Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Don't Want to Start an Argument, But...

Can someone please explain this response to Gene and my critique of Hoppe? Is Heinrich (I know him, btw, so it's all good) saying that our position relies on someone demonstrating a preference for being coerced? Gene, did you think that's what we were doing?


  1. Every response to our work on this that I have seen has been bizarrely bad.

  2. Anonymous2:33 PM

    The concept of "self ownership" seems to me to be a normative proposition; therefore, its correctness is not demonstrable either empirically or logically. As much as we may wish that it is an immutable law of the universe about which argumentation is fruitless, it isn't so.

    If I argue for some other preference, say ownership of the individual by his patrilineage or clan, the act of arguing does not represent a contradiction of my stated value.

    If I argue that arguing is wrong, then I am contradicting myself, but nothing else necessarily follows from my arguing. The most you can infer from my action is that I reckon that it is fitting that I should utter those normative propositions at that moment.

    You can't get from ought to is or from is to ought, so there isn't much use in trying.

    I don't see how Heinrich's essay responds to yours at all. It seems to me to be a recap of Hoppe's argument.

  3. Prof. Murphy,

    Thanks for the FYI on your "potshot" (I don't view it as that) to me.

    Part of the paper was a brief recap of the already-out-there response to your arguments against Hoppe's argumentation ethics. I think van Dun's response, defending discourse and argumentation ethics, is excellent.

    My paper isn't really about defending argumentation ethics. And I'm not saying that your criticism of Hoppe's argument relies on someone being able to demonstrate preference for coercion as a universalizeable ethical norm.

    What I'm doing is proposing a new argument, in addition to argumentation ethics, which I view as somewhat related to it, to dispute any ethic that allows for the IOF. My contribution is in points 3-5 of my paper: "(3) Outline why it is impossible to demonstrate preference for coercion as a universalizeable ethical norm, i.e., “action ethics”. (4) Outline possible pacifist implications of this. (5) Preemptively respond to the possible criticism that my argument only shows that people are hypocrites."

    So-far, most people have responded to my summary of the defense of argumentation ethics, and not the "action-ethics" part of my paper. (Although Block encouraged me to write up a paper, based on preliminary comments along the same line on the LF). Adam Knott, however, has responded to my arguments regarding action ethics and impossibility of demonstrating preference for IOF as a UEN (universalizeable ethical norm). Because he has a different projects, that relates to showing why criminals shouldn't be criminals, and a different take on praxeology (specifically demonstrated preference) from Rothbard, I think he "doesn't get" some of my points (e.g., what is the usefulness of the entire thing). However, he has an additional argument for non-aggression, found in Praxeology of Coercion, on his website (, which I am entirely sympathetic to, although I have some concerns. I have read his preliminary paper, but not yet read his book on the topic.

    In any event, getting back to the topic at hand, I would think that you'd be sympathetic to my effort, Prof. Murphy, as it does seem to have pacifist implications.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. David,

    In your paper you say that you are responding to Gene and my critique of argumentation ethics. You say you will not respond point by point, but rather answer the "breadth" of our critique. You write that (not exact quote because I'm lazy)

    "Anyone disputing argumentation ethics [is] engaging in do so. [He is not] trying to bludgeon opponents to death. Hence he implicitly admits value of peaceful behavior. A person can certainly never demonstrate his preference for initiation of aggression during argumentation."

    Then you go on to the next section. So if you aren't claiming that Gene and I thought people had to be able to demonstrate a pref for coercion during arguments, how have you responding to our critique at all?

    You immediately say that anyone challenging argumentation ethics is implicitly agreeing that initiating aggression is wrong. You follow by saying anyone engaging in aggression isn't exhibiting a preference for being coerced. Then you go on to another section.


  6. Whoops disregard the last full paragraph above (and the "So")...

  7. "In any event, getting back to the topic at hand, I would think that you'd be sympathetic to my effort, Prof. Murphy, as it does seem to have pacifist implications."

    I have met this terrible form of argument several times in this debate. To show why it is terrible, I offer an analogy:

    X says:
    If the sun is shining today, Gene Callahan should be awarded a billion dollars by the federal government.
    The sun is shining today.
    Therefore, Gene Callahan should be awarded a billion dollars by the federal government.

    When I point out X's argument is absurd, he responds, "But you ought to be sympathetic to it, since it will yield you a billion dollars!"

    I am not in the least "sympathetic" to nonsensical arguments, even if I like the conclusion.

  8. Gene, you'd like it if the federal government gave you a billion dollars? What if a mob boss gave it to you? Thief.

  9. If the Feds offered me a billion, I fear I would find Walter Block's position, which is that it's always acceptable to liberate resources from the State, extremely alluring.

  10. Is that why you can't hold a steady job?

  11. Whoa, I finally looked at this article, and I don't see anything remotely looking like a "response" here at all. What Heinrich has done is avoided having to deal with any of our arguments by not actually mentioning any of them. ("I don't want to deal with their case point-by-point." Nor, indeed, at all!)

    The one place it might superficially look like he is trying to answer us is in the "slave owner" section. But he completely misses the point of our decisive example of Aristotle talking to other Greeks about why it is right that barbarians should be slaves. That one example alone is sufficient to destroy Hoppe's case, and no one defending him will even mention it.

  12. Gene wrote:

    Whoa, I finally looked at this article, and I don't see anything remotely looking like a "response" here at all.

    I was under the impression that you had looked at the article before firing off your zingers above.

    That one example alone is sufficient to destroy Hoppe's case, and no one defending him will even mention it.

    Like Gene, I too think that there are at least 3 independent arguments in our critique of Hoppe, any one of which is absolutely fatal to his position. But since no one seems to even understand what we are saying (let alone agree with us), once in a while in a moment of panic I consider the possibility that Gene and I are not nearly as smart as we think we are.

    But then it passes.

  13. Gene, Robert,

    I don't see how Aristotle talking to other Greeks about why barbarians should be slaves "disproves" Hoppe's case. If anything, it only seems that you've taken an admittedly dislikeable position to be compatible with Hoppe's argumentation ethics, and thus given people an emotional impetus to reject AA (if you're example holds). But I don't think that it holds. Yes, two people can debate about a third person being a slave. Yet, they can only do this amongst themselves, while not acknowledging that that person is in fact a person, and they can't justify their position to that person (which would seem to be important). The fact that they can debate with that person rationally shows that he isn't of a lower moral category than them, and that they have no right to enslave him. If they couldn't debate with him, it'd either be because: (a) He wasn't rational, and would thus have to be treated like an animal [although I'll defer to Long's arguments about the treatment of children and the mentally retarded, regarding rationality; e.g., being less than complete]; (b) They and him, this other person, could not communicate and have no way of translating; in that event, there can be no ethics between them.

    However, your objections to my paper are perfectly fair. It is not meant to be a thorough critique of your paper, but to offer some cursory overview of argumentation ethics, a response to one critique of it, and tie that in to what I've termed "action ethics" (I view arg. ethics and action ethics as being related; at least in my head, they are, anyways). So, perhaps I shouldn't start out my abstract by saying that the purpose of my paper is to critique your criticisms of AA (that's one small part of it, yes).

    I suppose I've done a sloppy job of showing how argumentation ethics and action ethics are inter-related.

  14. David,

    What Hoppe seeks to achieve is to move from the proposition that arguing with someone pre-supposes that he is an intelligent, autonomous being -- a proposition I accept -- to the conclusion that the only coherent political stance is full-blown libertarianism. What the Aristotle example demonstrates is that his conclusion is not necessitated by his premise. There is no performative contradiction in Aristotle arguing with other Greeks that barbarians are naturally slaves and his endorsing a polity with slavery (which is clearly not very libertarian). Some other premise -- such as "all humans are entitled to the same rights" -- must be called upon to make the case that the polity that Aristotle endorses is injust. Therefore, we have shown that Hoppe's attempt to prove that full-blown libertarianism is the only defensible political system based solely on the fact that its opponents argue against it fails.

  15. David,

    Just to follow up on Gene's point: Look, as we said in the paper, could an animal rights activist use Hoppe's case to prove that we should stop slaughtering cows (unless they consent)? No. Why not? "Because humans own themselves, and cows don't."

    So in order to apply Hoppe's argument, you need to know beforehand what rights life forms have. I.e. you need to know libertarian rights theory in order to use Hoppe's argument to prove libertarian rights theory.

  16. Elhan8:28 PM

    Vache Folle, your argument against Hoppe suffers from a weakness. Ownership must begin somewhere. A clan is nothing but a sum of individuals. A fictional entity cannot own anything. It cannot independently assert a right of ownership.

    Hoppe's argument is dictated by a fact of reality. You cannot disagree if you cannot make exclusive use of yourself. Simple.

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