Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An Answer to My Friend Peter Jaworski

Peter recently wrote me a long comment under "Rights are not Arbitrary" and had a few questions. I respect Peter and enjoy legitimate discussion so here goes... His questions are in itallics and my answers are in Bold.

”a logical proof begins with some set of premises or things "given." Logic deals strictly with the relationship of arguments and propositions, *not* with their content.”

I slightly disagree. A logical proof traces a conceptual (abstract) statement (Man has a right to his own life) back to perceptual data or philosophical axioms in order to confirm it as true or untrue. Essentially the statement I made concerning Man’s natural rights are verified on a metaphysical level. My metaphysical starting point is, as you probably already know is “existence exists or A is A, (the law of identity states….) And Man is Man.

Logic in the sense you are talking about...

“Logic deals strictly with the relationship of arguments and propositions, *not* with their content. This is because you can literally prove anything and everything "logically,"”

The philosophical school that claims to not require empirical evidence to confirm it conceptual claims is “Rationalism” and is essentially a form of intrinsisim. Rationalism (Hume’s school) is irrelevant as it’s based on false premises “because you can literally prove anything and everything "logically,"”

”This may be an important distinction between what you consider evil, and what I do. I do not consider "beliefs," apart from actions, evil. No belief is evil, per se. All moral appraisal stems from actions, not from beliefs inside of my head. I can believe just anything I'd like and, so long as I only act on those things which are not evil, I am not evil. There are no thought-crimes, only criminal activities.”

I agree all moral appraisals stem from action and not thought. “Evil” is the unlawful initiation use of force. Force is the only thing that can compel a mind to act against its own judgment. But you can still preach or conceive of evil.

And you asked…

1. Why should "survival" be a standard? Why not, say, flourishing? What's so special about brute survival?

Man’s life is the standard for his ethical base. Things which benefit life are “good” and that which is detrimental to life is evil. A proposition that allows life to flourish, say the Industrial revolution, is in the same sense “extremely good”.

2. “It is false that all men require liberty to survive or act. Politicians who restrict liberty do very well, thank you. And many who are under their thumbs survive as well. In fact, some of the most tyrannical and anti-liberty regimes have citizens that meet the standard of brute survival.”

The point being though, that to the extent leaders “regulate” and “restrict” freedom is to the extent that people suffer from this unwarranted control. But all you are rally saying is that it’s better to live in Sweden than China. And because certain people flourish under Communism does not make it moral. These people flourish immorally—by the efforts of other men. The average man does very poorly when man is regarded as a sacrificial animal.

3. “The right to act in accordance with one's own judgment may violate the brute survival requirement. Consider cases of irrational folks who judge that a knife in their throat will help satiate their hunger. Or infants. Or those who want to kill themselves (something that I'm sure Objectivists don't disagree with).

Objectivism is based on the premise of a “rational” man. No model suits the mad, irrational or unpredictable.

Then I said

"Since a proper philosophy is an intergrated system, each right rests not merely on a single ethical or metaphysical principle, but on all the principles just mentioned."
And you questioned…”I disagree with the premise. Why should a proper philosophy be an integrated one? Why not be pluralist about
it?”

If a philosophy contradicts itself it is not a proper model for thinking. This is why most philosophical models fail.

Then you say…

Therefore it is false that men need liberty to survive. They need food, shelter, and defense against animals or humans that would kill them.”
And…Why shouldn't we say that man ought to have rights to life, from which it follows that man ought to have a right to sufficient calories, housing, and defence to meet the requirement of brute survival?

And I respond…

Man needs liberty (the right to act by his own judgment) to achieve food shelter, and defense. Compelling people to act a certain way does not allow them to achieve the values necessary for survival.

And…

These rights are not rights because they imply that it’s somebody’s duty to provide the shelter and food—and what about the producer’s rights? Rights are not contradictory. They are based upon the perception that man can live together without violating each other’s right to exist.


Thank You Mr Jaworski.

1 Comments:

At 1:30 AM, Blogger P. M. Jaworski said...

Good answers, Angry, and thanks for taking up the challenge. I still disagree with all of your answers, but we can hardly hope to agree on everything.

Let me just carry this discussion a touch further by giving you the reasons why I disagree with your responses.

First, the discussion on logic:

I had said:
”a logical proof begins with some set of premises or things "given." Logic deals strictly with the relationship of arguments and propositions, *not* with their content.”

To which you responded:
I slightly disagree. A logical proof traces a conceptual (abstract) statement (Man has a right to his own life) back to perceptual data or philosophical axioms in order to confirm it as true or untrue. Essentially the statement I made concerning Man’s natural rights are verified on a metaphysical level. My metaphysical starting point is, as you probably already know is “existence exists or A is A, (the law of identity states….) And Man is Man.

To which I respond:
You're right, but the bit that is logic begins after the metaphysical data or perceptual data is on the table. The "verification" of man's natural rights is a matter of epistemology and metaphysics, not logic. Once we get these "natural rights" it becomes a matter of logic as to how they relate to one another, and whether or not they contradict. At any rate, this is a matter of definition, not a deep and substantive point about the nature of the world.

Then you requote me by saying:
Logic in the sense you are talking about...

“Logic deals strictly with the relationship of arguments and propositions, *not* with their content. This is because you can literally prove anything and everything "logically,"”

The philosophical school that claims to not require empirical evidence to confirm it conceptual claims is “Rationalism” and is essentially a form of intrinsisim. Rationalism (Hume’s school) is irrelevant as it’s based on false premises “because you can literally prove anything and everything "logically,"”

To which I say:

There was no claim that empirical evidence is unnecessary. The claim was merely that logic *can* be used to prove just anything, depending on what we begin with. Logic is identical to math in the sense that it gives us a set of rules on preserving truth amongst propositions, just as math a set of rules about how we can add, subtract, multiply, and so on, numbers. Thus logic, just like math, is restricted to being used once we have some propositions to work with. Logic is not a tool to capture metaphysics.

Here is a controversial claim: The belief that metaphysical facts about the world must conform to logic is not demonstrated, but assumed. This is not a problem, really, since just about everyone agrees that "A is A" or whatever, but whether or not the law of identity is a law about the nature of the universe, or the nature of our understanding of the universe, is a separate question without a satisfactory answer. Rand maintains that it is true of the universe that A is A. I agree. But I don't think an argument is forthcoming to demonstrate this fact. I think we cannot continue talking to one another without this assumption, but to suggest that it is proven is false.

Back to the second part of your claim:

"Rationalism (Hume’s school) is irrelevant as it’s based on false premises “because you can literally prove anything and everything "logically,"”

To which I say:

Actually, Hume is no rationalist. He is an empiricist through and through. You might have been thinking of Descartes. Since Hume is my hero, I simply had to defend his honour from accusations of "rationalism."

As for the false premise bit, it is not a false premise to assert that logic is capable of proving anything and everything. It is capable of doing that. We need epistemology and metaphysics to tell us what is "true" and why we should think that, and logic to reason about the things that are "true" or (better) we have reason to believe.

You quote me as saying:

2. “It is false that all men require liberty to survive or act. Politicians who restrict liberty do very well, thank you. And many who are under their thumbs survive as well. In fact, some of the most tyrannical and anti-liberty regimes have citizens that meet the standard of brute survival.”

And respond by saying:
The point being though, that to the extent leaders “regulate” and “restrict” freedom is to the extent that people suffer from this unwarranted control. But all you are rally saying is that it’s better to live in Sweden than China. And because certain people flourish under Communism does not make it moral. These people flourish immorally—by the efforts of other men. The average man does very poorly when man is regarded as a sacrificial animal.

To which I say:

I agree through-and-through. What I was arguing against, however, was not the conclusion, but the argument that led to that particular conclusion. Peikoff insists that reason is man's basic means of survival, and that *it follows from this fact that* we need to be free to act on our judgment (the consequence of our reasoning). The entailment is false, and the argument is shoddy for the reasons above. The argument suggests that without freedom, we would not be able to survive. But this is false, for the reasons I gave, namely, that people survive under totalitarian regimes.

Now for what I consider the most important point in our discussion. You quote me as saying:

Therefore it is false that men need liberty to survive. They need food, shelter, and defense against animals or humans that would kill them.”

And…

Why shouldn't we say that man ought to have rights to life, from which it follows that man ought to have a right to sufficient calories, housing, and defence to meet the requirement of brute survival?

To which you respond (and I'll take each horn of your argument in turn):
Man needs liberty (the right to act by his own judgment) to achieve food shelter, and defense. Compelling people to act a certain way does not allow them to achieve the values necessary for survival.

I say:
This is false. Man does not need this liberty, since it is plain as day that under some totalitarian regimes people had food, shelter, and defence. Further, it will depend on just how people are compelled for us to determine whether or not they will be able to survive. If I compel you to say "hello grandma" at 4 p.m. every day, I do not undermine your ability to get housing, food, and defence. But you *are* compelled, and unfree. Similarly, we may compel you to give up 90 per cent of your income to the state, which it then uses to provide all of its citizens with food, shelter, and defence. We can bet that the food, shelter, and defence will be of crappy quality, but it will still be food, shelter, and defence.

Your second horn of the argument runs:
These rights are not rights because they imply that it’s somebody’s duty to provide the shelter and food—and what about the producer’s rights? Rights are not contradictory. They are based upon the perception that man can live together without violating each other’s right to exist.

To which I say:
This probably begs all kinds of questions. For instance, we cannot assume, but must demonstrate, that a right to life is negative (i.e. I cannot kill you) rather than positive (i.e. I must give you food, shelter, and other necessities).

But the upshot of my argument against this view was that it was supposedly based on the need for human survival. It may turn out to be the case that liberty is the *only* way of getting survival, but that is a matter of empirical outcomes, not theoretical reasoning. This turns out to be false, as I tried to demonstrate by referencing tyrannical regimes that have managed to secure these survival needs without liberty.

Additionally, in principle, or in theory, we are obligated to say that the need for survival requires housing, food, and defence, not some procedural guidelines (like negative rights to property and life) that are *likely* to lead to food, shelter, and defence. Now we might move from this to the further (empirical) claim that these things require some procedure, and are violated otherwise, but we are no longer making a strictly metaphysical claim about the nature of rights.

I'm not sure if I'm as clear as I could be about this last point. The claim I am making is that the argument from survival (as we'll call it) does not lead to the conclusions that Peikoff thinks it does. Maybe I'll clarify a bit more later. Just now it is getting to be awfully late, and I have to wake up some time relatively soon...

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home