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I talk about rational self-interest, utilitarianism, and my issues with the non-aggression principle.
Filed under Philosophy
First, I’d like to congratulate you on the podcast and the deep thought you obviously put into it. As I’m sure you expect, I disagree with several of your opinions. Disagreement is normal, as Paul Wheaton says, due to differing information sets. So if you don’t mind I’d like to start by stating some of my information set to see the foundations on which I shall build my arguments, so you can see how they compare to yours.
You accept labels, so I would say I am an Objectivist, but I resolve many of the issues I have found with Objectivism with a clarification of what aggression means. I define aggression to mean to adversely effect another’s situation. This resolved a problem I had where I could lock someone in a room and under most definitions, not be aggressive against them. This definition also solves your question about diverting a river, or the more “aggressive” example of me placing a plastic bag over your head. Neither harms you instantly, but both do adversely affect your situation so are by my definition aggression.
But I don’t want to pick at your statement out of context, so let’s start with your “challenge” for me to prove a truth, to which I would say. “My existence is good.” It rests on the third leg of the trilemma which is a bedrock assumption close to Descartes “I think therefore I am”, but adds the goodness of existence over nonexistence by claiming that by definition “something” has to be better than “nothing”. I guess you can try to assail my bedrock assumption, and I welcome you to try. This assumption is the bedrock of my philosophy, so I’d definitely like to know if it has flaws, but for now I will use it to rebut your arguments.
So that stated, let’s go through some items mentioned in your podcast:
1. “Rational Self Interest generally benefits society” This is true only with communication, education and transparency or as I will mention later long term thinking. Take your Yak dairy as an example. You would not sell bad milk as it would make people sick and then they would tell other people and no one would buy your milk, but what if you watered down your milk? This would benefit you, generally people would not know, so who does it hurt? Only through education and communication do people understand the nutritional components of yak milk, so without that they could not know they were being cheated. The anarchist solution is a regulating body, like UL as you have mentioned, that would be mutually agreed to by participants who would have the education and provide the communication that your was good milk and you could be trusted. The reason that does not work for most situations rest on a general assumption that I have that people are lazy, so instead of finding a thousand different regulating bodies, they find one, government and instill all their trust in it.
2. Back to your argument against universal application of the NAP. I base my case on the foundation of “my existence is good” and expand to include that “your existence is good” based on my relying on society for my existence and you being part of that society. Then I will state that non-aggression is key to the continuation of both your an my existence. Your use case of the upstream owner diverting the water is part of the many facets of the “tragedy of the commons” issue much like my “plastic bag over your head” example. Your example denies access to water, mine to air. Please excuse any possible hinted aggression based on the example as I have no desire to place a bag over anyone’s head, but I like the extremity of the example for the sake of its illustration as denying someone access to air will quickly bring about non-existence, thus is evil by my definition. The solution is to co-manage commons to ensure even distribution. So for your use case, if your neighbor takes all the water, then he has broken his contract to co-manage the commons and thus looses rights to other commons such as road use. This hopefully will bring him to the table to make amends for his aggression. So this does in a way break with the NAP, but you must allow a break in the NAP to enforce the NAP, or you wouldn’t be allowed to execute a mass murderer. You must be allowed to use aggression to stop or at least lessen aggression. This application also points to the resolution for your co-hosts question about stopping a suicide. The suicide is a murder of a human, so applying force to stop that murder is justified as long as it lessens the overall aggression. Also there has to be some discussion of free will as I consider free will a major component of existence for what is existence without it? So suicide should be allowed if acting upon in free will with the aforementioned communication, education and transparency. If you have the above and still make the choice then suicide is not aggression, it is free will and to remove the option eliminates free will which eliminates existence, so that option has to be left open.
3. Need for ethical principles: Rational self interest only works as a social construct if we include long term thinking. In the short term it does benefit me to cheat people. The ethical principles are necessary as they take the rational self interest actions and apply them with long term societal goals to give people guidance for daily lives. If I have terminal cancer then I could say it is in my self interest to rape someone or several someones to try to create offspring which could grant me some level of transferred immortality and for some it could provide a prurient pleasure. It is only with long term thinking, applying the NAP and seeing my existence as part of a society which would suffer if such actions were taken would lead me to the ethics and the evil in my possible actions. Ethics are pre-constructed guidelines to guide construction of correct action. Thus they are not dogma, but guidance on others path to correct choices.
I guess that is enough for a first email,
Keep up the great work.
Richard J Hauser
I greatly appreciate the feedback, Richard. It’s no fun to throw your arguments out if people agree with you. I’d rather hear somebody else’s conflicting view than somebody praising me for my good ideas.
I’m not going to respond in a written format to all that you said. It’ll take too long to write, and I’m sure this would lead into an interesting long conversation that I just don’t have the time to write out. But I believe I have covered most of your arguments in other shows. The issues with your philosophical foundation I definitely have in earlier episodes about nihilism, and probably the latest show on nihilism that I had Brett Veinotte on for.
I talked about some of the nuances of the NAP with Jim Jesus, which I believe was Ep.16.
Listening to those might answer your questions. But I would enjoy to have a discussion on this, so I’d love it if you came on the show via Skype or FeenPhone. Shoot me an email if you’re interested, and we’ll work out a time.
Nick Hazelton the Anarcho-Yakitalist
I think I just finished Ep.16, but I was distracted, so let me re-listen. I would like to continue the conversation, but before I get on Skype, I’d like to brush up on my terms and flesh out the foundations of some of the terms you mentioned, so that I know where you are coming from and the conversation can be more directed to key points of contention.
OK, just re-listened to Ep.16, but no new arguments on NAP other than those I covered. I think I’ve listened to all but your earliest podcast because they were not published to Doggcatcher by the time I found you and Ep.13 which was a form of humor I didn’t get.
Can you point me to which podcast I should listen to again?
Absolutely, let me know.
I’ve realized I haven’t talked too much about nihilism. The 2nd episode, which isn’t numbered, covers the foundational philosophy. I think the latest show I did with Brett does this as well. Episode 5 may cover ethical philosophy and the NAP. But I feel like Ep14 was a better and more recent explanation of my ethics. So I don’t have much else on it. The 2nd show with Brett would be the one I recommend most.
Just wanted to make a point about your river scenario. According to all of the NAP supporters I’ve read (Rothbard, Rand, etc.) Polluting the water qualifies as an act of aggression as you are damaging someone elses property. I think the NAP is not the end all be all and while it is a good start it is only a start. It does not answer the question of how societies would organize themselves.
The problem is that most people try to frame an anarchist society in terms of the way society is now. For example it is my belief that in an anarchist society we would end up with something really close to anarcho-syndicalism. I say this as a self identified ancap. Economically the society would be capitalist. In terms of actual organization though I think it would be socialist.
Only in this blend I believe could society thrive and we have civilization. There is a human need for independence which the school system tries to destroy. At the same time there is a need for community. We are told that it is one or the other. I question that.
Thanks for the great work you do.
Thanks for the feedback, Jay. I love it when listners talk back.
I’m not talking about polluting rivers, I’m talking about damming them. I agree, polluting is aggression, but is taking somebody’s “right” to water aggression? Who owns the river?
I agree, the NAP is a great start. Like I said in the show, it’s almost always a good idea to follow it. It’s a safe path. But like you said, it’s just a start.
I don’t entirely understand what you mean by the organizational system will be syndicalist and the economic capitalist. I think it would be too long of a discussion for a comment thread, probably worthy of a show.
I’m definitely with you on the blend of individualism and community though.
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