're interested, John James has established The Ultimate Beginner meta-thread in order to branch out many different areas of the libertarian philosophy/ethic.

As for peaceful weapons, I would recommend writing the government for access to President Pryor's Neutron Bomb (it's a neo-pacifist weapon).

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 3 2012 5:40 PM

Universally Preferable Behaviour

*groan*

Epicurus wrote the book on ethics. Everyone else since has been either restating him or chasing their tail.

Clayton -

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Pshaw! But I will look into this- thanks, Clayton.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 3 2012 6:05 PM

Epicurean and Buddhist philosophy laid out what are essentially the basic principles of human action 2500 years ago.

Cicero summarizing an argument given by the Epicurean Lucius Torquatus:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

This is the action principle. And it is the point where utility and morality intersect. Right and wrong - in the judgment of the individual human being - is nothing but his experience of pleasure and pain.

Where people get confused is the built-in assumption in human language that there is a harmonious alignment between individual notions of right and wrong and social notions of right and wrong - an assumption which in modern society is frequently incorrect. So, when we say "taxation is immoral", we are actually talking about our own moral opinion not about social mores which quite strongly support the morality of the act of taxation.

But social facts are not facts about acting - how human beings generally behave and what they generally believe might inform my choices but it does not determine them.

Getting the right "meta-ethic" is the key to making sense of the arguments about ethics. Most arguments about ethics are just an exercise in talking past each other.

Clayton -

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Michel replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 4:16 PM

ThatOldGuy:

 

Michel:
Although I read quite a lot about libertarianism for quite a long time now, it's always good to have more knowledge/"ammunition" for argumentation (ammunition with a peaceful conotation, of course).

If you're interested, John James has established The Ultimate Beginner meta-thread in order to branch out many different areas of the libertarian philosophy/ethic.

As for peaceful weapons, I would recommend writing the government for access to President Pryor's Neutron Bomb (it's a neo-pacifist weapon).

 

 

I am interested, I saw this thread earlier, and I'm preparing for go tru it. Thanks.

Clayton:
 *groan*

Epicurus wrote the book on ethics. Everyone else since has been either restating him or chasing their tail.

Clayton -

Oh, did not know that, gonna check it out. Dang, lots of reading lately haha.

Clayton:

 

Epicurean and Buddhist philosophy laid out what are essentially the basic principles of human action 2500 years ago.

Cicero summarizing an argument given by the Epicurean Lucius Torquatus:

 

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of reprobating pleasure and extolling pain arose. To do so, I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

 

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of the pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided.

But in certain emergencies and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

 

This is the action principle. And it is the point where utility and morality intersect. Right and wrong - in the judgment of the individual human being - is nothing but his experience of pleasure and pain.

Where people get confused is the built-in assumption in human language that there is a harmonious alignment between individual notions of right and wrong and social notions of right and wrong - an assumption which in modern society is frequently incorrect. So, when we say "taxation is immoral", we are actually talking about our own moral opinion not about social mores which quite strongly support the morality of the act of taxation.

But social facts are not facts about acting - how human beings generally behave and what they generally believe might inform my choices but it does not determine them.

Getting the right "meta-ethic" is the key to making sense of the arguments about ethics. Most arguments about ethics are just an exercise in talking past each other.

Clayton -

 didn't grasp the concept interely (sorry, I'm not a native). In that argument, why exactly would taxation be immoral?

If you want good answers, ask the right questions.
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Clayton replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 7:33 PM

why exactly would taxation be immoral

I didn't assert it, I mentioned it hypothetically.

The point is that "taxation is evil/immoral" is false if by this we mean to give a description of prevailing moral sentiment. If I assert "taxation is immoral" I am not giving a description of social norms as they are, I am offering a criticism of social norms. "People don't hold taxation to be an odious evil but they should."

There are at least four levels of connotation at work with moral-value language:

  1. A value-laden expression of an individual's own sentiments about a particular kind of human behavior (distaste, preference... this is why I groaned at Molyneux's "Universally Preferable Behavior"... he's discussing just one connotation)
  2. A value-free description of prevailing moral norms
  3. A value-free assessment of the suitability of specific ends to bringing about an individual's satisfaction (in the technical sense of this term) - this is where Epicurus (correctly) placed the locus of ethical discussion
  4. A value-laden assessment of the correct resolution of a dispute

The last bullet is particularly problematic because human language tends to mash together the different connotations in ways that make it difficult to keep track of what exactly is being said.

Consider the proposition: "It is wrong to engage in homosexual sex".

If we take this in the first connotation, it is saying "engaging in homosexual sex is distasteful to the speaker" or "the thought of even someone else..." etc. This connotation is value-laden because it is an expression of a subjective sentiment or opinion. It is always true as long as the speaker is speaking truthfully.

If we take it in the second connotation, it is saying "people generally believe homosexual sex is immoral". This connotation is value-free and is either true or false. The complicated part of this is that we also have to specify in which connotations we mean that people generally hold it to be the case!  

If we take it in the third connotation, it is saying "engaging in homosexual sex is an incorrect course of action for attaining happiness". This is also a value-free statement and is either true or false but it is crucial to recognize that it is a statement about a population, not about an individual. The conditions under which the proposition is universally true (true for each and every individual) are more stringent than for the proposition to be simply true (with individual exceptions). For example, "sex is pleasurable" is a true statement about the human nature but it is not universally true (true for each and every individual without exception).

Finally, if we take it in the fourth connotation, it means that in disputes involving an act of homosexual sex, someone who has engaged in it should be considered to have "done wrong". This is a value-laden assessment because it is an expression of essentially the same subjective sentiment as in the first connotation but with the added force that the proposition is meant to justify a legal outcome.

And this is where moral argument becomes extremely problematic and muddled. The origins of moral language lie in dispute-resolution... answering the question "who did wrong?" is, in the primitive situation, one and the same as answering the question "what is the correct resolution to this dispute?" But the role of law in society is not merely - or even mostly - to actualize prevailing moral sentiments. Specifically, moral argument and propaganda can become a basis for pushing law to suit the ends of special interests. So, the mere act of saying "homosexual sex is wrong" might be a precondition to making homsexual sex unlawful.

I didn't mention the political aspect of morality but you should be able to fill in the blanks - when special interests begin to materially profit from altering the character of law, they become organized moral propagandists, otherwise known as political ideologues, political theorists, lobbies, religious leaders, and so on.

Clayton -

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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hashem replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 9:42 PM

It should also be mentioned that which I've never seen mentioned regarding AE:

AE isn't true because you can/do make arguments with other people, but because the brain is capable, and does in fact, make arguments. If you can say something to yourself, and you can if you're human, then AE holds.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. —Mark Twain
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I'm not sure on this.

There is the a priori of argumentation (which seems to be what you are touching on: that people are capable of argument and all that is implied by this), but Hoppe seems to emphasize that argumentation is an activity- this distinction of argumentation as an activity is what implies property rights and the rest of Hoppe's argument. So in this sense, I think that this point (revolving around the brain's capacity for argument) is not what Hoppe argues.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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hashem replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 10:13 PM

No, you're exactly right. Argumention is the activity. People forget that action, especially something as basic as forming an argument (making a claim, even in one's mind), doesn't require more than one person. This is from Economic Science and the Austrian Method. Although, we shouldn't need Hoppe to explain something that obvious.

EDIT: I guess the OP implicitly acknowledged this, but I haven't seen it stated explicitly anywhere except by Hoppe, and only once I believe, very briefly in that red book.

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hashem:
I guess the OP implicitly acknowledged this [...]

'this' meaning the contention that 'argumentation is an activity'?

Have you read The Economics and Ethics of Private Property? The essays within were pretty repetitve, but Hoppe mentions this point many times (iirc, it's the sentence by which he introduces his argument in any article regarding his AE). I linked to sources above where he makes this point (I think a choice word he chooses to use as a contrary point is "free-floating." If you search for this in the articles, this point should be nearby if not in the former half of the same sentence).

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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hashem replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 10:35 PM

I'm not disputing that argumentation is an activity. We agreed on that if you read my last post. I don't even think we disagree fundamentally, I was just trying to remind of something that people generally neglect to acknowledge (at least explicitly) about AE: that the activity doesn't require more than a single human. Thus, if you can make a claim, an argument, then AE holds, and I take this from Economic Science and the Austrian Method.

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hashem:
I'm not disputing that argumentation is an activity. We agreed on that if you read my last post.

I understand this. I was commenting on your claim that you 'haven't seen it stated explicitly anywhere except by Hoppe' (I excerpted your post incorrectly, so this is probably a misunderstanding caused by me). I was saying that Hoppe does mention it frequently.

And the point you're making is especially crucial to understand in analyzing some of the more specious critiques of Hoppe's AE (i.e. "slavery has existed and, according to his argument, Hoppe thinks slaves can't argue because they don't own themselves").

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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hashem replied on Mon, Jun 4 2012 10:54 PM

Yes, that was my next point. Understanding that the activity isn't dependent on their being several people is important to solving many (most? all?) objections to AE.

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Gumdy replied on Wed, Jun 6 2012 7:42 PM

 

tunk: If I make the statement, "Everybody should physically aggress against everyone else, so long as no one is arguing," am I caught in a performative self-contradiction?

tunk, as Conza pointed, AE is relevant only if you are engaed in argumentation, i.e. aim to resolve the conflict in a non-violent way, which means- via justification. Such a statement is obviously inconsistant with violence aversion.

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While the statement tunk makes in that post explicitly advocates for aggression, Hoppe takes care to note that his AE is strictly based on (a priori) is-statements. Does this mean that his argument doesn't apply to ought-statements (as I state above, true or false as the statements are)? If his argument does not apply, then doesn't tunk's proposition (which makes an ought-statement) fall outside the analysis of argumentation ethics? If Hoppe's argument does apply, how is this accounted for given Hoppe's distinction?

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Gumdy replied on Wed, Jun 6 2012 10:01 PM

TheOldGuy, you are correct. Hoppe's argument relates to justification not any and all speech acts.

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TheOldGuy

It's like I've just been promoted. 

So if we're in agreement, then, an adequate response to the OP, or any argument that uses an ought-statement, is to just state "Well, that's your opinion." Ultimately, ought-statements are value-judgments.

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Gumdy replied on Wed, Jun 6 2012 10:34 PM

I replied to the OP, you can see above.

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Michel replied on Wed, Jun 13 2012 10:29 AM

Clayton:

why exactly would taxation be immoral

I didn't assert it, I mentioned it hypothetically.

The point is that "taxation is evil/immoral" is false if by this we mean to give a description of prevailing moral sentiment. If I assert "taxation is immoral" I am not giving a description of social norms as they are, I am offering a criticism of social norms. "People don't hold taxation to be an odious evil but they should."

There are at least four levels of connotation at work with moral-value language:

  1. A value-laden expression of an individual's own sentiments about a particular kind of human behavior (distaste, preference... this is why I groaned at Molyneux's "Universally Preferable Behavior"... he's discussing just one connotation)
  2. A value-free description of prevailing moral norms
  3. A value-free assessment of the suitability of specific ends to bringing about an individual's satisfaction (in the technical sense of this term) - this is where Epicurus (correctly) placed the locus of ethical discussion
  4. A value-laden assessment of the correct resolution of a dispute

The last bullet is particularly problematic because human language tends to mash together the different connotations in ways that make it difficult to keep track of what exactly is being said.

Consider the proposition: "It is wrong to engage in homosexual sex".

If we take this in the first connotation, it is saying "engaging in homosexual sex is distasteful to the speaker" or "the thought of even someone else..." etc. This connotation is value-laden because it is an expression of a subjective sentiment or opinion. It is always true as long as the speaker is speaking truthfully.

If we take it in the second connotation, it is saying "people generally believe homosexual sex is immoral". This connotation is value-free and is either true or false. The complicated part of this is that we also have to specify in which connotations we mean that people generally hold it to be the case!  

If we take it in the third connotation, it is saying "engaging in homosexual sex is an incorrect course of action for attaining happiness". This is also a value-free statement and is either true or false but it is crucial to recognize that it is a statement about a population, not about an individual. The conditions under which the proposition is universally true (true for each and every individual) are more stringent than for the proposition to be simply true (with individual exceptions). For example, "sex is pleasurable" is a true statement about the human nature but it is not universally true (true for each and every individual without exception).

Finally, if we take it in the fourth connotation, it means that in disputes involving an act of homosexual sex, someone who has engaged in it should be considered to have "done wrong". This is a value-laden assessment because it is an expression of essentially the same subjective sentiment as in the first connotation but with the added force that the proposition is meant to justify a legal outcome.

And this is where moral argument becomes extremely problematic and muddled. The origins of moral language lie in dispute-resolution... answering the question "who did wrong?" is, in the primitive situation, one and the same as answering the question "what is the correct resolution to this dispute?" But the role of law in society is not merely - or even mostly - to actualize prevailing moral sentiments. Specifically, moral argument and propaganda can become a basis for pushing law to suit the ends of special interests. So, the mere act of saying "homosexual sex is wrong" might be a precondition to making homsexual sex unlawful.

I didn't mention the political aspect of morality but you should be able to fill in the blanks - when special interests begin to materially profit from altering the character of law, they become organized moral propagandists, otherwise known as political ideologues, political theorists, lobbies, religious leaders, and so on.

Clayton -

 
I understand your proposition, and I find it interesting, yet, I'm not secure that what Epicurus proposes is, in fact, morality. A moral thing is a right thing to do, an immoral thing, a wrong one. Acording to Epicurus, everything that causes pleasure to oneself is moral, everything that causes pain, immoral. Is  this value-free? I'd argue that is the most value-laden moral code that is, because each individual is different; so if someone absolutely doesn't care at all about what pain attempting to murder dozens of people will cause him in the future, he will be acting moraly. But that doesn't impede someone, or the very victims, to do something about it. That where law comes in. Now, what law should be based upon? Should it be based in customs? What if a society wanted to kill all the twins that were born, because it is believed that one of them is evil (like what happens in some tribes)? I suppose that that could happen (like it happens in smaller societies), but I assure you that I wouldn't want to live in a society like that. After all, that's the whole thing libertarians are up to, right? Living in a society where law is value-free, and based on the NAP (a rational moral proposition).
So, what law should (in a libertarian view) be based upon? Moral principles, right? But which kind of moral principles? Rational ones. That's where AE comes in, and I'm honestly yet to see a better rational proposition than the NAP. Epicurean morals, in my opinion, is a completely amoral code, unless you change the definition of the word morality.
 
Also, I don't see why every AE that is there today is restating Epicurus. Hoppe's argumentation is pretty different from what you present of Epicurus, and I don't see why UPB is a bad concept, care to explain me why?
 
 

 

 

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 13 2012 1:53 PM

I understand your proposition, and I find it interesting, yet, I'm not secure that what Epicurus proposes is, in fact, morality. A moral thing is a right thing to do, an immoral thing, a wrong one. Acording to Epicurus, everything that causes pleasure to oneself is moral, everything that causes pain, immoral. Is  this value-free? I'd argue that is the most value-laden moral code that is, because each individual is different; so if someone absolutely doesn't care at all about what pain attempting to murder dozens of people will cause him in the future, he will be acting moraly.

It is value-free as long as we properly qualify the extents of the value-freedom. We can safely say "drinking battery acid for the sake of drinking battery acid is immoral" because it is a fact of human physiology that it will cause extreme pain. Of course, there are always freak exceptions to things so we always have to be careful to keep this in mind. But the principle still holds - anything that brings about pain is - in itself - an evil. And what we mean by saying that it is an evil is that it is something to be avoided.

Sociopathic personalities appear to be oblivious to the social cues that curb outrageous behavior in normal people. If this is the case, then such people are actually suffering from a pathology. That doesn't necessarily entail our sympathy but it does mean that such a person is handicapped in terms of participating in the social order without hurting themselves and others. By analogy, think of someone who has no nerves in their skin and cannot sense pain. They would have to be very careful not to burn or otherwise injure themselves.

But that doesn't impede someone, or the very victims, to do something about it.

Of course not, why should a murderer's subjective sense of self-approval affect anyone else's behavior?

That where law comes in. Now, what law should be based upon?

I'm more interested in understanding what the law is based upon because I don't think we really have very much latitude in altering the law, popular delusions aside.

Should it be based in customs? What if a society wanted to kill all the twins that were born, because it is believed that one of them is evil (like what happens in some tribes)? I suppose that that could happen (like it happens in smaller societies), but I assure you that I wouldn't want to live in a society like that. After all, that's the whole thing libertarians are up to, right? Living in a society where law is value-free, and based on the NAP (a rational moral proposition).

I wouldn't self-describe as a libertarian, though I am not antagonistic to liberal philosophy.

Epicurean morals, in my opinion, is a completely amoral code, unless you change the definition of the word morality.

Not at all - it simply places the locus of moral calculation in the mind of each individual. There is no external standard for judging right and wrong - your internal subjective state is the only sure guide.

Also, I don't see why every AE that is there today is restating Epicurus.

I don't think I asserted that. Mises was definitely an Epicurean but I can't speak for others. I don't think Rothbard or Hoppe are Epicurean at all.

Hoppe's argumentation is pretty different from what you present of Epicurus,

Agreed.

and I don't see why UPB is a bad concept, care to explain me why?

Not really, no. I have yet to see why it's worth my effort to even inform myself what UPB is beyond the Wiki description of it.

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Michel replied on Wed, Jun 13 2012 3:47 PM

@Clayton

It is value-free as long as we properly qualify the extents of the value-freedom. We can safely say "drinking battery acid for the sake of drinking battery acid is immoral" because it is a fact of human physiology that it will cause extreme pain. Of course, there are always freak exceptions to things so we always have to be careful to keep this in mind. But the principle still holds - anything that brings about pain is - in itself - an evil. And what we mean by saying that it is an evil is that it is something to be avoided.

Sociopathic personalities appear to be oblivious to the social cues that curb outrageous behavior in normal people. If this is the case, then such people are actually suffering from a pathology. That doesn't necessarily entail our sympathy but it does mean that such a person is handicapped in terms of participating in the social order without hurting themselves and others. By analogy, think of someone who has no nerves in their skin and cannot sense pain. They would have to be very careful not to burn or otherwise injure themselves.

hmmm, I guess I agree.

I wouldn't self-describe as a libertarian, though I am not antagonistic to liberal philosophy.

Really? From your posts (various across the forums) I assumed you were a libertarian. Out of curiosity, what you define yourself, if anything?

Not at all - it simply places the locus of moral calculation in the mind of each individual. There is no external standard for judging right and wrong - your internal subjective state is the only sure guide.

I agree to that to the extent that doesn't affect others (NAP). If someone thinks murdering is right because it brings him/her ultimate satisfaction, I cannot possibly accept that as moral. Morality is a social construction, in my view. So, if you don't take the (human) beings into account, morality doesn't make much sense to me. Every action that does not affect anyone else is outside the scope of morality (one of the conclusions of UPB, as far as I can remember).

I don't think I asserted that. Mises was definitely an Epicurean but I can't speak for others. I don't think Rothbard or Hoppe are Epicurean at all.

Your post:

Universally Preferable Behaviour

*groan*

Epicurus wrote the book on ethics. Everyone else since has been either restating him or chasing their tail.

EDIT: Oops, I overlooked chasing their tail (even though I disagree, you really didn't assert that). My bad

Not really, no. I have yet to see why it's worth my effort to even inform myself what UPB is beyond the Wiki description of it.

Okay =)

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 13 2012 4:54 PM

I agree to that to the extent that doesn't affect others (NAP). If someone thinks murdering is right because it brings him/her ultimate satisfaction, I cannot possibly accept that as moral.

Well, you're playing loose with definitions. Murder is by definition unjustifiable (immoral in the fourth connotation) homicide. The question is whether homicide is right or wrong for a particular person in a particular instance and this question has to be answered the same way any moral question is - will it lead to my highest pleasure? In the case of someone breaking into my house, homicide may very well be the correct answer.

It is important to remember that this is not an exhortation to wooden self-interestedness as in "Well, I would like to save your life, however, that would entail me walking over to the ledge which makes me uncomfortable so I prefer to minimize my risks and stay comfortably far from the ledge and sorry about this but there's nothing I can do for you, you're going to die." The fact is that self-image and innate sympathy for others are just as much a part of the recipe of happiness as external factors like life-risk, physical comfort, and so on.

Morality is a social construction, in my view. So, if you don't take the (human) beings into account, morality doesn't make much sense to me. Every action that does not affect anyone else is outside the scope of morality (one of the conclusions of UPB, as far as I can remember).

I once thought this, too, but I've altered my views on this. I think that there is a kind of morality even for actions that affect only the self but it is not an impositional morality. I can't go to someone and say "you may not commit suicide because it's immoral because it will not lead to a flourshing and happy life for yourself, this is objectively the case and provable and to not submit to this conclusion is to throw out logic, etc. etc." This is just silly.

Instead, what we can say is that every decision has an entrepreneurial/speculative aspect to it and, therefore, even when someone is doing something that seems like it is obviously and objectively wrong, they may actually turn out to be right. Look at the guy who can handle thousands of volts of electricity. It's only because he was in a position to get shocked (which is "immoral" if we take gratuitous pain to be immoral) and then didn't get shocked that he even found out that he has this immunity. So, uncertainty forces us to temper our "objective" moral pronouncements and instead qualify them as statements about human populations.

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Michel replied on Thu, Jun 14 2012 9:41 AM

@Clayton

Well, you're playing loose with definitions. Murder is by definition unjustifiable (immoral in the fourth connotation) homicide. The question is whether homicide is right or wrong for a particular person in a particular instance and this question has to be answered the same way any moral question is - will it lead to my highest pleasure? In the case of someone breaking into my house, homicide may very well be the correct answer.

Yeah, of course, that'd be self-defence. For some psychopaths, murder dozens would give him/her the highest pleasure (as you already acknowledged as an exception), then again, why make this double standard? Why shift the morality right-wrong dichotomy to morality pleasure-pain?

I once thought this, too, but I've altered my views on this. I think that there is a kind of morality even for actions that affect only the self but it is not an impositional morality. I can't go to someone and say "you may not commit suicide because it's immoral because it will not lead to a flourshing and happy life for yourself, this is objectively the case and provable and to not submit to this conclusion is to throw out logic, etc. etc." This is just silly.

Instead, what we can say is that every decision has an entrepreneurial/speculative aspect to it and, therefore, even when someone is doing something that seems like it is obviously and objectively wrong, they may actually turn out to be right. Look at the guy who can handle thousands of volts of electricity. It's only because he was in a position to get shocked (which is "immoral" if we take gratuitous pain to be immoral) and then didn't get shocked that he even found out that he has this immunity. So, uncertainty forces us to temper our "objective" moral pronouncements and instead qualify them as statements about human populations.

Even if you consider that a normal man is, for some reason besides the point who wants to electrocute himself, immoral, what's to that? What are you going to do? I think we diverge in this subject because morality, in my view, goes hand to hand with law, and I think you don't think the same. So, in an Epicurean-moral society, there would be immoral legal and immoral ilegal (electrocuting oneself and raping, respectively), yes? If so, what's the point to consider electrocuting yourself immoral?

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Clayton replied on Thu, Jun 14 2012 1:02 PM

Yeah, of course, that'd be self-defence.

But that's exactly what I'm trying to draw attention to... for the imaginary first caveman deciding whether to smash his cave-invader's skull in with a rock, this wasn't an "of course". What constitutes justifiable versus unjustifiable homicide is a complex set of criteria (that are still not completely regularized despite tens of millenia of human social evolution).

For some psychopaths, murder dozens would give him/her the highest pleasure (as you already acknowledged as an exception), then again, why make this double standard? Why shift the morality right-wrong dichotomy to morality pleasure-pain?

 

Let me turn your question below back to you: what's to that? How does "declaring" that "murder" is "prohibited" change anything about what is going on inside the psychopath's head? The point I made above is that his condition is pathological, that is, obviously malfunctional and diseased. I don't think that constitutes an excuse but it does make it irrelevant to a theory of morality - it is an exception that doesn't affect the rule.

Even if you consider that a normal man is, for some reason besides the point who wants to electrocute himself, immoral, what's to that? What are you going to do? I think we diverge in this subject because morality, in my view, goes hand to hand with law, and I think you don't think the same. So, in an Epicurean-moral society, there would be immoral legal and immoral ilegal (electrocuting oneself and raping, respectively), yes? If so, what's the point to consider electrocuting yourself immoral?

I think that law and morality are separated by two criteria:

  • The existence of a dispute (if there is no dispute, this is not a legal question)
  • The division-of-labor; specialists such as arbitrators or law scholars make law different from general social norms, e.g. "give it back, that's not yours"

As for the example of the self-electrocution, it was only meant to illustrate the point moral questions certainly do apply to the solitary individual (contrary to my earlier position on this point). The Epicurean principle of morality is that suffering is always an evil-in-itself - but this principle is best understood formally because otherwise we get lost in a labyrinth of trying to separate what is suffering for its own sake versus suffering for the sake of attaining some greater pleasure, and so on. So, instead of getting lost in this labyrinth, we just throw it on the judgment of the individual and say: pain is that which we seek to avoid, pleasure is that which we strive to attain. In one word, the unattainable state of satisfaction or ataraxia is the ultimate end of any action.

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Michel replied on Fri, Jun 15 2012 6:53 PM

@Clayton

But that's exactly what I'm trying to draw attention to... for the imaginary first caveman deciding whether to smash his cave-invader's skull in with a rock, this wasn't an "of course". What constitutes justifiable versus unjustifiable homicide is a complex set of criteria (that are still not completely regularized despite tens of millenia of human social evolution).

True

Let me turn your question below back to you: what's to that? How does "declaring" that "murder" is "prohibited" change anything about what is going on inside the psychopath's head? The point I made above is that his condition is pathological, that is, obviously malfunctional and diseased. I don't think that constitutes an excuse but it does make it irrelevant to a theory of morality - it is an exception that doesn't affect the rule.

oh, I understand now.

I think that law and morality are separated by two criteria:

  • The existence of a dispute (if there is no dispute, this is not a legal question)
  • The division-of-labor; specialists such as arbitrators or law scholars make law different from general social norms, e.g. "give it back, that's not yours"

True

As for the example of the self-electrocution, it was only meant to illustrate the point moral questions certainly do apply to the solitary individual (contrary to my earlier position on this point). The Epicurean principle of morality is that suffering is always an evil-in-itself - but this principle is best understood formally because otherwise we get lost in a labyrinth of trying to separate what is suffering for its own sake versus suffering for the sake of attaining some greater pleasure, and so on. So, instead of getting lost in this labyrinth, we just throw it on the judgment of the individual and say: pain is that which we seek to avoid, pleasure is that which we strive to attain. In one word, the unattainable state of satisfaction or ataraxia is the ultimate end of any action.

hmm, so, if for someone, pain is pleasure, than that would be considered pleasurable/moral. I understand now. I still am not certain about if I think  this is more logical than AE, but Epicurean moral is definitely interesting, and I'll keep reading about it.

Thanks for the thoughtful responses =)

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Clayton replied on Fri, Jun 15 2012 11:21 PM

hmm, so, if for someone, pain is pleasure, than that would be considered pleasurable/moral. I understand now.

Not quite, sorry to be pickayune. The correlation is purely formal. For example, let us say we see a man walking down the street flagellating himself. His face is wincing in pain with each strike, yet he keeps striking himself again and again. Unless he is actually insane (a pathological condition, thus negligible to our analysis), we can be certain that he is acting towards some end. The end may be righting himself with God. It may be some weird sexual fetish. Who knows. Doesn't matter. The point is that he believes this is the best use of his time and energy right now. If he didn't think it was, he'd be doing something else instead. The logic is inescapable because it is tautological (Mises points out in HA that the fact that it is tautological doesn't make it meaningless, it just means it's not justified in terms of something more basic than itself).

So, we're not just saying that masochists and ascetics are acting toward their own pleasure even as they inflict physical pain on themselves, we are saying that whatever pains a person undergoes - whether it be anxiety, stress, labor, etc. - he is doing so in the expectation of avoiding some greater pain or some pleasure that - in his estimation - is worth the pain. In short, he is always seeking satisfaction, and that, by definition.

I still am not certain about if I think  this is more logical than AE, but Epicurean moral is definitely interesting, and I'll keep reading about it.

Mises espouses Epicurean philosophy in HA with the caveat that I gave above, namely, that the "pleasure/pain" dichotomy be understood formally. Pleasure is whatever satifies a person, that is, it is whatever end they are seeking. Pain is the opposite. The carnal sensations of pain and pleasure are a crude reflection of this formal description of the will so one should not get lost in futile questions of what exactly is suffering or pleasure. Instead, we simply say that - as long as a person is not mentally diseased - whatever end he is seeking is what satisfies him. If it were not, he would be seeking a different end, whatever end does satisfy him.

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Michel replied on Sat, Jun 16 2012 12:40 PM

Not quite, sorry to be pickayune.

By any means, do so. I love learning.

The correlation is purely formal. For example, let us say we see a man walking down the street flagellating himself. His face is wincing in pain with each strike, yet he keeps striking himself again and again. Unless he is actually insane (a pathological condition, thus negligible to our analysis), we can be certain that he is acting towards some end. The end may be righting himself with God. It may be some weird sexual fetish. Who knows. Doesn't matter. The point is that he believes this is the best use of his time and energy right now. If he didn't think it was, he'd be doing something else instead. The logic is inescapable because it is tautological (Mises points out in HA that the fact that it is tautological doesn't make it meaningless, it just means it's not justified in terms of something more basic than itself).

So, we're not just saying that masochists and ascetics are acting toward their own pleasure even as they inflict physical pain on themselves, we are saying that whatever pains a person undergoes - whether it be anxiety, stress, labor, etc. - he is doing so in the expectation of avoiding some greater pain or some pleasure that - in his estimation - is worth the pain. In short, he is always seeking satisfaction, and that, by definition.

I still am not certain about if I think  this is more logical than AE, but Epicurean moral is definitely interesting, and I'll keep reading about it.

Mises espouses Epicurean philosophy in HA with the caveat that I gave above, namely, that the "pleasure/pain" dichotomy be understood formally. Pleasure is whatever satifies a person, that is, it is whatever end they are seeking. Pain is the opposite. The carnal sensations of pain and pleasure are a crude reflection of this formal description of the will so one should not get lost in futile questions of what exactly is suffering or pleasure. Instead, we simply say that - as long as a person is not mentally diseased - whatever end he is seeking is what satisfies him. If it were not, he would be seeking a different end, whatever end does satisfy him.

Got it now, thanks =)

 

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