AnCap Debate With A Statist #2

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Spooner Bookman 5 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #400

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    Got another debate-with-a-Statist post for y’all.

    Theoretically, he and I are still having the debate, but it’s been weeks since his last response, so something tells me it’s over… Curious to hear general thoughts, or what to do if/when this continues?

    . . .

    My Approach

    I tried hard to stick to the topic he initially proposed, which was ‘a discussion on the tacit consent of the governed.’

    My approach to it was based on a couple things I’ve noticed about him:

    On the one hand, I know this guy is a nice guy — he holds the positions he does because he truly believes they are the only possible positions a ‘good person’ could hold (and anyone who disagrees isn’t just ‘incorrect’ but a bad person).

    On the other hand, I know (from following his social media posts) he’s always trying to stay on top of the correct feminist position on everything, always trying to virtue-signal his pro-woman bona fides.

    So, based on these two things, I went with, uh, rape.

    He has to be opposed to rape, in all cases, right? Which means he must have a reason for it, right? And that reason surely would have to be something around the notion that it’s not right to ‘take’ something from some ‘body’ without that body’s explicit — as opposed to tacit — consent.

    I figure if I could get him that far, wherever he wanted to take the discussion of tacit consent of the governed next (e.g., taxation is theft), I was planning to use his own reasoning to show that the ‘tacit consent’ argument is just as flawed when it comes to ‘the governed’ as it does when it comes to rape.

    . . .

    My Wife Said…

    The whole ‘Socratic method’ thing isn’t working — she says I sound like a lawyer trying to trap him in a corner. I agree with her to some extent, but I feel like I’m letting him pick whatever corner he wants, whereas a lawyer is usually trying to put you in one particular corner. (She responded it doesn’t matter: emotionally, if you’re feeling like a trap is being set, you’re going to be on full alert, i.e., I need a more ‘disarming’ approach. She can be tough to argue with sometimes…)

    . . .

    My Real Goal

    Part of why I went with the Socratic method is to reach a not-so-obvious goal:

    The reason I entered the Facebook convo in the first place was the accusation that ‘taxation is theft’ is intellectually lazy.

    If, by the end of the conversation, I can get him to concede that, right or wrong, AnCap conclusions like ‘taxation is theft’ are not intellectually lazy, I’ll feel like I hit my main goal — stop treating it like it’s wrong because it’s stupid.

    (His silence almost makes me think I may have already accomplished this goal… Maybe.)

    . . .

    Anyway, here’s the debate!

  • #402

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    I think I can see why both of you are frustrated from your conversation. You seem to be looking for a logical ethical framework, shaped like a series of geometric axioms and theorems, that you think your conversation partner must hold, (perhaps only implicitly,) because how else could one apply ethical principles to the real world? Your conversation partner fundamentally rejects moral absolutes, and so you have spent weeks spinning your tires without getting much traction. You want them to elucidate a moral system that you think they must hold to, but they don’t, and so they can’t, and so you have no ability to understand how they might make moral arguments of any kind, even on what you thought would be the most straightforward possible issue, that of rape. Without that, you haven’t the least clue how to even try to discuss more controversial issues like the social contract, and your conversation partner feels like your continuous probing for fundamental moral axioms is irrelevant to the subject they wanted to discuss, about the justness of taxation and government and so forth.

    That’s the impression I get, at least. He may be more of a utilitarian that I’m imagining, so perhaps he does have an “absolutist moral framework,” with the main axiom being “maximize general utility.” Not sure though.

    I would like to point out, I do think that you are trying to draw an analogy between rape and taxation, despite your protestations to the contrary. I would say that any attempt to point out ethical principles that you think apply in both cases would be an analogy; I just think you don’t think of your argument as an analogical one, because, I’m guessing, you and he have different ideas about what analogical arguments look like.

    Thus, when you say,

    He has to be opposed to rape, in all cases, right? Which means he must have a reason for it, right? And that reason surely would have to be something around the notion that it’s not right to ‘take’ something from some ‘body’ without that body’s explicit — as opposed to tacit — consent.

    I figure if I could get him that far, wherever he wanted to take the discussion of tacit consent of the governed next (e.g., taxation is theft), I was planning to use his own reasoning to show that the ‘tacit consent’ argument is just as flawed when it comes to ‘the governed’ as it does when it comes to rape.

    …This is an analogical argument. You want to point out similarities between raping and governing someone, i.e. the victim does not consent. Your surprise over your conversation partners rejection of moral absolutes has left you without footholds, you don’t know how to have a conversation about morality without starting with some fundamental moral absolutes and applying them, without beginning with axioms and deriving theorems from them through deductive logic.

    I would ask your friend what their fundamental values are, if they have any, and what process they use to determine whether they’re acting in accordance with those values in any given case or not. He may respond that he uses some process like “reflective equilibrium,” balancing different intuitions against each other as best he can. Depending on his response, the kind of “arguments from analogy” that he’s expecting may actually be more productive. Michael Huemer uses just these sorts of arguments throughout the firs half of his book The Problem of Political Authority. If you read through some of Hogeye’s webbed version of Huemer’s book, especially the first two chapters, it may help you understand the idea a little more.

    Some time ago in a debate over government invasion of privacy, (the Snowden documents and such,) someone suggested to me that one of my arguments was an argument from analogy, and I responded that I had been trying to argue from inductive reasoning, not by analogy, because “argument from analogy” sounded like a logical fallacy to me. Afterwards, I decided that these are basically the same thing, inductive reasoning to a principle following by deductive reasoning to an application in a different context just is analogical reasoning, and having since read Douglas Hofstadter’s books Godel, Escher, Bach and I am a Strange Loop, I think analogy is really at the heart of most human thought. Understanding analogical reasoning better now, I’m no longer bothered by the thought that I’m engaging in it. It seems like you may be thinking along a similar track, you’re engaging in analogical thinking without realizing it.

    Do you think I’ve hit upon anything accurate?

  • #404

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    Oo, it seems like I hit a nerve, my bad!

    And as for accuracy, well, I’d say you’re zero for eleven with one push but that may be entirely my fault — my apologies if so!

    Would it change your comments at all if (hypothetically) you had also seen this guy’s social media posts and you yourself were actually convinced he had a ‘logical ethical framework’?

    My hastily written ‘intro’ didn’t make it clear that based on his social media posts, he definitely came across as having a rhyme and reason to why he believes what he does. Not like a specific religion or anything, but that he definitely holds hard and fast rules about right and wrong. So much so that, if you had known that, when I asked ‘He has to be opposed to rape and have a reason for it?’ You, knowing what I know, would have said, ‘Oh yes, I’m sure he most certainly is and does.’

    Does that make sense, and if so, again, would it change any of your thinking?

    . . .

    One other thing that might help with the mistaken assumptions: did you read what I said was my main goal? If you read the discussion while keeping my main goal in mind, I think it would also change your assumptions. I’m not sure what you think my goal is, but for some reason you completely discarded what I told you regarding it.

    . . .

    0-1

    “I think I can see why both of you are frustrated from your conversation.”

    What about it made you think I was frustrated? It’s going ‘according to plan’ as well as any approach I’ve ever tried. He is clearly frustrated, but not for any of the reasons you describe.

    . . .

    0-2

    “Your surprise over your conversation partner’s rejection of moral absolutes…”

    Similarly, I have not been surprised about anything in the conversation — what did I say that made you think I was surprised? (I assumed he was against rape — he is. I assumed he was always against it — he is. I assume it’s because of the ‘body violation’ — it is. My assumptions were spot on, nothing surprising at all.)

    . . .

    0-3, 0-4

    Paraphrased a bit, so correct me if wrong:

    “You seem to be looking for a logical ethical framework that you think your conversation partner must hold because you don’t know how anyone could apply ethical principles to the real world in any way other than via a logical ethical framework.”

    A rude, condescending, and above all, emotion-driven assumption on your part.

    I’m not necessarily looking for a logical ethical framework of any kind. And if I were, it certainly wouldn’t be because I ‘don’t know how anyone could apply ethical principles to the real world in any other way’. Wrong and wrong.

    . . .

    0-5

    “Your conversation partner fundamentally rejects moral absolutes… your conversation partner’s rejection of moral absolutes…”

    ‘Rape is always wrong’ is a moral absolute and he does not reject it, meaning he does not reject moral absolutes. Am I missing something?

    . . .

    0-6, 0-7

    “…you have no ability to understand how they might make moral arguments of any kind…you haven’t the least clue how to even try to discuss more controversial issues like the social contract…”

    Bold assumptions. ‘No ability’. ‘Haven’t the least clue’. Bold. Incorrect. Impolite. Rude. No evidence/citation needed. If you can’t see how incorrect this is using your own brain, then I’m going to have to move on to more rational, less emotional pastures.

    . . .

    0-8, 0-9

    “…your conversation partner feels like your continuous probing for fundamental moral axioms is irrelevant to the subject they wanted to discuss, about the justness of taxation and government and so forth.”

    Are we reading the same thing? My opponent wanted to discuss ‘the tacit consent of the governed’ (from ‘beginning to end’ — his words), not this amorphous ‘taxation and government and so forth’ that you have fantasized for him, so that’s incorrect.

    Further, I disagree that my opponent finds my probing irrelevant. Quite the contrary, and this is fundamentally the most interesting part of the conversation so far: all the evidence demonstrates — if you look closely — that he finds the probing extremely relevant.

    . . .

    0-9-1

    “…perhaps he does have an ‘absolutist moral framework…’

    Perhaps he does! None of us – including him, I’d wager – knows just yet.

    . . .

    0-10-1

    “…you don’t know how to have a conversation about morality without starting with some fundamental moral absolutes and applying them…”

    The bold, sweeping, and unfair/impolite assumptions keep coming. Wildly incorrect. So much so I’m just going to trust that you will be thinking more clearly when you read this and therefore will agree that this is so preposterous it needs no refutation.

    . . .

    0-11-1

    “…This is an analogical argument. You want to point out similarities between raping and governing someone, i.e. the victim does not consent…”

    You’re quoting THIS conversation and saying that it’s evidence I made an analogous argument in THAT conversation. (The mental gymnastics are impressive!) Where in THAT conversation did I make an analogical argument? (I made no arguments of any kind in THAT conversation. Prove me wrong.)

    “…any attempt to point out ethical principles that you think apply in both cases would be an analogy…”

    What attempts did I make? The answer is ‘none’. Just because I told you what I had in mind prior to the conversation starting clearly isn’t the same that has having actually said it in the conversation. You’re confusing my ‘reasons’ for opening the way I did with what actually unfolded.

    “…inductive reasoning to a principle following by deductive reasoning to an application in a different context just is analogical reasoning…”

    But did I do this in my debate? Looking to do something is not the same thing as doing something.

    . . .

    Question

    “I would ask your friend what their fundamental values are, if they have any, and what process they use to determine whether they’re acting in accordance with those values in any given case or not… the kind of ‘arguments from analogy’ that he’s expecting may actually be more productive.”

    My question (for anyone) is: Why do you think it would be more productive? (Why one approach over another?)

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  Spooner Bookman. Reason: Typo
  • #406

    Jacob
    Keymaster

    Oo, it seems like I hit a nerve, my bad!

    I was going to say you hadn’t hit a nerve, or offended me, but, reading back through my response, and your response to my response, where you point out my rudeness, I guess the impression I had gotten that you opposed empiricism as a methodology in economics, ethics, and meta-ethics did indeed hit a nerve, and that I made some offensive assumptions without really realizing how impolite I was being. So, I’m sorry about that.

    Would it change your comments at all if (hypothetically) you had also seen this guy’s social media posts and you yourself were actually convinced he had a ‘logical ethical framework’?

    My hastily written ‘intro’ didn’t make it clear that based on his social media posts, he definitely came across as having a rhyme and reason to why he believes what he does. Not like a specific religion or anything, but that he definitely holds hard and fast rules about right and wrong. So much so that, if you had known that, when I asked ‘He has to be opposed to rape and have a reason for it?’ You, knowing what I know, would have said, ‘Oh yes, I’m sure he most certainly is and does.’

    Does that make sense, and if so, again, would it change any of your thinking?

    It may, and, from how you describe his posts, it sounds like it probably would. Can you ask your friend if he’s ok with you sending me a link to his social media pages, so that I can actually see if it would change my mind? He may not want you to, and that’s perfectly fine if so, but I’m interested in understanding why he responds the way he does.

    One other thing that might help with the mistaken assumptions: did you read what I said was my main goal? If you read the discussion while keeping my main goal in mind, I think it would also change your assumptions. I’m not sure what you think my goal is, but for some reason you completely discarded what I told you regarding it.

    I did read that part, yes. I did not get the impression, from reading your conversation, that you were succeeding in persuading him of the reasonableness of ancap ideas, but I’d be happy to hear that my fears were misplaced.

    “I think I can see why both of you are frustrated from your conversation.”

    What about it made you think I was frustrated? It’s going ‘according to plan’ as well as any approach I’ve ever tried. He is clearly frustrated, but not for any of the reasons you describe.

    I admit I thought you were frustrated in part because of how you described the conversation at our get-together last month. You sounded like you were frustrated, and like you felt you weren’t making progress. I guess I also simply don’t know where you were trying to go with the conversation. You say you switched gears away from the analogical argument; where, then, were you headed?

    “Your surprise over your conversation partner’s rejection of moral absolutes…”

    Similarly, I have not been surprised about anything in the conversation — what did I say that made you think I was surprised? (I assumed he was against rape — he is. I assumed he was always against it — he is. I assume it’s because of the ‘body violation’ — it is. My assumptions were spot on, nothing surprising at all.)

    I believe that, in a meaningful sense, he does not think rape is always wrong, while in another sense he may, but I think I’ll have to break out some more precise concepts here to explain what I mean.

    There’s a thought experiment you may have heard of called “The Doctor Problem.” The idea is that a doctor has a choice of either painlessly killing an innocent, healthy patient and harvesting their organs in order to save the lives of five other patients who need immediate organ transplants, or letting the healthy patient live and the others die. Some philosophers, (e.g. Michael Huemer,) use this thought experiment to criticize utilitarianism, because it seems that the pure utilitarian choice in the dilemma would be to kill the healthy patient and save the lives of the others, and yet most people would intuitively judge this choice as immoral.

    In one discussion I had about this thought experiment, someone pointed out to me that one could simply say that the doctor, by choosing to kill the healthy patient and save the lives of the five others, did both good and bad, good through saving five lives, bad through deliberately taking one.

    My response was that this made sense, but part of what people look for in a moral code is an ability to “weigh” these different effects against each other. If one only looks at the isolated pieces of a course of action, but has no way of determining whether the combined action is morally permissible or not, then it seems like one’s moral code is limited in such a way that it fails to give people what they look for, (sometimes desperately,) in a moral code.

    But the more I’ve thought about their point, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. And, in any case, I want to use this story to illustrate a particular distinction, one can talk about “combined” actions, like the whole series of killing one patient and saving five others, and “isolated” actions, like the specific action of killing one patient, or the distinct specific action of saving the life of another one, and so forth. (Perhaps actions can’t be atomized, each “isolated” action could itself be a set, but I think that does not invalidate the distinction.)

    Once one makes such a distinction, one could say that one judges certain actions as always wrong, while also saying that, in certain cases, one might still judge a “combined” action as morally permissible even if it includes this “isolated” action that one still judges as always wrong. Thus, one could, for example, say that rape, as an “isolated action,” is “always wrong,” but also that a “combined action” that includes rape might still be morally permissible because of the other actions included in the combination. Perhaps it is sometimes morally permissible to do wrong in order to achieve some good that outweighs the wrong done. (I’m not arguing in favor of this view, merely saying that I think it is a coherent view, and that it may likely be a view your friend would endorse.)

    This seems to be what your friend is doing with rape. He explicitly says he rejects “universal maxims,” and he explicitly tries to point out hypothetical cases where rape might be moral, or, using my terminology, where “combined actions” that include rape might sometimes be morally permissible, even if he still objects to the “isolated action” of the rape itself.

    I go through this explanation because, when you say, “I assumed he was always against it — he is,” it is unclear to me what you mean. If you mean that he is always against rape as an “isolated action,” then it sounds like you are correct, but if you are saying that he is always against any “combined action,” that includes rape, then I believe you are incorrect, because he insists that he is not. He says, for instance:

    Yes, I think I could not adequately say “this always applies.” If by raping someone we could end world hunger, and we knew this, then we could justify rape. If someone held the secret to curing cancer in a private vault and was holding it until it was most profitable, I’d 100% support the state or any other entity removing it by the most violent means necessary.

    Back to your response…

    Paraphrased a bit, so correct me if wrong:

    “You seem to be looking for a logical ethical framework that you think your conversation partner must hold because you don’t know how anyone could apply ethical principles to the real world in any way other than via a logical ethical framework.”

    A rude, condescending, and above all, emotion-driven assumption on your part.

    I’m not necessarily looking for a logical ethical framework of any kind. And if I were, it certainly wouldn’t be because I ‘don’t know how anyone could apply ethical principles to the real world in any other way’. Wrong and wrong.

    I am sorry I made these incorrect assumptions.

    If you are interested in what led me to make it, our conversations thus far have led me to think you are an “a priorist” about ethics in much the same way as, e.g., Hans-Hermann Hoppe. In your comment on my review of The Triumph of Conservatism, you say, (paraphrasing, so correct me if I’m wrong,) that all libertarians are a priorists regarding economics. It seemed clear from your response that you were in favor of such a methodology, and that you thought empiricism was fatally flawed. Given that, and given that you also have said you are influenced by Mises, Rothbard, and Hoppe, it seemed likely that you also embraced their “extreme a priorism” in ethics/morality.

    Do you think it was unreasonable for me to think you would be an a-priorist regarding ethics? (More importantly, are you an a-priorist regarding ethics?)

    In retrospect, I do think I can see why you found my comment here condescending, though. Just because you embrace a methodology hardly means that you are unable to conceive of others. I assumed that you were because it seemed strange to me that, in your linked dialogue, you so resolutely refused to go ahead and explain why you thought the governed do not tacitly consent, and spent so much time trying to determine whether your friend was always against rape. I guess, now, that you believed throughout that he was always against it, but… well I’m still not sure what you were trying to accomplish. If you weren’t trying to find some sort of axiomatic moral principles that he held, and you weren’t trying to make an analogical argument, then what were you trying to do?

    “Your conversation partner fundamentally rejects moral absolutes… your conversation partner’s rejection of moral absolutes…”

    ‘Rape is always wrong’ is a moral absolute and he does not reject it, meaning he does not reject moral absolutes. Am I missing something?

    He explicitly states that he rejects “universal maxims.” Perhaps I’m missing some important difference between a “universal maxim” and a “moral absolute?” (If so, perhaps you can explain the distinction?) This was what I was referring to, however. It is true that I only have this conversation to go by, and so I may very well have badly misunderstood your friend’s ethos, (you definitely make it sound like I have,) but I don’t see how my conclusion was unreasonable. You don’t think his insistence that he doesn’t accept “universal” maxims or principles, and his giving a hypothetical example of a case in which he says he believes rape could be justified, makes it seem like he rejects moral absolutes, including the claim that “rape is always wrong?”

    “…you have no ability to understand how they might make moral arguments of any kind…you haven’t the least clue how to even try to discuss more controversial issues like the social contract…”

    Bold assumptions. ‘No ability’. ‘Haven’t the least clue’. Bold. Incorrect. Impolite. Rude. No evidence/citation needed. If you can’t see how incorrect this is using your own brain, then I’m going to have to move on to more rational, less emotional pastures.

    I concede your point here. I had you pinned as an extreme a priorist, and I not only reject the whole idea of synthetic a priori knowledge, I feel very strongly that the arguments made by Rothbard and Hoppe using this methodology are embarrassingly bad, so much so that I desperately want to convince other libertarians to reject this sort of argumentation, both to avoid non-libertarians concluding that libertarians can’t understand basic logic and to help libertarians avoid drawing erroneous conclusions about the real world.

    I jumped from the belief that the sort of argumentation used by these authors is dangerous nonsense to the belief that those who accept it must be irrational in other ways, and since I assumed that you accepted it, I assumed you must accept it only because you had come across it fairly early and not considered other possible perspectives. This was too far of a leap, though, and the way I expressed my conclusion was rude, so I apologize.

    “…your conversation partner feels like your continuous probing for fundamental moral axioms is irrelevant to the subject they wanted to discuss, about the justness of taxation and government and so forth.”

    Are we reading the same thing? My opponent wanted to discuss ‘the tacit consent of the governed’ (from ‘beginning to end’ — his words), not this amorphous ‘taxation and government and so forth’ that you have fantasized for him, so that’s incorrect.

    Further, I disagree that my opponent finds my probing irrelevant. Quite the contrary, and this is fundamentally the most interesting part of the conversation so far: all the evidence demonstrates — if you look closely — that he finds the probing extremely relevant.

    I’ll grant that you, at least, started out with that specific conversation topic, (“the tacit consent of the governed,”) but, given that the conversation started with the social media post you include, and given the content of that conversation on social media, I am unconvinced that your friend did not have a more amorphous idea of what your conversation was about than you say.

    My belief that he thought your points were irrelevant are based on his comments like:

    1. “It feels so odd to begin with a discussion about rape that I find so wholly unrelated,”
    2. “Particularly in each consecutive round of reiteration and questioning, I feel we’re losing ground in moving toward that goal,”
    3. “I’m waiting DESPERATELY to hear you out,”
    4. “Please provide illumination as to what you feel this has to do with social contracts, free association, and taxation,”
    5. “Please dive into the strategic reasons you, and other anarcho-capitalists, specifically always jump to rape and slavery as your points of analogy for these types of discussions. I find them generally devoid of the type of nuance and context necessarily to discuss something as complicated as ‘the historical reasons and philosophy behind which our government operates the way that it does,'”

    Is it really unreasonable for me to interpret these comments as indication that he thinks your probing is irrelevant? What evidence leads you to your conclusion that he finds it “extremely relevant?”

    “…perhaps he does have an ‘absolutist moral framework…’

    Perhaps he does! None of us – including him, I’d wager – knows just yet.

    Fair enough, and I agree. He may, he may not, we just don’t know yet.

    “…you don’t know how to have a conversation about morality without starting with some fundamental moral absolutes and applying them…”

    The bold, sweeping, and unfair/impolite assumptions keep coming. Wildly incorrect. So much so I’m just going to trust that you will be thinking more clearly when you read this and therefore will agree that this is so preposterous it needs no refutation.

    I concede that the way I phrased it was rude, and, again, I apologize. Yet, if you’ll indulge my stubbornness, I don’t think my underlying assumption, that you are an a-priorist regarding ethics, was unreasonable, (indeed, I am still not sure whether you are or are not, and I hope you will enlighten me.) I agree that, even if you are an ethical a-priorist, it does not follow that you don’t know how to have a conversation about morality other than through a priori arguments. My assumption there was unjustified.

    “…This is an analogical argument. You want to point out similarities between raping and governing someone, i.e. the victim does not consent…”

    You’re quoting THIS conversation and saying that it’s evidence I made an analogous argument in THAT conversation. (The mental gymnastics are impressive!) Where in THAT conversation did I make an analogical argument? (I made no arguments of any kind in THAT conversation. Prove me wrong.)

    “…any attempt to point out ethical principles that you think apply in both cases would be an analogy…”

    What attempts did I make? The answer is ‘none’. Just because I told you what I had in mind prior to the conversation starting clearly isn’t the same that has having actually said it in the conversation. You’re confusing my ‘reasons’ for opening the way I did with what actually unfolded.

    “…inductive reasoning to a principle following by deductive reasoning to an application in a different context just is analogical reasoning…”

    But did I do this in my debate? Looking to do something is not the same thing as doing something.

    I concede that you never reached the point of making the argument you say you intended to make, but your friend was correct in his expectation that that was where you were going, and you were incorrect in your protestation to the contrary. (Or, if you technically switched gears away from the analogical argument path before he brought up the fact that he thought that was where you were going, then while your protestation might be technically correct, I think it was still disingenuous, because it was true that you had been headed that way when you brought rape up in the first place, even if this wasn’t your intention when he asked you about it.)

    “I would ask your friend what their fundamental values are, if they have any, and what process they use to determine whether they’re acting in accordance with those values in any given case or not… the kind of ‘arguments from analogy’ that he’s expecting may actually be more productive.”

    My question (for anyone) is: Why do you think it would be more productive? (Why one approach over another?)

    Firstly, I hope, (not necessarily believe, sadly,) that appealing to others’ fundamental values would be more productive because I am a moral skeptic, and I believe that the a priori argumentation argument that I assumed, (incorrectly?), you were attempting to use is doomed to failure, because morality can not be given any sort of justification, a priori or otherwise, through rational discussion. I do believe that most, (or, well, at least enough,) people have ideas about what sort of life they want to lead, about the kinds of desires that drive them, about the fundamental values they hold, or however else you want to put words to the idea. I think, if we want to persuade other human beings to act in a certain way through reason, then we must appeal to the values they already hold, arguing that they can better achieve their goals through different means, rather than trying to change their ultimate goals.

    I do think it is possible to change others’ fundamental values, but not through reason. Perhaps you could do this through emotional manipulation, but you are not attempting to engage in emotional manipulation, you’re trying to have a rational debate.

    Secondly, regarding analogical arguments, there’s a study I saw a while back which also helped influence my beliefs on this. I confess I only ever started reading through it, I never finished it, but the abstract, for what it’s worth, seems to provide evidence for my view:

    What kind of evidence will lead people to revise their moral beliefs? Moral beliefs are often strongly held convictions, and existing research has shown that morality is rooted in emotion and socialization rather than deliberative reasoning. Additionally, more general issues – such as confirmation bias – further impede coherent belief revision. Here we explored a unique means for inducing belief revision. In two experiments, participants considered a moral dilemma in which an overwhelming majority of people judged that it was inappropriate to take action to maximize utility. Their judgments contradicted a utilitarian principle they otherwise strongly endorsed. Exposure to this scenario led participants to revise their belief in the utilitarian principle, and this revision persisted over several hours. This method provides a new avenue for inducing belief revision.

    I have read other studies that touched on this idea, and my impression is that it is more effective to try to start with specific situations to produce a moral intuition in people, working “up” from here to abstract ethical principles, (and/or “across” to other situations through analogies,) than to start with abstract principles and work “down.” This study seems to provide evidence that one can convince other people to hold less tightly onto abstract principles by pointing out specific hypotheticals in which their intuition regarding the hypothetical contradicts their intuition regarding the abstract principle. I know of no similar experimental studies showing that one can go in the opposite direction, referring to abstract principles in order to overturn strongly held intuitions about specific cases.

    One could probably make reference to various abstract principles in order to help draw analogies between some specific cases and other specific cases, and one might be able to use people’s intuitions in some cases to persuade them to change their position in others. But this is a different approach from that of Rothbard, Hoppe, and Block. Those authors, as best I can understand them, want to “prove” some fundamental axioms through performative contradiction arguments, and then derive the rest of morality as a set of theorems through deductive logic, and then apply those theorems to determine right and wrong in thought experiments and in the real world. Sadly, Rothbard’s arguments strike me as horrible ones, so I don’t think the “logic” employed by these authors holds. Since you have said you draw influence from them, I had thought you were deeply embedded in their methodology, and that this had led you to run in circles in your conversation with your friend, not knowing how else to proceed.

    I’m sorry for making these assumptions, and for my admittedly pretentious expression of them. I hope I haven’t run you off with my erroneous psycho-analysis, and that you’ll still have the good will to explain your methodology, so that I can avoid making similar assumptions in the future. What do you base you ethics on?

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  Jacob.
  • #416

    Spooner Bookman
    Participant

    Regarding all these apologies and concessions:

    For a pinko commie, you’re not half bad! 😛

    Haha, but for real: it means a lot to me, and says a lot about your intellectual character. All apologies accepted/forgiven/forgotten!

    As far as sharing who the guy is, I didn’t ask his permission to post it in the first place so now if I ask him it’s gonna be a little awkward…

    . . .

    “I did not get the impression, from reading your conversation, that you were succeeding in persuading him of the reasonableness of ancap ideas…”

    Since that’s not my goal, I have no problem with you not getting that impression — I wouldn’t have expected you to.

    As an aside, let’s say hypothetically I held the perfect, totally/absolutely/undeniably correct ideas on how society should be organized, and it was my goal to convince this guy (or you, or anyone for that matter) that I was right – how long do you suppose it ‘should’ take to convince you guys?

    . . .

    “…it is more effective to try to start with specific situations to produce a moral intuition in people, working ‘up’ from here to abstract ethical principles, (and/or “across” to other situations through analogies,) than to start with abstract principles and work “down.”

    Isn’t this exactly what I’m doing? (I was — literally — unable to describe it better myself!)

    . . .

    “You say you switched gears away from the analogical argument; where, then, were you headed?”

    Having used a specific situation to produce a moral intuition in the person, I figure I could ‘work up from here to abstract ethical principles’, as you suggest. Another option is to work ‘across to other situations through analogies’.

    Initially, I was thinking I could make an analogy between his reason for thinking rape is wrong, and the reason I think taxation is theft. While I (clearly, IMO) never set out to make an analogy of rape to taxation, at a very early point in the conversation — i.e., long before we discussed the analogy he/you incorrectly assumed I was making — I realized that he himself was not quite sure what his reason for his opposition to rape was.

    Since this isn’t what I anticipated, my ‘initial’ idea for an analogy (which was never the taxation:rape analogy) was out the window.

    So, you are asking where am I headed next, AFTER he articulates his reasoning?

    I can’t say for sure – his reasoning will necessarily dictate my options.

    . . .

    “I believe… he does not think rape is always wrong, while in another sense he may… one could, for example, say that rape, as an ‘isolated action,’ is ‘always wrong,’ but also that a ‘combined action’ that includes rape might still be morally permissible because of the other actions included in the combination.”

    I’m not interested in debating what I assume someone thinks, and I don’t see anything wrong with my decision to simply ask him what he thinks as opposed to making guesses.

    You are (totally) guessing that he’s saying he’s ok with rape in ‘combined actions’. But, I’d say it’s 100% conclusive that so far he’s only stated he’s ok with rape in ‘imaginary worlds’ — he’s given no indication he thinks your ‘combined action’ model is correct.

    BUT:

    Having said all that, if I had to bet a veggie platter for the next meet up, I’d bet that your assumption is correct here!

    I totally assumed he was going to say what you’re saying (see my hypothetical for him below). But, my reading of the convo so far is that he clearly hasn’t thought this through very well. I’d like to help him by asking a ‘combined action’ hypothetical as I think that would let us know for sure if your assumption is correct, and assuming your assumption is correct, it would likely be a big help for him.

    Let me know if you think this would flush out the answer for us: A man holds a whole mess of children at gunpoint and he’ll kill them all unless somebody rapes a woman he’s also holding at gunpoint. Would it be ‘ok’ to rape the woman to save the children? (While implausible, it’s not ‘imaginary world’ stuff…)

    . . .

    “Do you think it was unreasonable for me to think you would be an a-priorist regarding ethics?”

    Nope! Did I indicate it was unreasonable? (I don’t equate ‘wrong’ and/or ‘incorrect’ with ‘unreasonable’. Given limited info, it’s pretty easy to make a reasonable but also incorrect assumption.)

    “…are you an a-priorist regarding ethics?”

    Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is that? Are you talking about Hoppe’s argumentation ethics thingamajig? (If so, then I guess I’m not an a priorist regarding ethics because I hardly understand the concept!)

    “What do you base your ethics on?”

    One of the things about AnCap that I find so compelling is that it doesn’t matter what you ‘base your ethics on’ so long as your ethics result in agreement with the NAP. Conveniently, and again, compellingly, it appears to be an unassailable fact of human existence that the vast majority of all humans who have ever lived have agreed to the NAP regardless of their ‘ethics base’.

    AnCap offers a solution to organizing society without any need to resort to changing people’s ethical views. It offers a way for Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, etc. to live together in harmony, and flourish, without anyone needing to be converted to a particular religion (or no-religion).

    All that to say, a full answer to your question will most definitely open a can of worms. Personally, I love canned worms, so I’m all for opening it up, but to keep this thread somewhat on topic, my short answer would be: observation, reason, logic, and intuition*.

    *I use ‘intuition’ (somewhat sheepishly, I have to admit) for lack of a better word. Call it ‘my gut’ or subconscious or even ‘the voice of god’, but I’m pretty sure ‘something’ is guiding me. Of course, I consider it the least trustworthy and give it the least weight (as in virtually none) in my thinking as it may also very well be due to many, many years of intense and pervasive hallucinogen ingestion on my part. 😉 But whatever the heck ‘it’ is, it has definitely (on many occasions) worked as a temporary scaffolding that allowed me to build a bridge across gaps in my reasoning I feel I never could have forded otherwise. So, gotta keep that one in there even if I’m a little embarrassed to admit it!

    . . .

    “…it seemed strange to me that… you so resolutely refused to go ahead and explain why you thought the governed do not tacitly consent, and spent so much time trying to determine whether your friend was always against rape.”

    I haven’t refused him anything — I offered repeatedly to discuss anything he wanted.

    As for why I ‘spent so much time’, my answer is that time is of course relative, isn’t it?

    . . .

    “He explicitly states that he rejects ‘universal maxims.’”

    I’m Batman. I just explicitly stated that I’m Batman. Now, be honest: does that make me Batman?

    In one sentence he says ‘Rape is always wrong.’ That sounds like a ‘universal maxim’ and/or a ‘moral absolute’, correct? Therefore, we have evidence he believes in at least one ‘universal maxim’ and/or ‘moral absolute’. Then, in another sentence, he says he rejects universal maxims altogether. Therefore, we have evidence he rejects them. I have one piece of evidence for a guilty charge, and one for an innocent charge. Instead of making a sweeping assumption as to how to interpret this evidence, I just asked him to clarify it. That is the intellectually rigorous (as well as polite) thing to do, is it not?

    . . .

    “I assumed you must accept it only because you had come across it fairly early and not considered other possible perspectives.”

    I’m not trying to poke fun or anything (well, maybe a little, forgive me!), but when you use an assumption as evidence to make another assumption, it (literally) exponentially increases your chances of being incorrect. (On the other hand, if you had been right, it would have been pretty frickin’ impressive!)

    I bring this up only because personally, I’ve moved to almost exclusively asking questions — look back through the dialog with my opponent and you’ll see that I’ve done nothing but ask questions.* Maybe I’ve gone too far, and need to go back to making a few assumptions here and there to speed things up. But, I’d argue that you may be going too far in the other direction, making too many assumptions and not asking enough questions. (Maybe our discussions with each other will help us both improve in the right direction!)

    *(You and my opponent seem to think I’ve made some kind of claim or claims. I’ve not. You can’t find a single argument of any kind I’ve advanced in anyway in that dialog. There is literally nothing you can attack. Your main argument is that what I may or may not do in the future may or may not line up with what I may or may not have been thinking at the start of the conversation. Man, I like to argue as much as anybody, but this seems a bit overkill…)

    . . .

    “I am unconvinced that your friend did not have a more amorphous idea of what your conversation was about than you say.”

    He said, quoting: “I’d particularly like to begin and end a discussion on tacit consent of the governed toward which and by which all civil society has always evolved/been derived.”

    I would not have entertained the discussion if he said he would like an ‘amorphous’ conversation. (I am married to a woman with three best friends all named Katie — trust me when I say that I already have way more amorphous conversations than I’d like. The things you do for love.)

    If, as you say, this was his (secret/dishonest) plan all along, then at the point it becomes unavoidably evident your assumption is correct, i.e., he has no intention of holding a structured, productive discussion, then I will bow out. (We may be at this point already, but I’d like to see his next reply before giving up hope.)

    . . .

    “Is it really unreasonable for me to interpret these comments as indication that he thinks your probing is irrelevant?’

    No, it’s not unreasonable, and I never indicated anything of the sort, did I? I just disagreed with your (very) reasonable interpretation. (And you can find my disagreement to the five points you bring up in favor of your interpretation in the dialog.)

    “What evidence leads you to your conclusion that he finds it ‘extremely relevant?’”

    [Note: Reading what I wrote again, I have a quick correction to what I said: I said ‘all’ the evidence points to my interpretation. My bad, I retract that! Instead I would just say I interpret MOST (not all) of the evidence pointing to my interpretation. I agree some of it points to yours. But, I still hold that ultimately he finds the probing extremely relevant. Note to self: ‘All’, ‘None’, ‘Never’, and ‘Always’ will get you in trouble…]

    As for what evidence points to my conclusion, I’ll present just one item here in the interest of brevity, but let me know if you’d like to hear more:

    He says “Your own body is the only thing you can universally claim ownership of.” Surely you can see what I could do with this regarding #taxationistheft? I think (assume!?) on some level he knew he was committing a blunder here, even though he wasn’t quite sure what it was. Leading him, in the very next sentence, to start in with the, ‘But I have to flip this…’ Basically, just when my ‘probing’ struck argumentative oil, he raced to fill the shaft with refuse.

    OF COURSE: I could be totally wrong about this. I retorted with confidence (arrogance?) in my previous reply essentially just to be like, ‘I too can make blanket assumptions that make me sound right, nah nah nah-boo boo’. (Don’t get me wrong: I do think I’m right about this, but I was just being cocky to mirror your diction/tone back to you in the hopes of eliciting a lil empathy for ol’ Spooner.) I’m not worried about hashing it out here, at least not yet, because I think time will tell which of us is right. (Although if it doesn’t, I’d be happy to dig deeper into my interpretation vs yours just for fun!)

    . . .

    “…your friend was correct in his expectation that that was where you were going, and you were incorrect in your protestation to the contrary. Or, if you technically switched gears away from the analogical argument path before he brought up the fact that he thought that was where you were going, then while your protestation might be technically correct, I think it was still disingenuous…”

    Technically correct but also disingenuous at the same time? What do you mean? Even though I was technically right, I should have played make-believe that I was technically wrong? What would be the reason for this?

    Regardless, I stand by my explanation (see below) of your/his error regarding this. If there is something you don’t believe is correct in the explanation, feel free to point it out, but ultimately, you (and he) are thoroughly incorrect in thinking I set out to compare rape to taxation.

    Now, in your defense, (as I mentioned) I wrote a hasty ‘intro’ to the initial post and, reading it after the fact, I can totally see how you got your initial interpretation of disingenuousness — your interpretation at that time was reasonable given what I (mistakenly) wrote.

    However, I don’t see how you are still standing by this interpretation now that I (think I) have clearly explained the issue. He was mistaken. So are you. Not a big deal, and I don’t mean that in a rude way — just that it’s still my position, and in order to change it, you would need to respond to my explanation:

    I began with the question ‘is rape always wrong’ not (as you imagine) as an analogy (for anything) but as a ‘rhetorical device’, i.e., ‘a question designed to provoke a rational argument.’ …I bring up rape (functionally) only to find out why (or why not) you ‘rationally’ believe rape to be wrong (or, alternately, why you think rape is ok if only sometimes). Once we’ve established why, then the function of rape as a rhetorical device will be over.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    My question (for anyone) is: Why do you think it would be more productive? (Why one approach over another?)

    “…appealing to others’ fundamental values would be more productive…”

    Is this not what I’m doing?

    . . .

    “…the abstract… provide evidence for my view: What kind of evidence will lead people to revise their moral beliefs? Moral beliefs are often…”

    Jumpin’ Jehosaphat! I’m not trying to lead anyone to revise their moral beliefs — is that what you’re thinking?? Eek!

    That’s the last thing on my mind. The only people whose ‘moral beliefs’ would need revising to fit with AnCap are those who believe it’s morally ok to hurt other people. Fortunately for those arguing in favor of AnCap, those people are (and have always been) few and far between!

    . . .

    “…if we want to persuade other human beings to act in a certain way through reason, then we must appeal to the values they already hold, arguing that they can better achieve their goals through different means, rather than trying to change their ultimate goals.”

    But I have zero desire to persuade people to act a certain way. What gave you that idea?

    To be AnCap, all that most people need to be persuaded of is to simply carry out their own already-held beliefs regarding aggression to its logical conclusions.

    For example, when someone who already-believes ‘theft is wrong’ (and already tries to act according to this belief) comes to see taxation as theft, my job is done — they don’t have to be persuaded to act differently regarding theft. All that has changed is that they now see taxation as being in the same already-opposed-to category of theft.

    . . .

    “…run in circles in your conversation with your friend, not knowing how else to proceed.”

    Again, I have to stress that I don’t see the conversation as running in circles. Every time we ‘circle back’ on his answer to the primary question, we pick up new and useful information. It’s like sailing versus driving a motor boat: yeah, I’m a little frustrated we’re not zipping along in a straight line on a kickass jet boat, but just because we have to tack back and forth across his position in this slow ass catamaran to pick up the wind (i.e., new, useful information) doesn’t mean we’re sailing in circles.*

    *OVN should give out an award for most tortured metaphor of the month. I’m clearly in first place for June…

    . . .

    “…I believe that the a priori argumentation argument that I assumed, (incorrectly?), you were attempting to use is doomed to failure, because morality can not be given any sort of justification, a priori or otherwise, through rational discussion… I desperately want to convince other libertarians to reject this sort of argumentation…”

    Maybe open up a new thread? Convince us! 😀

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by  Spooner Bookman. Reason: Fixed a run on sentence

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