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Argumentation Ethics Condensed

Someone on Facebook reminded me of one of my somewhat informal comments providing a summary explanation of Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s argumentation ethics defense of libertarian rights. That post first quoted (a summary of) Hoppe thusly:

The mere fact that an individual argues presupposes that he owns himself and has a right to his own life and property. This provides a basis for libertarian theory radically different from both natural rights theory and utilitarianism.

Someone else posted one of my previous comments about this, which had been posted here and which probably originally came from some older Facebook thread track of which I have lost in the mists of Facebook history:

Think of it this way. You don’t care about all this if people are leaving you alone. You just go about your business. But if there is a dispute over your body—say someone wants to rape you or enslave you. Then either they are willing to try to justify it, or not. If not, then they are just criminals and you have to deal with them with force or whatever. If they try to justify then they have to do so in a peaceful context. And remember: all justification is necessarily argumentative justification. That means any conceivable justification, that is, any possible norm that could conceivably be justified, has to be compatible with the norms of argumentation. And those include: peace; the presumption that there is value to cooperation; the presumption that it is desirable that people have the ability to control their own bodies (not only to argue during the argument, but to have survived in the world to the point of making the argument, which requires (unmolested) use of scarce means; etc.

The point is that you can never justify a socialist or criminal ethic. How could you do so? You would have to make an argument, in the course of a peaceful argumentation, that peace is bad. This cannot be done. It is a contradiction. So if you want to commit aggression, you either have to just do it and give up on the idea that you can justify it; or, if you try to justify it, you have to recognize that it cannot be done. By examining the structure of this from the outside, we can recognize that no socialist ethic can ever, in practice, be argumentatively justified.

And to say you do not own yourself outside of argument, is simply to say that some form of socialism is justified. How can two supposedly civilized, mutually-rights-respecting, peace-desiring people (in an argument) ever argue that it’s okay to hit people who have done nothing wrong? If you make that argument, then you have no grounds for refusing to coerce the other guy into accepting your argument—which is contrary to the nature of argumentation which presupposes that each side has the right to disagree with the other and is not being coerced.

For more discussion of these issues, see Argumentation Ethics and Liberty: A Concise GuideWhat Libertarianism Is.

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  • Shawn August 29, 2014, 9:52 pm

    lol… is Hoppe really THAT dumb (or disingenuous)?

    The only thing you’re acknowledging when you argue with somebody is that they can control their mouth (and probably their body in general), and can hear ok.

    Obviously, a “justification” is not an act of violence, but this doesn’t mean one can’t make a justification for violence. Any justification for some thing is, by definition, not that thing.

    Likewise, eating a hot dog would not constitute a justification, but it would be absurd to say that since eating a hot dog doesn’t constitute a justification, it’s impossible to justify eating a hot dog. That makes no sense at all.

    “The point is that you can never justify a socialist or criminal ethic. How could you do so? You would have to make an argument, in the course of a peaceful argumentation, that peace is bad.”

    lol, wut? Are you arguing that doing one thing at one time precludes you from doing something else at a different time? Like… by typing this right now, I am implying that I can’t (or shouldn’t) have sex with my girlfriend later because having sex is different from typing?

    • Paul Edwards September 1, 2014, 2:19 am

      “The only thing you’re acknowledging when you argue with somebody is that they can control their mouth (and probably their body in general), and can hear ok.”

      You both implicitly acknowledge the following crucial points:
      1. You both wish to attempt to come to agree on what is true.
      2. You both must be allowed to disagree, if you have not come to agree on what is true. Else 1 is false, and you have not both been attempting to agree on what is true.
      3. Performing 1 demands implicit acknowledgement of certain facts and norms. Such as:
      a. Facts: 1, and 2
      b. Norms: Respect for each other’s property in their bodies; that is: non-initiation of violence.
      4. Any facts or norms necessarily assumed true during the pursuit of agreement (such as the above) on any other truths must themselves be considered justified and undeniable (as we know to justify the denial of what must be taken as true to engage in such a justification would constitute a performative contradiction).
      5. Also, that which is shown to be justified during justification must be considered universally justified (else the justification is perfectly meaningless).

      Therefore, if by “violence”, here, in your comment: “… a “justification” is not an act of violence, but this doesn’t mean one can’t make a justification for violence.” you mean an “initiation of violence”, you are mistaken because of the 5 points above. The act of justification assumes the general necessity of non-initiation of violence and so therefore no initiation of violence can be justified.

  • Shawn August 29, 2014, 10:05 pm

    This is the most ridiculous non-sequitur ever:

    “all justification is necessarily argumentative justification. That means any conceivable justification, that is, any possible norm that could conceivably be justified, has to be compatible with the norms of argumentation.”

    It’s like saying, “Writing something down on paper requires a writing utensil. Therefor, the only thing that can be written about, is writing utensils.”

  • Paul Edwards September 1, 2014, 2:24 am

    “It’s like saying, “Writing something down on paper requires a writing utensil. Therefor, the only thing that can be written about, is writing utensils.””

    It is rather like saying the denial of the justification for the utilization of writing utensils, can absolutely not be made via the writing utensil. To use the utensil to justify an act justifies the utensil.

    • Shawn November 30, 2014, 1:14 pm

      Um, no. He’s not merely arguing for the utility of peaceful debate. He’s arguing that since peaceful debate has it’s uses, nothing else does (which is absurd). I can get to work on a bike, but that doesn’t mean that everything on the planet that’s not a bike is totally useless.

      If I was to argue for violence, I would NOT be arguing that argumentation has no utility. Likewise, if I’m eating a hot dog, I am not thereby, demonstrating a hatred towards pizza.

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