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Tom Woods on the Origin of Rights and Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethic

At the Campaign for Liberty’s Northeast Regional Conference, Tom Woods gave a great overview of the Rothbardian-Lockean property rights ethic and Hoppe’s argumentation ethics approach to libertarian rights (see also Revisiting Argumentation Ethics; Discourse Ethics entry in Wikipedia; and my New Rationalist Directions in Libertarian Rights Theory). Informal video is on YouTube (see below). The argumentation ethics discussion starts arount 0:55 in video 4 of 6:

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  • t w v September 28, 2009, 7:02 pm

    This lecture was very basic but very good. I have only one complaint.

    At the end, Woods contrasts the natural rights approaches he was discussing with a “utilitarian” approach. And he contrasts utilitarianism with “moral.” This is way off base.

    Utilitarianism is an attempt to reconstruct ethics. Anyone taking an ethical position, today, is basically doing the same, including a natural rights advocate. Utilitarians aim, in their method(s) to provide a foundation for norms, and to offer refined norms based on those foundation. It is all about normativity, and the norms reached are as moral as natural law or divine injunction or intuitionism or what-have-you. The distinction cannot be made between “moral” arguments and “utilitarian,” unless one pretends (and here various intuitionists do so pretend) that “it’s moral all the way down.” (See J.J.C. Smart’s response to C.S. Lewis on the humanitarian theory of punishment for an exceptionally clear discussion of the levels of ethical theory.) I thought only intuitionists regard ethics as irreducible to other, simpler or distinct things.

    Odd that a naturalist would buy this, since naturalists propose that somehow “nature” provides the foundation of norms. A utilitarian disregards the generality “nature” and points to specific features of preference and feedback to find a foundation. Some readers will immediately see that a naturalistic utilitarianism is possible. And it has indeed been tried — the first great attempt was by Herbert Spencer.

    Hoppe’s argument seems more like a species of intuitionism than naturalism, as far as I can tell.

    As for me, I’m going back to re-read Sidgwick’s METHODS OF ETHICS. A fascinating if deeply flawed book. (Aren’t they all?)

  • Paul Edwards August 27, 2010, 2:37 pm

    The argumentation ethics discussion starts arount 0:55 in video 4 of 6:

    3:55, i think.

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