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What is Aggression?

My reply to Roman Pearah’s blogpost:

You have to refer to property rights and force to define aggression. “using someone as a means” won’t cut it. In fact it’s perfectly okay to use people as means: see my discussion in Causation and Aggression–the section “COMPLICATING THE PICTURE: CAUSATION, COOPERATION, AND HUMAN MEANS” on p. 101.

Aggression is simply the unconsented to (or uninvited) change in the physical integrity (or use, control or possession) of another person’s body or property–as Hoppe puts it, it’s aggression if someone “uninvitedly invades or changes the physical integrity of another person’s body and puts this body to a use that is not to this very person’s own liking”. I elaborate on this in What Libertarianism Is, particularly notes 9 and 11. So of course what aggression is depends on what property rights there are. So what makes libertarianism unique is our unique view of aggression, which is unique just because of our unique property assignment rules. As I wrote in the article noted above, “Protection of and respect for property rights is thus not unique to libertarianism. What is distinctive about libertarianism is its particular property assignment rules: its view concerning who is the owner of each contestable resource, and how to determine this.”

And this, I submit, is the Lockean view of homesteading, more or less. This is precisely why I object when left-libertarians veer from this with either ambiguous, vague, non-rigorous standards as you are doing here with this “means” talk; or when they adopt non-Lockean rules like the mutualist occupancy rules or crankish Georgist-related rules.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Neverfox April 28, 2010, 11:58 am

    You have to refer to property rights and force to define aggression.

    And I quote:

    It may be the case (and I think there are good reasons for thinking) that in the process of unpacking ‘treating someone as a means’ that it will necessitate some consideration of external property and/or a limit to actions that are physical violations of person or property.

    The point is to highlight the ethical foundations of such a concept, which is really no different from what I can tell, than starting with something like argumentation ethics or grundnorms. The space here was very, very limited. This was meant as an introduction to further discussion, not a completely unpacked definition.

    In fact it’s perfectly okay to use people as means

    And I quote:

    Simply performing an action that treats another person as a means (i.e. is within that person’s boundary) is not sufficient to make the action one of aggression, however….

    That’s why this essay refers to mere means, not just means. That little word is extremely vital word.

    Did you choose to ignore what I actually wrote or was it just a matter of rushed inattention?

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