Libertarianism and Modern Philosophers, Lecture 6 with David Gordon - Mises Academy


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Libertarianism and Modern Philosophers, Lecture 6 with David Gordon - Mises Academy

  1. 1. Libertarianism and the Philosophers Lecture 6 The Argumentation Ethics of Hans Hoppe and Frank van Dun
  2. 2. Contractualism ●Argumentation ethics is usually studied separately by libertarians, but it can usefully be considered together with the contractualist views we have been considering. ●Hoppe and van Dun are trying to adapt to libertarian use a well-established way of doing ethics.
  3. 3. Habermas and Apel ●Hoppe was a student of Juergen Habermas who developed discourse or argumentation ethics. ●Another German philosopher, Karl-Otto Apel, came up with a very similar approach. ●These writers aren’t libertarians, Habermas began as a Marxist associated with the Frankfurt School. Although he has become more moderate than he was in his younger days, he is still well to the left-of-center.
  4. 4. A Fundamental Mistake ●Discourse ethics, as Habermas and Apel develop it, is an attempt to discover the rules of conduct toward one another that people would reasonably accept. ●It is not an attempt to show that certain moral judgments are requirements of logic, i.e, that if you reject AE, you are
  5. 5. Types of Reason ●When we talk about reason, we can mean: ●Logical consistency. Here, someone who violates logical laws has gone against reason, but not otherwise. Suppose, e.g., that someone does something very much against his interest, e.g., walk into moving traffic. Unless you can show that doing this violates a logical law, it isn’t irrational in the logical sense.
  6. 6. Hume on Reason ●Hume was famously skeptical about the possibility of showing that actions were irrational in this logical sense: ●“Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger. ‘Tis not contrary to reason for me to chuse my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. ‘Tis as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledg’d lesser good to my greater, and
  7. 7. Instrumental Reason ●Reason can mean something other than logical consistency. It can deal with whether your means will achieve your ends. ●Given that I want x, I should do do y. Mises uses this meaning of reason. He argues that given the ends people have, we should establish a free market. ●Gauthier also is an instrumentalist about reason. He asks, why is it rational for us to have moral dispositions? By “rational”, he has in mind instrumental reason.
  8. 8. Reason and the Good Life ●Another sense of reason goes beyond instrumental rationality. Here, the claim is that reason can establish the nature of the good life for each person. ●Aristotle can be viewed in this way. ●Ayn Rand thought that values depend on each person taking his own life as the highest value. Other values are instrumental to this value.
  9. 9. Argumentation Ethics and Reason ●AE uses a different sense of reason from the ones discussed so far. ●Here the issue is, what would it be reasonable for people to agree on, under the requirement that they agree on rules that apply to everyone equally. ●This is very much like Scanlon’s rules we couldn’t reasonably reject. These rules express our respect for persons.
  10. 10. AE and Reason, Continued ●The basic idea here comes from the second version of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. This requires us to treat every person as an end- in-himself, not as only as a means. ●AE says that they way we do this is to reason together about the norms that should apply in our relations with each other. ●AE applies only to this part of morality. It doesn’t apply to ethical issues that concern how to lead a good life.
  11. 11. Two Mistakes to Avoid ●AE is not trying to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question. It isn’t an attempt to argue that it’s in our self-interest to observe the rules it comes up with. That is a different approach to morality. ●AE isn’t an attempt to say that you are violating the laws of logic if you violate its rules. As we’ll see, this leads to trouble later.
  12. 12. How to Get the Rules ●Habermas and Apel have an interesting idea on how to find out what rules people would agree on. They say, doesn’t the process of trying to find out the rules itself impose certain requirements on us? ●This is what they mean by discourse or argumentation ethics.
  13. 13. Another Mistake ●The claim they make is that argumentation for this purpose, i.e., to decide on universalizable rules, imposes certain norms. ●AE doesn’t cover every use of argument or communication, e.g., trying to deceive someone. It doesn’t cover Danny Sanchez’s fable of the lion.
  14. 14. An Objection ●One objection sometimes advanced against AE is that the norms it come up with apply only to the process of argument itself. If, e.g., you have to recognize that everyone is a self- owner when he argues, why does this apply once you stop arguing? ●This misconceives what AE is trying to do. The point is that the norms of argument suggest what the general norms should be.
  15. 15. Hoppe’s Innovation ●Hoppe and van Dun suggest that the AE norms would be libertarian. ●Wouldn’t people accept the rule that everyone was a self-owner? If someone suggested that one group of people should enslave others, this wouldn’t win agreement. This is an important point.
  16. 16. Performative Contradictions ●To understand the next argument we have to grasp the notion of a pragmatic paradox or performative contradiction. ●This is different from a logical contradiction, e. g., “HHH is both German and non-German”. ●A performative contradiction is a statement that is false if you say it. E.g, you could say “I am totally unconscious”, only if you were conscious, so your saying it shows the statement is false. Note that the statement need not be self-contradictory. I could be
  17. 17. Self-Ownership and Performative Contradiction ●Is it a performative contradiction if you deny that you own yourself? Suppose you say, “I don’t own myself.” Could you say this only if you do own yourself? ●Why is there supposed to be a performative contradiction? The contention is that in order to say something, you must have control over your own body. But just what you are implying if you deny that you own yourself is that you don’t have such control.
  18. 18. A Bad Objection ●Some people have objected, “Maybe you only need part of your body in order to speak, so you are not guilty of a performative contradiction unless you deny that you own any part of yourself.” ●Both the original claim of performative contradiction and this objection suffer from the same mistake.
  19. 19. What Is Self-Ownership? ●The statement “I own myself” is deceptive in its form. It appears to be a descriptive statement, one stating a fact, like “I am an old man.” ●But it really isn’t descriptive. It’s a covert ought-statement, something like, “I ought to be the person who gets to decide what to do with my body, not
  20. 20. Why Is This Relevant? ●If this is kept in mind, we’ll see what is wrong with the claim that if you deny you own yourself, you have fallen into a performative contradiction. ●If someone denies that he owns himself, he is saying, “It’s not the case that I ought to be the person who decides what to do with my body”.
  21. 21. Relevance Continued ●Then, if you say to this person, “But you’re speaking!”, you haven’t pointed to a contradiction. ●If you say, “It’s not the case that I ought to be the person who decides what to do with my body,” this is consistent with the fact that you are deciding what to do with your body.
  22. 22. William Wollaston ●Why might one think that there was a contradiction? ●You might think that if I’m doing something, this implies that I think I have a right to do it , but this need not be true. If a thief steals your wallet, he need not in doing so implicitly claim to own it. ●The English philosopher William Wollaston (1659-1754) argued that all immorality rests on lies. A thief has made the false claim, “This property is mine.” This is the fallacy we
  23. 23. Property ●This leaves intact the basic contention that it wouldn’t be reasonable for people seeking agreement on universal principles to reject self-ownership. ●Also, it seems reasonable to think that people might agree on a libertarian homesteading principle. But why need this be the only logically possible rule?
  24. 24. Property Continued ●All sorts of rules are logically possible. What’s contradictory about saying, the third person to own property acquires it? This would not make property acquisition impossible. ●Of course, the libertarian principle is reasonable, but we shouldn’t make stronger claims for it than are justifiable.