Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out that every argument presupposed that your ideology is correct? Hell, yeah! But, unfortunately, it ain’t so. Time to grow up and put away childish things.

I find it bizarre that anyone would find Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarianism even slightly persuasive. It’s a string of non-starters followed by a string of non-sequitors. But I recently learned that at least one super-smart person found it convincing when he was younger. Thus, I think it’s worth showing how you can refute this argument in under a minute. First, I’ll give you terms commonly used in political philosophy. Then I’ll quote Hoppe’s argument. After that, the minute starts.

Begin with some terms from political philosophy:

liberty right is something that grants me permission to do something.

claim right is something that entails others have obligations, responsibilities, or duties toward me.

So, for instance, suppose you believe: “Everyone has the right to do whatever he pleases; no one has any duties to anyone else.” This sentence asserts that people have liberty rights to do anything, but have no claim rights at all.

In contrast, take: “I have the right not to be taxed–the government shouldn’t take my money.” Here I assert a claim right to my money–I assert that government agents have duties not to take my money from me.

So, to review, by definition:

“X has a liberty right to do Y” means “It is morally permissible for X to Y.”

“X has a claim right to do Y” means “Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.”

You can have a liberty right without a claim right. So, for instance, Hobbes thinks in the state of nature we all have liberty rights to kill one another, but he doesn’t think we have claim rights not to be killed.

With that distinction, consider Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s argumentation ethics argument for libertarian self-ownership.

Hoppe claims that the act of trying to justify a theory that rejected libertarian self-ownership is a performative contradiction—the act presupposes the truth of libertarian self-ownership. As he explains in The Economics and Ethics of Private Property:

It must be considered the ultimate defeat for an ethical proposal if one can demonstrate that its content is logically incompatible with the proponent’s claim that its validity be ascertain- able by argumentative means. To demonstrate any such incompatibility would amount to an impossibility proof; and such proof would constitute the most deadly smash possible in the realm of intellectual inquiry … Such property right in one’s own body must be said to be justified a priori. For anyone who would try to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose an exclusive right to control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say ‘I propose such and such’. And anyone disputing such right, then, would become caught up in a practical contradiction, since arguing so would already implicitly have to accept the very norm which he was disputing.

See here for more.

Okay, 60 seconds. Go!

For the sake of argument, on Hoppe’s behalf, grant that by saying “I propose such and such,” I take myself to have certain rights over myself. I take myself to have some sort of right to say, “I propose such and such.” I also take you to have some sort of right to control over your own mind and body, to control what you believe. (Nota bene: I don’t think Hoppe can even get this far, but I’m granting him this for the sake of argument.)

But all I need to avoid a performative contradiction here is for me to have a liberty right to say, “I propose such and such.” I need not presuppose I have a claim right to say “I propose such and such.” Instead, at most, I presuppose that it’s permissible for me to say, “I propose such and such”. I also at most presuppose that you have a liberty right to believe what I say. I do not need to presuppose that you have a claim right to believe what I say.

However, libertarian self-ownership theory consists of claim rights.

So, by saying, “I propose such and such,” at most I presuppose the permissibility of my saying “I propose such and such” and of your believing “such such,” but I don’t presuppose that anyone or anything has any claim rights or duties at all.

Hoppe’s argument illicitly conflates a liberty right with a claim right, and so fails.


Since Hoppe’s argument is complete nonsense, it has other fatal flaws aside from the one I described above. For further refutation, see here:



P.S.: Who is the guy taking the place of the Comedian in the video above?

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  • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

    I also criticise and reject Hoppe’s argument here:


    which I take to be an improvement on the previous refutations (well, I would, wouldn’t I?). Like you, I distinguish between claim-rights and lberties, but I take the argument quite a bit further than that and also try to draw some general lessons.

    • Jason Brennan

      Cool, thanks. I’ll post that in the main post.

  • pelletfarmer

    “For the sake of argument, grant that by saying ‘I propose such and
    such,’ I take myself to have certain rights over myself. I take myself
    to have some sort of right to say, ‘I propose such and such.’”

    Aw, c’mon. This is the third essay I’ve read at this place. It’s a hidden comedy site of some sort, right?

    This one’s particularly a hoot. So “I take” is supposed to mean something other than you take? That’s remarkable. So what’s “propose such-and-such”? Does it involve only you? If so, then you’re making the remarkable declaration that you choose. Call the Times…”I choose! I choose! I choose!”

    If it involves someone else, then automatic failure because how “you take” has absolutely nothing to do with what anyone else does. When the Times publishes the above, this will be clear. Basically, it’ll be this remarkable corollary declaration: Everyone else chooses for themselves too.

    So your argument fails by misidentification through false definition–it is not the case that your right means that you may act on your proposal of such-and-such for anyone else–and hence ethically you should seriously consider whether the sake for which you spend your time, ought to be an argument.

    OTOH if this place is really about jokes, I’ve got a few of those too.

    • Sean II

      “if this place is really about jokes, I’ve got a few of those too.”

      No, please…you’re killin’ me already.

    • Jason Brennan

      Pellet, you aren’t making fun of me, you’re making fun of Hoppe. All I’m doing there is granting him part of his argument.

    • Jason Brennan


      What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?

      My two-year-old loves that one.

  • Sean II

    Pretty sure that’s Guido Huelsmann with the cigar there. Given the rest of the video, who else would it be? Let’s just be thankful the animator didn’t manage to put Stefan Molyneux in a Silk Spectre costume, or find a way to photoshop Hans’ actual schwantz (perhaps also quite…bluish) into the shot.

    Beyond that, a couple thoughts:

    Q: Who thinks Watchmen was a good movie? A: White males who are either still in adolescence, or languishing under a prolonged form of it.

    In light of this – and I could never find a better specimen than that video – now might be a good time to remember that, at any given moment, the libertarian movement is always taking in a new cohort of white male adolescents, of whom the worst and loudest will be most conspicuously heard.

    Mightn’t this mean the problem otherwise known as “cartoon libertarianism” is really just a predictable product of libertarian demographics – i.e., exactly what one would expect in a movement with so many young dudes?

    Other movements are similarly influenced. Campus leftism, for example, owes a lot of its character and flavor to the fact that it is staffed, at ground level, largely by young women of privileged background.

    • Jason Brennan

      Very good post

      • Sean II

        Hey, thanks. Makes up for you not using “Daleks”…almost.

        Let me add: we should all be at least a little bit sympathetic, because it’s no overstatement to describe the experience of becoming libertarian as traumatic for the young.

        The fact is, the non-libertarian world is held together by a series of grotesque lies and inconsistencies, served in large doses to children. Just think about the things we were all taught and told as kids: “Marijuana cases brain damage, ‘No, it causes heroin addiction’, ‘Okay neither, but the law is the law’, besides, the police are here to help, protectionism protects, welfare makes people fare well, only intended consequences matter, government is just another word for the things we do together, it’s okay to have risky sex for free but not safe sex for money, feel free to dodge the draft but don’t think about evading taxes, ‘No, feel free to evade taxes but don’t dare dodge the draft’, schoolchildren should be taught to worship Jesus, ‘No, they should just continue being taught to worship FDR’….and so on.

        It’s scary to discover that all the grown-ups you trusted – parents, teachers, presidents, etc. – are full of shit or worse. And it’s tempting, as a defense mechanism, to develop some deliberately bad listening skills as a result. It’s also tempting to become unduly attached to the first person who comes along and tells you “No son, it doesn’t have to that way”…I suppose, even if that person happens to be Hans Hermann Hoppe.

        Both responses are highly forgivable, provided they don’t last too long. If your friend who made that video is still at in 10 years, then my sympathy for him expires, and he deserves to be punished by having his eyes pinned open for a screening of Watchmen II.

        • Rob Gressis

          Hi Sean II,

          First, I know you’re not saying that becoming a libertarian was traumatic for everyone who underwent. I’m guessing you think it’s just a generalization that applies to most people.

          Second, for me, becoming a libertarian as a teenager wasn’t traumatic: it was liberating. I had an ideology that allowed everything in the social sphere to make sense, I could think of pat answers to just about every problem, I bit bullets left and right, and I had a (I now think) naive optimism in the power of reputation effects. What was traumatic was realizing that my youthful libertarianism had big problems!

          • Sean II

            “What was traumatic was realizing that my youthful libertarianism had big problems!”

            Do tell…what problem-free philosophy did you settle on after that?

          • Rob Gressis

            None! I have no idea what to think about politics, so I try not to think about politics. (I fall into category 1 of Brennan’s trio of possibilities.)

          • Sean II

            Nice try, but I’m afraid not. If you really fell into Category 1, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

          • murali284

            He needs another category for informed sceptics. At least in principle according to Jason’s categorisation, there is, antecedently anyway, no expectation that Vulcans will tend to any particular view. However, that does not mean that everyone who is adequately informed will have definite views on the politics. People may find that the existing reasons severely underdetermine political institutional recommendations

          • Rob Gressis

            No, I’m serious! I bet I know a heck of a lot more about economics, philosophy, and politics than the average person, but whenever I look into just about any live issue, I conclude that I need to spend a lot more time reading and thinking about it before I take a stand.

            I mean, I’m a professional philosopher, and I don’t take strong stands on *philosophical* issues, because I know that there are lots of philosophers who are smarter than I am who know lots more about the issue than I do. If this goes for philosophy, and I think it does, then it goes double for politics, economics, etc., where the scholars are just as smart and still disagree with each other just as much.

            I mean, I used to think that at least the minimum wage was something I could confidently think was a bad idea, but now Paul freaking Krugman thinks it’s a good idea. (Yes, I know, Paul Krugman probably has a bad reputation around here, but I’m guessing that if any of you got into an argument about economics with him, he would rip you to shreds. I take his opinion about these things pretty seriously.)

          • Sean II

            “Paul Krugman probably has a bad reputation around here, but I’m guessing that if any of you got into an argument about economics with him, he would rip you to shreds.”

            Krugman’s history of avoiding debates says otherwise – which is to say, his history of avoiding debates strongly suggests that he himself isn’t very confident about his prospects of success.

            By the way, I’m curious why you – a professional philosopher – should take Krugman’s opinions seriously.

            One excellent reason not to: this is a man holding a Nobel Prize in economics who continues, in 20-freaking-13, to describe WWII as an economically beneficial event.

            That’s like finding an oncologist with a Nobel in medicine who believes that Lourdes cures cancer because, if you ignore the control group and just reason post hoc, there are some cases where…

          • Rob Gressis

            What do you mean, he has a history of avoiding debates? Are you talking about online debates, public debates, what? I’ve seen him respond to Tyler Cowen online, and I’ve seen him in a debate with Robert Barro on The News Hour. Is there some debate that he really should have gotten into, but didn’t?

            I think I recall — though I could be confabulating here — people saying that Krugman and DeLong were among the best macroeconomists alive today, if not the two best, and that they are quite formidable in person.

            As for why I take Krugman seriously, it’s because I take Tyler Cowen seriously, and Tyler Cowen takes Krugman seriously. Moreover, the economics profession seems to take him very seriously, what with his winning The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel and all.

            Let me ask you: unless you’re an economist (and if you are, then never mind), why do you think your conclusions about economics are more reliable and/or better justified than Paul Krugman’s, Brad DeLong’s, Robert Schiller’s, or Amartya Sen’s?

          • Sean II

            This situation is so delicious, I half wonder if someone is paying you to entertain me as a Christmas troll-o-gram. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do:

            So you want to know why a non-economist might disagree with an economist about economics, even if that economist happens to hold the coveted honor of being taken seriously by Tyler Cowen?

            Answer: because if a “professional philosopher” (like you) can let himself think the authority fallacy (by proxy, at that) is perfectly kosher as a means of settling questions in a deeply unsettled science like economics…

            …isn’t it just possible that an economist might screw up once in awhile and say something absurd (I dunno, like maybe claiming WWII was economically beneficial)? And isn’t it a bit than just possible that an economist might say lots of absurd things, if he also happens to spend much of his time working as a partisan op-ed man?

          • pelletfarmer

            “I dunno, like maybe claiming WWII was economically beneficial.”

            I’ve heard that before. Does that nutcase Krugman–I mean that Nobel Economics genius Krugman–really say that?

            You don’t need a degree to understand the Broken Glass Fallacy, writ large. What a case. Gee, maybe 7 billion dead would be economic perfection.

            And if there really is a professional philosopher here who takes Krugman seriously on economics, you’ll be touched to know that this is one of the reasons I tend to blame virtually all of society’s largers ills on the “professional philosophers” over the ages.

            Talk about the free market fixing everything…

          • pelletfarmer

            Before I mention this to anyone, I’d like to be sure I have it straight. Are you saying there’s a professional philosopher here, who considers Krugman a serious economist?

            If that’s right, I’ll be back to not knowing whether this place is what it appears to be, or a hidden Comedy Club. Curiouser and curiouser. Krugman? Really??

          • Rob Gressis

            Pelletfarmer, you should see if you can arrange a debate between yourself and Krugman about international trade. I’m sure you’ll wipe the floor with him! But I doubt he’ll take the debate, alas.

          • pelletfarmer

            It was already scored—as you noted, he won the Nobel Prize. And Obama won one for Peace…hahahaha.

            Anyway, could I get confirmation? Is there actually a professional philosopher here who takes Krugman seriously on economics?

            This is one funny place, alright.

          • clerk, Office of Dr. Menger

            “(Yes, I know, Paul Krugman probably has a bad reputation around here,
            but I’m guessing that if any of you got into an argument about economics
            with him, he would rip you to shreds. I take his opinion about these
            things pretty seriously.)”

            If Krugman got into a debate with Brennan it would be the blind flailing at the blind. Now, both gentlemen are brilliant. That aside, their economics are screwy. Both cynically reject– first by not addressing; then by caricaturing and misconstruing (from ignorance and on purpose)– the aprioristic character of economic reasoning, especially of the Austrian variant. Without the fundamentals– none of it is rocket science– the result is you get a Krugman.

            Fortunately, some of Brennan’s conclusions have been correct, unlike Krugman’s. In a way, this fact betrays Brennan’s claims to empiricism. How does one create a lab test– holding the human mind constant even– for supply and demand, etc? This is an example of the kind of question Brennan refuses to answer.

            Therefore, Brennan’s refutation of Hoppe’s ethics, useful as it is, is an attempt to rescue his blog reputation from the massive defeat he recently suffered when cornered by Austrian criticism. The irony is that where Brennan has been able to point out “cartoon libertarians” from a political philosophy point of view– he has earned a title for himself along the way: cartoon economist.

          • Rob Gressis

            Where did Brennan recently suffer a massive defeat? i don’t follow the stuff about Austrian economics, so I didn’t see that.

          • clerk, Office of Dr. Menger

            Brennan doesn’t either, but claims to know something about it. His posts were here at BHL, a slew of them in October mostly. If you don’t know Austrian v. empiricist, then much of what I say will not say much for you. But Brennan did delete his posts several times– a first for BHLs– and refused to answer any fundamental challenges from several well reasoning commenters schooled in the fundamentals of aprioristic reasoning in economics. Hoppe is a leading Austrian– economics being different than ethics. But you can see, like Zwolinski, Brennan chooses to attack Hoppe in the area that he has some knowledge in– political philosophy, ethics etc., and has refrained from pursuing refutation of the Austrian economic basis. In fact, there was little evidence that Brennan had actually read any Austrian stuff. Brennan’s October posts are archived here.

      • Bob Johnson

        The guy with the cigar is stephen kinsella. The failure of you communists to recognize an intellectual better proves that your presence will be impermissible in a private enclave based on the principles of liberty.

    • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

      Yeesh, don’t you think that’s a bit of an overreach? Like a bajillion other fans of the genre, I like The Watchmen because I think Alan Moore is a good writer. I don’t mind that you disagree, but it’s obviously not even remotely true to suggest that Alan Moore fandom is emblematic of the problems with libertarianism.

      I think you, like Brennan, have pushed a compelling idea too far. Just as Nelson Mandela was a great human rights advocate who made serious mistakes in his other political contributions, it’s possible for the Hoppes, Rothbards, Rands, and Alan Moores of the world to make some good contributions and some bad. I don’t mind if we invest time refuting the bad – that’s important. But to do this effectively, we have to be able to stop short of making caricatures.

      • Sean II

        I was poking fun at the movie…you know, the one from which Moore had his name removed.

        • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

          Yeah, but my comment isn’t really about that, is it? Nor does your point hang on whether or not “real Moore fans” like the movie. Who cares who likes the movie? It doesn’t say anything about libertarians.

          • Sean II

            I seem to have offended you, and I’m sorry. Perhaps if you read my comments again (especially the first in light of the second), you’ll find there is no true dispute between us.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            You didn’t offend me, I’m trying to make a point about the value of caricatures. But you’re right that we mostly agree, so I’ll drop it.

    • Pochy

      Maybe because libertarians don’t care what race they are? Nor should anyone. Why do Bleeding Hearts care so much about racial diversity?

      • Sean II

        Boy, have you ever picked the wrong guy to mess with on this issue…

        Libertarians don’t have a choice but to care about race. The movement is made up almost entirely of white English speakers, with perhaps more than 4/5th of them male.

        That fact is a) undeniable, b) important, c) dangerous to ignore, and despite any discomfort it may cause people, d) worthy of investigation and fit to be productively discussed.

        • Pochy

          I assume you are outside that categrory. But you only imply that it is wrong to have the mass of your movement of white male english speakers. I am Chinese, and i have semi literacy with Cantonese and Mandarin.

          Also, how do you know 4/5s are male?

          • Sean II

            There’s so many dicks up in this place, how could the movement be anything other than 4/5 male?

          • Pochy

            What is the Bleeding Heart Preoccupation with diversity or lack of it in libertarian circles?

          • Sean II

            Well, I don’t think there really is such a preoccupation. If you ignore the comments and just focus on the posts put up by the actual authors, I think a word search for “diversity” or related terms will yield very few high-relevance hits.

            Now, I (being only an anonymous troll with no right to speak for anyone but myself) am certainly preoccupied with race, diversity, etc. But that interest is pretty clearly not shared by the people who run this blog.

            Quite the contrary. Like most white college professors I have known, it seems they’d rather stick a white-hot needle in their eye than risk saying anything interesting about race in a public forum (for which, who can blame them?). The most you get is an occasional safe remark denouncing racism in the past or in the abstract, joined every so often by a passing lament that the movement has so few minority members.

            The site’s coverage of sexism and gender issues is a bit better, and it certainly bemoans the relative lack of women more often than the near-total absence of, say, blacks.

            Short answer: I’m the one who’s preoccupied by what you might call the diversity question. Don’t blame the other people here for that, especially not the hosts.

          • Pochy

            Well Horwitz seems to be quite enamored by the question, but i don’t much of this blog anymore.

    • adrianratnapala

      Ok, this requires explanation. On the Interweb Sean II *looks* like a one-eyed white dude, and he *writes* like what passes for the hard right on this site.

      Now it appears he has Views (plural!) about how fellow libertarians have been dragged right by their failure to be an American “minority”, but fails to explain what the **ck those Views are. Also he hints (but does not say) that he is not both white and dudish, but still he does not clarify. Now I am intrigued. My interest is totally unphilosophical, but I still would like to know WTF is going on.

      [BTW: In spite of appearences, A.Rat has two eyes.]

    • keimh3regpeh2umeg

      It’s Stephan Kinsella with the cigar.

  • pelletfarmer

    “However, libertarian self-ownership theory consists of claim rights.”

    That’s interesting. I had never considered the claim-rights a theory might have over me. I do know about ownership though…I know I own that which I have, keep and control. This begins with myself, as it’s effectively axiomatic that I own myself. What anyone else believes about “claim rights” has nothing to do with it. That would be about physical overpowerment, and theories don’t do that anyway.

    Gee, will I no longer own myself when libertariian self-ownership theory says otherwise? Y’all ain’t gonna vote on it, are you?

    • Jason Brennan

      What I mean is that the assertion that you own yourself is an assertion of a claim-right over yourself.

      • pelletfarmer

        That’s what I thought. That’s why I was sure that theories don’t have any of those.

        • Jason Brennan

          No, there’s no debating this. When Hoppe asserts that he has libertarian self-ownership, he’s asserting that other people have moral duties not to kill him, interfere with him, take his stuff, etc. Those are claim-rights.

          There isn’t anything to debate here. If you disagree, you just don’t understand what the words mean.

          • pelletfarmer

            There’s no debating a false premise that was offered “for the sake of argument”? More comedy stuff, right? I wrote “square circle” last week…do I win?

            I don’t care what Hoppe has to say, at least not right now. I was responding to the joke you wrote.

            They might’ve left this out at school…a word means that to which it refers, not what goes on in your mind. They used to use “sense/reference” for that, but then they forgot to mention that only the reference exists outside of one’s mind.

            Sorry. You and Hoppe should let me know when you figure out what claim-rights y’all have over me. And even more importantly, what you intend to about it.

          • Jason Brennan


            I don’t get what you’re complaining about. I granted Hoppe a premise for the sake of argument in order to show that even if I grant him that premise, his argument fails. But if I don’t even grant him that premise, because that premise his false, then his argument fails.

            I was being charitable to him.

          • Frank Abagnale

            I love pizza.

  • Rachel

    Wait, can you clarify the claim right vs. the liberty right? I don’t really see a distinction between them. If you could enlighten me that would be great.

    For example:

    Liberty right: everyone has a right to do whatever he wants.

    Doesn’t that also establish a claim of non interference on others? So, isn’t it claiming that others have a duty/obligation to not interfere with what I do?

    If so, how is that different from a claim right? If not, how is it different?

    • Max LaFave

      I believe Brennan’s Liberty Right/Claim Right distinction was to clear up the conflated idea of the vulgar Hoppe “right”, where the positive liberty right is articulated but hides the implicit claim right.

    • Jason Brennan

      By definition:

      “X has a liberty right to do Y” means “It is morally permissible for X to Y.”

      “X has a claim right to do Y” means “Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.”

      You can have a liberty right without a claim right. So, for instance, Hobbes thinks in the state of nature we all have liberty rights to kill one another, but he doesn’t think we have claim rights not to be killed.

      • Max LaFave

        So was Hoppe’s failure that he conflated the two? Also, isn’t the claim right the consequence of the liberty right?

        • Jason Brennan

          No. Consider: in a boxing ring, both boxers have liberty right to block punches, but no claim rights to block punches. Liberty rights don’t imply claim rights.

          Sometimes we have both liberty and claim rights, sometimes we have one but not the other, and sometimes we have neither. There’s no logical entailment.

          Hoppe needs a separate argument to show that “It is permissible for me to argue” implies “I have a claim right to my body”. He has no such argument.

          • pelletfarmer

            “Hoppe needs a separate argument…”

            Trust me, the last thing that’s needed around here is yet another argument!

            But I am interested in how people think. So just out of curiosity, what is it exactly that you imagine justifies overpowering others?

            I understand that it falls in the general class of “argument,” but I’m wondering if the species is “right” or “claim.” TIA. And then there’s this classic…

            “Sometimes we have both liberty and claim rights, sometimes we have one but not the other, and sometimes we have neither. There’s no logical entailment.”

            I coined a precise philosophical term to pinpoint exactly the error here…”WHOOIIEEE!!”

            Lemme guess…there’s “logical entailment” when the thug is doing what you want him to do. I’ll guess even more…there are a lot of “rights,” “claims,” “duties” and “obligations” going on when that happens. Is that close?

            When you wanna impose any of these theories on me, all I ask is that you please send the arguments!

          • Jason Brennan

            Pellet, I didn’t coin the terms–they’re out there in the literature already. I also didn’t advocate any political views. All I did was explained why Hoppe’s argument failed.

          • genecallahan

            Jason, I am picturing pelletfarmer as a large stone, and you are pushing him up a hill in a smoky, shadowy place. I am afraid that just before you reach the top of the hill, you’ll find that rock right back at the bottom again.

          • pelletfarmer

            I like it! The thing is, the pressure seems to be more downward.

      • pelletfarmer

        “‘X has a liberty right to do Y’ means ‘It is morally permissible for X to Y.’”

        That’s can’t be right since “it is morally permissible for X to Y” is nonsensical. That is, it has no meaning…unless you’re talking about you own judgment of its morality, in which case we’re just back to where you never started—”I choose! I choose! I choose!”

        Did they forget that too? Nothing can mean that which is meaningless.

        • Jason Brennan

          Is this a serious post or are you just trolling me?

          • genecallahan

            The latter, the latter.

          • pelletfarmer

            Nah, I don’t troll. I’m truly bewildered about this place. I left a comment at the “Duty” thread, which explains some of my bewilderment.

            Here, it would be “morally permissible.” I mean really, do you folk bandy around such phrases as if they mean anything? Really?

            Give me an example of a “morally permissible act,” oppose it with a “not morally permissible act,” and I’ll show how you’re talking jabberwocky. Or, save yourself some time and read my comment in the “Duty to follow the law” thread.

            This is hardly the first place I’ve encountered nonsensical verbiage, of course. It’s the concentration of it that I find so interesting. I’m a charitable guy and I understand the handicap that the degrees represent; I just don’t like excuses, that’s all.

          • genecallahan

            Troll to onlookers: “Feed me, please!”

          • Jameson Graber

            I am seriously in awe of this guy’s trolling. I think he deserves a prize or something.

          • Rob Gressis

            I really don’t think he’s intentionally trolling. I think he believes what he’s writing. I mean, he must know that lots of people believe in the reality of duties, so I imagine that part of his schtick is somewhat troll-y. But I’m guessing his position is sincerely held.

          • pelletfarmer

            “I mean, he must know that lots of people believe in the reality of duties.”

            Of course I do. That’s why I didn’t write, “Nobody believes in the reality of duties.” Lots of people once believed the Earth is flat too, and that the Sun revolves around it.

            What I wrote is what I meant, that there’s no such thing as an unchosen obligation. Obviously, duh, unless someone wants to assert that an obligation is something other than cognitive, or that cognitive existents arise somewhere other than in an individual mind.

            Any takers on that? A single obligation that anyone here has, that they acknowledge as an obligation, that didn’t arise willfully? One?

            Otherwise you’re talking about some obligatiion that someone else supposedly has, as some imagined justification for imposing it on him. Yes, I know those are in great supply. My claim wasn’t about imagined obligations in others; it was that there’s no such thing as an ACTUAL obligation that’s not freely chosen. That’s why not one single example will be forthcoming.

            Ahem, Q.E.D. “No wonder we’re in such a sinkhole.”

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, what about this:

            It is wrong to torture an innocent baby solely for one’s own amusement. Consequently, everyone, in the vast majority of circumstances, has a moral obligation to refrain from torturing innocent babies solely for their own amusement. Someone who chooses to torture innocent babies solely for his own amusement violates a moral obligation against torturing innocent babies solely for his own amusement.

          • pelletfarmer

            Good example, Rob; it always helps to use endpoints. You’ve addressed the immorality of the action–though as an aside, you really don’t wanna hear what ACTUALLY makes it immoral–and yet you’ll notice that this makes no distinction with regard to the permissibility of it. If the thug has overwhelming force, and especially if it’s within the codifications of law–like, say, in Nazi Germany–then it’s a fully permissible act.

            That’s the point, see. Morality is about cognition and permissibility is about physics. Thus there are four permutations of the attributes, and no two of them cover all the instances. Hence to try and design a universe where all acts are distinguished by “morally permissible” or “not morally permissible” is an impossible feat. Further, impossible feats are never logical to try.

          • pelletfarmer

            Heh…so is that a morally permissible comment, or a not morally permissible one? It seems clearly permissible and yet not as clearly morally so. After all, it’s dishonest and it’s not as if you weren’t advised as such.

            Give it a shot. “Give me an example of a ‘morally permissible act,’ oppose it with a ‘not morally permissible act,’ and I’ll show how you’re talking jabberwocky.” I’m not offering bait; I’m offering a spotlight.

            Or is this place so special that you use unopposable concepts?

          • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

            There is a variety of moral theories. What is truly morally permissible depends upon which one is correct.

            Have you read or studied ethics ever, or do you think you can show all of ethics to be nonsense without ever opening a book?

          • Rob Gressis

            Hi Jason,

            Here’s pelletfarmer’s argument that “it is morally permissible for X to Y” is nonsensical:

            “A friend sent me over here. This is funny stuff. Are you all actually discussing whether some duty exists besides what the actor chooses?

            “Really, that’s a hoot. A duty is an unchosen obligation, isn’t it? So you’re discussing whether some obligation can arise in a person without that person choosing it? Do you also discuss whether eagles fly along the ocean bottom?
            Is an obligation something abstract? If it arises abstractly, can it possibly arise in something other than a cognitive mind? If it arises in a cognitive mind, then how could it possibly exist except by the volitional machinations of that mind? Did I miss something…did they come up with a way for one person to think for another? That must’ve been some big grant, if so.

            “Remarkable stuff; no wonder we’re in such a sinkhole. And please, save the definitions. You can define eagles as plankton too.”

            There you go. So, you see, *that’s* why the concept of “moral permissibility” is meaningless. It’s too bad Derek Parfit didn’t read this before writing his latest book — he would have seen that everything he wrote is meaningless scribble!

          • pelletfarmer

            Lotta writing there, but I notice no examples of a “morally permissible action” opposed to a “not morally permissible action.”

            Aren’t there any instances of what y’all are talking about? Gee, why not? Lemme guess…you call uninstantiated concepts “valid” as long as they follow some form. Thus is it “valid” to discuss the nature of morally permissible acts, even as the referent set is null.

            You’re bright folk. Surely you know WHAT you’re discussing, don’t you? That’s all—so let’s see the “what” under discussion, a “morally permissible act,” such that it says something that distinguishes it from a “not morally permissible act.”

            Hopefully we’re done with the troll charges now. Would you like me to slow down a bit?

          • Rob Gressis

            OK, here are some examples of morally permissible actions:
            (1) eating some spaghetti that you legitimately own;
            (2) walking to the store; and

            (3) saving your son’s life by donating a kidney to him.

            Here are some morally impermissible acts:
            (1) eating some spaghetti that you don’t own, that did belong to someone else, and that that other person wanted to eat, because “that’s hilarious”;
            (2) blowing up a store for fun because “it needed blowing up”;
            (3) killing your son by ripping his kidneys out from his body “just to see what they look like”.

          • pelletfarmer

            Hopefully my earlier reply made it clear, Rob. You have offered distinctions based on morality, but not permissibility. All of your “morally permissible actions” can be outlawed. Indeed, each probably is somewhere. Thus in those instances they fail as morally permissible actions, even as they most likely remain moral.

            And all of your morally impermissible acts can be done by someone with sufficient power, rendering each of them morally permissible, at least from the actor’s POV and in that instance.

            The point stands. “Morally permissible” distinguishes NO set of human action, with the rest of the human action being “not morally permissible.” Hence it’s an invalid concept for distinguishing human action into two sets.

            Really, the more interesting question is why anyone would want to link the two in the first place. Kinda obvious IMO.

          • murali284

            permissible doesn’t have the meaning you think it has.

          • good_in_theory

            No no, he’s said what it means for him and clearly it couldn’t possibly mean anything else when someone else uses it. He’s defined “permissability” as “physical possibility”, so that’s what it means, yessireebob.

          • pelletfarmer

            Oh, no…I want it to mean whatever the utterer intends it to mean. So clue me in…what’s the difference between “moral” and “morally permissible”? If they’re synonymous, then I retract everything I wrote on the point and just comment that this would be a terrible lingo insofar as you’re introducing an existing concept that apparently has nothing to do with the identification of the set in question.

            And of course, it would bring in the question of why the hell anyone wants to bring in “permissibility”–a matter of physics–with regard to morality, a matter of volition.

            Indeed, that question stands no matter what the phrase is intended to mean, and is the relevant question overall. Further, the answer is only too obvious.

          • good_in_theory

            Permissibility is not “a matter of physics”, unless one is using an entirely idiosyncratic definition of “permissible.” It’s a moral concept. Specifically, it’s related to authority. It’s about permission or allowance. If something is “permissible” that tends to mean either that someone has allowed it (is not using their authority to disallow it) or, more strongly, that no one has the authority to disallow it.

            “Moral” means something is good or right or ethically proper – it is something which ought to be done on normative grounds.

            “Morally permissible” means no one has the moral authority to prevent it being done.

            These are not synonymous.

            It is morally permissible for me to pick vanilla over chocolate. It is not moral for me to pick vanilla over chocolate. My ice cream preferences are a matter of indifference from the perspective of morality.

            To do it the other way around, it may be moral for me to kill Hitler in 1942, but morally permissible for Hitler to resist my assassination attempt. It’s moral to kill Hitler, but it’s not morally required for Hitler to kill himself or otherwise abet his own demise.

            To tie this back to the analysis of rights, from the perspective of our moral requirements, “moral” things are things which impose moral duties on us. Morality makes a claim on us. (Whatever its sources, whether God, gods, nature, man, ourselves, etc)

            “Morally permissible” things impose duties on others. If something is morally permissible this implies that others have no moral right to interfere with it being done.

            Moral things are things I have a moral duty to do. Morally permissible things are things everyone else has a moral duty not to interfere with me doing.

            To put it another way, moral things are claims others have over my conduct. Morally permissible things are supported by claims I have against the conduct of others

          • keimh3regpeh2umeg

            Very good write-up!

    • genecallahan

      “Doesn’t that also establish a claim of non interference on others?”
      Of course not. All offensive players in basketball have a right to try to put the ball in the basket. But they have no claim right asserting that the defenders must not thwart their attempt.

  • Theresa Klein

    I don’t like your liberty right vs. claim right distinction.
    Obviuously any liberty right can be paraphrased as a claim right that other people have an obligation to leave you alone.
    When people object to positive rights or duties, they obviously aren’t objecting to the claim right that people have over their own income. They are objecting to claim rights to goods or services that must be provided by someone else.
    Surely there is a distinction between having a claim right keep to something I produced, and a claim right to have someone else give me something they produce. Your formulation essentially obscures that difference.

    • Jason Brennan

      By definition:

      “X has a liberty right to do Y” means “It is morally permissible for X to Y.”

      “X has a claim right to do Y” means “Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.”

      You can have a liberty right without a claim right. So, for instance, Hobbes thinks in the state of nature we all have liberty rights to kill one another, but he doesn’t think we have claim rights not to be killed.

      Hoppe’s argument conflates these two things, and that’s why it fails.

      • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

        Whoa, whoa. Legal rights = moral permissions? That’s obviously not right. Are you suggesting that it is morally permissible for the KKK to publish its hateful pamphlets? I doubt it, right? But that doesn’t mean it isn’t/shouldn’t be their legal right.

        Or do I have your meaning wrong?

        • Jason Brennan

          I haven’t mentioned legal rights at all.

          But your example is a good one to illustrate the distinction.

          In my view, it’s immoral for the KKK to publish those pamphlets, but they should be allowed to do so. So, I think the KKK has claim rights to publish hateful pamphlets, but no liberty rights to do so. That is, they shouldn’t do it, but no one may try to stop them.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            I don’t get it. You said a claim right was an obligation others have. What obligation do others have toward the KKK and its pamphlets?

            I understand freedom of speech to be a liberty right in all cases, since it requires no obligation from anyone else. At the very least, it should be clear that freedom of speech is not a claim right. But the way you’ve defined a liberty right as being something that is permissible, then whether freedom of speech is a liberty right depends entirely on whether the speech itself is moral or immoral.

            It looks to me like maybe you could better-define “liberty rights” to avoid this confusion.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            I don’t get it. You said a claim right was an obligation others have. What obligation do others have toward the KKK and its pamphlets?

            I understand freedom of speech to be a liberty right in all cases, since it requires no obligation from anyone else. At the very least, it should be clear that freedom of speech is not a claim right. But the way you’ve defined a liberty right as being something that is permissible, then whether freedom of speech is a liberty right depends entirely on whether the speech itself is moral or immoral.

            It looks to me like maybe you could better-define “liberty rights” to avoid this confusion.

          • Jason Brennan

            Do you think it’s okay for me to use violence to stop KKK members from publishing the pamphlets? If you say, “No, they have a right of free speech!” what you mean is that they have a claim right of free speech.

            Do you think it’s okay for the KKK to publish the pamphlets, i.e., that they cannot be criticized morally for doing so? Then you think they have a liberty right of free speech here.

            That’s just what the terms mean.

            Now, as for me, I think the KKK has claim rights but not liberty rights. That is, they should be allowed to publish the pamphlets, but it’s wrong for them to do so.

          • Jason Brennan

            Hoppe apparently has some sort of training in philosophy, so I expect he’s read Hohfield’s famous paper on the analysis of rights, and so he’ll be familiar with the distinction. If so, then he should see his error immediately.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            So you’re saying that the right to avoid violence in response to speech is a “claim” I have on other people? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

            I don’t think this is a useful distinction of rights. I don’t like the idea of conflating moral permissability with a peron’s rights within a polity. I don’t like the idea that avoidance of your using violent force against me is a claim I have against you. The whole thing is counter-intuitive and obfuscatory.

            Now, if you didn’t make these terms up, then my quarrel is obviously not with you or your argument against Hoppe. These terms do not add any clarity to political or moral discourse, at least not in my opinion.

          • Max LaFave

            Check out the boxing example he gave me in an earlier thread, might clear some things up.

          • genecallahan

            OK, back to hoops. When the ball is in play, I have a liberty right to try to shoot it in my basket, but NO claim right of non-interference. However, if I am awarded a free throw, I now have both the liberty right to try to put the ball in the hoop, AND a claim right of non-interference.

            A perfectly sensible distinction.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            Right. Which is why I assumed free speech was a liberty right and was surprised to learn from Brennan that issuing pamphlets in the absence of violent opposition is a claim right.

            This doesn’t seem correct to me. As I understand it, free religious/political/etc. speech = liberty right while freedom from slander and libel = claim right.

            Unless I’ve misunderstood Brennan in this comment (http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/12/hoppes-argumentation-ethics-argument-refuted-in-under-60-seconds/#comment-1160214648), Brennan is suggesting that free speech is a claim right in all cases and a liberty right in any case in which the speech is deemed moral. This seems overly convoluted to me.

          • genecallahan

            You say “right” as if you understood my example, and then give your own example that shows you did not understand it at all: “As I understand it, free religious/political/etc. speech = liberty right while freedom from slander and libel = claim right.”

            No. A liberty-only right to speech would be if you have a right to try to speak, but I can gag you if I am able. The First Amendment asserts a claim right: Congress can’t stop you from speaking. You have not understood the terms yet if you think your example is correct.

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            “You say “right” as if you understood my example, and then give your own example that shows you did not understand it at all”

            Oh boy…

            One more time: Yes, I understand the division as you have described it; but no, I do not find that a useful formulation of rights. I will note that you are also making a different point than the one Brennan makes in the comment to which I linked above.

            Anyway, that’s fine. I can see that this is a widely used academic distinction. I need not find it a useful one. The academic world can proceed in peace and harmony without the endorsement of a schmuck like me… ;)

          • good_in_theory

            Issuing pamphlets in the absence of violent opposition is a composite right, composed of your liberty right (no duty not) to issue pamphlets and your claim right that others are not at liberty (have a duty not) to interfere with you.

          • good_in_theory

            Hohfeld’s theory seems to me to be pretty clearly useful as an analytical tool. Here is a good primer:


          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            Yeah, thanks. I caught that link when Matt Z posted it. I’m glad you find it useful. Your description of speech as a composite right makes a lot more sense to me than Brennan’s take on it as a claim right only. But I am still stuck on the idea that threat-avoidance is a claim I am making on other people.

            That’s not to say that I don’t understand the concept. I do. I just don’t find it as useful as you do. Which should be totally fine. I don’t work in academic philosophy or law, so my dislike for the framework really doesn’t harm anyone ha ha…

          • good_in_theory

            Ah, I think I see how Jason has gotten you confused with his talk of moral rights.

            First thing: “KKK has a right to speak” is not equivalent to “KKK has a right to speak without interference.”

            The second is a composite right as I described, with two incidents: “KKK has a right to speak” and “everyone has a duty not to interfere.” Brennan’s argument is that Hoppe can only get the first incident of that composite.

            On Brennan’s use of moral where you got confused as per “Brennan is suggesting that free speech is a claim right in all cases and a liberty right in any case in which the speech is deemed moral. This seems overly convoluted to me.”

            For Brennan, if we ought not do something, we have a moral duty not to do it. A “liberty-right to x” is equivalent to “no duty not to x”. Therefore, if you “ought to x” (read: “duty to x”) then you do not have the “liberty-right to x”

            All he’s saying when he says that we don’t always have a (moral) liberty right to speech is that some speech is immoral. So you have morally permissible immoral speech. Presumably there might also be some morally impermissible immoral speech (“Siri, launch nuclear missiles”)

          • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

            Haha, I like that Siri example.

            Yeah, I get it. But like I say, I’m not a big fan of conflating morals with legal rights. This has been a sticking point in a few past discussions I’ve had on this site, if memory serves. I’m aware that it’s not a popular position. Others have made a good case for the fact that any right carries a moral implication. I could bandy about that a bit, but it’s more important (to me) that I understand what Brennan is saying. With your help, and the help of the other commenters, I feel much better about it now. So, thanks! :)

      • Theresa Klein

        “X has a liberty right to do Y” means “It is morally permissible for X to Y.X has a claim right to do Y” means “Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.”

        Then we still need a third category for
        “X has a (TBD) right to Y” meaning “Other’s have a duty to take deliberate action to provide X with Y.

        • Jason Brennan

          That would be a positive claim right.

    • good_in_theory

      Actually not any liberty right can be paraphrased as a claim right. In fact no liberty right can be paraphrased as a claim right. I think the problem here is that you are thinking of a property right, which is a composite of a liberty right and a claim right.

      A liberty right entails the absence of claim rights (for Hohfeld, a “no-claim”): if I have a liberty “right to speak”, this means that no one has a claim “right that I not speak” – which is to say it is not the case that I have a “duty not to speak.” (Which would be the result of someone else’s claim right.)

      A liberty right is a right to attempt. A claim right is a duty upon someone else not to attempt. You can’t describe a “right to attempt” as someone/some group’s “duty not to attempt”. That’s why these are “atomic incidents” of the analytical framework.

      The issue is that a “right to attempt” is not the same as, or equatable to, a “right not to be impeded in your attempting.”

      Rather, a “right to attempt” coupled with a “right not to be impeded in attempting” is a composite (or “molecular”) right formed out of a bundle of the atomic parts of the Hohfeldian analytic framework.

      The formulation doesn’t obscure anything about the difference between a “right to keep something I produce” (e.g. – the absence of claims over what you produce, i.e.the liberty to do what you’d like with it). and a “right to have someone else give me something they produce” (e.g. the presence of a duty to hand over what you’ve produced, i.e. the lack of a liberty to do what you wish with what you’ve produced.)

      Rather it spells it out rather nicely. If “ownership” is the right to keep what you make and “entitlement” is the scenario in which others can make demands of what you make, then:

      “ownership” = the liberty to do as you wish with your property
      “entitlement” = the lack of the liberty to do as you wish with your property

      In this analytical system, “entitlement” is the logical complement of “ownership”. If you are not at liberty to dispose of what you produce, then there exists at least one person with a claim over your product.

      If we want to compare the claim rights at issue, we have on the one hand a “duty for all not-A not to interfere with A’s control of X” vs “a duty for A not to interfere with not-A’s control of X.”

      This actually gets back to Jason’s post on the NAP and how the question of propriety is begged by the “cartoon” deployment of the NAP, which depends upon a particular theory of appropriation. The question is whether or not, in producing things, it is the case that you produce a liberty right over what’s produced (that is, whether you nullify any competing assertions of the liberty to dispose of what’s produced).

      Non-labor-mixers assert that the appropriation or improvement of a resource does not dissolve all other legitimate claims over the disposal of that resource.

  • sam

    I think might be a more profound argument against Hoppe. Here’s the argument, roughly.

    We can begin by asking, Do I own my thoughts (feelings, emotions, etc)?
    There is a reason to think not, a reason, I think, libertarians might appreciate.
    Surely it’s part of the concept of ownership that I can transfer ownership of the thing owned to someone else. It’s probably for this reason that Nozick countenanced slavery contracts in ASU: If I own my body, if I have a property interest in my body, then I can transfer that property interest to someone else.

    But then, if I own my thoughts, if I have a property interest in my thoughts, I can transfer ownership to someone else. My thoughts, then, would no longer be my thoughts, but those of the person I’ve transferred ownership to. But does this make sense? I think not. So, whatever relationship I stand in to my mind (thoughts, feelings, etc), it is not one of ownership.

    Thus, contra Hoppe, someone arguing against self-ownership need not stand convicted of assuming what he or she denied because there is no ownership involved.

    It’s because of things like this that I said, in another thread, that the notion of self-ownership is opaque.

    • Libertymike

      “Surely its PART of the concept of ownership that I can transfer the thing owned to someone else.”
      Valid ownership need not have the characteristic of alienablity. Sam, from a legal perspective, there is no debate. From an historical perspective, are you conversant with Madison’s piece, On Property, published in the National Gazette, March 29, 1792?

      • sam

        It must be true of the thing owned that it is logically possible to transfer ownership.

      • sam

        It must be true of the thing owned that it is logically possible to transfer ownership.

        • Libertymike

          Would you like a laundry list of examples which legally foreclose your argument?
          (1) A to A’s eldest son for life, then to A’s surviving issue.
          Thus, if A conveys his feudal estate to his eldest son for life, the eldest son LEGALLY OWNS the feudal estate, but he cannot transfer the feudal estate. In today’s parlance, A’s eldest son has a life estate.
          (2) Hoppe donates his rare book collection to Jason with the restrictive covenant that Jason may never sell the collection and that upon Jason’s death, the books are to go to the cartoon libertarian museum.
          After Hoppe’s donation, Jason LEGALLY OWNS the book collection notwithstanding the fact that he cannot sell or otherwise transfer the books.

          • sam

            That is not a counterexample at all. When you say he cannot transfer the estate, you are saying that under the legal rules, he cannot transfer the estate. But two things:

            1) what happens upon the death of A? You just claimed that the ownership can be transferred: A to A’s eldest son for life, then to A’s surviving issue. That is, on the death of A’s eldest son, the estate passes — ownership is transferred — to A’s surviving issue.

            2) legal impossibility != logical impossibility.

            Maybe three things:

            3) legal rules can be changed.

          • sam

            Oh, and

            “Hoppe donates his rare book collection to Jason with the restrictive covenant that Jason may never sell the collection and that upon Jason’s death, the books are to go to the cartoon libertarian museum.”

            That is, the ownership is to be transferred to the museum.

            Once again, legal impossibility != logical impossibility.

          • Libertymike

            You are ignoring some things in your response, including the temporal considerations.
            Once A transfers the feudal estate to his eldest son, the eldest son owns the feudal estate, not A, nor A’s surviving issue. Thus, during the time that A’s eldest son owns the estate, he cannot transfer it.
            Once Jason receives the book collection from Hoppe, Jason is the owner, not Hoppe, not the cartoon libertarian museum and not anybody else. Thus, once Jason owns the books, he cannot transfer them.
            Are you doubting that A’s eldest son owns the feudal estate after his father transfers it to him? Are you doubting that A’s eldest son cannot sell the feudal estate to Kim Kardashian?
            Are you doubting that Jason owns the book collection after Hoppe donates it to him? Are you doubting that Jason cannot give the book collection to Ron Paul?
            The fact is, one can own yet not be able to transfer.

          • sam

            Once again, when you say ‘cannot’ you are stating only a contingent fact. ‘cannot transfer’ here means ‘cannot transfer’ under the existing legal rules. So much I agree with. But that’s not the same as saying it’s logically impossible to transfer, etc. What I am saying is this: The sentence ‘Jason transferred ownership of the books to Kim’ is not a sentence whose truth or falsity we can evaluate simply by examination. It’s not nonsensical. It may well describe something illegal, but it doesn’t involve us in logical contradiction or nonsense in the way the sentence ‘I transferred my ownership my thought T to Kim so that it is no longer my thought but her’s.’ That, I hold, is flat out nonsense.

          • Libertymike

            Okay, I agree insofar as you distinguish between the legal and the purely logical.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            ‘I transferred my ownership in my thought T to Kim so that it is no longer my thought but her’s.’ That, I hold, is flat out nonsense.’

            Suppose I just had a thought which can make a lot of money. As a Hindu, I have a perfect legal right to transfer ownership of that thought to a Deity whose legal personality (and perpetual minorship! such that no action on its behalf can ever be time barred) is recognized by British Courts. thus securing the trustees of the idol the rights to that piece of intellectual property.
            This is an example of ownership of a thought being transferred to a piece of stone.
            There is nothing illogical about it.

        • pelletfarmer

          “It must be true of the thing owned that it is logically possible to transfer ownership.”

          Why is this, other than definitionally? Is there any relevant meaning of ownership such that I don’t own myself? Can I transfer that ownership?

          My real specialty is epistemology. Definitions should be built from identifications, not the other way around. Very common error.

          • Libertymike

            Pelletfarmer, what I set forth is a legal reality. In fact, it happens every day.

          • sam

            Dear pelletfarmer, with you professed interest in epistemology, might I recommend that you read GE Moore’s Notes on Wittgenstein’s Lectures 1930-1933 and for a counterargument to mine, see PF Strawson, Individuals, pp. 95-98. At least then, you might get a handle of the depth of problem being discussed.

          • Rob Gressis

            He says it’s his specialty, not his interest. Pelletfarmer, do you teach somewhere? Or are you enrolled in a graduate program? In what sense is epistemology your specialty?

          • pelletfarmer

            “He says it’s his specialty, not his interest.”

            It’s both.

            “Pelletfarmer, do you teach

            I try to teach everywhere. As to whether I actually do, I’ll have a better idea in a day or two!

            “Or are you enrolled in a graduate program?”

            That’s funny. I came to a realization a long time ago…the way you learn how people think is to study how people think, not how people who study how people think, think.

            “In what sense is
            epistemology your specialty?”

            In the sense that like most people, there are numerous things I understand better than others, and many that I don’t. Were such things measurable…of the ones I do, the one I do most, is epistemology.

          • Rob Gressis

            Since epistemology (“theory of knowledge”, right?) is your speciality, I’m guessing you have an answer to this question: how do you know you understand epistemology better than others?

            On another note, what books or articles in epistemology do you recommend?

          • pelletfarmer

            “how do you know you understand epistemology better than others?”

            The same way anyone knows anything…evidence.

            “On another note, what books or articles in epistemology do you recommend?”

            I don’t. If pressed, I’d recommend staying away from established books on epistemology. Wish I had. Lucky for me, it was easy enough to forget ‘em. I shudder at the thought of what modern articles must look like, but can’t directly say.

            Linguistics was my formal field, but at the time and place it was a subdivision of the philosophy department and I was inundated with grad-level philosophy courses, most of them bunk.

            If really pressed, I’d recommend Rand’s ITOE for the best GENERAL paradigm of how humans think. And for any academics, I’d highly recommend Peikoff’s “Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,” though it doesn’t appear to have done him any good. Apparently you’ve got to read between the lines, but I thought it was pretty straightforward…and critical.

    • good_in_theory

      I’m not sure why this would strike against Hoppe in the sort of way Jason’s argument does. I share the opinion that ‘ownership’ mightn’t be a good way to think about our self-relation, but does the inalienability of certain aspects of our relation to self speak in any particular way to the assertion that we have a “claim right” to non-interference in our activities?

      Say we aren’t self-owners, but self authors, self-trustees, self-representatives, or whatever concept might be more appropriate. What matters is whether or not the allegedly self-evident or pragmatically incontrovertible truth of this classification entails what Hoppe thinks it entails.

      • sam

        I think it puts a torpedo under Hoppe’s waterline, but… I do think it makes the general assertion of self-ownership, where owning one’s mind is no more problematic than owning one’s body, a shakey foundation for libertarianism. But I don’t believe the denial of self-ownership as far as the mind goes is fatal to the libertarian project, only fatal to certain justifications of the project.

  • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

    Jason’s distinction between liberty and claim rights is standard legal / philosophical fare. There is nothing at all new or controversial here. It’s just one aspect of the standard Hohfeldian analysis of rights. Read the material in the link for further explanation.

    • Kevin Vallier

      Agreeing with Matt and J. Please reading the standard analysis. There’s no point in arguing over it. They’re just definitions. You don’t argue with the dictionary, not often anyway.

      • Josh

        True, most of the above was obviously troll-type nonsense. But when people started talking about the right of free speech, it did get interesting. When you think of free speech, what kind of right do you think of? Here’s my thoughts, and I’m just going to stick with legal rights to be clear: Free speech cannot be understood except as a bundle of rights. It seems most people understand free speech as an immunity, with the gov’t having a disability. I think this is pretty fundamental. Also, we have a privilege/liberty to speak (or not to speak) because we have no duty not to. You are at liberty to speak offensively because you have no duty to refrain from speaking offensively. We also have a claim right, but this can be tricky. If I have claim right to publish a naughty book, this doesn’t mean a publisher has a duty to publish it. But, as was said above, I have a claim-right to speak without being gagged, and people have a duty not to gag me. Is it a completely different analysis when we are speaking of a moral right to free speech?

        • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

          “It seems most people understand free speech as an immunity, with the gov’t having a disability.”

          Yes, that’s how I see it: free speech is an immunity-right against the government.

          What claim-rights and liberty-rights we have with regard to speech depends upon what agreements we make. If I agree with you that you give me a pile of money provided that I do not speak about abortion, I lose the liberty-right I had to speak about abortion (because I give you the claim-right that I not so speak, i.e., I undertake the duty not to so speak). If I enter someone’s house or business I have a duty to abide by whatever rules about speech they have prescribed for their premises (prohibiting swearing, for instance), in which case I have no liberty-right (while on the premises) to speak in ways which infringe their rules. And so on.

          • good_in_theory

            Just to dig in even more, you can lose your liberty right to speak about abortion because you have a power-right to modify your liberty to speak, if my understanding of this has held up.

          • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

            That is implicit in what I said. It is morally permissible for me to make the contract to shut up about abortion in exchange for a pile of money because I have the power-right to so alter my liberty-right to speak about abortion.

            But it might be that you intended something else. Do I have the power-right to alter my liberty-rights by imposing duties on myself? Can I promise myself that I will never again speak about abortion so that I then have a claim-right against myself (and thus a duty to myself) never to talk about abortion? I am not sure.

          • good_in_theory

            Yes, I was simply making the implicit explicit to flesh out the system. No real point other than further explication.

      • Libertymike

        Doesn’t the same apply to the meaning of ad hominem? Literally, it means, to the man. The dictionary definition, the legal dictionary definition and the wider cultural understanding of the term is not cabined by the meaning attributed to the term by some in the philosophy academy.

      • pelletfarmer

        Oh, I get it now; thanks. Y’all are discussing what the definitions say. Sorry about that—I’ve been trying to address what the thing is.

        That must explain why the Newspeak Dictionary is so important.

  • Grant Babcock

    “‘X has a liberty right to do Y’ means ‘It is morally permissible for X to Y.’

    “‘X has a claim right to do Y’ means ‘Others have a duty not to interfere with X when he Ys.’”

    Let’s take your two examples (one from the text, one from the comments) and put them in this template.

    “Hobbes thinks in the state of nature we all have liberty rights to kill one another, but he doesn’t think we have claim rights not to be killed.”

    I have a liberty right to kill other people. –> It is morally permissible for me to kill other people.
    I have a claim right to kill other people. –> Others have a duty not to interfere with me when I kill other people.

    Your translation of Hobbes–that we have liberty rights to kill but no claim rights to not be killed–is not an example of having a liberty right to X but not a claim right to X, because a right to kill and a right not to be killed are not the same right.

    Your boxing example from the comments is better.

    “Consider: in a boxing ring, both boxers have liberty right to block punches, but no claim rights to block punches.”

    Both boxers have a liberty right to block punches. –> It is morally permissible for both boxers to block punches.
    Both boxers have a claim right to block punches. –> Others have a duty not to interfere with both boxers when they block punches.

  • David Friedman

    My refutation was shorter, simpler, and less dependent on the language of professional philosophers.


    • Jason Brennan

      Mine is short and sweet when said to other philosophers, because they already know the claim right/liberty right distinction.

    • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

      ‘consider the proposition “One should never argue about what people should do.” Belief in it is inconsistent with defending it argumentatively, but that tells us nothing at all about whether it is true or false. One could even imagine someone who did not believe in the proposition constructing a valid argument proving that it was true, although he would presumably stop speaking as soon as he had completely convinced himself.’

      This argument, though meaningless in any strict sense, might appear not to be so because, at first glance, we feel that the introduction of impredicativity indicates that we have entered a higher order language and thus a different complexity class for the underlying Game.

      However, by Razburov Rudich, we know we can’t draw any conclusion from this.

      Hoppe says ‘ For anyone who would try to justify any norm whatsoever would already have to presuppose an exclusive right to control over his body as a valid norm simply in order to say ‘I propose such and such’.

      Apparently, self-ownership forbids leasing out one’s faculties to wrath and lust and gluttony and drunkeness such that we can say with Agammemnon ‘Not I, but my phrenes spoke’ or ‘Honey, it was the drink talking. I don’t think you’re a fat ugly slag at all. Honest.’.
      Who wants self-ownership on such restricted terms?

      • pelletfarmer

        “Who wants self-ownership on such restricted terms?”

        Ha…funny response, but that proves the point too. For me, the point is even larger…you DO own yourself, in any semi-sane approach to ownership. I call it “axiomatic” because the only way out of it is to define ownership in some manner that precludes self-ownership.

        And sure, there are lots of ways to do that, but not without stripping the essence of what ownership–actual, independent of judgment, objective ownership–is.

        Also, it might be worthy to note that ownership itself, whatever it is, has existence only in a social context. Implicit in any concept C is the existence (or the imagined existence) of not-C. In the absence of a social context, there would be nothing that qualified as “not owned,” and so “own” would carry no meaning. Well, except any that the actor wanted to fantasize into existence, of course.

        • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

          I like this because it equates ownership with responsibility and thus serves a moral purpose even in idionomic discourse. For e.g. if Robinson Crusoe is an alcoholic, he still gets to ‘own’ the enormities he perpetrated, whilst drunk, in the sober light of day.
          I don’t suppose it matters very much if we substitute ‘self-creation’ for ‘self ownership’ or, indeed, attribute both efficient causes and ‘ownership’ to God or ‘the Force’ or ‘The Tao’ or whatever. The crucial things is to learn to ‘own’ one’s errors and idiocies so that it becomes your responsibility to fix things.
          Under Mrs. Thatcher, tenants were allowed to buy their houses from the Govt and, instead of turning into slums, owner-occupied houses showed superior maintenance and compliance with relevant by-laws against nuisances.
          Even if this measure had not increased labor and social mobility, it would still have been a success even though nothing had changed except that the occupants now made mortgage payments whereas previously they had paid rent.
          The argument was made that this ‘privatization’ would make people selfish and anti-social. They would retreat into a fantasy world fed by cheap Videos and frozen dinners. If someone broke a window pane or if the boiler burst or there was a spot of rising damp, people would just fix it themselves instead of making endless trips to the Council office. BUT, moaning about the Council’s apathy Socializes you- i.e. coarsens you- the alternative being surrendering to Fantasy.
          Anyway, this was Terry Gilliam’s take on British Socialism, circa the Seventies, in his masterpiece ‘Brazil’.
          Nothing wrong with fantasy, so long as you fix the porch light when it goes out and insulate the loft in plenty of time for Winter.
          Argumentation theory, on the other hand, except in a Comutational Logic type context, has always been a threat to Liberty- which is the leisure to dream rather than the lucid, too lucid, nightmare of Public Justification’s Nakedness in the Exam Hall.

    • pelletfarmer

      You did a nice job of it too, but brought in more than I’m personally interested in. So could I trouble you to do a short and simple refutation of Hoppe’s argument above, specifically the last two sentences?

      Surely the gist of it is clear enough…the very assertion of the absence of self-ownership is affirmation of self-ownership. Do you find that particular claim objectionable? TIA.

  • John

    Meh. I want my 60 seconds back.

  • Jakub

    The notion of having a “liberty right” without having a “claim right” does not make sense. In the Hobbesian scenario, which is allegedly supposed to illustrate this possibility, it would amount to saying “if others do not kill you first, you can kill others”, which has nothing to do with the notion of rights, i.e., universal, physically enforceable claims. To illustrate: according to this understanding of “rights”, it would be perfectly logically meaningful to say to a paralyzed cripple, who is sure to be killed rather than being able to kill someone else, “I know perfectly well that you can’t actually kill anyone, but you have a ‘liberty right’ to try!”. Or it’s like saying to a prisoner: you have a liberty right to try to break out of the prison, but no claim right against imprisonment. This, however, means either that the whole “rights talk” in these scenarios is just a way of taunting the ones whose rights have been violated, or it means that rights are not universal, physically enforceable claims, in which case they are rights in name only, while actually being privileges of some (those permitted to imprison/kill others) and handicaps of others (those too weak to resist being killed or imprisoned).

    The Wikipedia entry for this distinction says “Liberty rights and claim rights are the inverse of one another: a person has a liberty right permitting him to do something only if there is no other person who has a claim right forbidding him from doing so”. This sounds perfectly reasonable. But this contradicts the logical meaningfulness of there being liberty rights without corresponding claim
    rights – “liberty rights” without corresponding claim rights are not
    rights at all – they are just powers, possibilities, or opportunities.

    • good_in_theory

      Best to just read Hobbes on this. For Hobbes, “natural right” can be simplified as the right to do whatever you are able to do. When he moves on to the laws of nature, things get a bit smudged as a particular conception of rationality is then argued to constrain natural right in particular ways (and get us to Leviathan). But regardless, on Hobbes’s account a total cripple doesn’t have the (natural) right to kill, precisely because he is incapable of it.

      I’d have to go dig into things again to see if he suggests anything about whether it would make sense to speak of a moral/legal/positive/etc right to do what one “naturally” had no right to do. Independent of what his writings would suggest, it’s not an especially problematic situation. It’s perfectly coherent to say, “if you were able to X, you would have a (positively enacted, moral/legal/whatever right) to do X”.

      Hobbes actually does say you have a liberty right to break out of prison (well, specifically, execution – but this comes down to what you can actually cede when you renounce natural right in order to set up a commonwealth), but no claim right against imprisonment. When the sovereign puts your head on the block, it’s back to the state of nature and it’s kill or be killed.

      I think if one is going to assert that “liberty rights” are a thing, then it just naturally follows that rights are not “universal, physically enforceable claims.” Or rather there’s just an equivocation to settle here: either we think of liberty rights (on this sort of Hobbesian account), as the right to attempt whatever is possible or as the right to have done just as much as whatever it turned out you were capable of doing. In the former definition we’re going to have to settle on what variety of possibility we’re talking about, but other than that it seems fine.

      At the end I think what it comes down to is that you want to say that a right isn’t just a possibility and it’s wrong to characterize any variety of “rights” as merely possibilities. But I’m not sure why that would be.

  • Jameson Graber

    Jason, your posts have exposed me to many silly arguments I had never heard before–complete with refutation! But for each of these silly arguments, there seems to be some intuition behind it that resonates with me on some level. In this example, there’s something attractive about the idea that the very act of presenting an argument to someone shows that your respect them as an individual, capable of accepting or rejecting your proposition.

    There also seems to be something here about the idea that society *needs* debate, for epistemological reasons, because it can easily go wrong, and it’s impossible to predict who might have the best argument. Call this a Hayekian argument for free speech rights (“claim rights,” as I now know–I learned a political philosophy term today!). But of course, this is not a strictly logical argument. It depends, of course, on empirical observation…

    • good_in_theory

      Sounds like the Millian argument to me.

      But if you want to see performative contradiction spun into an argument for argument at a societal level, see Habermas. Or maybe not, he’s a tremendous bore to read. Though he touches on a vast array of writers in the history of philosophy and in contemporary philosophy and often does a decent job of engaging them, so you get a sort of whirlwind tour of big names in sociology, philosophy, political theory, &etc. (I believe Hoppe studied with Habermas, though Habermas’s political theory is not like Hoppe’s).

  • Ben Garrison

    If you presuppose that you must be allowed to do such and such a thing, then it follows that people must not interfere with that.

    • http://philosopherstoner.blogspot.com/ Nick Flamel

      If you’re suggesting that a liberty right implies a claim right, that’s not correct.

      When you have a liberty right to do Y, you are MORALLY allowed or permitted to do Y. This doesn’t reference other people at all, or whether they must allow you do it.

      (1) X is morally permitted to do Y.
      (2) Everyone else is morally obligated to not interfere with X doing Y.

      You’re saying (2) follows from (1), but it doesn’t.

    • good_in_theory

      “Must be allowed” is weaselly language. Say Ben and Nick are plopped down onto a virgin island. We grant that you each have a right to self-preservation and thus to appropriate what you can. You each *must be allowed* to appropriate things on the island. This does *not* entail that either one of you is disallowed from appropriating things – that Ben is not allowed to compete with Nick over what Nick is free to get or vice versa.

      Ben’s liberty doesn’t infringe upon Nick’s, nor Nick’s upon Ben’s, until you *create* the necessary claim-rights (by mixing your labor with the coconuts, or whatever it is you do to establish exclusive property rights).

  • Davy Goossens

    so basically bleeding heart libertarians is after embracing the bullshit of equality georgism now also actually arguing against individual self ownership as well.

    i guess you could call yourself full fledged socialists now as well.

    • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

      I do not think that anyone in this discussion is arguing against self-ownership. The argument is against a faulty argument for self-ownership. If self-ownership is important to you, you should want to defend it with GOOD arguments, not bad ones.

      • Davy Goossens

        thinking is not knowing
        and what i know for sure is this site is filled with bullshit.

        it’s like some people weren’t happy enough with liberalism already taken by socialists so they took libertarianism as well.

  • Predrag Rajsic

    Although I agree with the claim that Hoppe’s argument is faulty, I find this refutation confusing.

  • JP Martindale

    Another problem with Hoppe’s expositions of argumentation ethics is that, while occasionally quoting Apel and Habermas as sources of the arguments, they never specify to what extent Hoppe is also taking over some of the more controversial elements of the philosophies of language the accounts of the both of the latter are built upon. As I read Apel, for instance, he accepts a fairly controversial ‘community’ view of ‘Wittgenstein on meaning’, such that an individual’s utterances and mental processes can be said to ‘mean’ anything only insofar as an actual community exists to provide standards for the correctness of one’s following of the rules constitutive of the meaningfulness thereof. Now this is why I believe the ‘solitary thought/argument’ responses aren’t meant to succeed as objections (i.e. not because of the fact they supervene on physical brain processes), but it would be helpful to know whether Hoppe really is implicitly relying on something like this, which as a doctrine is questionable both in itself and as an interpretation of Wittgenstein, etc.

  • Joshua

    My argument against it.

    1. hypocrisy does not make an argument invalid
    2. Hoppes’ argument relies on someone’s hypocrisy in making an argument invalidating that argument.
    3. Therefore, Hoppes’ argument is invalid.

    • Joshua

      For some clarifications.

      Even if its true that I must be acting on the premise of self ownership to make an argument(it isn’t true) that would merely mean I am doing something hypocritical in making an argument against self ownership.

      Note–the shortest form of the objection to Hoppe is “the fact that you are eating a steak during dinner doesn’t mean your argument that it is wrong to eat meat is invalid.”

      • pelletfarmer

        I like your retorts, Joshua, but I don’t think they do Hoppe’s point justice. I’m only going by the last two sentences as cited in the original post.

        Your first rendition amounts to, “Hypocrisy exists,” which is true enough. But obviously (at least from the two sentences), Hoppe is making the point that this is a necessary inconsistency. And it is.

        Likewise eating steaks. The fact that you are eating a steak would indeed show an internal inconsistency with the argument that you believe it to be wrong. The best retort you’ve got is, “People do things all the time that they believe is wrong,” but that’s just definition-switching. For a willful being, taking an action is equivalent with saying, “I believe this action is right” in a very important sense—maybe not as an externally derived formal syllogistic argument, but as a determinant for what the organism decides to do with its body. This is simple fact, being what free will is. For a willful creature, there is no dichotomy between the belief that something is the right thing to do, and actually doing it. They are linked in a very fundamental way–absent coercion and reflex, it’s the ONLY way the organism takes ANY action.

        So eating a steak does indeed mean, at least in the instance, that the person judges it as right. Sure, he could judge it wrong in other instances…but not in THAT instance. So in this respect, Hoppe’s argument actually holds…the mere claim that, “I propose that I do not own myself,” is inconsistent with the claim’s existence.

        Now of course any person can argue anything inconsistently, plus any person can lie any time they want. But they can’t do it in the form of consistency and most importantly of all, they can’t do it without knowing it.

        • good_in_theory

          “For a willful creature, there is no dichotomy between the belief that something is the right thing to do, and actually doing it.”

          This presumes a rather simplistic and impoverished account of how “willing” actually works. In fact, creatures for which there is never a dichotomy between the doing of something and the belief that their so doing is right don’t actually exist.

          • pelletfarmer

            It presumes nothing, though I agree it’s a simplistic account! Impoverished, I’m not so sure.

            Apparently my meaning slipped right by you, but I’m not sure why. Surely you can understand the sense in which a willful creature motivating its body pursuant to choosing from among alternatives, considers the chosen alternative “right”.

            Please tell me you get that. And if you do, I trust that you’ll agree that EVERY waking action that a willful creature takes, is pursuant to precisely such a choice. You do agree with that, don’t you? On the odd chance that you don’t, leaving aside physical coercion and convulsions of course, I’ll be very grateful for even a single example to the contrary.

    • http://www.stationarywaves.com/ Ryan Long

      Actually, this is the best one I’ve seen so far. You’ve pointed out that Hoppe is committing the “fallacy fallacy” or “argument from fallacy.”


  • daniilgorbatenko

    Is there any difference between the statements:

    1) It is moral for X to do Y,


    2) X has a liberty right to do Y?

    And if not, doesn’t it make the notion of ‘liberty rights’ redundant?

    Besides, although I am to put it mildly, not a fan of Hoppe’s argument, it seems that you have misinterpreted it (see e.g. the version that Roderick Long discusses in the post you linked to).

    The precondition for interpersonal argument for Hoppe is not the morality for a person to say something but her physical control over her body. And the key mistake Hoppe makes is the confusion of control with property.

    • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

      The concept of a liberty-right is one element in Hohfeld’s system of different kinds of rights, and that system is highly illuminating. For Hohfeld, rights (and also duties, which are the correlative of claim-rights) are binary relations: they exist between one person and one other. Hohfeld says that person A has a liberty-right against person B to do x if and only if A has no duty to B not to do x. And A has no duty to B not to do x if and only if B has no claim-right that A do x. If there is no one who has a claim right that A does not do x, then it is morally permissible for A to do x. In that case, we might say that A is at liberty to do x.

      There are lots of confusions in Hoppe’s argument, as I explain in my paper.

      • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

        A liberty right lets you do an immoral thing and the corresponding claim right makes it immoral for others to stop you doing that thing.
        Both type of rights exist even in a Robinson Crusoe world. Crusoe has a liberty right to make a Trust in which he is the only beneficiary and also the trustee, prior to the arrival of Man Friday. He can then say, I homesteaded this Island and put it in trust for myself such that I’m forbidden. under its terms, to permit you to dispose of my property even if, absent that Trust, I’d have felt morally obliged to go halfsies with you.
        One way of paraphrasing Hoppe is to say ‘assume that, when playing a certain type of Language game, any well formed proposition within it is a case of exercising a liberty right such that it creates a claim right against oneself of a particular sort.’ In that case, his argument goes through. Don’t grant him his assumption and it fails. This is because the assumption is specified in natural language and it always possible to find an interpretation of it which defeats any given dis-proof.
        The scandal this creates for BHL thinkers is that an obviously silly argument obtains which is not refutable because, for some reason, BHL academics buy into Public Justification because like maybe it’s in my job description and anyway all the cool kids are doing it?
        The proper Libertarian response, surely, is to say ‘a plaque on both your houses’ and go back to fantasizing about teaming up with Sarah Palin to become like a real badass bounty hunter or something equally lubricious.

        • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

          I think you are confusing moral rights and legal rights. Something may be legally permissible (no one has a legal claim-right that you not do it) but morally impermissible (someone has a moral claim-right that you not do it). Telling a lie or insulting someone may be examples.

          I think you are also confusing power-rights with liberty-rights. You exercise a power-right when you alter someone’s claim-rights or liberty-rights.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            I think we are speaking of ‘essentially contested’ concepts here so confusion is baked in.
            In general, I have no legal right to lie or insult someone except by reason of my own claim rights which ultimately derive from Public Policy pragmatics and thus are inherently defeasible.
            Interestingly, the same Policy pragmatics may bar me from telling the truth or awarding condign praise.
            Morally, I may have rights that conflict with claim rights- including claim rights against myself- and these can undoubtedly affect the prevailing distribution of power-rights.
            It is true that if one thinks Moore’s paradox is a genuine scandal, or that Wittgenstein’s private language argument doesn’t have an algorithmic workaround, then it may be that you’ve boxed yourself in and have no means to disprove a possible interpretation of Hoppe.
            One reason to think so is that ‘following a rule’ need not be deterministic. If so, by a Razburov Rudich type argument, our intuition about what is ‘natural’ misleads us.
            The Research Program for Argumentation theory in Computational Logic is not obviously unsound, whereas it is self-evidently foolish in the context of BHL, and perhaps that should be the perspective from which to tame Hoppe’s beastie.

      • daniilgorbatenko

        OK, I agree that this discussion is useful in that it illuminates the interpersonal-interaction-based nature of morality. But what does it have to do with political philosophy?

        To me, political philosophy is about use of force, or, IOW, about enforceable claims. And I thought that in political philosophy those claims that are enforceable are called rights.

        • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

          Legal claim-rights are normally legally enforceable. Hohfeld’s analysis is important to political philosophy because it helps to clear up, and to avoid, confusions. I find that the biggest problem of political debate is confusion.

          • daniilgorbatenko

            I wasn’t talking about law. I was talking about claims which enforceable from the ethical standpoint.

          • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

            I take it that, in general, a claim-right is morally enforceable if and only if it ought to be legally enforceable. There may be some exceptions to that depending on costs and disadvantages of legal enforcement of a particular claim-right. So when I was speaking (above) of legal claim-rights, I meant rights that ought to be recognised as legal rights, i.e., to put it another way, morally legitimate legal claim-rights. There is a connection between enforcement and (legitimate) legality; but it holds ceteris paribus.

          • daniilgorbatenko

            Well, we’ll have to disagree no the necessity of legitimacy for the existence of enforceable rights. This is also my central disagreement with your critique of Hoppe.

          • daniilgorbatenko

            Well, we’ll have to disagree no the necessity of legitimacy for the existence of enforceable rights. This is also my central disagreement with your critique of Hoppe.

          • daniilgorbatenko

            Frankly I don’t believe that the term legal has to do with political philosophy/philosophy of justice.

            In other words, it is either moral for me to defend or ask someone else to defend some of my moral claims by proportional force or not. Those claims which it is moral for me to thus defend are rights.

          • http://independent.academia.edu/DannyFrederick Danny Frederick

            I guess we are using ‘legal’ in different ways. I think legal rights are just those that are enforceable. ‘Legal’ may be taken in two ways. In the sense of positive (de facto) law, legal rights are those that are recognised to be enforceable in the existing legal system. But we can also distinguish between moral rights that, from a moral point of view, are enforceable (such as those created by contracts) and moral rights that, from a moral point of view, are not enforceable (such as those created by promises); and the former may be described as legal, even if there is no existing legal machinery of enforcement (i.e., in the sense that they ought to be backed by such machinery, whether provided publicly or privately).

          • daniilgorbatenko

            OK, no disagreements here.

    • good_in_theory

      Having a way to translate a particular concept into the language of a particular analytical system doesn’t strike me as “redundant”.

      *If* “moral” and “liberty right” are equivalent in some interpretation, I wouldn’t call that a redundancy. I would call that an interesting result of conceptual analysis which enhances our understanding (in this case of morality, and of rights, and of their relationship). Saying water is H2O isn’t a redundancy, it’s a revelation.

      In any case, if it turns out “moral” and “liberty right” are equivalent, that would only be in a particular application of the analytical framework. Take Hohfeldian analysis and apply it as a means of describing an existing legal system and you will no doubt find “liberty rights” that are immoral.

      But if I infer correctly from Jason’s example with the KKK’s speech rights, I think Jason would say as far as ethics goes, we have a duty not to do immoral things (morality requires this of us). Since a “liberty right to x” is defined as the lack of “a duty not to do x”, we do not have the liberty right to do anything immoral.

      Perhaps for Jason morality requires we do what is moral (exerts a claim right on us). Then we end up with the result that we have a duty to do all things moral. Morality and immorality are then each a species of duty.

      We’ve assumed that nothing immoral is a liberty (I guessed this to be Jason’s view.) So let’s get to the question of whether or not every liberty is moral. If some liberties are neither immoral nor moral, then this fails. If some moral duties we have we are not at liberty to fulfill, this fails. It seems to me both of those are likely, so I’d wager “liberty” and “moral” are not equivalent/redundant.

      For example:

      Not everything we are at liberty to do is moral: I am at liberty to prefer vanilla to chocolate. This is neither moral nor immoral.

      We are not at liberty to do everything moral: I have made a promise which constrains my liberties, including my liberty to do moral thing X.

      • pelletfarmer

        “*If* ‘moral’ and ‘liberty right’ are equivalent in some interpretation, I wouldn’t call that a redundancy.”

        That’s interesting. How about if they were equivalent in nature, meaning the referent sets were identical? Would you call it a redundancy then? You do acknowledge the distinction, don’t you?

        “Saying water is H2O isn’t a redundancy, it’s a revelation.”

        That’s funny. To whom was it revealed? More importantly, BY whom?

        So if I tell you to fill that bucket to the middle line with water, and fill it to the top line with H2O, you’ll have no problem doing that? Or will you plead that you can’t fill it with the H2O because it’s already half full of water? “WHOOIIEEE!!!”

        “(morality requires this of us)”

        Neat trick; I can hardly wait to hear how it does that! Is morality armed too?

        “Not everything we are at liberty to do is moral: I am at liberty to
        prefer vanilla to chocolate. This is neither moral nor immoral.”

        Wow, really? So you’re absolutely speechless when ordering at the DQ? Or do you make a decision? If you make a decision, based on whatever you base it on, how is that not showing a preference for one over the other? How is determining that choice A is preferable to choice B, not morality?

        More to the point, what do you imagine morality to BE, if not the willful choice of volitional beings?

        See, that’s what happens with an over-reliance on dictionaries and what other people believe. You miss the forest for the trees. Or more precisely, you miss identifying the nature of X because you spent all your time analyzing the thinking of X. Very common among so-called intellectuals.

        I can only guess that this is because the nature of certain Xs is so plainly obvious, that nobody could make any money discussing them. So instead they yap about thinking about them, and seem to never, ever run out of work doing that.

        • good_in_theory

          Yes, it is still not a redundancy if the referent set is identical in nature. “Elizabeth Alexandra Mary” and “The current queen of England” refer to an identical set in nature. And yet each name imparts knowledge of different properties of the object – properties which are not deducible from the other name.

          People reveal the equivalence of H2O and water all the time. It happens in chemistry classes the world over.

          To say that morality requires something of us is to say that for a particular moral description to obtain, we must act in such and such away. It does this by merely existing. When we fail to comport ourselves in accord with the description, we know that, relative to that description, we have failed.

          Preferences and moral choices are not identical. When I express a preference I do not necessarily express a *moral* preference. Values and moral values are not identical. When I express a value I do not necessarily express a moral value.

          It doesn’t really matter what I imagine morality to be. All that matters is that I imagine morality to be different from preference and different from reality. The source of each description of a possible state of affairs isn’t relevant – all that matters is that there are different sources one can draw on, and the descriptions they produce are not identical.

          It’s true that the nature of some Xs is plainly obvious. There are certainly some things that are quite obvious about you.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            Surely these are aleatory or sublatable equivalences such as might arise from mere ergodicity and thus unable to carry any hysteresis type value.
            If so, what you are saying hasn’t a lick to do with the subject of this post or, indeed, good faith discussion of it.
            Yet, it is an empirical fact that you are saying what you do.
            It may be that you just randomly intersperse comments- but what is the canonical syntax to interpret them?
            Answer this question and suddenly you are revealed to be on Hoppe’s side.
            That’s my guess, anyway, unless there’s something else you can bring to the table.

          • pelletfarmer

            “If so, what you are saying hasn’t a lick to do with the subject of this post or, indeed, good faith discussion of it.”

            Save yourself…I can affirm the consequent without a hint of what the antecedent means, and less interest.

            So just curious. On the assumption that I didn’t even engage in a good-faith discussion of the topic of the post, what sort of act would that be with regard to moral permissibility? That should keep you busy for a minute.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            For some reason, I can’t seem to reply to pelletfarmer by clicking on his comment.
            Pelletfarmer- my comment wasn’t against you but ‘good-in-theory’. It’s like ‘discovery’ in Law- I’m trying to find out what his sources are.
            That kind of thing is ‘Sociology of Knowledge’ interesting.
            The big puzzle for me is why people who took their first degree in the late Seventies and Eighties fucked up so bad w.r.t by then obvious objective computational constraints relegating their chosen brand of pi-jaw to a fucking Scholastic cul de sac.
            I wonder about ‘good-in-theory’s’ age. He must be in his fifty plus minus a decade.
            He said my objection to his analysis of ‘equivalence’ hadn’t a lick to do with his thesis. I was interested to find out why coz then I could place him.
            You, I take it, are between 15 and 35- what Vico called an adolescent.
            That’s a good thing to be coz u don’t have to learn Math seeing as how Mommy gave you a note to get of Gym coz of your Asthma, and Math is just Gym without the co-ed nip slips which make it bearable.
            Jus’ saying.

          • pelletfarmer

            LOL. I get it…you’re looking to “place people.” I hope you do better with your other attempts at identification, cuz you missed my age by a multiple greater than three.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            I love you man, You my brother from a diff’ren Mother- I iz black so I can say this and it’s still cool.
            Damn! It’s good to be Black!

          • pelletfarmer

            Hey, I can barely figure out who’s talking to whom. You wouldn’t–couldn’t–know this, but I’m working on a piece that I expect to translate into both Millennial and non-standard English. That latter be made with some bad-ass grammar, so I always likeded it cuz I dig quality..

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            I can read your mind- no, seriously, I luv u Man. (Assuming you are an old fart like me)

          • good_in_theory

            Your estimate of my age and when I’ve gotten my degrees is quite wrong.

          • good_in_theory

            You aren’t communicating anything to me at all. You’re just sort of babbling and it’s not very interesting. Your babbling certainly doesn’t have anything to do with good faith discussion.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            Well, I happen to believe that all philosophy is a ‘displacement activity’ so you’ve got me there.

            However, I baulk at your assertion that I’m not communicating to you at all.

            I think of myself as being friendly and evoking the warm fuzzies in my interlocutors.

            What is your intellectual bandwith? Do arguments from Mathematics exceed it?

            They do exceed my bandwith- which is why I employ a Math maven.

            However, as a poet, I feel I can bring things to the table.

            But, the question for me is whether you are speaking in good faith when you say
            ‘You aren’t communicating anything to me at all’

            Suppose you are in good faith.
            Then when I mention Noether’s theorem- you already know what it implies.
            Here’s the problem, if you do, why did you write things clearly not compatible with that view?
            You say I am babbling and that is not very interesting. I grant you that I am probably the most boring geek on the planet. But what makes you so certain that my ‘babbling’ has nothing to do with good faith discussion?
            Since you have been insulting to me- I respond by insulting your intellect, education and capacity to reason.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            Don’t sweat it bro. And, you’re in your mid 20′s and not a Math guy. Come on my blog and I’ll see about getting you out of the academic ghetto, making real money.
            I graduated from the LSE at the age of 19 and went straight into the City.
            Academia is fucking Socialism by a less obnoxious name.

          • good_in_theory

            Until recently I was in that ghetto. Now I’m figuring out a sustainable way to live outside of it.

          • pelletfarmer

            “Yes, it is still not a redundancy if the referent set is identical in
            nature. “Elizabeth Alexandra Mary” and “The current queen of England”
            refer to an identical set in nature. And yet each name imparts
            knowledge of different properties of the object – properties which are
            not deducible from the other name.”

            Gee, never heard that one before. It’s innocent enough as it reads, but apparently you don’t read it. It’s about the KNOWLEDGE of X, not X. I guess I should make it clearer—I’m (almost) never talking about the knowledge of X, but rather X itself. Here, that would be duties, obligations, moral acts and permissible acts.

            Now to your credit, you finally bring up a defensible claim…

            “Preferences and moral choices are not identical. When I express a preference I do not necessarily express a *moral* preference. Values and moral values are not identical. When I express a value I do not necessarily express a moral value.”

            That’s about the first thing you’ve written that’s not, IMO, completely crazy. To which I say, “Okay.” Your problem is that it has no effect on my point. Whatever set of human action you wish to denote as “moral,” it’s still the case that you will not be able to distinguish those acts on the basis of “morally permissible” versus “not morally permissible.”

            I do think you’re wrong in classifying the instances as you do, but that’s mostly semantics. Where you turn actually in error is with the fancy of some “morality” that’s out there, as if its existence doesn’t rest on the cognition of individual minds. That part of it is just false.

          • good_in_theory

            What do you think I’ve asserted that is crazy and why do you think it is crazy?

            Your “points” rely upon your own idiosyncratic and inept definitions of terms. I don’t really care much if my statements don’t measure up with your own private language.

            I haven’t said morality is something that doesn’t rest on individual cognition. I’m not sure why you would think I think this. If you think something I’ve said requires that morality is just “out there”, feel free to point it out.

          • pelletfarmer

            “Your ‘points’ rely upon your own idiosyncratic and inept definitions of terms.”

            Just so you know, my points never rest on definitions. I build my definitions from identification, not the other way around. In fact, I’m perfectly fine with using made-up words have whatever referent the other guy wants. See, I’m only interested in the nature of the referent, not the pre-existing definitions of the words we use to denote the concepts that refer to the referents.

            I saw your age and think you said you have a degree. That’s not a shocker and handily explains why you’ve bought into the foolishness of our age. FWIW it’s my opinion–and I’ve stated this explicitly many times–that what was done to you qualifies as “child abuse.” It doesn’t endear me to academic professors, but it’s my honest belief. Sorry…I hope you find a way to save yourself.

          • good_in_theory

            No, you simply mistake your definitions for reality, when they’re really just your own poorly formed conceptions.

      • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

        ‘*If* “moral” and “liberty right” are equivalent in some interpretation, I wouldn’t call that a redundancy.’

        What if the reason they are equivalent in that interpretation is because some notion of ‘equitable estoppel’ or ‘substantive due process’ makes the legal judgement dependent on the moral one? Surely that is redundancy?
        Is there any way to get equivalence between two different types of rights, under an interpretation of a deontic logic, in which the one is permitted no recourse to the others meta-language?
        As a matter of fact, not theory, it is in the nature of any transaction that it remains inchoate from some perspective, if it is indeed legally justiciable. This is because, as a matter of common experience, there is no offense without a defense- otherwise summary offenses wouldn’t carry a right to appeal.

        P.S. I don’t actually live under a bridge. I just tend to wake up there after a night out with disturbing frequency.

        • good_in_theory

          You should probably answer these questions for yourself because they don’t have a lick to do with what I was saying. Or my underlying point that not all equivalencies are redundancies.

          • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

            No offence. I was merely asking what motivated your assertion- i.e. if there was something you could point me towards in the literature.

            I really am trying to puzzle these things out for myself but even one who paddles his own canoe might ask for information about streams within the current.

            That being said, and do please correct me if I’m wrong, essentially you are saying Equivalences can be

            1) effectively aleatory,- this can’t be disproved because we cant distinguish the psuedo random from the genuine article

            2) the substantive solution of a Co-ordination problem- this can’t be disproved though it does tend to cash out as ‘pre-established harmony’ type Occassionalist optimism

            There are other alternatives, however they do involve redundancy- one arising from impredicativity- at least, so far as I can see.

            I’m evolving a blog post on this- vide http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/why-brennan-is-hoppe-ing-mad.html- and welcome your input.

          • good_in_theory

            I’m not sure I follow the properties you want to assign to equivalencies.

            My view is that many equivalencies are the result of novel, creative work. There’s often a bunch of learning and education that occurs in order for someone to see two things that are equivalent as equivalent. We find or posit rules and laws and definitions, and only gradually figure out all the ways in which they hang together. To call something a redundancy suggests to me (and certainly in the context it was initially used in in this particular sub-thread) that nothing is added by the introduction of the equivalent term.

            In general, we *find out* that things we say logically imply things we didn’t think they implied, and finding out things we didn’t know is not “redundant.”

          • good_in_theory

            Ah, I am in my middle twenties. So I guess I’m in the fucked generation.

  • pelletfarmer

    I don’t want to be cryptic, so this is what I’m saying. Earlier, Nick wrote the following:

    “There are a variety of moral theories. What is truly morally permissible depends upon which one is correct.”

    First is the trivial point that nothing in reality depends in any meaningful way on anything that has to do with anything about any theories. As I think I noted, it’s quite the other way around for a rational, identifying being—that being recognizes the nature of the referent in question and then designs (creates) a correct theory abstractly referencing it.

    Naturally if the referent in question is the theory itself, or really any epistemic existent, then obviously the thinking of it can indeed change its nature.

    The non-trivial point is the usage of “truly” there, and what it’s intended to mean. It means “the way it actually is” or “its nature” or “what it be like”…however one cares to word it. The truth is an abstract symbolization about the fact, but it is NOT the fact itself. Duh. Everyone knows this, but some people’s living depends on pretending that this is not wholly obvious.

    So there comes a problem when we try to identify that which doesn’t exist. Duty is a great example, there being no such thing as an unchosen obligation. That’s why essays and even books can be written about why this is wrong, even as not a single person can come up with a single obligation that they believe they have, by any means other than their own choices.

    That’s what happens with referentless concepts, and “morally permissible,” taken at face value, is another one of those. The general set being referenced is “human action,” specifically human action that arises through choice. “Moral” references the cognitive action which determines preference and value. Leaving aside the standards of morality for this, that’s what morality MEANS. It’s also why ALL morality is individual, but that’s a topic best left for other places at other times.

    “Permissibility” references that which is allowed. It’s either fully synonymous with “morality” and only references the judgments and values of the permissor, or it means what it appears to mean…that the permissor will ALLOW the act. And THAT is inherently a matter of physics. Either you can overpower the volitional body which chooses the action, or you can’t. The moral status of the action–without regard to how that moral status comes about–is a completely distinct attribute from (this meaning of) permissibility.

    Simply put, the upshot is that there’s not much point in trying to find the truth about something which doesn’t exist in fact. As a classification of human action into two distinct sets, “morally permissible” doesn’t do that. “Moral” can do it, and “permissible” can do it, but “morally permissible” cannot. The way out of this is to declare that “permissibility” doesn’t mean what it appears to mean. That’s alright, but then the question becomes, “Well, then what the hell does it mean?” If it’s just a reprise of “moral,” then it says nothing and brings in the obvious objection of, “So why in the world are you using ‘permissibility’ for something that has nothing whatsoever to do with permission?”

    There is no truth to be found for the imagined referents of referentless concepts. It doesn’t exist because the fact attempted to be conceptualized doesn’t exist. If you could put aside all those years of learning rotten epistemology, you’d realize that this handily explains why no truths have ever been discovered about either duties or morally permissible acts…only endless chatter.

    • good_in_theory

      “Duty is a great example, there being no such thing as an unchosen obligation.”

      How is this claim at all defensible? This claim is at face ridiculous, for any standard meaning of the word obligation. All i need to do to create an obligation is write, “X must q.” Obligations are fulfilled or unfulfilled. If Xs don’t q, then this obligation isn’t satisfied. That doesn’t make it inexistent. And clearly, I need not be X in order to write “X must q.”

      Morally permissible, at face value, is entirely coherent and clearly refers to some subset of human actions.

      “Moral” does not reference “preference and value.” The domain of what is valuable or preferred and the domain of what is moral are not the same thing, though they clearly overlap.

      “Morality” is not synonymous with “what is allowed.” Morality is not even synonymous with what is “morally allowed.” It is no more the case that everything which is morally allowed is necessarily moral than it is the case that everything which is joyfully allowed is necessarily joyful.

      Permissibility is not a matter of physics. Possibility (and then just physical possibility) is a matter of physics. Permissibility is about whether or not authorization exists. It is impermissible to hack into Principal Rooney’s computer. And yet it is possible. That doesn’t make Bueller’s foray into the school attendance records authorized. It is unauthorized access. Unauthorized access is not a contradiction in terms, it is a perfectly understandable phenomena, in which reality does not accord with the wishes of an authority.

      • pelletfarmer

        Fascinating stuff, g_i_t. Hardly a sentence without an error, but that’s no surprise since your handle tells me that you’re a living, breathing mish-mosh of category errors.

        Why not just take the simple route, and give a single example–just one will do–of an obligation that you actually have, that you actually didn’t choose to have?

        And when you’re done with that simple feat, as I already offered, give me an example of what you believe to be a “morally permissible act,” oppose it to a “not morally permissible act,” and I’ll show that you’re talking jabberwocky.

        I mean, “Additionally to you, I’ll show…” And since you likely won’t do either of those–heh, you CAN’T do the first–answer this. Does “impermissible” just mean “doesn’t want”? IOW what attribute of not hacking into Principal Rooney’s computer is captured with “impermissible” to you?

        • good_in_theory

          Yes, one could reduce “impermissible” to “unwanted.” When I hack into someone’s computer, my presence is in contradiction to their desires. That is all being unauthorized, or unpermitted, is. The fact of the matter is out of accord with some description of what the fact of the matter ought to be. Relative to some description, the way things are ought to be otherwise.

          You think “actually” is doing some sort of special work for you indicative of something important. It isn’t.

          Relative to the laws of my state, I am obligated not to buy pot. I did not choose this obligation. It is actually the case that, relative to some description of what I ought to do, I am out of accord with that description when I buy pot.

          Morally permissible and impermissiable acts can only be defined relative to a particular moral description of acts. Under a rather common moral description, scratching my nose is permissible, and killing men for fun isn’t.

          These examples are trivial, and I have little doubt your “refutations” will be trivially stupid.

          • pelletfarmer

            Okay, so what’s the function of introducing permissibility if its meaning is just “want” or “preference” or “desire”?

            And really, owing to the fact that these wants concern the acts of other people, they really reduce to wishes or prayers or hopes. Taken closely, your definition is that “morally impermissible acts” are those that some person hopes another person won’t do.

            Is that your final answer? Given 7 billion people on the planet, I think you’re gonna have a tough time isolating which acts by which people, wished for (or against) by which other people. Plus, you’ve got a HUGE problem of contradiction with this approach, assuming you find holding contradictions a problem. If I want Joe to hack into Principal Rooney’s computer and you don’t, Joe hacking into Principal Rooney’s computer is simultaneously a morally permissible act and a morally impermissible act.

            Just offhand, that sounds like a lousy way to go.

          • good_in_theory

            The importance of introducing permissibility is that it circumscribes a particular kind of desire.

            If something is impermissible, it suggests that some A doesn’t want B to do that something. If something is permissible, it suggests that some A is indifferent to B doing that something.

            Not all desires take that form.

            Wishes, prayers, and hopes are all kinds of want. I don’t think the idea of a want suggests anything in particular about our ability to achieve the want.

            I should insert here that I still am of the opinion that “description” is more apt than want or desire. A want or desire is a particular sort of description – it’s a description about a state of affairs that some person has a certain variety of feelings about.

            But that is not the only place we might get a notion of what is or isn’t permissible. If I read Deuteronomy, there is a whole system of things that are impermissible. It is not a problem at all to conceptualize myself as either living up to, or not living up to, the expectations stipulated in the book.

            Contradiction is not a problem. The world is full of competing claims about how the world ought to be. The existence of the claims is not exterminated by the physical impossibility of their mutual satisfaction.

            And yes, according to you the hacking is permissible, and according to me it is impermissible. Joe knows if he hacks into the computer, he will satisfy your expectations, and fail my expectations. Joe is in a bind as far as living up to both our expectations goes. But that is an empirically common occurrence.

          • pelletfarmer

            Got it; thanks for clarifying. Damn, I could’ve used you over the years. Nearly everyone, especially those reeking of ivory, obfuscates “X” and “the thinking of X.” You’re a rare bird who’s willing to do it explicitly, with no intent to confuse. That’s refreshingly honest and I commend you for it.

            I’m impressed that you survive, apparently believing that there can be such a thing as a problem, but that a contradiction isn’t an instance of one. That’s a killer IMO, one of the reasons I do what I do. But hey…your life, your choice. Thanks for the chat.

          • good_in_theory

            Some xs are thoughts, and for such xs there is no obfuscation between x and the thinking of x. X is a thinking of x, because x is something that is thought. In any case, you haven’t clearly communicated what in particular you think is important about distinguishing x from the thinking of x for the topic under discussion. You clearly think it’s important, but you haven’t presented any reasons to take this seriously.

            Contradiction isn’t a problem in the specific situation we were talking about. That is, there is nothing “contradictory” about having multiple incompatible descriptions of possible states of the world. One would expect such descriptions not to be consistent. It is consistent for a collection of such descriptions to be inconsistent with one another.

            If you do the things you do because you think it’s a problem that descriptions of possible states of the world are not consistent, then you have some pretty stupid motivations.

          • pelletfarmer

            “If you do the things you do because you think it’s a problem that
            descriptions of possible states of the world are not consistent…”

            Where were you all my life? You do it so smoothly, so straightforwardly, that it’s almost hard to see.

            Uh, no…I don’t think there’s any problem with descriptions of possible states of the world not being consistent. I think there’s a huge problem–in my view the hugest problem a rational being can have–believing that the states of the world themselves, might be that.

            Really…if I ever open a wax museum, your likeness is going to be at the door.

          • good_in_theory

            Ok, fine. But so what? Nothing here suggests that the actual state of the world is inconsistent with itself.

          • pelletfarmer

            “Ok, fine. But so what? Nothing here suggests that the actual state of the world is inconsistent with itself.”

            That’s nice. It’s not too far from my point. In the bit I’ve seen of this place, it appears that the actual state of the world is never under consideration at all!

            So what? So your mind is your responsibility. Save it.

          • good_in_theory

            The actual state of the world is a product of conceptions of possible states of the world.

            But confusing the actual state of the world with your own muddled ideological claptrap invented by a fourth rate writer and sixth rate philosopher isn’t really a good way to go about considering the “actual state of the world.”

          • pelletfarmer

            “The actual state of the world is a product of conceptions of possible states of the world.”

            Oh, wow…you’re in record-setting territory now!

            Don’t shoot the messenger, but this is as false as false can be. Newsflash—there was a world even before there were any humans to conceive of its possible states. Sorry.

          • good_in_theory

            And yet, once humans started conceiving of possible states and acting teleologically, all future “actual states of the world” causally depended upon their conceptions of possible states of the world, insofar as such conceptions were a motive force in their actions, and those actions were constitutive of said future states.

            It’s pretty simple. What’s record setting is the sort of deliberate stupidity which posits an “always” where there wasn’t one.

          • pelletfarmer

            [pelletfarmer here, posting as "guest]

            You might be happy to know that a friend of mine offered this very interpretation of what you wrote. I was skeptical that this is what you meant, but apparently I was wrong.

            So yes…in the context of volitional action, it’s an innocent (and true) statement. I think it’s a terrible way of wording it, insofar as “state of the world” doesn’t imply such a context, but I already noted that I care about WHAT’S being said, not how it’s said. So you may consider my charge retracted and I’m sorry for misunderstanding you.

            I guess I’ll just have to wait for another educated writer to set that record. Quite apart from this, you might want to consider that the “state of the world” in a contextless meaning–that is, in a truly “universal” sense–can’t change through time, for that would put something (time) outside of that which includes everything. I may not know the answer to that enigma, but I sure ’nuff know that it’s a question.

          • good_in_theory

            you’d have to be arguing in pretty bad faith to think that i think the actual state of the world at any given time has always been a product of human actions.

            I’m not sure why you think I “might want to consider” a “truly universal” state of the world, as if this perfectly obvious conception was either relevant to the matter at hand or in any way novel.

          • pelletfarmer

            “The actual state of the world is a product of conceptions of possible states of the world.”

            Yep, that’s a record-setter, at least for me. In many decades of doing this stuff, I’ve never seen the “argument” so clearly stated. Nice job!

          • good_in_theory

            What argument? It’s a pretty simple statement of fact.

          • pelletfarmer

            “Relative to the laws of my state, I am obligated not to buy pot. I did
            not choose this obligation. It is actually the case that, relative to
            some description of what I ought to do, I am out of accord with that
            description when I buy pot.”

            Aw, wake up already. When you buy the pot, you’re not “out of accord with that description;” you’re out of accord with the obligation. Not a puzzle to me, but you’re all tied up trying to describe it.

            Do YOU have an obligation not to buy pot, or not? You write, “Relative to,” which in this case just means, “According to…”

            But once again, I’m not talking about anyone else’s interpretation or beliefs…I’m talking about the obligation. Surely many here would wish that I’d STF up already, but just as surely those beliefs didn’t create any obligation in me.

            I understand that this distinction is something new to you, but still it’s not that tough. And with regard to the obligation itself, you either have it or don’t…and THAT rests on YOUR beliefs and interpretation. Q.E.D.

            “But I have the obligation; I just choose not to fulfill or abide it.” You can define any word any ol’ way you want, but you’re asserting that there’s some abstract existent literally within you, that was created (put there?) by someone else. Very problematic.

          • good_in_theory

            The obligation *is* a description.

            Obligations exist whether or not the state of affairs they describe obtains.

            Of course I have an obligation “according to” something. As far as I have figured it, it doesn’t make sense to talk about “an obligation” that is not “an obligation according to something.” If you can think of an obligation which is an obligation according to nothing, please let me know of it.

            I am not asserting the existence of some abstract existent literally within me. I am asserting the existence of descriptions of a state of affairs which I can either succeed or fail in meeting.

  • http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/ windwheel

    My considered verdict, having closely engaged with this- Brennan’s argument fails. Vide http://socioproctology.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/why-brennan-is-hoppe-ing-mad.html.
    More generally, if you concede your adversaries assumptions, though you may triumph over him, you do not triumph over his argument because someone else can re-present in a manner that is water-tight against your argument.
    This is why, lawyers never grant that something is admissible save when it serves their interest.
    Very foolish post.

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