Wizardly Wisdom Guest Spot #2!

Hello all,

Here’s another bit of audio-only content.  I did another guest spot on Wizardly Wisdom Podcast.  The first one was a blast, but this one is about 20% more awesome.  We spoke about the philosophical underpinnings of the libertarian movement, some historical context for different positions people hold to be “the libertarian position”, and why discourse about this discourse is important.

You’ll have to forgive my rough audio, we had some technical difficulties, but I think the content more than makes up for a little echo and click.

 

The Nature of Philosophy

As is the case with most cultural pursuits which hearken back into the dark recesses of history, philosophy has no universally-agreed upon definition.  Even in academic circles, the definitions of the enterprise called “philosophy” is likely to be as numerous as the number of philosophy department chairs one asks.  This is a phenomenon[1] that vexes many analytic-minded[2] philosophers, given their obsession with necessary and sufficient conditions[3].

While I write and think very much like an analytic, I do not feel that it should be absolutely crucial to assign a definition to philosophy which outlines necessary and sufficient conditions.  At the same time, however, I am not inclined to do as postmodern[4] and continental[5] thinkers tend and simply hand-wave the issue and say “it’s a family of activities that generally resemble each other”.  The only remaining option, then, is to make an attempt at crafting a heuristic[6] for identifying philosophical activities as opposed to any other activities within the scope of human intellectual experience.

Looking at the historical context of philosophy, one may get a feel for the “family resemblance” of philosophical activities.  The helps one create a genealogy of philosophy.  This genealogy begins with ancient thinkers were predominantly concerned with “living the good life” as well as understanding how the world worked.  One of the tools that was of utmost importance to the ancient thinkers and has maintained its utility (at least, up until the point where the postmodernists have taken over) is logic.  In the middle ages of Europe and comparable periods of time in locales such as India and Japan, there was a burgeoning attempt to ascertain the fundamental qualities of existence; admittedly, this was universally in a religious or theistic context of some form or another, but that does not negate the contributions made.

In the more modern eras, from the enlightenment[7] to today, the philosophical enterprise has been a predominantly directed at understanding the manner in which man interacts with reality, from the nature of sense experience to the nature of knowledge and its acquisition.  Additionally, there has been a lot of emphasis on the manner in which the individual interacts with mankind at large and how that interaction ought to be conducted.

Depending on one’s definitions and motivations for constructing a narrative, philosophy can be seen as the progenitor of, handmaid to, or companion of nearly other activity in human intellectual life.  Modern scientific methods are the product of ancient natural studies and enlightenment-era epistemology[8].  Computer science is predicated on mathematical principles and linguistic theories which have been formed through philosophical discourse.  Theology is, by and large, the application of philosophical tools to puzzles related to spiritual revelations and religious doctrines.  Economics[9] is the result of a-priori[10] reasoning in conjunction with philosophical tools of introspection and observation.  These relationships cannot be ignored, but the exact nature of these relationships is at the heart of many lively debates.

I can (and have) gone on a much more rigorous exploration of the necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be considered philosophy, but that sort of exercise is better suited for a longer, more exhaustive, procedural work.  For now, I think it would be most prudent to do a quick breakdown of the etymology[11] of the word “philosophy”.  The word, itself, hails from ancient Greek and effectively means “love of wisdom”.

Of course, nothing in Greek translates so directly into English.  For example, ancient Greek has at least four words for love (arguably, there are a few more).  This particular root, “-philia”, would be most appropriately used in the context of a dispassionate desire for (non-sexual) intimacy, such as that of close friends.  Additionally, “sophos” is a Greek word the denotes a wide array of practical and virtuous skills and habits regarding wisdom, rather than just the sterile modern English concept of knowing a lot or having advanced experience.

The best I can do to describe the Greek root of the term is to say that it is “an actionable desire to develop intellectual virtue and put it into practice in the world at large”.  This takes many different forms, as demonstrated by Socrates and Diogenes relentlessly badgering their neighbors concerning how wrong their ideas of how the world worked really were, while Aristotle, Pythagoras, Epicurus and Zeno started schools and lectured ad-nauseam.  Later in history, the general attitude of a philosopher had largely homogenized into academic bookishness and the writing of essays and long-form treatises.  The exact nature of each essay and treatise may be radically divergent with regards to content, method, and end, though.

Ultimately, taking into account all these diverse enterprises and the influence of postmodern thought, I believe that any human enterprise directed at creating an internally consistent, logically sound, empirically viable, and universal worldview which possesses ethical actionability, utility, and (ultimately) Truth can be rightly considered to be “philosophy”.[12]

In order to attempt to construct a worldview that correlates to reality, there are a great many prerequisites that must first be met.  For example, there is the assumption that there is a reality to which a worldview can correlate.  Another example would be establishing the fundamentals of logic in such a way so as to be certain of their utility[13].  Yet another assumption would be that one is capable of constructing a worldview at all.

Rather than dragging my readers through the most meticulous and technical aspects of post-enlightenment thought, I’d like to discuss the general methodology of philosophy and, if my readers are so inclined so as to investigate these problems in their fullness, I can recommend some starting places.[14]  These problems of philosophy are quite significant, and I believe that these issues ought to be examined, but they are not issues for beginners or the faint of heart.

Instead, I recommend familiarizing oneself with the fundamentals of philosophical methodology and begin exploring this new way of perceiving reality, first.  Even though it has taken many different forms throughout history and our contemporary academic landscape, the fundamental methodology of philosophy has found no better expression than that of the trivium and quadrivium of the middle-ages in Europe.  Although these fields of study were crafted in a theistic environment and are, therefore, often ignored or denigrated by modern (leftist) scholars, the methodology they present are still quite valid, even if they may have been used to reach illicit conclusions.

The trivium consists of three stages of thought: the logic, the grammar, and the rhetoric.  Initially, these stages of thought were applied exclusively to language (hence their names).  The logic was the basis of linguistic thought; it contained the a priori principles such as the law of identity[15], the principle of non-contradiction[16], and the resultant laws of induction.  The grammar demonstrated the rules of language which reflected the logical principles outlined earlier; subject-object relations and other syntax relationships are important to maintaining fidelity to the logical principles underlying that communication[17].  The rhetoric refined the above skill sets so as to aid a thinker[18] in convincing others of the facts which he had uncovered through the application of logic and grammar.

Since its inception as a linguistic methodology, the trivium quickly expanded into a philosophical methodology.  This is partly due to the close relationship that language and philosophy has always held and partly due to the axiomatic nature of the trivium lending itself to the inquiries of philosophy.  In essence, a thinker must first establish the furniture of the world (the fundamental principles and objects of those principles), then explore the relationships between those objects, and then must find a means by which to express those relationships.  For example, the “Socrates is a man” syllogism I referenced in the footnote on this page contains material that isn’t merely linguistic.  For example, the categories “Socrates”, “man”, and “being” are assumed to correlate to realities in the observable world.  Additionally, the grammar of the statement establishes a relationship to those categories which are assumed to correlate to the observable world.  This trend is maintained through the rest of the syllogism:

Socrates is a man,

All men are mortal,

∴ Socrates is a mortal.

At each level of the syllogism, new categories and relationships are assumed or established.  On a linguistic level, logic serves as the structural framework for the grammar to populate with the symbols for Socrates, man, etc. and the rhetoric is the manner in which one would express this syllogism to others and defend the validity of the syllogism.  On a philosophical level, the logic serves as the source for the objects Socrates, man, etc. the grammar denotes the relationships between those symbols, and the rhetoric serves as the means by which these ideas move from my mind to the page for your mind to reassemble[19].

This quick introduction into the methodology of philosophy will be expounded upon in the next chapter, as we explore the role of philosophy in daily life or, as the ancient Greeks put it, “how does one live the good life?”

[1] Phenomenon (n): The object of a person’s perception or discussion; an event of which the senses or the mind are aware.

[2] Analytic Philosophy (n): A school or tradition of philosophical thought predominantly populated by English-speaking philosophers which emphasizes procedural methodology and strict definitions and application of logic.

[3] Necessary and Sufficient Conditions (n):  The requirements of any given subject to meet a definition; necessary qualities are qualities which, if absent, preclude subjects from being defined as such and sufficient qualities are qualities that, if present, allow a subject to be defined as such.

[4] Postmodern (adj): Relating to a school of thought which maintains certain attitudes such as indefinability, plurality of reality, and subjective narrative ontologically trumping objective reality.

[5] Continental (adj): Relating to a school or tradition of philosophical thought predominantly populated by thinkers from mainland Europe which emphasizes meta-philosophical influences on philosophy such as culture and economics.

[6] Heuristic (n): A method or system of interpreting ideas as they are presented.

[7] Enlightenment Era (n): A period in European philosophical history, commonly accepted to be from as early as the 16th century to the end of the 18th century; the era is marked by a sudden surge in scientific advance, political upheaval, and sheer number of philosophical schools of thought.

[8] Epistemology (n): The study of knowledge, the manner and mechanisms by which one knows.

[9] Austrian Economics.  This will be discussed in Chapter 4: Political Philosophy and its Discontents.

[10] A priori (adj): A logical justification for a claim based on syllogisms, moving from given premises to their necessary conclusions.  This is often set in opposition to a posteriori or “empirical” reasoning.

[11] Etymology (n): The study of the meaning of words and the changes of those meanings throughout history.

[12] There is a good amount of jargon in this proposed definition; as these terms appear later in this book, they will be defined in more detail.

[13] Utility (n): The capacity for a thing to provide or contribute to accomplishing one’s end, usually in the context of alleviating discomfort.

[14] “The problems of Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell, “Cartesian Meditations” by (((Edmund Husserl))), and (for the preeminent masochist) “Critique of Pure Reason” by Immanuel Kant

[15] Law of Identity (logic): A=A (A equals A), A≠¬A (A does not equal not-A)

[16] Principle of Non-Contradiction (logic): The logical principle that something cannot both be and not be in the same mode at the same time. (Abbreviated as PNC)

[17] For example, in the over-used case of the “Socrates is a man” syllogism, if you were to mistake the subject-object relationship, you can end up with things like “Man is a Socrates” which is not only incorrect, but it is nonsensical.

[18] i.e. The philosopher

[19] There are deeper epistemic realities hidden in this discussion of the trivium method, but those will be addressed in the coming chapters of this book.

Language Barrier

Pod-and-blog-fade seems to be running rampant in the post-election libertarian and philosophy circles. I can’t help but wonder if it’s a combination of political hangover and something like a sigh of relief as certain existential threats have been postponed. Everywhere else, lefty entertainment and philosophy podcasts and blogs have begun their four-to-eight year pity-party, wherein they cry about the president to the exclusion of any other form of content. Technically, that’s why I voted for Trump, was to make these people cry… but I’ve got a bit of buyers’ remorse, now.

Anyway, I’m back on the content-producing bandwagon. Today, I’m talking about words.

 

I expect most of my readers will be well aware of the rules of grammar and have a decently expansive vocabulary. I’m not going to make a “top ten” list of fun punctuation marks… I mean, who hasn’t heard of an interrobang I’m not going to share my fun story about arguing about ancient Greek grammar with Jehova’s Witnesses (subject-object relationships are more important when you haven’t discovered punctuation yet). Instead, I’m discussing the philosophy of language in broad strokes.

As far as I can tell, most people haven’t critically examined the relationship between language and the world around them (unless they’ve smoked a lot of weed or have suffered severe concussions). As such, most people have intuitively just assumed one of two paradigms concerning the operation of language. If this describes you, Understand I’m not talking-down to you, as this is something esoteric enough in the realm of philosophy so as to be compared to particle physics or studying neolithic attitudes towards one’s in-laws. It is, however, an important issue to address when engaging in philosophical discussions.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, what are these two paradigms of language people assume? The first is that of what could be called “linguistic realism”: it’s a belief that words and sentences directly correlate to reality (in some cases, one could even say that words and reality are commensurate). In the case of thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, the word “justice” is an actual expression of some form or concept. When a poor soul makes the mistake of using the word “justice” near Socrates, Socrates assumes that the man must know the platonic form of justice so thoroughly so as to be able to utter the word, itself. Aristotle is a little more grounded, but he still assumes a sort of direct correlation between the word “justice” and manifestations in meatspace of someone “giving that which is owed”. In the modern age, that attitude is usually expressed by people who really enjoy Rhonda Byrne, people who think that bad words are bad words due to some innate quality of the word itself, and people who deride the idea of words changing meaning over time as well as the creation of new words. I used to be a linguistic realist.

The second paradigm of language could be called “postmodern nominalism” or “naive nominalism”. This position holds that words have very little correlation to reality; as a matter of fact, the best way to describe the position would be “the belief that words exist as nothing more than a game between individuals wherein rules are made up concerning the meaning and use of words, with little to no relation to the world outside of said game.” In the case of thinkers like Peter Abelard and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the meaning of a word depends on something along the lines of social consensus and common usage. When I say “tree”, it only means “that thing growing out of the ground, made out of wood, and bearing leaves” if I am speaking to someone who comprehends English and understands the botanical context of the statement. In a different context, the term “tree” could refer to a shape, such as that of a propane tree, a family tree, or a decision tree. To a non-English-speaker, it may as well be any other set of phonemes: it’s pure gibberish. In the modern age, that attitude is usually expressed by people who really enjoy saying “a rose by any other name…”, people who think that bad words are bad because of some historical or class-related context, and people who live-tweet their netflix-and-chill experience with their cis-gendered binary life-partner.

One of the clearest ways to delineate between these two positions is to inquire as to the nature of dictionaries. For example, if I hear or read a word I do not recognize, I obviously go to the dictionary… well… to google’s dictionary, at least. When I read the definition of the word, I am reading one of two things: I’m either reading the common context for the use of the particular term at the time of publication, or I am reading the “actual meaning” of the word. For example, if I were given the word “obacerate”, I would obviously have to google it or look it up in a century-old edition of the OED. When I get the definition “to interrupt one’s speech”, is that what the word means in some innate sense, or is that simply a description of how the word has been used in the past? If I were to begin using the word in colloquial conversation, would it mean “to interrupt one’s speech”, or could it take on a new meaning based on the context in which I use it or the context in which others understand it? If I only ever used the word “obacerate” when referencing covering someone’s mouth or punching them in the jaw, could the word take on that connotation?

If one says “the word means what the word means, regardless of context” one is likely a linguistic realist. If one says “the word hasn’t been used for almost a hundred years, it can mean whatever society begins to use it as” one is likely a naive nominalist. A more apparent, but less cut-and-dried example would be the use of words like “tweet”, wherein it could either be onomatopoeia for bird sounds or an activity which takes place on the website, twitter. If the word were to fall out of common parlance concerning birds, would the meaning of the word have changed once Webster cuts out the atavistic use of the word?

As is typically the case, I get the feeling that most people who bother to read this far are asking themselves “Why do I care about this hair-splitting over words?” If you are, you are right to do so. In day-to-day conversation, words just mean what they mean. If there is a misunderstanding, we need merely exchange one word for a synonym or offer a definition to contextualize the use of a particular word. In philosophy (and, therefore, any sufficiently advanced field of thought), though, these sorts of distinctions become important.

For example, if I assume that words have innate meanings and are either direct representations of something or are a sort of manifestation of the thing, itself, then when I start talking about something like colors, thoughts, phenomena, property norms… you know, abstractions, it can get hairy if I’m speaking to someone from a different set of preconceptions about language. I’m a sort of compatibilist nominalist. I greatly appreciate Peter Abelard’s contributions to the philosophy of language and I’m a recovering linguistic realist. As I will eventually get to in the 95 Theses, and I have already covered in the Patreon subscribers-only content, the human experience appears to be one which takes place entirely within one’s mind.

Whoah. Hit the brakes. That likely seems either patently obvious or totally insane, depending on who’s reading it. It’s either obvious that one has a consciousness which navigates a never-ending stream of sense-data and never grasps a “thing-in-itself” beyond those sense-inputs, or it’s insane to start talking like a Cartesian or Kantian solipsist: of course one sees, touches, tastes, smells, and hears the world around them and discusses these things with others…

…Which is a similar divide as the one between the linguistic realists and the postmodern nominalists. As far as I’m concerned, though, my mind is locked away from the world and only sees it as mediated through sense organs, nerve connections, chemical emulsions, brain wrinkles, and more. The only way I can make sense of all those inputs is to pick out regularities and assign concepts to those regularities. Through this systematic approach to those sense inputs, one can create a noetic and epistemic framework by which one can interact (albeit though similar mediation as the senses) with the world outside of one’s mind.

After all that fancy noesis and epistemology is underway, it becomes useful to apply language to this framework. If I consistently see a woody creature growing from the earth and bearing leaves and fruit, and I wish to express that set of concepts to someone else (who is obviously a similar set of sense perceptions, but I assume to be someone like myself), it helps to have a name, a sound, a mark, etc. to signify that set of concepts. And the basis for the word “tree” is created. The intuitive concepts such as causality, correlation, etc. also exist in that bundle of sense inputs and later receive names. If trees, causality, or even a world beyond the phenomena don’t actually exist, the sense inputs I have mistaken for these things still do. The reason I bring up abstractions of relationships, such as causality, is because they seem to relate to certain aspects of grammar. For example, subject-object relationships and prepositions seem to presuppose these causal and abstracted relationships.

Now, of course, there’s hundreds of years of philosophy of language at work and I couldn’t hope to go through even a thorough examination of my particular flavor of philosophy of language. The reason I tried to give this 2,000-word summary of the idea is twofold. First, I think that this is an issue that underlies a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements on the more superficial levels of human interaction. From the comical dilemmas over who’s allowed to say “faggot” or “nigger” to the more fundamental issues of whether or not “rights” or “norms” exist and in what manner, these conflicting theories of language are at play. The 95 Theses will go into the idea more in-depth and if the Patreon subscribers demand it, I’ll explore the idea further.

Second, I want to announce the upcoming glossary page on the website. I am often accused of mutilating language or using words in a way that only I can understand them. Less often, I’m accused of using too many technical words for people to keep up. I hope to remedy some of these issues by providing a cheat sheet of sorts to help people keep up with me and to understand what I am saying when I use words in a more precise way than they are commonly presented in dictionary definitions and colloquial use. Of course, I need feedback on which words should go in said glossary so, please, do comment on this post and send me emails about my abuses of language.

TL;DR: Philosophy of language is a very involved field of study, but nearly everyone is a philosopher of language, provided they speak a language. Even if one hasn’t critically analyzed their understanding of how language relates to the world, they are walking around with a bundle of assumptions as to what they mean when they speak certain words, and whether or not those words have some innate quality to them or whether they are just some sort of social game being played with other speakers of that same dialect. Most of those assumptions can be categorized as being that of “linguistic realism” (words are directly related to things and act as an avatar of the things they relate) or that of “postmodern nominalism” (words don’t mean anything in and of themselves and only vaguely gesture at socially agreed upon concepts). There are other, more nuanced positions that people can hold, but usually only as a result of actively engaging in the philosophy of language, an exercise I strongly recommend for those that are able.

A Frank Discussion of Rights

Previously, I have written on my blog and on social media concerning rights and all the things surrounding rights in common discourse. As far as I can tell, I have not written the word “right” in quite a while… and I’ve only mentioned it a few times out-loud in private conversations as I explored the ideas I am planning to write on, today.

Today, I want to begin a frank discussion of rights. Given my self-imposed word limit and general mental constraints, I want to ask and contextualize three questions and make one follow-up (potentially) controversial statement. One may be able to trace the evolution of my ideas alluded to in previous posts to where I am now by reading though my published posts and the book-exclusive material, and one certainly could do so if they know me on social media or in-person; regardless, this is where I am at in my exploration of the concept of rights. So now, some questions:

  1. What function does the concept of rights serve?
  2. What is the ontology or metaphysics concerning rights?
  3. Are there more philosophically resilient alternatives to the concept of rights?

I will save my statement for later.

Rights seem to be a shorthand for ethical and moral reasoning. In classical texts I’m familiar with, “rights” are less a concern than they tend to be in modern and postmodern texts. As a matter of fact, when the Greeks and Romans addressed concepts that look like “rights”, they tended to focus more on what the term “privileges” covers in the modern age: a liberty granted to an individual or group by the guy(s) in charge. In a lot of ways, moral and ethical argumentation either had everything to do with virtue and ignored rights entirely, or centered entirely on one’s responsibilities as derived from one’s privileges. In the middle-ages, the concept had evolved slightly so as to include what amounts to “privileges granted by God”; a prime example would be the so-called “divine right of kings” or the liberties taken by the Church.

In the 1700’s, there was a major shift in popular philosophy. With the sudden explosion of productive technologies (such as the printing press and general industry), the subsequent decentralization of cultural production and consumption, and the sub-subsequent weakening of governmental power, certain theories that were only whispered about in the middle ages became widely popular. One such set of theories would be those of classical liberalism; another would be social contract theory; and one more example would be the rise of secular humanism.

One theme that was central to all three of those sets of theories was this niggling question: “If our rights aren’t derived from the king’s (or God’s) permission, how can morality exist?” The answer that seems to have won out in the marketplace of ideas is the straightforward, “People have rights because they are people, just because. Rights are something intrinsic instead of some contingent set of permissions.” Given how liberalism, democracy, and humanism have played out over the last few centuries, I doubt anyone with a basic understanding of modern history could honestly deny that the answer provided above is fraught with pitfalls. Even the SJWs demanding that free college, getting paid just for existing, and having permission to murder one’s offspring are intrinsic rights, just because, will tell you that people are mis-applying the concept.

Ultimately, every application of rights I am familiar with revolves around the essential question(s): “What can I get away with and what am I entitled to?” This is the reason I say it seems to be the case that rights are used as shorthand for ethical and moral reasoning; the focus of the rights discussion seems to be largely the same focus of ethical argumentation in general. If I have a negative right (the moral claim to be exempt from some obligation or another), such as the right to be left alone, that would mean that I “can’t get away with” harassing others (because they have the same right). If I have a positive right (the moral claim to be served by others), such as medical care, that would mean that anyone who can provide me with medical care is obligated to do so.

Depending on the theory, rights derive their ontology from different underpinnings. Some theories posit that rights are God-given, others posit that rights are brute facts, yet other theories posit that rights are derived from the general acceptance of society, and on and on. I think this diversity of suggestions is a result of the above discussed function of rights. Ethics and morality are, by their nature, abstract. Ethics and morality don’t make things happen in the world, at least not directly; they are descriptions of how one ought to act, but they don’t make someone act in a particular way. Rights, as a shorthand for parameters of acceptable human action are at least equally abstract. Where one can observe an apple falling in the orchard and posit a theory as to the mechanisms by which such an event occurs and the regularity with which such an occurrence is likely, one does not have the opportunity to observe a right and speculate as to the mechanisms by which the right accomplished its end.

Instead, more often than not, a philosopher or political activist will ask themselves, “What do I want to achieve? By what mechanism can I empower people to give me what I want and disenfranchise those who would get in the way of my goals?” This may sound like a very cynical take on Locke, Montesquieu, Smith… but one must remember that “What I want to achieve” may in fact be “peace on Earth and goodwill towards (wo)men” or some other fruitcake ideal. Upon answering these questions, the strong zeitgeist of rights becomes a valuable tool in accomplishing those ends. One need only come up with a source of rights that is compatible with one’s pre-existing ontological commitments and promotes one’s agenda.

Of course, this cynical reading of the history of philosophy presents a series of arguments concerning rights that have more to do with sophistry and political theory than it does with a genuine pursuit of Truth. If one were to make a genuine attempt to ground rights in a reliable ontological or metaphysical framework, I imagine it would look a lot like the cases made by a number of Rothbardian philosophers. Unfortunately, the level of abstraction required to make a case for the existence and nature of rights rivals the cases for the existence and nature of God. I only have enough bandwidth for one God-level case at a time, and people should know by now which one I’ve taken on. Instead, I just want to point out that a theory of rights which anchors itself in some moral or ontological case needs something metaphysical which lacks direct interaction with the physical world, some sort of platonic realism, and a theory of rights which anchors itself in utilitarian or sociological cases results in a utilitarian ethical framework which is sufficient to replace a similar doctrine of rights altogether.

So, what if a grounded theory of rights is better just left as an ethical framework without the concept of rights? Well, for one, doing so effectively neuters the ongoing social justice commentary as well as the general statist narratives wherein people claim positive rights which must be produced by state slavery. Additionally, It expedites certain discussions within and without my particular school of thought when one focuses on the principles and facts available which concern themselves with issues most people refer to as “rights issues”. What I mean to say is that the rhetoric and traditions of rights may only muddy the waters if there is an equally or more philosophically resilient alternative.

Despite the likelihood of being accused of all manner of character flaws, such as that of being a materialist, being a nominalist, or of being some sort of pagan or atheist, I think we can ground any discussion of “rights issues” in a far more easily defined and effective set of terms and principles. For example, I believe Hans Hermann Hoppe’s premises for argumentation ethics obtain nicely. One such premise is that private property is an inescapable feature of the human condition; the very fact that one has access to and control over one’s body demonstrates the principle of self-ownership in a way that cannot be abrogated by any instance or degree of criminal trespass or chemical interference.

So, ever the quintessential AnCap, I think that exploration of the logical, physical, and metaphysical features of property will sort out all of the issues commonly presented as “rights issues” and will, more often than not, produce results that jive with rational intuition. For example, a good portion of the classical liberal “negative rights” are the immediate logical consequent of the nature of property: the right to secure oneself against coercion, murder, and theft is less a “right” and more a natural result of the nature of self-ownership; If I own my body (and by extension that which my body produces), given the definitive quality of property that is “exclusivity”, I may exclude others from use of that property by whatever means that does not involve trespass on my part. There: without “rights”, I’ve established the justifiability of self-defense and, due to the universal nature of property, have also denied the justifiability of trespasses such as murder, coercion, and theft.

If there were any rationally defensible claim to what is often called a positive right, an argument for such a claim could be made stronger by avoiding a discussion of rights, itself, and focusing on the reality of property, instead. Perhaps the most defensible claim of positive rights is that of the Catholics: the “right to life”. For example, a “right to life” can not be taken seriously, lest it result in absurdity given the above alluded to discussion concerning the relationship between positive rights and state slavery. Death is inevitable, so to have a right to escape such an inevitable phenomena would require that mankind collectively devote every resource available to the discovery of immortality which would, itself, result in the deaths of everyone involved.

Instead, acknowledging the unborn human’s ownership of its body, the propertarian obligations of a landlord (or, in this case, a mother), the degree of action either is able to engage in, and other features of property and the human condition would result in positions which directly parallel the traditional positions of the Catholic Church concerning abortion, evictionism, self-defense, euthanasia, and care for the elderly. As an added bonus, such an activity would demonstrate the absurdity of the “right to choose”, “right to birth control”, and etc.

The time has come for my controversial claim (as if this hasn’t been controversial so far). The Catholic Church made a grave error in adopting the enlightenment-era’s rhetoric concerning rights. I kinda’ already alluded to that claim in the last section of the post, but I think it is important enough to warrant explicit attention. In engaging a secular humanist agenda on its own flawed terms instead of continuing its pursuits in determining the truth of the matter, the Church made itself more popular in an adversarial world. In the process, though, it laid the groundwork for the current social and ethical battles it finds itself buried under. That is not to say that the Doctrinal positions of the Church, or even the moral and ethical teachings of the Church as a whole are inaccurate, but it is to say that the use of flawed theories and terminology obfuscates the veracity of those teachings. Because of this obfuscation, it is not an unfair accusation to blame the SJWs on the Church and to point out that the Church has backed itself into a corner concerning the pursuit of knowledge of creation (most noticeable of which being economics). This mistake can be rectified if teachers and clergy make a concerted effort to pursue truth as opposed to political expedience… but how long it will take to do so is very much a live question.

TL;DR: Rights, in their most resilient formulation can best be described as “temporary privileges granted by the guys in charge” or, alternatively, “an ethical or moral shorthand for determining justification of actions”. There are a number of frameworks in which people try to ground rights and accomplish the ends for which the have created those rights, some are more reasonable than others, but they all present issues I do not believe can be resolved. Additionally, there is far too much baggage and theory in the realm of discourse concerning rights to expect calm, rational debate. Property, and the logical and material consequences of property provide a resilient alternative to the discussion of rights which also achieves intuitive outcomes. For these and other reasons, I think that it would be a better rhetorical move to simply deny the existence of rights altogether and demonstrate the efficacy and utility of property in dispute resolution and moral or ethical dilemmas.

Also, here’s some George Carlin, for your entertainment.

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Chapter 3: Orders of Knowledge

Chapter 3: Orders of Knowledge

We have thus far introduced ratio and intellectus. As a quick refresher, intellectus (or intellect) is the inborn faculty which experiences the self and the predecessor to reason, and reason or ratio is the development of said faculty. However, in addressing the human epistemic experience and briefly examining the manner in which our mind operates, we have completely overlooked the primary concern of modern epistemology. Knowledge, in all of its complexity, still haunts our exploration of our epistemic assumptions.

While the exact definition and importance of knowledge is hotly contested in this postmodern environment, one definition tends to maintain its resilience. Knowledge, in my mind, is limited to what is called “propositional knowledge”. The experiential basis of propositional knowledge we have already discussed ought to simply be called “experience”. I define propositional knowledge as “justified true belief”. Now, as the contentious discussion that rages on will demonstrate, this definition is not flawless and self-sufficient, but that should not overshadow the usefulness or accuracy of this definition.

A brief examination of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s page on knowledge1 illustrates the key issues with the above definition, drawing on the works of those such as Gettier. No mater how complex and detailed the discussion becomes, the utility of the above definition is undeniable. Much like Russel’s discussion of our knowledge of universals,2 we already have an intuitive understanding of what knowledge is. As a matter of fact, we use that intuitive understanding to critique our proposed definitions, the chief example of this is the Gettier problems. A brief explanation of the Gettier problems is in order; the Gettier problems are a series of hypothetical instances contrived such that the definitive requirements for knowledge are met, but the conclusion flies in the face of our intuitive understanding of knowledge. A workable solution to such a dilemma is simple: we must accommodate for such an intuitive element in our definition. For now, “a justified true belief in which the justification is factual and sufficiently related to the truth at hand” will suffice. As that is, more or less, our intuitive understanding (ignoring the verbosity of the definition) of knowledge. “Justified true belief” is a good shorthand for this definition. More work clearly ought to be done to develop a rigorous and categorical definition for knowledge, but that is not the intent of this work. Besides, I am confident that whatever rigorous categorical definition is found will simply be a more detailed and explicit form of the one I have given.

Now why, at the beginning of chapter three, do I suddenly launch into definitions, qualifications, and disclaimers with nary a mention of the next thesis in the sequence of ninety-five? Simply put, the next several theses operate with this definition of knowledge in mind and the mere definition of a word does not justify the use of a thesis when I am limited to a mere ninety five. One more minor but crucial point must first be made, however; our intuitive use for knowledge is the formation of a reliable worldview, predicated on the reliability of the mind. As with my explanation of experiential knowledge, man is a habitual creature: our understanding, use of, and reliance on propositional knowledge is no exception. With this tedium out of the way, we may now proceed.

Thesis #7: One gains first-order knowledge by the exploration of logic as pertains to “self-apparent” principles and facts…

As I explicated in the first two chapters, “self-apparent” principles and facts are experiential in nature. Even the existence of a “self” is derived from the experience of reflecting on one’s experiences; this knowledge is not inherent to the mind, brain, man, whatever. Even the definitive and logical truths we find to be “self-apparent” are derived from a more primary experience. The easiest example of which would be that of a triangle. A triangle is a closed two-dimensional polygon with three angles and sides, the angles of which total one hundred eighty degrees. We can identify triangles by these factors, but before we could discover these attributes of triangles, we must first have an experiential knowledge of spatial relationships and basic math/geometry before we can identify or express these characteristics.

In the last chapter, we established certain epistemic tools through our mental experiences. While it is quite productive and enlightening to turn these tools on themselves in a manner similar to which Hegel discusses in his Introduction to the Philosophical Encyclopedia3, it is not required in order to begin observing and acknowledging the world at large. We can establish undeniable matters of truth and fact using syllogistic reasoning coupled with experience (most especially self-apparent facts). Our definitions of knowledge and triangles are prime examples of such a practice. This method is simple enough; one first states a definitive fact derived from experience, then through the use of the PNC explores the implications of such a fact, so long as nothing is self-contradictory or contrary to experience it can be assumed to be first-order knowledge (or, knowledge proper). If the logical exploration results in a contradiction, one must first check their logic before throwing out the initial premise. This work is, itself, an example of such a practice; our first chapter begins with three assumptions made due to their self-apparent nature, and here we are, two chapters later, still exploring the logical ramifications of such assumptions.

My current experience, aside from self apparent principles, is my only source of immediate knowledge. If our friend Mike, from the first chapter, is experiencing a particular event, say the fateful day he shot himself in the leg, he has a whole array of experiential facts at his disposal as well as deductive reasoning to assist him in knowing certain facts. He has the experience of a raw coldness in his thigh as well as a ringing in his ears which are undeniable. Mike calls such an experience “pain” or “injury”. Also, he experiences recalling memories of having dropped the handgun and attempting to recover it on its descent.4 Deductive reasoning may not be able to establish with certainty who or what is at fault for his current circumstance, but it is sufficient in analyzing the circumstance itself. Which, to be frank, is far more important when faced with a circumstance such as:

  • I am experiencing phenomena congruent with severe injury

  • If one wishes not to die, when faced with serious injury, one ought to pursue medical assistance

  • I do not want to die

  • I should seek out medical assistance

rather than to pursue the line of inquiry consistent with “why?”

Syllogistic, or deductive, reasoning is ultimately a practice in exploring the ramifications of the PNC as it applies to a particular claim. In the above example, it pertains to one’s particular experiences of pains and desires. As an astute logician will note, the above syllogism cleverly cheated; it introduced a non-immediate experience or a non-deductive inference. The premise, “if one wishes not to die, when faced with serious injury, one ought to pursue medical assistance,” is not necessarily an experiential fact or a deductively ascertained claim. However, herein lies two details which require attention: intuition and second-order knowledge. The latter will be discussed soon, all we need note now is that one can make legitimate first-order claims which are informed by second-order knowledge, so long as one is cognizant that they are doing so and verify its congruence with the paradigm5 established by one’s first-order knowledge. The case of intuition, though, is slightly more complex. As discussed earlier6, there is a distinctly observable reality that the human mind inherently possesses certain faculties, the ones addressed so far being intelligence and instinct. As far as what the exact cause of these inherent faculties is, is beside our current line of investigation. We will simply play the pragmatist for now; we will treat intuition as a brute fact and discuss its causes and specifics later. In the case of Mike, he would likely have an intuitive response to his gun wound to attempt to staunch the blood flow and such, a shorthand for these series of responses would be, “to pursue medical assistance”.

…it is highly falsifiable, and applies to physical and metaphysical fact as well as matters of truth

The above is a particular instance of what is essentially the only true type of knowledge: the only circumstance of a “justified true belief”. Anything beyond the definitive and falsifiable justification of immediate experience and deductive reasoning cannot provide certainty to a greater degree. This certainty is not, however, absolute. It qualifies to be called certain due to its immediacy and falsifiability. Falsifiability is the circumstance and burden of proof one would have in disproving a particular claim.7

Karl Popper, having posited falsifiability as crucial to epistemological study and having built an entire body of work on such a principle, is a valuable asset to one such as myself. Anchoring an entire philosophical worldview on a few epistemic assumptions, I must be diligent in exploring these assumptions and securing them as best I can. Unfortunately for me, Popper is simultaneously more pessimistic and optimistic than myself; making use of his work will require diligence. We both agree that knowledge is always suspect. It is always subject to criticism and correction. In his ardent desire to avoid supporting authoritarianism8, he seems to fall into a trap of epistemological absurdity in which “all knowledge is human… it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes… all we can do is grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach.”9 As the previous chapters10 show, I agree that our knowledge is limited and influenced by the human condition but to assert (unfalsifiably, I might add) that truth in unobtainable due to that reality undermines the very premise of such a claim. Besides, to strive for the admittedly impossible is to waste one’s time. One’s energy would be better spent, at a minimum, on more practical asymptotic activities instead (like curing disease or pursuing pleasure or enlightenment).

With how jealously I withhold the title of “knowledge”, the degree of confidence one can have in their beliefs hinges on falsifiability. In order to claim something as knowledge11, one must be making a claim which is immediately apparent and clearly falsifiable. Falsification of this (and every other) form of knowledge is, in truth, a good thing. Falsification provides an opportunity for better refinement and correction of an otherwise flawed worldview.12 One should always open themselves to rational and rigorous criticisms, so as to avoid becoming a relic-bearer of Lady-Philosophy’s garment.13

This isn’t to say that the first time something unpredictable or inconsistent emerges one ought to throw out their entire worldview and sequester themselves in a mire of Cartesian doubt. Quite the opposite is the case, one ought to defend such a claim until such a time as it is sufficiently disproven or falsified. We will explore this more later. For now, it will suffice to point out that single incidents of inaccuracy in one’s beliefs may in fact be flukes, only cumulative or consistent error is sufficient cause for radical reevaluation.

Now, many may mistake this epistemic framework for some Kantian a-priori reasoning or some assertion of continental brute facts. Neither of these is the case at hand. These self-apparent facts are, in fact, theory-laden. Even the most fundamental facts one can select, such as the Cartesian cogito,14 still contain some degree of implicit theory. In the case of the cogito there is at least the predicate assumption that there is a causal relationship between actions and existants (that the experience of thought must be attributed to a thinker) and that the PNC obtains. The issue is not one of selecting a brute fact or discovering an a-priori truth, but rather to find a sufficient fact on which to vest one’s philosophy because all self-apparent facts are, without exception, theory-laden.15

Of all the things we have allowed into our ontology thus far, this theory-ladenness itself must either be a form of brute fact, an inherent fact that there is no fundamental starting-place to understanding the world,16 or must be an inextricable attribute of man’s mind. I am in favor of both of the proposed options, actually. I believe that the universe is an elegant and logically constituted entity which has no one logical predicate on which all else hinges, but rather is an intricate and interdependent network of logically constituted laws in which the absence of any one equally would cause a total collapse. Because of that holistic nature of reality, our minds are equally constituted as such in order to accurately form a conception of the universe. This inherent holisticism, then, is an aspect of one’s intellect.

As mentioned, this knowledge pertains to physical and metaphysical fact, as well as truth claims. So far, in this work, the most prominent first order claim pertaining to physical fact I have made is that one has embodied experiences. Falsifying such a claim may be somewhat difficult to do experientially with our current technological limitations. However, it could be quite easy to locate a logical inconsistency with the claim. For example, one could at least cast doubt on such a claim by finding an inconsistency between the epistemic claim that one is capable of abstract thought while insisting the primacy of material senses. I clearly have not found one, lest I would have asserted otherwise, but the purpose of publishing a work as such is to allow others to double-check my claims.

In similar fashion, we have made first-order metaphysical claims. Chief among them would be that one’s understanding dictates one’s behavior. Rather, a more specific case in that assertion would be that man operates with an intermediary function between stimulus and response. The easiest manner in which one could falsify such a claim, as far as I can tell, would be to demonstrate that it is superfluous to forming a sufficient paradigm for all second and third order reasoning. I have not yet addressed the framework in which one would do so, but we will get to it shortly.

This naturally brings us to truth claims. Technically, either everything or nothing we have discussed thus far qualifies as a truth claim, given the common usage of the term “truth claim”. As far as I am concerned, a “truth claim” is distinguished from a factual claim (such as the two we discussed above) with regards to its subject matter. A factual claim has to do with a state of affairs in specific or categorical situations whereas a truth claim regards a matter of transcendental realities. This will be addressed in more detail in the next chapter, but for now, we can refer to the PNC as one such claim. While I believe it to be impossible, one can falsify the PNC simply by illustrating a logically cogent circumstance in which something both is and is not in the same mode at the same time.

Thesis # 8: Through the marrying of multiple first-order concepts and further introduction of experience, one gains second-order knowledge…

As the thesis indicates, second-order knowledge17 is predicated on first-order knowledge. The sum total of one’s first-order knowledge creates a paradigm on which one’s second-order knowledge can be built. Having already shown themselves to be self-apparent, rationally cogent, and non-contradictory, first-order claims can be relied upon to fact check one’s second-order claims. In such a circumstance that one encounters or forms a second-order claim, they must critically assess its validity against the paradigm in which they are operating.

Through the application of deductive reasoning, one takes self-apparent logical principles and analyzes their relationships. By analyzing the relationships between their conclusions, they remove themselves from the self-apparent by a minor degree. This line of reasoning has few applications outside of mathematics without the added element of experience. Practically speaking, the marrying of multiple first order concepts and adding experiential data is fairly straightforward.

Mike, now medically stabilized, can effortlessly begin to assess what happened from the perspective of strong belief. He has already ascertained that he is injured and that he dropped a loaded gun. By drawing from experience, he knows it is incredibly likely that, in fumbling to catch the gun, he may have pulled the trigger. He also has a strong belief that the other two people who had possession of a handgun at the time were executing proper gun safety and were not in such a position so as to fire a gun at an angle corresponding to his wound. All of this evidence along with the deductive arsenal provided by his first-order paradigm can (rightly) lead him to the conclusion that he did, in fact, shoot himself in the leg.

The belief he has that his companions were executing proper gun safety is primarily due to experience and collaboration. He has witnessed them demonstrate their skill, knowledgeably, and contentiousness many times before while shooting. Additionally, they are responsible for his knowledge of the rules and basics of gun safety and use. Adding to his certainty that he did in fact shoot himself would be one of his companions serving as a witness to the event, “Dude, you just shot yourself!” In their own way, collaboration and communication are a form of experience which are useable in the development of second-order knowledge. Any one stranger can present a claim to another; without a well-developed discourse between the two, in addition to the critical thinking skills required to assess that discourse, such an interaction is meaningless. If some stranger (or even a friend) simply walks up to you and makes a claim, anything from “the sky is blue” to “Elvis lives”, and leaves promptly thereafter, there was no opportunity to expand one’s knowledge base. However, as will be explored later in this chapter and especially in the next chapter, someone can make an argument for a second-order belief and that allows for the opportunity to expand one’s knowledge base or at least reassess one’s existing knowledge base.

To one familiar with logic, this thesis essentially concerns itself with induction. While Russell explores induction quite thoroughly in chapter six of his “Problems of Philosophy”, he fails to provide a concise definition for quick reference. I will suggest a definition and then recommend that the more ambitious of my readers read Russel for more detail. I would define induction as, “the rational function by which one forms a strong belief by repeated experience and logical inference.”

Clearly, the study of physics18 lands solidly in this category. The empirical and observational study of the world which makes use of logic, mathematics, and repeated experimentation has been developed with the intent and end19 of forming a cohesive and reliable framework of second-order knowledge. Physics has proven invaluable in expanding our knowledge and providing for vast improvements in our quality of life and shows no signs of slowing in pursuit of that end. However, some have fallen victim to the ideology of scientism, believing that this material study of the world must be predicated on a purely material ontology and is the alpha and omega of knowledge. As I have already illustrated, science is predicated on a first-order paradigm and is part of a larger framework of philosophy. I am reminded again of Russell:

“The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life as last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken”20

As an aside that my broader ideology and disposition will not allow me to leave unaddressed, who is crazier, the chicken who distrusts the farmer and awaits and prepares for such a time that the common belief in the farmer’s benevolence is falsified, or the chickens who are content with the utility of daily meals?

… this order of knowledge is less falsifiable than the first.

Like first order claims, second order claims cannot contradict each other. In the popular case of science, it is easy to make a claim that this is not the case. For example, Newtonian gravity is still used universally for most every day-to-day practical application of physics, such as architecture or demolition while Einstein’s theories on relativity have effectively falsified newton’s theories. That claim, though, is naive; certain aspects of Newtonian mechanics have been shown inaccurate and ineffective, but that does not mean that there were not accurate observations, predictions, and knowledge claims contained therein.21 In less esoteric knowledge bases, this reality is more evident. One cannot simultaneously claim that the sun will rise tomorrow and claim that it will not. Mike can not claim that he had shot himself in the leg and that he did not, nor can the chicken claim that the farmer will wring their necks and that he will refrain from doing so.

In reality, if any two second-order claims are found be contradictory, they are likely inconsistent with the first order paradigm one established prior to making such second-order claims. This is because no second-order claim can be made without first assuming the accuracy of one’s first-order paradigm and verifying that second order claim against it. In such a circumstance that there is a true contradiction between two second-order claims (as opposed to a merely apparent contradiction) which are both supported or necessitated by one’s first-order paradigm, one must reassess their first-order paradigm in order to ensure that some mistake was not made which would result in such a contradiction.

If there is no flaw in the first-order paradigm, one must move on to pitting the contradictory strong beliefs against each other and attempt to falsify them. In most cases, second-order claims are experientially falsifiable. Induction, as its primary use, makes predictions about the world and about certain logical results. In these cases, one needs only to seek out instances in which the predictions made are consistently or severely inaccurate.

Thesis # 9: Through the extension of trends in the aforementioned orders of knowledge and the marrying of multiple second-order concepts, one can gain third-order knowledge: this order is rarely falsifiable by any means other than proving logical inconsistencies concerning the first-and-second-order paradigms and between third-order knowledge claims

While it may not be clear, in what I have written thus far, I have attempted to remain as politically correct and uncontroversial as possible while still saying what is necessary to convey my point. Unfortunately, this is the point at which I must descend into touchy material. Mike may have a weak belief that he shot himself because of karma or divine punishment. He may believe that he was predestined to shoot himself or that the CIA had implanted a microchip in his ass that made him do so. Any or all of these beliefs may be true. So long as they do not contradict the paradigms established by the first-and-second-order knowledge sets or each other, it is justifiable to believe such things22. Those examples are clearly a bit extreme, but it wouldn’t be out of line to say that Mike’s justifications for these claims may be more well reasoned and defensible than many claims at people at large take to be determined matters of fact. We will address that in the next section of this chapter.

Typically, third-order knowledge claims reside in realm of such things as esoteric sciences, religious discussions, conspiracy theories, and (especially) politics. Not always are these realms populated solely by third-order claims, but they do tend towards that in the common man’s mind. Other than by showing a logical inconsistency with the pre-existing paradigms, it is difficult to establish a falsifying element in third-order claims, which is likely to be part of the reason why the average man tends to vest so much of their mental narrative in the realm of weak beliefs, because they have the illusion of being bulletproof to the logically illiterate.

This is not a dismissal of weak belief. While this type of knowledge is frequently abused, it does have its utility. Sufficient practical reliability and utility can secure third-order concepts against ridicule. Many times throughout history, some person or organization has made a third-order claim which, by way of abductive reasoning or by advances in the rational or technological tools at man’s disposal, has since established itself as second-order knowledge. Abductive reasoning can best be described as an appeal to a compelling explanation for an otherwise unintelligible or gratuitous circumstance. In the words of C.S. Peirce, “The surprising fact, C, is observed. But if A were true, C would e a matter of course. Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true.”23 This abductive reasoning is easily third-order knowledge, and can even see itself promoted to the second order, given sufficient supporting evidence.

In the case of scientific and religious discussion, one ought to be diligent in first securing their claims well within the realm of second-order knowledge. Many times, a great deal of cultural upheaval and unnecessary suffering result from people aggressively supporting and advancing weak beliefs in such a way so as to make them mandatory for all. Two easy, controversial, opposed, and equally ridiculous examples are those of six-day-creationism and Neo-Darwinism. Both stand on weak paradigms and contradict matters of scientific and metaphysical fact which are quite cemented as second-order knowledge. It is acceptable to hold religious or scientific beliefs which are third-order, but only so long as one remembers that they are beholden to the standards established by their preceding paradigms.

Thesis# 10: Through the collaboration of certain philosophers (and philosophy’s constituents) throughout history, there have been established a series of compelling arguments and traditions as apply to the truth and meaning of the universe; one must be willing to adopt certain elements from these traditions, but not without first assessing the validity of and categorizing such elements

All of this chapter thus far likely appears to be a matter of stating the obvious. It is possible that one or another of my readers will claim that this model in no way resembles the actual process of knowing and knowledge. I challenge such a reader to provide a more practical, reliable, and accurate model so that I may adopt it. For now, I will extoll the cash value24 of this model.

An interesting concept introduced by the sophists in the “new atheism” movement is meme theory.25 A grossly oversimplified view of meme theory is simple: individuals create and transmit memes betwixt one another much like viruses, only instead of deadly illness, they are ideas held in the mind. The memes that survive are those which provide the most utility or are in some other way given opportunity to spread. This theory was created with the express purpose of attempting to discredit religions as some sort of “meme engineering scheme” in which religious leaders, over the course of centuries and millennia, create and finely tune memes which grant the leaders control over those infected by the memes. If true, this would make religions some sort of mental terrorist organizations.

All sentient creatures, in communicating, are meme engineers. When I form a thought and pass it on to another, I am a meme engineer. When taking ideas in and deciding which to share, which to disregard, and which to modify, I am also participating in meme engineering. All of philosophy, including science and theology both, is party to meme engineering. This does not mean that philosophy is some evil organization creating zombies from a careful application of a trade milennia old, but rather the opposite. While there are bad actors which do attempt to abuse ideology and reason to bend the weak-minded to their devices26, meme engineering is the primary engine of progress.

It is important to note that memes are more like sound bytes than full-fledged ideas. Certain images, affectations, or catchphrases are good representations of memes. Where one can easily remember, recite, or recognize a phrase like, “Form follows function,” they may have no concept of it’s point of origin or even what it means. Only through some form of learning or education does one come to know that it is a principle that is key to the architectural field, and too often forgotten.

Many people, for any number of possible reasons, do not critically assess their belief structures. Our culture has engendered a distinctly emotional and anti-reason attitude. Many insist that, “people need to learn to think” when what they really mean is that, “they ought to learn to think like me.” Social understanding of the term, “critical thought” has been switched to dogmatic neoliberal belief. Our political, religious, educational, and economic landscape clearly illustrates this attitude. Additionally, a popular activity that has emerged is asking elementary questions concerning these subjects of a random selection of people off the street and sharing their absolutely incoherent answers.

Ultimately, this unwillingness to critically assess one’s beliefs in the manner I have thus far outlined has become so widespread for so long that many cultures of intolerance to reason have developed. It is, quite literally, impossible to speak cogently, intelligently, and civilly with a large swath of the population. Neoliberalism, fundamentalism, scientism, fideism, and any number more “-ism”s have evolved from their origins as mere theories or rubrics for action into monstrous, insular, intolerant, and aggressive codes of dogma which cannot coexist in a world with rational actors capable of critical thought. This does not mean that all that ascribe to “-ism”s are mindless warrior drones ever ready to jihad in the name of science, faith, or civil rights; some are quite intelligent, if mistaken. Likewise, some number of “-ism”s have managed to maintain their proper mindset, application, and scope in an otherwise irrational environment.

If one is careful to examine both their own and others’ belief structures, one can inoculate themselves against bad memes and avoid being misdirected. Nearly every individual is rational to some degree. As a result, even the most unintelligent or mistaken individual tends to utter claims which bear some degree of truth. I hope that, though this work and those to follow, I may be successful in distilling said truths from the many, many ideologies and theories to which I have been exposed and arrange them in such a fashion so as to be accurate enough to piss absolutely everyone off. I believe that with proper education or training in logical thought, many will be able to make use of this model of knowing and believing in such a way that, even if they are unsuccessful in forming an accurate worldview, they may at least be able to behave and discuss in a civil and intelligent manner.

As can be inferred from the discussion of this framework, the order in which a particular piece of knowledge falls is contingent on the knower, not the meme (or claim). The argument to the concept establishes its order, not the idea itself. A clear example would be in the realm of ethics, in which one can make a particular claim (murder is wrong), and depending on one’s method of determining the claim can land it in any particular category. Kant can claim “Murder is wrong because blah, blah, categorical imperative, blah, blah,” and it would at least qualify as a strong belief. “Murder is wrong,” says the local minister, “because I have a strong abductive argument for the existence of God and the Bible as a moral authority,” and his claim would be, at a minimum, third-order knowledge. When you ask the first person you see at the super market (as I have) and get the response, “Murder is wrong because… what are you, a psycho? It just is!” you have just encountered a claim with no knowledge content worth consideration.

One cannot possibly double-check every claim that they encounter, especially in this era of information overload. Categorization of ideas can help. Our current society sees an instinctive application of this solution; when presenting an idea (especially concerning a political issue) to one’s acquaintances, one is frequently faced with a dismissive response coupled with a particular categorization (“Oh, this is just that liberal/republican crap”). This can be done in a conscious and responsible manner. After assessing a claim one encounters, they can categorize the claim based on premises, subject matter, the stances that others tend to take on issues other than the claim at hand. In doing this, the next time one encounters the same or related claims, they can expediently determine whether said claims operate in an acceptable and cogent framework. Admittedly, this process can result in one overlooking valuable information due to the manner in which it is presented. For this reason, I find that it would be ideal for one to maintain a stoic agnosticism when overwhelmed and explore one claim at a time, remembering always the larger picture.

The necessity and importance of collaboration cannot be overshadowed by the pitfalls of the human condition. In interacting with others in the philosophical space, one is able to expand their knowledge base, refine and correct mistakes, and increase the number of creative minds working on any given problem. Also, this interaction tends to leave a record. Once upon a time, letters, books, and diaries left a record for later philosophers to engage. In today’s era, those technologies certainly persist, but we have the additional technologies of the internet and all it has to offer. Most notable of which is the permanence and accessibility of data, which are attributes that will likely increase in scope as cryptography and open-source technologies become a cultural mainstay.

Many ideas which have survived the ravages of human history have been passed down generationally, being improved, corrected, reassessed, with each passing century. Not all, but likely some of these ideas and worldviews contain a series of compelling arguments and methodological traditions, hence their survival. It would be a missed opportunity if one did not make an earnest attempt to analyze and selectively accept the accurate and useful from these traditions. As long as one’s first order claims are factual and true, it ultimately doesn’t matter which first-order claims are made, a properly formed reason has the capacity to derive the type of worldview pursued by the philosophers: one that is internally consistent, logically sound, empirically viable and universal, possessing ethical agency, utility, and Truth.

95 Theses

1 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/knowledge-analysis/

2“Problems of Philosophy” Chapter 9

3Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences p10

4Gun safety protip: don’t do that.

5 Which will be discussed later in this chapter as well

6Ch 2: The Embodied Mind

7Falsifiability is a concept I have shamelessly stolen from Karl Popper and turned to my own uses. I will point the curious reader to hes “Conjectures and Refutations”.

8A desire I share as an anarchist.

9Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations p39

10As well as thesis 95

11First-order knowledge

12Popper p35

13Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy p2

14Descartes “Meditations on first Philosophy” Chapter 2

15An idea that, while appearing to be simple, contains implicit meanings and beliefs within it.

16Holistic theory of knowledge

17Also called “strong belief”

18 The branch of philosophy which concerns itself with what our modern culture calls science, namely, a study of the material world

19Greek: telos. “That for the sake of which”

20Russell “Problems of Philosophy” Chapter 6

21For a more thorough exploration of both this specific example, and the principles which underlay it, I reference the reader to Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”.

22 I seriously wonder what paradigms he would have to establish in order to simultaneously believe all four claims. If he has reliable second-order knowledge to base his accusations against the CIA, I want to hear it

23Groothuis “Christian Apologetics” p434

24The practical results of embracing a particular idea

25Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene”

26We will call these people “sophists” or “government officials”.

Just Another Friendly Argument #2: Contracts and the NAP

If you couldn’t tell, I came into this conversation with a little bit of a cavalier attitude.  James, however, was very well-prepared and had a number of notes he was going to send me in an email, but we both thought it would be more fun to do an argument episode of the podcast.

We discuss property rights, contracts, and the NAP.  I was already coming into a newer and more nuanced position on contracts since the last conversation James and I had concerning the matter, so this episode was less an argument than it was an interview, but we had a lot of fun and I think listeners can get a lot of good material from it.

 

school.of-athens-youtube-template-2014

 

Expression Theory vs Realism

About a month ago, I came to a realization concerning something that has been confusing me for years. As is typically the case, I have no easy way to express it in terms most people can understand. In the easy, precise technical terminology I use, the barrier to communication between me and most “normal” people about crime and punishment is that I’ve been assuming people are reductive realists when they are, in fact, expressivists.

According to expression theory, feelings and ideas can exist independent of the mind experiencing them, which allows for direct communication of ideas and feelings. One largely-known application of expression theory is Leo Tolstoy’s expression theory of art, which I will use as a paradigm example of expression theory at large. Tolstoy argues that the definitive quality of art is the communication of feeling from the artist to the audience. The ontology (and/or metaphysics) that is built around such a definition is the concept that an idea or feeling can exist independent of an agent which could be called a knower or a feeler.

In order for such an ontology to exist, it would require an even more intense version of substance dualism/pluralism than that to which I ascribe. Where I have argued that there must be a substance independent of the material substance which constitutes one’s brain (or anything else that physics looks at) which could be called a “mental substance”, that argument is limited to the existence of a “knowing/thinking thing” which is not fully explained by the interaction of matter with itself. An expressivist must allow for the existence of such a mental substance, but must also argue that the thing known is, itself made up of that substance, independent from any mind that may be knowing it. In essence, to an expressivist, the idea of expressivism is somehow currently contained in this set of black and white pixels on your computer screen.

In such a case, a painting or song could be imbued with the artist’s sadness or joy. When one hears the Haffner Symphony and feels happiness, that’s because Mozart imbued his sheet music with his happiness, and every copy of that sheet music made and, later, the orchestra’s playing from that sheet music have all been imbued with that happiness secondhand. So when one listens to said symphony and feels happy, it’s actually Mozart’s happiness infecting the listener. (Example shamelessly lifted from Douglas Groothuis.) I promise I tried to make that example sound as charitable as I could…

What this means, in the case of “crime and punishment”, is that an expressivist, on some level, believes that a criminal is expressing “crime” by committing said crime. They are imbuing the scene of the crime with “criminality” which may infect the minds of others (causing them to commit crimes, as well). “Society’s” response to that crime, then, will also express a response to the crime, imbuing “Society’s” environment with whatever that response is communicating, which will also possibly infect others.

It took me far to long to realize that this is what people meant when they say such absurd things as “We can’t rehabilitate drug offenders with medical science, we must lock them in rape cages… we don’t want to send the wrong message!” What such an individual believes is that a criminal is infected with an idea of criminality which could have been transmitted to them by another individual, by coming into contact with a thing imbued with “criminality” or by a criminal idea that simply happened to float by at that given moment. I’m not certain whether the belief is that the criminal lacks any free will, such that they are merely the slave to whichever ideas and feelings they are exposed to or if one would have free will, but only insofar as one could fight off the infection of an idea or feeling in the same way one fights off a cold or flu virus… the literature is murky in that regard.

If I had to venture a guess, though, I would point out that Toltsoy is a proto-Marxist and sympathetic to anarcho-communism. Because of this, I think his cultural influences would lead him to argue that individuals only have free will insofar as they can overcome the influence of capitalist marketing and join something akin to the communist revolution, which would mean that most people are merely slaves to the ideas foisted upon them and only the great men of history can rise above mere servitude. In full disclosure though, Tolstoy was not a fan of revolution, he was too much a fan of Buddhism for that. For example:

“The anarchists are right in everything: in the rejection of the current state of affairs and in the assertion that under contemporary moral conditions there can be nothing worse than governmental violence. However, they are profoundly mistaken in believing that anarchy can be established through a revolution. Anarchy can only be established by the process of people becoming less and less reliant upon governmental authority and by people becoming more and more ashamed of participating in this authority.”

To get back on subject, though, I am convinced that despite Toltsoy’s positive contributions to philosophy and culture, expression theory is riddled with absurdities which could not be reconciled with any ideology other than a naive platonic idealism, one which claims that the only thing that exists are ideas that exist independent of any particular media which may contain said idea… that everything which exists is nothing more than a perception of some ideal divine form beyond direct human apprehension. This is, conceivably, self-consistent, but requires an incredibly complex ontological and metaphysical framework to be constructed around each individual aspect of the human experience which could more elegantly and directly be explained by simply allowing the material things with which one interacts to be real. Instead of reifying (making real) ideas and feelings, instead of making them exist as non-contingent and independent entities, would it not make more sense to apply Occam’s Razor and ask if ideas and feelings are not merely phenomenological experiences contingent upon the sense-perceptions and brain-states of the experiencer?

A (reductive) realist will restrain their ontology to only include that which must necessarily exist and/or observably exists. To such a realist, ideas and emotions are phenomenological events confined to individual minds, derived from stimuli. Meanwhile, a realist will look at actions, incentives, and outcomes with regards to individual actors, or “communities” by way of statistical aggregate. So, a criminal, then, is choosing to commit crime, based on whatever phenomenological event is occurring within her own mind, and expressing nothing. Subsequently, any individual/institution punishing a criminal is not expressing anything, but merely attempting to accomplish an end by physical means (reform, punishment, removal from the general population, sending a market signal that “crime doesn’t pay”…) What little explanative power the expressionists have concerning crime or social stigma being “contagious” can better be accounted for by what amounts to “market signals”.

For clarification, what a signal amounts to is a discrete physical phenomena (such as black and white pixels on the screen) which lend themselves to individuals observing and constructing an idea from that stimuli, which then informs their action (such as decoding the sentence constructed from these pixels and understanding, to some degree, the idea in my head). In the case of market signals, prior events provide stimuli for constructing ideas which inform market functions such as risk-assessment, cost-benefit, and value acquisition.

I didn’t really set out on this blog post to argue with Tolstoy and his unknowing inheritors, though. I am writing this post to bring attention to a language barrier I’ve discovered between myself and a great number of people. I believe this language barrier is derived from a distinctly separate and unaddressed ontology. This post is really just a call for feedback so that I can come to a better understanding of how my audience sees the world and to increase the dialogue between me and my readers. This issue, I think, is surprisingly central to all of the disagreements between statists and anarchists as well as between AnComs and AnCaps, and I therefore feel I need to come to a better understanding of all sides of the issue… if for no other reason than to secure my paradigmatic awareness for future discussions.

TL;DR: This post is short enough that I don’t think it really needs a “too long; didn’t read” section. Instead, I want to take this portion of the post to express my gratitude to those of you readers that have provided support for this project by way of donations, getting things from amazon wish list, using my affiliate links, and sharing this content on social media. I also want to give the readers/listeners an update. A few of you have noticed that the site has been getting a little less attention of late, with a lack of podcast episodes and the timing of blog post releases. I’m honored that you noticed and felt that yo should let me know. I recently switched jobs, moving from a low-level grunt to management. My new workload and schedule precludes being able to write blog posts while at work, and we are still trying to get family life back into a regimen we can survive with the new schedule. Hopefully, but the end of this month we will be operating at full-capacity again. Thank you.

From Scratch 4.2 Background and name

Chapter 2: The Embodied Mind

Chapter 2: The Embodied Mind

Thesis #5: One’s experience is phenomenological in nature and derived from the senses; the development of the mind and our understanding of the universe is therefore derived from sense experience and interpretation of said experience

In the previous chapter1, I established that all knowledge is experiential. Even matters of “divine revelation”, ESP, or any other alleged spontaneous acquisitions of knowledge are still experiential in nature, as one is still experiencing such an event within their own mind, regardless of whether or not it is actually happening in a manner consistent with how one perceives it taking place. When we first addressed this state of affairs, it was in the context of one being solely informed by experience. In this instance, we are approaching it from an incrementally more nuanced position: that one’s experience is phenomenological in nature and derived from the senses.

Man has an inborn faculty of intellect. The intellect is a complex and frustratingly mysterious thing; I will describe it in as concrete and simple terms as possible. In the words of medieval philosophers, the intellect is the capacity to which matters of fact make themselves apparent, “like a landscape to the eye”2. This is the primary faculty by which one experiences the world, providing man with direct apprehension of the things around him. Essentially, intellect is the seed containing the mind, the ratio3 within man. This is seen in an infant as he begins to focus on various elements within his environment and as he gathers rudimentary sense data.

With sufficient time and experience, the capacity (seed) of intellectus can grow into the faculty of reason. Again, using the medieval scholars, “Ratio is the power of discursive, logical thought, of examination, of definition and drawing conclusions.”4 A more modern and specific definition would be, possessing the qualities of, or capacities for, self-awareness and a fundamental potential to learn and think logically”. The manner in which the intellect receives those experiences is sensational5; an infant may have a very basic set of instinctual “programs” by which they “know” how to feed, breathe, cry, and squirm, but they do not even have control over the movements of their own limbs, let alone any cognitive faculties. The intellect allows the infant to begin gaining control of their movements through the repeated cycle of stimulus and response in each of its limbs. Through prolonged exposure to patterns in environmental stimuli, the infant begins to expect the patters to continue in the same manner: the first fledgeling sparks of reason.

Before continuing to analyze the relationship between intellect and reason, it would be prudent to expand on thesis number two. “Reason dictates one’s understanding of the universe.” Reason, or the ratio we defined above, is a uniquely human experience. As mentioned previously, animal “experience” is nothing more than a perpetual cycle of stimulus and response. Conversely, humans have the experience of experiencing; or rather, the intellect serves as an intermediary step between stimulus and response. The intellect, as it develops into reason, begins to identify apparent patterns and categories. This pattern recognition is not infallible6, but is the basis of all human experience. While reluctant to abandon his skepticism, Bertrand Russell expresses a very similar and more detailed opinion as this in his Problems of Philosophy7. His term for this process, which I will borrow, is “induction”.

Following induction, both Russell and I approach “deduction”. Deductive reasoning, also called syllogistic reasoning, are matters of logical calculation. Through induction, one can begin to assume patterns, and can even express them syllogistically. “If the stove top is red, it is hot” is a simple premise, which can be derived from simple experiences. Upon witnessing that the stove top is in fact red, one can assert, “if the stove is red, it is hot. The stove is red. Therefore it is hot.”. This is an assertion which is derived from a combination of experience and reason. However, no degree of experience can account for the initial element of reason that dictates that such a syllogism is possible, let alone reliable. Modern research into early human development, though, has discovered that there are strong indications of innate mathematical reasoning within infants. I assert that these mathematical operations are an example of that very intellectus earlier mentioned. Ultimately, mathematics is an expression of logic in it’s purest form8, meaning that logic is something more than just a mere brute fact9: it is a faculty inherent to man.

Deduction can express hypotheses beyond the realm of immediate experience. While our first example was purely experiential and practical, a brief survey of the philosophical tradition will show that deductive reasoning can be (and is) applied to every imaginable circumstance. The accuracy of these deductions is wholly contingent on two virtues, the accuracy of premises as they relate to reality and its adherence to what Russell calls the”Laws of Thought”10. They are as follows:

  • The law of identity: ‘Whatever is, is.’
  • The law of contradiction: ‘Nothing can both be and not be.’
  • The law of excluded middle: ‘Everything must either be or not be.’

In other words, the “Laws of Thought” is another manner of describing the principle of non-contradiction. The best formulation I have seen of the PNC to-date is, “The logical principle that something cannot both be and not be in the same mode at the same time.”

We are fortunate that we are inherently conditioned such that these principles are immediately apparent to us as they are, themselves, unprovable. Our experiences can serve to reinforce these principles and, through their applications, prove their utility even if one cannot prove them in themselves. Through experiences of particular instances, we can come to a greater understanding of the nuances of such a simple and self-apparent set of principles. All the laws of reason, which will be explained and elaborated as they become pertinent in this work, are simply expressions of the particular nuances of the PNC.

The more abstract or complex lines of deductive and inductive thought are no doubt somewhat removed from immediate experience, either by way of their conceptual nature setting them apart from the physical world or by speaking of physical events that are not within a proximate vicinity to the one deducing. This does not make the reasoning any more or less valid. For example, one can engage in mathematical exercises concerning triangles without referring to any actually existing instances of a triangle. Another instance would be a deduction that determines all kangaroos are mammals, even if one has never seen one before (and isn’t likely to… how many people go to Australia, really?). Both of which are valid regardless of whether the one doing the deducing is immediately experientially present to the subject matter or not.

These rules of logic and their applications obtain in such a manner that renders relativism (in all but its softest forms) impossible. Something is said to “obtain” if it is necessarily true in every instance, such as triangles having three sides or the PNC. I say that these obtain in such a way so as to render relativism impossible because relativism is, fundamentally, a denial of objective truth. Extreme relativism denies all objective truths whereas softer forms only deny particular categories of truth such as moral truths. This denial necessarily results in violations or denials of the PNC. Any instance in which one says, “there is no objective truth,” is an instance in which they are categorically denying categorical statements. This is an age-old objection to relativist thinking11 which has simply been hand-waved by the proponents of relativism. Admittedly, there are more refined and delicate relativist arguments, but they all fall prey to this fallacy at some point or another.

Thesis #6: The mind is an embodied entity; all language and imagining is clearly based in bodily experience and all imaginable entities outside the immediate physical world are conceptualized in a sensational metaphor.

This experiential and embodied basis of our knowledge is clearly evident in our language. Every aspect of our imagination physical in nature. It is fitting that, when discussing material circumstances, one should use material language. For instance, “that dog is sitting under the tree.” That statement can be a literal expression of a matter of fact. However, while it may feel intuitive, the same material language is used to express abstract concepts. For instance, “The prospect of war weighs heavy on my heart.” In this case, “the prospect of war” is immaterial and possesses no weight as a result. Additionally, one’s heart is unaffected by some immaterial state of affairs external to the person in whose chest it resides. I do not mean to claim that the above statement is devoid of meaning or veracity, but wish to illustrate the metaphorical nature in which we express immaterial concepts. While I lack the space and attention span to enumerate the various metaphorical uses of material language in the style of Wittgenstein, I contend that there is no instance of using language in a literal and comprehensible manner when expressing an immaterial state of affairs.

Upon brief inspection, I see three common uses of embodied language as referencing phenomena metaphorically. Firstly, it is used with regards to invisible material things, many of which we see the effects of but never the things themselves. Secondly, it is used with regards to metaphysical or spiritual12 entities. Thirdly, we employ embodied language with regards to ontological, or divine, concepts13. It would be prudent to, at least exemplify each of these categories and the relationships between them.

Many will object to me asserting that we use embodied language with regards to material objects metaphorically. “Of course we use material language when speaking of material things!” they say, “why would it be a metaphorical use?” With some invisible material things, like most gasses or electrical currents, metaphorical language in unnecessary; it is literally the case that air can push, pull, heat, or cool things as well as electric currents14 and the like. However, in the case of more esoteric fields such as particle physics or quantum mechanics, we do use physical language metaphorically. A couple easy examples would be the “color” of quarks or the “spin” of particles. Quarks are too small to be directly perceived by way of light and color, but the choice of “colors” provide certain useful conceptual assumptions based on our knowledge of actual colors. The same type of metaphor applies to the “spin” of particles, providing those that study and discuss these things with applicable and comprehendable language to do so even if the terms are literally meaningless is such a context.

Admittedly, I have not yet allowed metaphysical or ontological existants15 into this framework but that doesn’t disallow this analysis of language to enter into our discussion. Even if such immaterial things do not actually exist, we still speak of them and the manner in which we speak of them is indicative of the point I am making presently. Metaphysical entities, such as the principles of logic which were discussed earlier or the fundamental laws of physics, are frequently discussed in the language of math or logic; however, they are frequently expressed in physical language in order to make it practically useful. In the case of a particle’s “spin”, quantum particles travel along vectors as if they have angular momentum, like a spinning object, despite not necessarily spinning. Additionally, in the case of non physical narratives, whether fictional or real, such as dreams, out-of-body experiences, revelations, ghosts, angels, etc. are expressed in physical metaphor. An easy example would be the common narrative which occurs in reports of out-of-body experiences, “I was outside my body, kind of floating above it. I was there, but I wasn’t; I could see everything, but not like one does with their eyes. I was also in the next room over and still inside my body at the same time. I could see a long, dark tunnel, but it wasn’t really there, with a light at the end.” The only intelligible manner in which we embodied creatures can describe a circumstance which was clearly non-spatial and non-bodily is by use of spatial and visual language in an approximate metaphor.

Before we discuss ontolocal language, we must first define “ontology”. Ontology, as it is frequently used, is typically assumed to mean “the philosophy of hierarchy” or “the study of existants”. In my usage, ontology is best defined as “the philosophy of that which precedes physics and metaphysics”. This means that there are ontological commitments inherent within the fields of physics and metaphysics which, themselves, require investigation. These commitments typically involve the status of things as either existing or not, the relationships and nature of substances and logical principles.

As one can assume from the above definition, ontological language tends to be complex and ambiguous at times. This area of study tends to involve exclusively mathematical concepts, the nature of eternity/infinity, discussions pertaining to God, and ideas16. Not one of the things on that list are material or sensual things. Typically, in the case of God, anthropomorphic language has become so prevalent so as to make caricatures of the actual concepts themselves (ie. God is a bearded angry old man in the sky who smites people for petty acts of impoliteness.) Not one of those terms are easily applicable to ontology, let alone accurate metaphorical language for ontological concepts. However, this gross abuse of language does not detract from the fact that the only way a human can grasp such concepts as infinity, especially when attempting to avoid instantiating an infinite17, is through metaphorical use of embodied language.

Additionally, we, as (apparently) willing creatures, tend to use mindful language to express the behavior of non-willing and/or necessary beings. Where we may have refined our language in physics since Empedocles, “Things fall because like things desire to be proximate to like things,”18 we certainly still fall into this trap. Again, it is most common in the more esoteric areas of physics and in ontological discussions, such as particles “seeking out each other” or being “entangled” despite lacking a will or an actual entangling medium. That doesn’t change he fact that we use a language that is limited to embodied experience as a metaphor for more advanced concepts.

There is yet another likely mistake that one can make in reading this chapter. That mistake would be assuming that I am conflating the mind with the body (or the brain). I will not make a case to either materialism, idealism, or substance dualism here. Instead, I intend to explore the manner in which we express such concepts linguistically.

One of the most interesting cases of language operating in an unexpected manner is with regards to the self. For example, phrases commonly used are “my body”, “my mind”, “my soul”, and “my self”. We speak of certain aspects of ourselves in the same manner we would speak of our property; “my car”, “my robot slave”, etc. This linguistic phenomenon implies two things. Firstly, it implies that one’s mind, body, soul, self, and property are each distinct entities which are not reducible to one or the other. Additionally, it implies that what exactly an individual is is either an amalgamation of the above listed possessives, or something radically distinct from them.

We will address the question of what exact relationship the mind and body have, whether they are the same thing, one reduced to the other, or as two distinct and intermarried elements, later in this book19. The additional question of what, precisely, the individual is will be addressed briefly, but it will require far more space and time in order to reach a meaningful answer than I have available in this work. It will also require more intermediary steps than the mere twenty needed to discuss the mind-body problem. For now, it will suffice to merely express the manner in which our mind is embodied, practically speaking.

For fear of being accused of making the same mistake that Nietzsche made,20 I feel compelled to leave a disclaimer at the end of this chapter. I recognize that being a young American, my sole focus in this chapter is the way an individual thinks and speaks in American English. However, I believe, based on my limited grasp of Latin and Japanese as well as my exposure to Hebrew, Greek, and Spanish, this argument still obtains in some manner or another in every human language, with some slight modifications.

95 Theses

1Ch1, “Epistemic Assumptions”

2 Pieper pg 139

3Reason

4 Pieper 139

Also, Thesis #22

5Pertaining to the senses

6A state of epistemic affairs where one in incapable of being wrong

7Russell, Problems of Philosophy chapter 6

8 citation

9Something that simply exists without the possibility of explanation

10Russell ch 7

11The discussion between Thrasymachus and Socrates in Plato’s Republic (Book one, Chapter one) is an easy example.

12 I am not equivocating the two, mind you

13 In this case, the two may at times be equivocated

14Also, electromagnetism

15Simply defined, “a thing which exists”

16 Not to mention imaginary things like unicorns and free national healthcare

17For an introductory example of this type of reasoning, I recommend reading “The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy”.

18Aristotle attributes such a claim to Empedocles in his work De Anima

19 Chapters 8 & 9

20Namely, being a philologist instead of something a little more… real.

Chapter 1: Epistemic Assumptions

Chapter 1: Epistemic Assumptions

Thesis #1: One is solely informed by experience

“We must, as in all other cases, set the apparent facts before us and, after first discussing the difficulties, go on to prove, if possible, the truth of all the common opinions about these affections of the mind, or, failing this, of the grater number and the most authoritative; for if we resolve both the difficulties and leave the common opinions undisturbed, we shall have proved the case sufficiently.”1 As a read through the canon of philosophy2 will evidence, there is a long-standing tradition of beginning with and stating atomic, self-apparent, facts followed by exploring the ramifications of accepting those facts. While some philosophers may begin with assumptions more apparent and verifiable than others, it remains the case that all worldviews are predicated on basic assertions which are made by the one (or group) which crafted said worldview.

This assertion is, itself, a self-apparent truth. There is no real way to prove that all reason is derived from immediate facts, only to disprove it. The principle of non-contradiction is one such principle: a thing cannot both be and not be in the same mode at the same time3. There is no way to conclusively prove this to be the case, but it is the foundation of all our reasoning. I assert that any example that could be presented contrary to this claim is either simply a convoluted example of my assertion or is an exercise in irrationality and absurdity4. I will choose to arbitrarily select one out of all the available examples of a beginning paradigm which attempts to circumvent this reality. A common line of reason in modern American society is the claim that “There exist, among men, a large percentage of bad actors who harm others. We wish to be protected from bad actors. Therefore we must place men in positions of authority over other men in order to protect them from bad actors.”5. Of course, in this case, there will undoubtedly be bad actors introduced into the aforementioned positions of authority, amplifying rather than mitigating the negative effects of bad actors in society.6 This is one of innumerable examples which demonstrate the impossibility of escaping the paradigm I have presented.

As can be assumed, these self-apparent facts are apparent only through the experience of the one to which the fact is apparent. Each of these (and all subsequent) experiential facts are, themselves, informed solely by experience. Even the most extremely outlandish claims to the reception of knowledge, like divine revelation or telepathy, are in their own way experiential. Ignoring whether or not it is possible or likely that one can have a vision or spontaneously altered awareness which is factual or true, what is guaranteed to be the case is that those who honestly make this claim have had an experience of such which has informed their worldview.

Reason, then, as the faculty by which one can analyze and make judgments about one’s environment, is ultimately derived from experience7. The experience of fundamental principles, like the PNC, allows one to generate the praxis8 of reason. By using the tools and flexing the muscles of the mind, one can begin to develop the faculty of reason.

Thesis #2: Reason dictates one’s understanding of the universe

One without reason, like an animal, exists in a perpetual cycle of stimulus and response. No different than a complex computer program, the sum of all an animal’s behaviors is dictated by a genetic, instinctual, rubric by which an animal eats when it is hungry, mates when it is fertile, and flees predators when threatened. Every nuance in their behavior is simply a property of their programming. This can lead to amusing circumstances when an animal’s conditioning is no longer appropriate for their environment, such as dogs refusing to walk through doorways due to certain cues which lead them to believe the door is closed or Andrew Jackson’s parrot swearing so profusely it must be removed from its owner’s funeral9. These amusing behaviors, though, are prime indicators as to the lack of a key characteristic which makes man unique from the animals: reason.

Both man and animals have experiences: certain events as perceived through the senses. However, man has the unique experience of experiencing that he is experiencing. In other words, “We are not only aware of things, but we are often aware of being aware of them. When I see the sun, I am often aware of my seeing the sun; thus ‘my seeing the sun’ is an object with which I have acquaintance.”10 Experience, itself, is clearly not sufficient, then, to be considered reason or a source of reason. Experience, as the animals have it (animal experience as I will refer to it), is little more than a sensational input to an organic calculator which produces a result. That result, even, is no more than an action of the body which, in turn, generates further sensational input. This cycle simply repeats itself thousands of times per minute, millions of minutes in succession, until the animal dies. The experience of man (or just “experience”, as I will call it), however, is different.

Man still experiences via the senses, but there is a slightly more complex process in operation after that initial sense experience. If a man is still in his infancy, is drunk, caught sufficiently off-guard, is mentally disabled, or is one of my critics (or is any combination of the above), it is incredibly likely that they will have a form of animal experience by which reason doesn’t enter the picture until some time after an instinctual and automatic response takes place. Even though that may be the case, there will be an opportunity later to reflect on the experience and interpret it as one wishes (though, at times, that opportunity is ignored). More commonly, an individual has the opportunity to process sense perceptions with a rational mindset, deliberating whether he should say a particular sentence or another while on a date, for example.

In this example of a date, one, we will name him Mike, can draw on experiences from the past to inform the present choice. Upon reflecting how poorly his last date went, Mike may opt to avoid describing in graphic detail what it feels like to shoot oneself in the leg over a veal entree… at least on the first date. This is an example of how one’s understanding is a direct result of one’s internal narrative. After experiencing the horror and disappointment of a first date ending abruptly and with no prospects of a second, Mike would have the rational faculty to reminisce over the experience in order to find a way to succeed in the future. Having reached an understanding that such behavior is not conducive to a successful date, he can choose to avoid that behavior in the future. This applies in all circumstances besides the aforementioned date. If, say, Mike were to decide to read this book, after reading a miserable and arrogant introduction, he may come to an understanding that this book is not worth it and return to watching football never to read philosophy again (that sorry bastard).

Of course, it is possible that one’s interpretation of an experience can be flawed. In the case of Mike, it’s possible that his earlier failed date had less to do with his choice of conversation and more to do with the fact that his would-be girlfriend was a vegan with a touch of Ebola. In the case of his current date, it is distinctly possible that his current would-be girlfriend is a red-blooded anarchist meat-eater who listens to Cannibal Corpse songs when she eats dinner at home. By misinterpreting previous experiences, Mike is going to spoil his chances with a real keeper. For this reason, I find it necessary to delineate between one’s subjective understanding of particular instances, which may or may not be inaccurate, and one’s faculty of understanding.

Thesis #3: One’s understanding of the universe dictates one’s behavior

As we addressed when discussing the differences between animal experience and actual experience, man behaves in a manner distinct from animals. Due to man’s faculty of reason, understanding and justification are elements which interject themselves between the phenomena of stimulus and response. In any instance of stimulus, a man must choose to assent to the stimulus and choose to respond. In the case of Mike, while reading my book, he would be exposed to the stimuli of mind-expansion, intellectual challenge, existential intrigue, and more. Being unaccustomed to such stimuli, our example, while incredulous of the stimuli, assents and then chooses to cease to read and retreat to the comforts of the familiar simulated manhood of football. In the case of a dog, however, whatever new stimuli it is exposed to are immediately either perceived through the filter of instinct or disregarded outright, much like a blind man being the recipient of a silent and rude gesture. As that stimuli is perceived, the dog’s instinct causes it to behave in one manner or another. For instance, being of domesticated genetic stock and trained to assist his blind owner in particular ways, he may maul the one performing the rude gesture, with no rational process involved, merely organic calculation.

This difference, however, does not mean that man is devoid of animal experience or instinct. As mentioned before, under certain circumstances, man can behave in a manner consistent with animal experience. As a matter of fact, it is the case that instinct may play, at a minimum, as much as half of the role in man’s experience and understanding. Man is clearly not the “tabula rasa” of Avicenna and Locke11. As I have asserted, the faculty of reason is inborn. Evidence exists to support my claim in that infants instinctively act on stimuli in order to feed, cry, swim, and flail their limbs; there are also contemporary scientific claims that the brain operates as an organic calculator, the evidence of this also exists in the behavior and brain structure of infants. Additionally, evolutionary psychologists have observed similar phenomena in grown adults concerning phobias, pain reactions, sexual attraction and many other areas of the human experience. As will be addressed later in this book, it is even possible that this rational faculty my argument hinges so heavily on is, in fact, nothing more than a uniquely complex form of animal experience12. Until such a time that I do address such claims, though, we will continue to operate under the belief that rationality exists per se.

Understanding and habituation, then, drastically impact one’s behavior because they are the medium by which one’s experience informs and dictates one’s behavior. Through experience of particular sensations, and the application of reason to those sensations, man can come to understand his environment. Through application of reason to any given circumstance of stimuli, he can then choose an action understood to be most appropriate in any circumstance. Habituation, additionally, impacts man through the instinctual inclination to maintain a certain consistency in one’s actions. In the case of Mike, this would result in choosing to watch sports over reading philosophy.

Thesis #4: The epistemic and phenomenological endeavors of philosophy (and, by extension, certain areas of physics which pertain to the human experience) are crucial to one’s understanding of the universe and one’s resultant behavior.

In choosing to watch sports rather than read philosophy, Mike is attempting to avoid the discomfort of a new experience for which he is ill-equipped. However, in avoiding that experience, Mike is attempting to shirk his need to engage in public discourse and exposure to culture. Whether or not he succeeds in such an endeavor is less important to us now than what such an experience represents. The experiences of public discourse and culture are key experiences which inform one’s understanding and behavior. Our example in the introduction to this book concerning the need for communication and language is a prime example of the fundamentals of public discourse and culture. “This mushroom bad,” clearly establishes certain cultural norms as well as informing one’s attitudes towards certain concepts. In the case of Mike, it could be a friend coaching him with dating advice or beer commercials during the football game altering his expectations of his date. If he had read my book, Mike would be more likely to succeed in his date, having better equipped himself with a tool set for working with the human condition.

These tools have been graciously provided for us through the long-standing traditions of philosophy, most notable in this instance would be epistemology and phenomenology. Through the study of knowledge and how man acquires knowledge13 and experiences and how man feels what he does,14 philosophy can aid significantly in one’s quest for understanding what and how he knows what he does and how to influence those around him. Most of what has been written in this chapter is lifted directly from discussions I have had regarding various works in epistemology and phenomenology. In this regard, I believe this work is a paradigm example of the assertion made, that one of the most crucial kinds of experience for the formation of one’s understanding is one of a social and philosophical nature.

A strong cultural and public formation of one’s understanding is crucial because a well-informed understanding can ultimately provide maximal utility to an individual and society15 whereas a poorly-informed understanding can effectively cripple one’s ability to develop their rational faculties or provide much utility to themselves or others. As was mentioned earlier, one’s subjective, personal understanding can be flawed. Some merely make a small error in their reasoning while others may be mentally disabled by either material means or due to a cripplingly misinformed understanding. The strongest influence to both the possibilities of an accurate understanding or mental disability is that public influence on the individual. As discussed in the intro, when done correctly, philosophy creates the circumstances most conducive to a well-informed worldview.

In this way, we see that one is solely informed by personal experience. That experience allows one do develop inherent faculties such as reason. Reason, in turn, allows one to analyze one’s experiences and engage one’s culture. This analysis generates an understanding and worldview within the individual, which also has a bearing on one’s habits as well. This understanding is the premise on which one makes a decision regarding how to behave in any given circumstance. As forming an accurate worldview is crucial to one’s successes, philosophy (the strongest candidate in this regard) is crucial to forming said worldview.

95 Theses

1Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Oxford World’s Classics) p.118

2The widely accepted list of “most significant philosophers to-date”.

3We will explore the Principle of Non-Contradiction, or the PNC, more thoroughly in chapter 3: Orders of Knowledge.

4A claim which is logically self defeating, whose conclusions deny the very premises on which it is built.

5This is an example of how Philosophies written in the mid-17th century (Hobbes’ Leviathan) have percolated though the social consciousness for centuries and are no longer questioned.

6Additional examples and further exploration of absurdity can be found in Hobbes’ Leviathan, chapter 5.

7The next chapter will explore this concept more fully.

8The method by which one, through either experience or theoretical knowledge (“knowledge that”), can develop practical, active knowledge (“knowledge how”).

9 Volume 3 of Samuel G. Heiskell’s Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History

10“Problems of Philosophy” Bertrand Russell ch.5

11“Tabula rasa” refers to a “scraped tablet” or “blank slate”, evoking a description of the mind in which there is initially no knowledge or activity whatsoever.

12In Chapter 2: “The Embodied Mind”

13epistemology

14phenomenology

15In this case, I’m using the term “utility” in a very loose way. The best definition of “utility”, though, would be, “the capacity for a thing to provide or contribute to one’s flourishing.”

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

In 1969, two significant libertarians wrote articles for the Libertarian Forum Volume 1. One Karl Hess published a list of questions he felt needed concrete answers from the libertarian community and Murray Rothbard dutifully stepped up to the plate and answered those questions from a principled, pragmatic, and economically-minded stance. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, though, this work of Rothbard’s has been excised from the libertarian consciousness and left to the AnComs to champion.

Rothbard is widely recognized as the arch-AnCap and rightly so. Without too much geeking out, I want it to be known that Rothbard, with nothing but a pen, brain, and lectures, has done more for humanity’s sake than nearly any other individual. Of course, he used that brain, pen, and lecturing gig towards such an end for fifty-or-so years and, understandably, made some mistakes along the way. The most significant of those mistakes, which he admitted to being an unmitigated disaster , was the time he spent on the political left.

Between the left-friendly rhetoric and the apparent inability for most to contextualize and dispassionately read material, “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” has gone overlooked despite its presentation of what amounts to, simultaneously, the most principled and most actionable solution concerning the problem of de-socializing state property. Admittedly, this is not entirely Rothbard’s fault, as he was answering the questions of Mr. Hess, a bleeding-heart liberal lacking any solid grasp of libertarianism’s philosophical commitments. Instead of shredding Hess’ article for it’s numerous errors, though, Rothbard attempted to address it on its own terms.

Hess was clearly unaware of the inherent “right-wing” nature of libertarianism/anarchism, openly denigrating “the right” in favor for “left-libertarian” (AKA Marxist) presumptions. The most philosophically criminal of which being his overturning of the ontological hierarchy of human activities, claiming that conceptions of rights and property are derived from some goal of human activity as opposed to the other way around. Such an argument is nothing short of a performative contradiction. Additionally, he lifts openly Marxist revolutionary rhetoric and terminology while also demanding that specifics be given concerning environmental agendas, the revolutionary takeover of General Motors, and egalitarian nonsense such as racially-motivated “reparations” programs in the context of libertarianism.

Given the stage of development Rothbard was at and the stage set by Hess, it isn’t surprising how Marxist Rothbard’s response sounds. Despite all the garbage concerning answers to Hess’ stupid questions, Rothbard still produced a gem which demands legitimate attention. Instead of doing what Rothbard ought to have done and devoting my energy to destroying Hess, what I want to do here is mine out the gem Rothbard created using his later, more AnCap material to inform this activity.

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

It can be taken for granted in anarchist circles that the dichotomy most central to libertarian discourse is that between the state (socialists) and the individual (anarchists). Another, less equivocal, way to name that dichotomy would be that between the criminal (outlaw) and the non-criminal. In order to appropriately understand this dichotomy, one must first come to an appropriate, if basic, understanding of property.

In the tradition of John Locke, property comes into being by way of homesteading. The simplest conception of homesteading is that unowned property enters into private ownership by virtue of an individual investing one’s own property into it, whether it be labor or materials or by way of occupying or otherwise adding value to it. After a certain property is homesteaded, it can easily pass from one owner to another by way of voluntary trade or donation. This is the basis of all forms of human interaction and that which is commonly referred to as “rights”.

For the sake of clarity, a definition of “property” ought to be proffered here. I use the term to mean “any discrete object to which one has access, control over, and a legitimate claim by virtue of homestead or acquisition from the previous owner with the owner’s assent”. Incidentally, I’ve also addressed the concept of “theft” as applies to property before, and recommend that others read the post centered on the issue. In lieu of reading the whole post, one should at least be aware that theft, in this conception, is the unauthorized use, consumption, or acquisition of another’s property.

In such a case that one steals another’s property, one is engaged in crime and is, therefore, deserving of the title and status of “outlaw”. The unfortunate etymology of the term notwithstanding, all it means is that one such individual is not likely to be welcome in polite, cooperative society, so much so that they are likely to, themselves, have property taken from them and be the recipient of violence. Ideally, this circumstance would lead to the outlaw seeking reconciliation with his victims, making the victim whole. Even if reconciliation is impossible, it would still be morally and economically preferable for the outlaw’s stolen property to be confiscated by literally any private individual who can invest it back into cooperative society. Not only should the stolen property be re-appropriated by the market, but also any (formerly) legitimate property belonging to the outlaw which was utilized for that theft.

The clear example of this principle would be a back-alley mugging. Say I take a shortcut down the wrong alley in Denver and find myself held at gunpoint. My assailant demands my wallet. For the sake of discussion, I either hand over my wallet or have it forced from me. It would clearly be justified if I were to promptly re-appropriate my wallet from him. Not only would it be tactically sound, but it would also be morally justified for me to confiscate his firearm and maybe even his getaway vehicle as well. If I am overpowered and some honorable bystander witnesses this event, he would be equally justified in intervening and doing so on my behalf.

This action is preferable and just for three reasons. Firstly, it makes the victim of a crime closer to being made whole and increases the opportunity for justice to take place. Secondly, it decreases the opportunity of the outlaw to continue committing crimes. Thirdly, it sends a market signal that there are externalities and risks associated with committing crimes, thereby reducing the likelihood of others taking such a course of action.

A crime which has only recently been acknowledged as such, historically speaking, is that of slavery. Ultimately, slavery is little more than institutionalized coercion and theft. The (largely fictional) account of slavery in the American South is an easy example of this reality: individuals compelled by the use of force to perform tasks and refrain from others while also being robbed of the fruits of their labor. This description may sound reductionist, but no one could argue that it is not the heart of the matter. The only change that may be warranted would be the addition of some description of scale, but that is superfluous to this discussion.

Given the above description of homesteading, theft, and confiscation along with the popular sentiment concerning slavery, I imagine it would be largely non-controversial to claim that a slave rebellion in such a climate would be morally justified. At a minimum, one who believes the American Revolution was justified would have to acknowledge the legitimacy of a slave rebellion in the South.

Such a fictional rebellion could take several forms. One, unfortunately impractical, instance would be an entire plantation or county witnessing its slave populations simply standing tall and walking off the plantation. I imagine most can see why that would be impossible; given the surrounding environment, it would likely turn out much like emancipation really did. More likely to succeed and more in-line with the first part of this post would be the confiscation or re-homestead of the plantations. Rather than remaining complicit with their slavery (horizontal enforcement, complying with orders, etc.), the slaves could act in self-defense, thereby exiling or executing their masters and confiscating or re-homesteading the products of their forced labor and the instruments by which that theft occurred.

This is where Rothbard’s application of the homestead principle comes into play. How ought the slave re-appropriate the plantation? What options are available? By way of the nature of homesteading, each slave who remains on the plantation and continues to work would naturally come into ownership of his tools and the immediate fruits of his labor. While the theory is simple and broad, the application could be messy and case-specific.

One possibility would be an extreme individualist approach, whereby the individual plants on the plantation would be divided among the farmhands while the individual household appliances and rooms would be divided among the house servants and a micro-economy could emerge whereby the cooks could prepare meals in exchange for the fruits of the field and as rent for staying in the house… but this solution is likely to result in friction: petty squabbles over bits and pieces of the plantation and personal disputes.

An other option would be to collectivize ownership of the plantation whereby a communist micro-state could be formed. Each former slave would continue doing the very things they were before the rebellion, only replacing the masters’ directions with weekly meetings to determine how the plantation ought to be run. Presumably, these meetings would also serve to manage how wealth ought to be distributed amongst the former slaves who choose to stay. Of course, this solution looks far too similar to an Orwell novel and is likely to go as well as the Bolshevik revolution.

A more likely to succeed option would be a sort of middle-ground by which the confiscated plantation would be incorporated, for lack of a more accurate term. It would take a certain degree of commitment and foresight, but the former slaves could divide the plantation into a number of shares equal to the number of remaining former slaves, essentially granting virtual ownership of the plantation to those who re-homesteaded it. This creates an economic incentive to remain and invest labor and play nice with others in order to increase the value of the shares one owns in the plantation. Such activities would increase the dividends and resale value of the share as well as increasing the security of one’s livelihood. However, if one desired to leave, they could, using the dividends or resale of the share to serve as compensation for one’s participation in the labor and rebellion preceding his departure.

Admittedly, this is all hypothetical. To my knowledge, no such rebellion occurred in actual history, which leads me to believe that slavery, writ large, wasn’t as bad as I was told in elementary school. Even so, I only presented three out of a literal infinitude of resolutions of a slave rebellion. Given my more pessimistic views of human genetics, the most likely outcome would be something similar to that which exists in sub-Saharan Africa as opposed to Iceland. However, this hypothetical would be far more likely to end well in the following example.

Before moving further, it is important to draw attention to the basics of this hypothetical. The justification for and the means of achieving this slave rebellion is a combination of self-defense and confiscation in conjunction with the homestead principle, as indicated at the beginning of this post. Self-defense from criminal acts is eminently justifiable, this applies to theft and coercion and, therefore, to slavery. In the case of self-defense, confiscation of the implements of crime-in-progress as well as stolen property is justified as well. Stolen property is, in practice, unowned due to the outlaw effect and the lack of legitimate claim in conjunction with access to the property. Even if that weren’t the case, an executed or exiled criminal’s former property (legitimate or otherwise) is effectively unowned and, therefore, open to homestead.

With this argument in mind, we turn our attention to other instances of slavery. Most widespread, historically and today, is the case of slavery known as the state. By way of regulation, taxation, enforcement, and other euphemistically-named criminal activities, the state coerces specific behaviors, steals and destroys property, and engages in all manner of murderous, coercive, and thieving activities. It is impossible to define slavery in a manner consistent with its historical referents while excluding government in a manner consistent with its historical referents. In Rothbard’s words, “The state is a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called ‘taxation’ and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around.”

In the case of state-slavery “All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted… Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty.” In the spirit of the earlier example, “How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.”

The specific examples are largely straightforward: police can take their armor, guns, and vehicles home and take advantage of a sudden demand for private security personnel in the absence of the state. Lawyers and judges can establish arbitration firms. Educators can take control of the facilities and implements of education and continue to teach in a competitive market. Those currently providing non-marketable “services”, such as DMV employees, bureaucrats, union thugs, and military will likely have to find a way to re-brand their respective talents of race poverty. Of course, the slave-holders themselves, the politicians, executive officers, representatives, and lobbyists will face exile or execution. Unfortunately, not everything is that straightforward. What of corporatist entities? General Motors, Haliburton, Koch, MSNBC, the Post Office, and “private” colleges are wholly indistinguishable from the state, itself.

“As a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient… The same principle applies… they deserve a similar fate of virtuous homesteading and confiscation.” In the case of corporations and organizations that receive half or more of their funds though government institutions, they are effectively inseparable from the state and must suffer the same fate. The military industrial complex, especially, ought to be confiscated from the criminal band known as the state, not only for its complicity in theft but also its open endorsement of globalized murder. Important note: this is a wholly different issue that the legal abuse suffered by firearms and alcohol manufacturers and distributors when their products are abused.

Speaking of these absurdly regulated industries, many of a communist persuasion will argue that all industry is a beneficiary of government and ought to be re-homesteaded. I disagree. Whereas Haliburton is a direct recipient of welfare, most other corporations are merely indirect beneficiaries of the state’s criminal activities by way of limited competition, externalized expenses, and coercing purchase of goods and services. These corporations will be forced, in the absence of the state, to either adapt to the ensuing market correction or fold and sell their assets. Besides, it is morally suspect and quite inefficient to try and homestead every regulated industry. Those that manage to adapt to market correction were clearly sufficiently virtuous enough to deserve protection from re-homestead, whereas those that fold and sell out were vicious enough to deserve such a fate and homesteading becomes superfluous, as those entities are peaceably re-introduced into the free market.

TL;DR: What is required to de-socialize the state and appropriately pursue the abolition of slavery is nothing short of a slave rebellion. Such a slave rebellion must be conducted in accordance with the moral principles of self-defense, confiscation, and homestead. Otherwise, such activities are likely to end in the establishment of an even-less preferable state of affairs, such as that of communism. In the words of Rothbard, “Libertarians have misled themselves by making their main dichotomy “government” vs. “private” with the former bad and the latter good. Government, [Alan Milchman] pointed out, is after all not a mystical entity but a group of individuals, “private” individuals if you will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang. But this means that there may also be “private” criminals as well as people directly affiliated with the government. What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property. It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.”

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Introduction to the 95 Theses

Introduction

“A Philosopher’s 95 Theses”, a silly and audacious title for a work by a college dropout with little to no substantive endorsements. What is this work even supposed to be? This work is primarily an attempt to begin a systematized and traceable discussion concerning my particular brand of philosophy. Having spoken in various public forums, from in the classroom, to hosting salon discussions (thank you, Voltaire), to water cooler discussions, to arguing on Facebook (a noble means of communication, to be sure), teaching and tutoring homeschoolers, and managing a blog, I have found that many people in my generation and social stratum lack even rudimentary exposure to true philosophy or even formal logic. This isn’t the case for everyone, but a majority. Many times, people disagree with my statements or beliefs, not because of any logical or ideological error on my part, but rather a lack of understanding of how conclusions follow from premises. Ultimately, the discussions belie no understanding of the objective material at hand, but merely emotional attachments to already-existing prejudices as well as a fundamental lack of foundation from which they are arguing. When presented with this fact, others are wont to accuse me of the same. In this work, I hope to both soundly establish a defense from such accusations as well as begin to spread a culture of “lower-class intellectualism”: a culture of self-education and intellectual progress compatible with and available to “the lower class”, economically speaking. The first step of doing so would be to make something accessible and affordable available to what I call “my social stratum”, as well as simply raising awareness of alternatives to the current institutions which are fueled by big money and political agendas.

Clearly, as a starting place, this work is merely the beginning of what I hope to be an expansive and pervasive body of work. I hope to one day move beyond this project of establishing my foundations to making these concepts concrete and practical, providing a certain utility to all that would be open to a paradigm shift from our current postmodern sensibilities. From this body of work, I intend to expand and build on these ninety-five theses using the same style and methods contained herein, as well as writing a series of philosophically weighted articles concerning how one ought to live from day to day.

As most anyone who reads this work can tell, there is nothing groundbreaking or even original in this work, other than the arrangement of these ideas pulled from the atmosphere of the philosophical tradition. As a foundational work, I would expect this piece to be fairly conventional. Besides, as one prone to taking things too far and stating the outrageous, I want to give myself a moderate baseline from which to work in order to give some credence to my more extreme assertions which I have begun to publish already, alongside this work.

Despite the conventional content, I chose a particularly evocative title, (if I do say so myself). The title “A Philosopher’s 95 Theses” is an unabashed attempt to cash in on the fairy tale of Martin Luther’s dramatic succession from the Church. There is a narrative in which Luther made official his succession through the posting of the 95 Theses on the church doors as an overt “Eff-You” to the Church. While evidential support for this re-telling of history is nonexistent, the actual format and concept of the work itself is worthy of emulation. This is certainly the case if this is to be a beginning of a break from the status-quo of contemporary philosophy.

To be honest, the suggestion for the title and style for this work was presented to me by a friend who seemed quite earnest in wanting me to write my thoughts for his own edification. The suggestion was made primarily from a religious awareness of the Theses as a work of philosophy which could be easily adapted to a social media format. The concise nature of each thesis makes it easily tweeted in ninety-five segments. He leveled a challenge to me to post ninety five philosophical theses in ninety five days on Twitter and Facebook in order to encourage me to begin writing my ideas in a codified and discussion-friendly format. After a hilariously disorganized and epistemically infuriating four months, I had ninety-five theses, a ton of notes from discussions that were sparked (by the early theses, I think many friends and loved ones lost interest around #35 or so), and a new-found energy for attempting to publish something of worth.

The name and format of the original “95 Theses” has been lifted, but much of the argumentation and content has been abandoned, as Luther and I have very different intentions and circumstances concerning our respective works. Where Luther simultaneously affirmed and protested various Church doctrines and principles of theology, I intend to do the same for the philosophical doctrines which many contemporary philosophers have confessed. As such, rather than explicitly arguing the finer points of revelation and redemption, I intend to establish a solid foundation for later arguments in the philosophical realms.

As I will address in detail later, philosophy is a historical and holistic entity. Due to the nature of philosophy, I don’t expect to have come up with any original material, even if I know not where it has been written before. In the words of Descartes, drawing on Cicero, One cannot conceive anything so strange and implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another.1 The ideas and truths of philosophy are simply “in the air”, as it were. One of the marks of truth in the philosophical world is its longevity. Many ideas that emerge in these theses, as well as my other works, are strongly rooted in classical philosophy as it has survived to this day.

I borrow heavily from existing works, as all philosophers do. I give credit where I can recall or research the original source, but it would be impossible to trace the genealogy of every idea which springs from my mind. This arrangement of concepts and their relationships is likely to be original, but the ideas themselves are old and deep-rooted. It is the perennial duty of the philosopher to water, trim and tend to the tree of knowledge which is philosophy: to hold the ideas in one’s mind, to criticize and correct errors, and generally allow the Truth to become known. Not a bonsai tree, but a veritable orchard of delicious and ripe fruits.

This work, hopefully, will establish a faux a priori2 foundation from which I can assert all of my later reasoning. Now is your chance, critics. Now is the time, in this work, to correct my premises, my errors, my moments of weakness, before I attempt to plumb the depths of truth in this vessel I have cobbled together. It will be too late, I am sure, when I arrive at a premise so incomprehensible and flawed to point out that I had overlooked a basic truth here and now.

I have grandstanded long enough on what philosophy is, without giving an appropriate definition and description of it. One should not assume that one’s use of terms is identical to that of one’s readers or opponents.

What is philosophy and why bother?

I believe that all who can rightly claim to be a philosopher will recognize certain fundamental characteristics which I believe to be necessary conditions for philosophy. It must be rational, as even the most blasé and stale philosophy assumes the basic precepts of logic, non-contradiction, and the ability of the mind to grasp truth. It must be consistent, as rationality simply can not allow for the possibility that the principle of non-contradiction is invalid. Therefore, all rational things are self-consistent. It must be empirically viable, as our experiences determine our understanding of the universe and, subsequently, the truth (the theses themselves will discuss this3); we cannot hold a belief which predicts or necessitates an experience divergent from what we actually experience. It must be universal, as any truth which is contingent upon circumstance is not a truth, but merely a fact.

In addition to these necessary attributes of the practice itself, I believe it must also produce certain results, fruits if you will, lest it be nothing but a mental exercise. Without ethical agency, this exercise would have no bearing on our lives as a prescriptive measure which, in the absence of an equivalent authority for prescription, would result in aimless and irrational lives, driven simply by the reptilian and hedonistic pleasures of our own genome. Without utility, this exercise would be superfluous to any other activity man would undertake; very few (and no sane) men would choose an impotent and laborious endeavor at the expense of something enjoyable and productive. Ultimately, without truth, there would be no rhyme or reason to the philosophical endeavor; if it were to be self- consistent and pursue truth, it must actually be capable of and ultimately accomplish the task of acquiring Truth. For these reasons, I assert with a fair degree of certitude that the purpose and goal of philosophy, as well as its necessary and sufficient conditions, (and, therefore its constituent elements, such as theology, physics, etc.) is to create an internally consistent, logically sound, empirically viable, and universal worldview which possesses ethical agency, utility, and (ultimately) Truth.

As mentioned in the above definition, philosophy possesses many constituent elements and tools of which it avails itself. As a reading of Aristotle or many of the enlightenment philosophers will support, I find that it is most natural to begin the philosophical journey in the realm of epistemology or phenomenology. A definition of each is in order, I believe, before addressing the practicality of such a method. Epistemology, taken from the Greeks, can simply be considered “the philosophy of knowledge and thinking, an explanation for how one thinks and knows”. Similarly, phenomenology would be “the philosophy of experience, an explanation for how one experiences and interprets those experiences”, also from the Greeks.

An approach starting from the angle of philosophy of thought and experiences does present some inherent issues, like the infamous discussion between Kant and Hegel:

“We ought, says Kant, to become acquainted with the instrument, before we undertake the work for which it is to be employed; for if the instrument be insufficient, all our trouble will be spent in vain… But the examination of knowledge can only be carried out by an act of knowledge. To examine this so-called instrument is the same thing as to know it. But to seek to know before we know is as absurd as the wise resolution of Scholasticus, not to venture into the water until he had learned to swim.”4

Hegel presents a very pragmatic alternative approach, which was quite popular with later Hegelian philosophers, like Marx. Essentially, he asserts that one ought to simply begin thinking and doing philosophy and will learn how one learns by witnessing one’s own experiences, much like how one learns to swim. As one can see, in reading the first ten or so theses, my assumptions and their descendants take a very Hegelian approach to early epistemology.

Amongst the historical traditions of philosophy, a debate as old as the pre-Socratic philosophies rages to this day: the theists vs. the atheists. Despite the greatest attempts of the moralist atheists, though, the arguments between theism and atheism ultimately deal with a more fundamental question. Whether or not there is a God is ultimately an argument as to whether there is any Truth at all. Again, as the theses address, either the universe is nihilist (devoid of any fundamental or objective meaning and purpose) or it is teleological (purposeful and directed)5. The most common theistic argument made is one concerning teleology, “What’s the point, if there’s no point?” Conversely, the atheist makes an absurd or existential (presenting logically inconsistent facts, or asserting that the universe itself is logically inconsistent) argument, “If there is no point, I can make one.” These arguments will be addressed in the theses6.

Ultimately, all forms of science and pseudo-science (assuming that they are rational and logically rigorous) are constituent elements of philosophy. If our definition of philosophy is accurate, then all rational activities which are directed at the goal of achieving ethics, utility, or Truth are elements of the grand attempt that is philosophy. The scientific endeavors are all part of the philosophical school of physics, by which one establishes the empirical viability of any particular philosophical view. The pseudo-sciences, ranging from sociology, to psychology, to astrology, to magic (again, assuming that they are rational and logically rigorous) can sometimes be appropriated into either physics or metaphysics. Some rare cases may even wander further from physics into epistemology or phenomenology, but all intellectual pursuits are ultimately an element of philosophy. Many of the individuals which pursue these endeavors lose sight of the forest for the trees, but that does not make their work any less valuable to the philosopher.

Bertrand Russel asserts, in chapter fifteen of “Problems of Philosophy”, that science becomes science by divorcing itself from philosophy once it becomes useful. Joseph Pieper, similarly contends that scientific inquiry is capable of achieving conclusions which are resolute and unyielding, whereas the philosophical endeavor can not.7 Both Russell and Pieper have a distinctly post-enlightenment flavor to them in this regard, which is unfortunate. They both fail to see that science is but a tool and a field contained within philosophy. Science may try to distinguish itself apart from its mother, with such cultural figureheads as Neil DeGrasse Tyson outright ridiculing her, but it can never truly extricate itself from the frameworks from which it came. Instead, it would be more appropriate for the specialists to concern themselves with their specialty and the philosophers to draw on them when needed.

Above all, reason is the driving force of man and his works. Above all rational pursuits, philosophy reigns. While not all men may have the ability to be great philosophers, all men are called to be philosophers, nonetheless. If in no other way, one must examine their choices and their lives in such a manner to achieve the best outcome available. Unfortunately, in this day and age, I fear that even this minor task proves to be too much for most.

It is no surprise, really, that this task has proven too much for my generation. The heart of philosophy is discourse and my generation is illiterate and disjointed in this regard. Rather than bemoaning our state of affairs, however, I ought to concern myself presently with the discursive nature of philosophy. Whether the discussion be oral debate in the city square, essays and books written in the solitude of a cave or study, or a college dropout’s ramblings on social media, philosophy only flourishes when an idea is shared, tested, refined, and put into practice. The manner in which this discourse and implementation takes shape is varied and veiled, but it is very real, even today.

The ideas and themes in popular philosophy pervade every area of our society, especially in the United States of America. They are boiled down to aphorisms and images and spread like a plague or meme through the cultural ether. I say “especially in America” as our nation was founded on a social experiment derived from the popular philosophies of the time (social contract theory), and that is a tradition that has continued for two centuries. Those that participate in the creation and sharing of art in society play a crucial role in the spread of these ideas.

Literature has been a long-suffering companion to philosophy. As far back as Homer and Gilgamesh, we see philosophical themes and musings riddle the characters and narratives of the culture. In more modern times, with the rise of the printing press, we saw an emergence of overtly philosophical fiction and some less-overtly philosophical fiction. There was such literature before the press, to be sure, just look at the classics. However, I find it unlikely that “Candide” or “Thus Spake Zarathustra” would have lasted the way the “Iliad” or “The Divine Comedy” has in the absence of the press. Even popular works of both fiction and nonfiction, whether intentionally or not, are rife with philosophical commitments.

These commitments are equally prevalent in film. While film is a fairly recent advancement in technology, it shares a common lineage with literature. We can easily trace its heritage from screenplay to stage play to oral traditions which stand as the forebears of ancient literature. For the sake of this discussion, I will consider video games and television shows as film, as their storytelling devices and methods are more-or-less identical. In addition to the words and language used in literature, film also presents ideas and commitments through the visual medium as well, certain images or arrangements can, consciously or unconsciously, link certain ideologies and characters together. The same holds true for music, sculpture, painting, any artistic or cultural endeavor, really, even dance.

Through the public discourse and permeation of cultural works, philosophy drives a society’s zeitgeist8. Any of the uninterested or uneducated who participate in cultural events, from watching movies, going to school, being subjected to advertising, have their minds and views molded by the underlying philosophy. Through exposure and osmosis, ideas that were once held in contempt have become mainstream and vice versa. This is the natural cycle of philosophy, and it is always made possible by the liberty of the minds of true philosophers. Even if the zeitgeist demands that the world be one way or another, the free thinkers are always at liberty to pursue the truth and share that quest with others through discourse.

Philosophical Schools, the Good and the Bad

Philosophies, taken in their historical and cultural context, ultimately tend to land in two categories: that of “the man” and that of “the rebel”. Whatever cultural or institutional norm for a culture may exist, it exists because of the philosophers who have brought those concepts to light and shared them via the public discourse. Those ideas that find themselves in favor of the ruling class or establishment naturally become the driving force of a society or state. Those ideas which are newer and less conformed tend to become popular amongst the counter-culture. It is important to note: this observation does not lend any judgment to the truth value of any one or another idea, simply its cultural impetus. It is the duty of the free-thinking philosopher to sort thought these ideas, regardless of the cultural context, and to ascertain the objective truth value of each respective idea. This often makes their philosophies unpalatable by both “the man” and his reactionaries. (C’est la vie.)

This cultural presence and impetus of popular ideas is revealed in every cultural work. From little nuances in color choice, sentence structure, musical tonality, to overt themes and statements, certain ideologies become manifest to an audience. These manifestations can be analytical and conscious and others can be more insidious or subconscious. The two most prominent contemporary examples are in the mainstream news and popular film, where phrasing and imagery is specifically designed to impart a worldview and philosophy on the unwashed masses.

It is no mistake or coincidence that the more authoritarian a state becomes, the more strictly social discourse and cultural works are censored. It is always in the best interest of the establishment to engender in their subjects conformity of thought and philosophy. The most intuitive and frequently used methods towards that end are limiting the subjects of discourse and subverting the thoughts of the masses. I believe that now, like any other time in history, the people of the world are having their thoughts and philosophies subverted and censored by the social and political establishments around the globe. An easy example of this phenomena would be the blind adherence to material reductionism, Neo-Darwinism, and cultural relativism which is strictly enforced in academia as well as by societal pressure, despite the lack of compelling rational evidence to support any of the three.

It is possible, however, that the prevalence of “bad philosophy” in popular culture is less a conspiracy of idiocy and more a benign zeitgeist of an uneducated time. Regardless of whether it is intentional or incidental, there is a silver lining in this situation. Philosophy, when maligned, can be a powerful tool for subjugation, but it is also, by its fundamental nature, liberating. Philosophy, as the pursuit of truth by rational means, necessarily drives its earnest adherents to freedom. By questioning the reasoning behind the social structures and institutional norms one encounters, one comes to understand where the truth lies and liberates oneself from the lies perpetuated by a society devoid of reason. Because of this, we see a dichotomy emerge: popular culture and its discontents. Now, this doesn’t mean that philosophers cannot enjoy and partake in the fruits of popular culture; it simply means that one ought to be aware of what is being imparted upon oneself, especially when there is a surplus of material available.

Reality exists such that there are several misconceptions and maligned concepts in the realm of contemporary philosophy. One of the popular misconceptions concerning philosophy and intellectualism is that it is a domain primarily inhabited by out-of-touch nerds arguing about stupid questions. “Which would win in a skirmish, the Enterprise or the Executor?” While the answer is obvious after a short bit of reflection (Enterprise), it is a dilemma that only a specific and small demographic will ever face. It is also a question that has questionable practical significance. I have witnessed in both the media and the general public a rising belief that those that contemplate such questions are to be considered intellectual and philosophical, at the expense of those that are deserving of the titles.

Of course, those that are deserving of the title have long been plagued by equally absurd-sounding puzzles. “When removing stones from a pile of stones, at which point is it no longer a pile?” While the answer may appear to be obvious to a mathematician or engineer (the pile is a designated set, it remains a pile even if there are no units in the set), it has far-reaching implications in the way man thinks and knows, or in other words, in the realm of epistemology.

Without philosophy, man would lack a crucial tool of introspection and rationality. The very question “What is knowledge?” does not have a satisfactorily categorical answer. Through our pursuits in philosophy, man has made great strides in addressing such a fundamental question which has evolved from “What is justice?” and moving onto “How can I be certain I exist?” and now addressing a wider, more complex assortment of queries. The fact remains, we must always ask, “How do I know this?”

These questions form our culture and our ethos. Or, rather, the pursuit of answers to this class of questions drives the popular zeitgeist. Even banal entertainment, like prime time television and late night talk shows touch on the questions which plague all sentient beings. “Why am I here?”, “Why am I unhappy?”, “What’s for lunch?”9 are all questions which people are desperately trying to answer whether they are aware of it or not. Philosophy attempts to codify and rationalize the pursuit of these answers, to make it accessible to our contemporaries and future generations, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of man as well. These attempts are frequently used to answer these questions by taking our common assumptions and putting them to the test.

In each age and culture, there are certain ideas that become popular and omnipresent. An example would be polytheism in ancient Greece, or Christianity in 13th century Europe, or social Darwinism in the early 20th century. As can be seen through the examples presented, many of the common assumptions of the time fall to the wayside as a culture’s awareness evolved. In the words of Paschal: “Whatever the weight of antiquity, truth should always have the advantage, even when newly discovered, since it is always older than every opinion men have held about it, and only ignorance of its nature could [cause one to] imagine it began to be at the time it began to be known.”10 In some cases, those changes are for the better or worse (the shift from superstition to reason or the social ideology which fostered Nazism) at the time that change occurs. However, in the long run, philosophy always allows the individual and their culture to learn from the past. Typically, though (as I indicated above), this puts the individual at odds with his culture until the culture can catch up with him. This often makes the more notable philosophers those that were considered nonconformist.

A popular postmodern mindset in the philosophical landscape today has attempted to artificially generate that notoriety through philosophical non-conformity. What I mean is, they attempt to protest even philosophy itself. This is a trend which began in the enlightenment and found its perfection in the existentialist movement. Where enlightenment philosophers tended to either decry the philosophical mindset as some form of mental illness or feel the need to announce that it isn’t a “real” science, existentialists were (and are) wont to denounce not just the rationale of philosophy, but the very existence of logic altogether.

Absurdity is, fundamentally, simply denying or violating the principle of noncontradiction: asserting that something both is and is not in the same mode at the same time. Absurdism is a whole realm of postmodern philosophy in which one, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, attempts to use the tools of philosophy without following the rule of logic. While such attempts are entertaining and mind-expanding, they are just as the name says: absurd. As the 95 Theses (like all philosophy) assumes the existence and necessity of logic and rationality, this treatment of absurdism will be short and off-handed. Even so, Sartre, Camus, and other existentialists manage to contribute observations and arguments of value to those pursuing truth. I hope, in other works, to address the good and the bad of absurdist philosophy, but not today. This will be explicitly outlined in the theses themselves11, but this will help to better prepare a novice for the oncoming vocabulary contained in this work.

Nihilism is not a new concept in philosophy, but it has recently found a surge in popularity after witnessing the World War and all of its continuations. It is tempting to deny the existence of meaning when witnessing the most inhumane behaviors being perpetrated by man. “What is the meaning in millions of men killed by other men?” can easily become “What is the meaning?” However, as a being capable of asking such a question, the answer literally precedes the question. If one is able to witness and analyze whether or not something has meaning, there is, at a minimum, the production of that question. In the case of an absurdist, he looks no further than the mind of the inquirer, asserting that the inquirer/philosopher must give meaning to an otherwise meaningless world (and ultimately violating the PNC to do so). In this way, nihilism, in using a meaningful discourse to establish that there is no meaning besides the absurd is, itself, absurd. In the case of a philosopher, one asks “from whence does that desire for meaning come?”

In order to make sense of the universe at large, philosophy must be logical. Taking the evidence available to the philosopher and arranging it into a coherent narrative which is both satisfying and capable of producing utility and accurate predictions of cosmic behavior. The fact that our minds and our philosophical endeavors exist in such a way, and the fact that it is successful as such, we conclude that the universe itself must follow a form of logic. While the human intellect may be limited to codifying and adapting a series of laws to describe the universe’s behavior distinct from that behavior itself, the universe’s behavior is quite clearly consistent and logical, regardless of our perception of it.

This, of course, brings us to the subject of relativism. Relativism, in all but its softest forms, asserts and assumes the absence of objective existence, either in the form of moral reality, or physical or ontological reality. Moral relativism and its twin, cultural relativism, asserts that, because of the diversity of contradicting perceptions of ethical truth, there can be no absolute moral truth. Naïve relativism follows this form of logic to its inevitable conclusion: anything that can have contradictory observations or beliefs concerning it does not exist objectively, therefore reality itself does not objectively exist. While, at times, some form of scientific study is used in an attempt to justify such an assertion, typically it is an extreme reaction to scientism.

As objectionable as relativism is, it is at least identifiable and easily refuted. Scientism, however, is a beast of a different nature. Scientism is a strict adherence to the scientific method predicated on the philosophy of materialism, it is a union of empirical positivism and material reductivism. Anything not immediately falsifiable12 is of no consequence and ought to be done away with. Not all elements of scientism are bad (coming from a former adherent to scientism); a strict adherence to the methods of reson and empirical observation is what has elevated the school of physics to become the driving force of modern society it is today.

In recent centuries, most noticably the twentieth, there was a sudden surge in scientific thought and progress in all of the civilized world. There were innumerable factors that contributed to this phenomenon and, thankfully, I have no intention of going into detail concerning them. At the moment, I am far more concerned with the fruits of this technological renaissance than its causes. In the nineteenth century, the perpetual swell of knowledge and increasng standards of living appeared to be infinitely sustainable. This led to an optimism in the whole of society, but most especially in philosophy and its constituent sciences.

Confidence in science’s ability to cure all of humanity’s ails was joined by a popular trend in science known as reductionism. It was widely believed that science’s messianic qualities were a result of its percieved ability to reduce the most complex psychological or biological ailments into some simple alchemical formula (female histeria and electroshock therapy come to mind) and even the darkest and most troubling metaphysical questions could be exorcized with a simple application of mystical scientific hand-waving. Reductionism isn’t a modern invention, even the pre-Socratics strove to reduce all things to one atomic principle (the world is air/water/fire/flux/love/whatever), but never before was it so widespread and influential as during the rise of modernism and postmodernism.

Unfortuntely, in all their excitement over the leaps and bounds that were being made in their discoveries, true scientists (one who studies the physical sciences) became “scientists” (those that adhere to the philosophy of scientism). Subsequently, some bad science was introduced into the realm of sceintism without sufficient criticism. A handful of non-falsifiable theories, like Neo-Darwinism and String Theory, have managed to charade their way into the cult of scientism and are now defended with a fervor and blindness rivaled only by the most rediculous of religions. While it is not currently my goal to write a full-fledged indictment of scientism and other instances of bad science, I am compelled to at least demonstrate that materialism is insufficient and direct my readers to a work that more than completely shows that materialism and Neo-Darwinism are incomplete and illogical worldviews13. In favor of misguided science, many are equally prone to jihad in favor of bad philosophy (ie. relativism and consequentialism14). Some of these people have legitimate exuses for doing so (public education and demographics of their upbringing come to mind), ultimately, their excuses can be reduced to the defense of, “I didn’t know any better.” Some despicable men, however, are quite aware of the logical fallacies they commit in the name of furthering an agenda contrary to the pursuit of Truth.

Sophists, since ancient Greece, have always profited from making defenses of the indefensible, either for the acquisition of wealth or the silencing of their own conciences. Whenever an ill-informed or malignant trend emerges in a culture, it is certain that some sophist or another will emerge from the woodwork to champion it. Unfortunately for true philosophers, most sophists find their roots in philosophy and academia. This is unfortunate because, to the unwashed, the sophists and philosophers are indistinguishable between each other, save for sophists defending the fulfillment of their base desires while the other demands intellecual rigor and consitency. These sophists were the enemy of the ancients and are the enemy of philosophy today. As certain historians through history (like Cicero) have noted, there has been a noticeable trend of cultures falling for sophistry not long before their demise. In our modern culture, we see popular philosophy dominated by sophistry and intellectual vacuity. In academic philosophy, it would appear that a certain apathy to the common man and common culture has gripped the hearts of philosophers as they discuss the impractical and esoteric. Worse, though, than the philosopher turned sophist, is the celebrity or lawyer turned “philosopher”. Lawyers are paid to play by the rules and obfuscate the truth. Celebrities are paid because they make people feel good. Both of these careers are antithetical to the pursuit of truth. In such a case that one who makes a career of pursuing personal interest (whether it be thier own or their clients’) turns their attention to announcing certain ethical, social, scientific, or really any intellectual claim, they ought to be met with close scrutiny. An example which has plagued America (and the world) in recent years is the Hollywood zeitgeist of celebrities loudly and aggressively endorsing the political ideologies of the radical left. While these endorsements ought to be recieved skeptically, we instead have seen a widespread voice of agreement in the public forum. This is no different than the phenomenon observed by historians of bygone empires and cultures.

The same cult of irresponsibility and self-promotion in both popular culture and academia that existed in ancient Athens still plauges true philosophers today. At times, given the ascetic15 nature of the philosophical disciplines, it can be incredibly temptng for one to compromise one’s integrity for the sake of wealth or popularity which a philosopher would never see otherwise. Additionally, even if one is unaware of what they are doing, it is common for one to confuse one’s ideas with one’s self, which leads one to take justified criticism poorly and leaves no room for improvement and correction of ideas. When one is more concerned as to whether they are well-liked or can turn a profit rather than engaging in a genuine loving pursuit of wisdom and truth, it can only end badly.

As Socrates is credited to have said (which is more likely a paraphrase of his entire body of work), “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In order to successfully achieve eudaemonia16 or Truth, one must be vigilant and develop the ability to accurately assess one’s self. As will be expressed in the theses, one’s experience and examination of that experience is fundamental in one’s understanding of the universe and subsequent actions. Additionally, seeing as how eudaemonia and truth are the goals of the philosopher, it is clear that any philosopher and, truly, every man must live an examined life.

Now, this is not to say that every man must so thoroughly analyze and examine every atomic facet of his life in perpetual stoic apatheia. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. While the philosopher must develop a categorical and pervasive habit of self-assessment, this could be crippling in other endeavors. Some men are simply incapable of this degree of introspection and others live in an environment which disallows such behavior. Even these men, though, can and ought to engage in what could rightly be called a “partially examined life”17: a lifestyle in which one at least routinely examines one’s conscience and actions. Training in and awareness of philosophy are invaluable tools in such an endeavor.

After all, our definition of philosophy clearly illustrates that philosophy is universally applicable. In clearly defining how the universe operates and why, as well as exploring what our actions must be in any given circumstance, philosophy establishes itself as the prime candidate to be the very center of culture and individual lives.

Through careful examination of one’s self and of the universe at large, one can come to an understanding of what one needs in order to acquire self-fulfillment. The desire for self-fulfillment is already the driving force behind culture. In developing and advancing the understanding required to achieve self-fulfillment, one contributes to the formation of a culture of self-fulfillment. This culture, informed by philosophy, would be a haven for those seeking eudaimonia.

As the centerpiece of ancient Greek culture and subsequently of philosophy, eudaimonia deserves a more thorough examination and definition. While it is alluded to in the 95 Theses, it may not get the fullest treatment it deserves. It then falls on the introduction here to give at least a high-altitude explanation with which to work. Eudaimonia as it is used here and in the theses can most easily be described as “the freedom to excel”. This means not only the presence of the mental faculties required to conceptualize and pursue excellence, but also the material and metaphysical circumstances required. In truth, I believe that this has always been the pursuit of man: to live in a culture of eudaimonia.

Philosophy: a Brief Genealogy

Regardless of which narrative one adheres to concerning the origins of man, there are certain circumstances which must have occurred at some point. While the beginnings of just such a narrative exist in the theses, I will attempt to imagine the worst-case scenario for the point I am attempting to illustrate. That point is, from the inception of the human race, philosophy has existed. With the emergence or creation of the first man, whether he was a mutated member of an ancestor race or created fully formed from the dirt by the very hand of God, his was the unique responsibility of siring the human race. While language and conceptualization may not be required in order to find a mate, it could certainly help. However, from the birth of the first progeny of man, communication and conceptualization become necessary for the continuation of the species. In order for her offspring to survive long enough to fulfill its duty to the species, our Eve must be able to express the concepts necessary for survival. Even if one is to assume that genetics supplied her offspring with instincts concerning fight-or-flight responses or aversions to creepy-crawlies that could be harmful, they would be insufficient for the task of allowing the offspring to learn, “This mushroom is bad,” or “This is how you kill a boar,” when they are one-chance circumstances which drastically impact survival.

It is clearly in the best interest of humanity’s survival to build on and diversify the material each generation inherits. “This mushroom is bad,” can only take one so far; it certainly does not place one at the top of the food chain. However, inquiry, discovery, and purpose can drive a nomadic people, scratching a meager sustenance from the earth, to ever greater achievements. I may not be able to kill a bear in hand-to-hand combat (I have never had the chance to try), but I don’t have to. By virtue of the utility of philosophy (and its constituent physical sciences), I live in an environment which is naturally repulsive to bears (though, in the instance of this region, the case was quite the opposite until recently); as added protection, though, I have many tools at my disposal, not the least of which is my Mosin–Nagant.

Aside from mere survival though, philosophy also provides mankind with an awareness of purpose and ethics which provides far more utility and impetus than survival, especially once the requirements for survival are met. In the pursuit of eudaimonia, we can imagine a genealogy of thought, moving from, “This mushroom is bad,” to, “Why is this mushroom bad?” to, “Why is?” With as many intermediary steps. Alongside this line of reasoning, we also see a diversification of material, branching from mere survival and pagan “gods of the gaps” into physics (including biology, astronomy/astrology, chemistry/alchemy, etc), metaphysics, epistemology, theology, etc.

While all these endeavors are oriented towards one end: the creation of an internally consistent, logically sound, empirically viable, and universal worldview which possesses ethical agency, utility, and (ultimately) Truth, they are sufficiently detailed and esoteric that one could spend their entire lives in devotion to one small element of a particular area of philosophy. This should not, however be used as a justification for skepticism18 as it would only serve as justification if philosophy were a solitary venture. Philosophy, by it’s nature, is collaborative. Each area of philosophy, no matter how distinct from another in focus and subject, bears at a minimum a holistic relationship to each other. In the same way that each area of study collaborates with the others, so too must individual philosophers. This relationship of the areas of study is due, in part, to their common material and practical significance; each area of philosophy informs the others and serves as a check against fallacious reasoning.

Being a human endeavor, philosophy finds itself the victim of human error quite frequently. As optimistic and teleological as my views are concerning this endeavor, I am not ignorant of the inherent shortcomings and roadblocks such an endeavor faces. I fully expect that even in the case of my own contributions, I will find myself (many years from now) arguing against the very assertions I make in this work. These shortcomings often lead to the development of dead-ends and half-truths. Some of these are quite speedily identified and handily defeated (like geocentrism) but many others are quite bothersome. Concepts which are rooted in truth or bear tangential resemblances to the truth often mislead the philosophical discourse. One need only to look as far as Epicurus’ problem of evil and subsequent resolution, or Puritanism, or the Copenhagen Interpretation, or Marxism to see what kind of damage can be done by philosophy run awry. These mistakes, as damaging as they may be, will, ultimately become a footnote in philosophy as failed experiments, as the utility of accurate reasoning becomes apparent and the march of the true philosopher continues unabated.

As the definition I am using for philosophy states, philosophy is an ongoing pursuit of truth (or, the Truth). All legitimate philosophers have, at one point or another, made a categorical assertion regarding truth. Even most faux philosophers make categorical assertions regarding truth, even if that assertion is a naive and misguided utterance of, “There is no truth.” While I do not necessarily believe that the “end of philosophy” has some metaphysical role to play in directing philosophy or that it may be attainable in this world, I do believe that the simple utility of truth allows and encourages “those who have eyes to see” to be diligent in selecting the philosophies to which they ascribe. This “natural selection” of memes will, naturally, lead towards the end of philosophy. I know this sounds quite similar to the Darwinist narrative which I have rejected mere pages before now, and it should, as there are some good ideas buried amidst the bad science. The survival of the fittest, as Herbert Spencer is credited with having formulated it, is one such concept.

Such memes as survival of the fittest are a prime contemporary example of how philosophical concepts tend to simply be a part of the atmosphere in which society functions. Most everyone has heard that phrase in one memorable context or another, even if they have no idea or a misconceived notion of what it means. In the case of philosophical culture, or rather the culture of philosophers, far more obscure and odd concepts are part of the atmosphere. In this way, a well-read and intelligent philosopher may breathe in Descartes, Scholasticus, Nietzsche, and Groothuis in order to utter forth a synthesis of these elements unique unto himself, even if it is identical to another’s work.

What utterance do I have to make? What can one such as myself bring to the banquet table of philosophy? I desire to partake of the feast about which those before me have written, but what can I do to pay admission? As will be clear to those who will bother to read these Theses, I am not yet sure, but I hope to one day have applied myself thoroughly enough to this, my vocation, so as to be worthy to touch the garment of lady philosophy.

This work, itself, is an attempt to codify my existing ideas in a format suitable for public development and critique. Philosophy, by its nature, is discursive and social by nature. I could not rightly call myself a philosopher if I were to merely wonder at the cosmos. Only if I were to share my wonder with others and argue my way to the truth alongside my companions would I be worthy of such a name. This is my first of a thousand steps towards the banquet for which I was created. I hope to bring along as many as can come with me to sing the praises of the Grand Architect of such a marvel as creation.

All I can rightly ask of philosophy and of those philosophers who would aid me in this journey would be that I contribute one more voice to this chorus as old as man: to be heard and considered by others, to have what truth I can find be perpetuated while my own shortcomings be disregarded. A lesson I have learned from Ayn Rand: to be considered sophomoric and redundant is still, at least, to be considered. If I could rightly ask more, however, I would ask that I be granted a personal fulfillment of my unslakable thirst for answers.

Hopefully, I can play an integral role in this chorus, can make an impact. I want to bring the practice of true philosophy back from the grave that enlightenment dug, existentialism filled, and postmodernism hid in the woods. The death of god19 was less a death of god and more the abortion of philosophy. I want to aid in the restoration of Lady Philosophy to her former glory, to clothe her once again in dignity and honor, and to bring her back to the common people, not as an object of rape, but of royalty. This novitiate book is the inauspicious beginning of such a daunting career choice.

95 Theses

1Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences” Pt. 2

2Self-evident and deductively reasoned

3Chapter 1: Epistemic Assumptions

4Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences p10

5Chapter 5: Teleology?

6Also Ch 5

7“Leisure: The Basis of Culture” p110

8German: “Spirit of the times”

9“Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.” Douglas Adams

10Groothuis, On Pascal (Stamford: Thomson Learning, 2003), 202

11Chapter 5

12 a theory resulting in an empirically verifiable prediction which, if inaccurate, determines that the theory is wrong

13Groothuis “Christian Apologetics” chapter 13

14An ethical school of thought which argues that the result of an action determines the ethical quality of said action

15Self-disciplinary and abstinent

16Flourishing and fulfillment

17 A phrase that is certainly as old as the Socrates quote from before, but never better implemented than as by the people on the Partially Examined Life podcast: http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/

18 disbelief that it is possible for one to obtain truth or knowledge of the truth

19Nietzsche used the phrase “god is dead” quite frequently. Most notable of which is his parable of the madman from “The Gay Science” book three.

A Solid Definition of Government

This week, I am clearly picking the low-hanging fruit. I have to admit, working on my book last month and getting so worked up last week seems to have burned me out. I’d rather just read Dostoevsky and listen to Dimmu Borgir in my free time this week. Instead, I’m going to lean on my default post-type and define something while looking at the etymology and philology of the term.

Looking at my definition of anarchy (and the preceding discussion), it would seem that I am doing things backwards. Typically, people define anarchy as “the absence of government”; I argue that anarchy was here first and government is the absence (or privation of) anarchy. I could leave the conversation at that, but I wouldn’t be doing the history of the word its due time, nor would the subject warrant a full blog post.

“Government” is one of the many words that English-speakers have lifted from the French, like buffet, ballet, abatement… lots of words that end in “t”, it would seem. In the French use of the word, it largely means the same thing it does in English: “The group of assholes who violently claim arbitrary swaths of land and the people and fruits thereof”. Technically, the noun form of the word is derived from the original verb, “To control or dictate.” Unless we are speaking of self-governance, that sounds an awful lot like coercion and slavery.

As a matter of fact, that’s where the French got the word. Somehow (there’s some debate in academia), the French got a hold of an ancient Greek word: kybernan. Kybernan is the Greek word for “piloting a ship”. Pretty innocuous and maybe even voluntarist, right? Well, this word came into widespread use in the time of Greece’s heyday of naval warfare and mercantilism. Still innocent-sounding? The ships of that period were not diesel or cesium-powered, nor were they steamboats or sailing ships; they were powered by slaves. The primary method of steering a ship was by dictating the manner, rate, and direction the slaves were to row.

It would seem that kybernan has managed to keep it’s meaning fairly well through its multiple iterations. The federalists, especially Madison and Hamilton, were particularly fond of descriptions and metaphors for government that, while not quite “The citizens shall be like slaves rowing a trireme while me and my friends whip them,” were not much different. Interestingly enough, the prefix “cyber-” is derived from the very same Greek word. “Cybernetics” or “systems theory” is inextricably tied to government, too. In today’s vernacular, “cyber-whatever” usually means “computer-y” or “robot-y”, but cybernetics is a field of study much older than computers and robots. Cybernetics is a tradition that reaches back to Plato, but has changed dramatically from it’s origins in “studying regularity in closed systems” into a form of sociological alchemy pursued by many famous intellectuals such as John Dewey, Norbert Wiener, and Alan Turing. This set of theories were predicated on the idea that human environments were closed systems which could be molded by internal and external factors. The idea driving cybernetics was the idea that the masses of under-educated and working castes could be molded into a sort of perpetual-energy machine, sustaining both itself and the lifestyles of the enlightened progressives. All such an endeavor would require is the perfect admixture of coercion, theft, violence, and mind-control.

This may sound like a crazy conspiracy theory, but it is truly a matter of mainstream historical fact. On need only read the writings of those involved in the project to confirm its facticity. Besides, there’s already a popular (and crazy) conspiracy theory about the word “government” that I need to dispel. Rather than focusing on the historical reality of Dewey’s obsession with cybernetics and government, some say that “government” is either Old English or Latin for “governing minds” or, alternatively, “mind control”. Given the relationship between cybernetics and western governments over the last century-and-a-half, it isn’t surprising that one would assume that “government” and “mind control” are synonymous, but there is one degree of separation betwixt the two; it’s just a funny philological quirk that it worked out that way. As is usually the case, it is better to address historical realities and actual conspiracies instead of creating imagined conspiracy theories out of ignorance.

While fun, this linguistic foray has done little to define the term “government”. Unless, that is, we are going to define government as “slave-driving on an ancient Greek boat.” I guess I went on this tangent to bolster the case for my definition, but before I deliver the punchline and just tell you my definition, I have one last point to touch on.

Those Greek slaves were different in nearly every way from the slaves in America circa 19th century, and both were equally different from slaves in Egypt circa the 20th century BC. What, then, is common to each “slave” to make them such? Slaves in the American south were largely allowed to do whatever they wished when not working, so “total loss of autonomy” doesn’t work. Slaves in Greece were afforded second-class citizenship and some degree of representation in government, so “lack of legal ‘rights” and “lack of political representation” does not suffice. Many slaves in Egypt became such voluntarily, as an alternative to the death penalty or to pay off family debts, so even “being conscripted from your home country” doesn’t work. Similarly, nearly every alternative faces similar counterfactuals.

However, even in the case of Greek slavery (which had the most liberty regarding property to my knowledge), that property was more-or-less rented from the local government and could be repossessed via an ancient Greek eminent domain from which real citizens were secure. Therefore, I think I’m going to take a page out of the AnCaps’ book and say that the defining characteristic of a slave is a systematic or institutionalized denial of one’s property rights. It wouldn’t be surprising, then, that Marx would have found the average family of his day to be a form of slavery. I’m sure you’ve already guessed where this is going; kybernan, being equivalent to “slave driving”, and “government”, being equivalent to “an absence of anarchy” gives us a historical basis for saying “government” is best defined as, “an institutionalized denial of one’s property rights”. I have not yet been presented with an example of government, in the abstract or specific, which fails to meet this criteria, nor have I encountered an instance, in the abstract or specific, of an institution which is not a functional equivalent to government which meets this criteria.

Taxation is functionally equivalent to declaring superseding ownership over another’s property or self and demanding rent for continued use of that property or self. Property tax is a declaration of ownership of land and improvements upon the land. Income tax (by the books) is a declaration of ownership concerning monetary gains that arrive in the owned territory and is also (in practice) a declaration of ownership of one’s labor. Sales (and the synonymous “value-added”) tax is the declaration of ownership of both (or either) the property changing hands and/or the relationship between the two parties. This list is as long as the list of things taxed.

Law enforcement is functionally equivalent to declaring ownership of either one’s self or one’s actions (same thing, really). Even the most honorable and benevolent law-maker will admit (as the Federalists openly did) that laws are designed as an attempt to control individuals. I’ve already addressed the relationship between control and ownership, so we don’t need to discuss that now.

In establishing a monopoly on certain services (de-facto or explicitly) such as defense, security, infrastructure management, financial instruments, etc., governments establish a claim on either the concepts themselves or every specific instance of such things. For example, I can’t own a tank, arrest someone, build a power generator, mint coins, deliver packages, or even opt-out of having those services provided without explicit permission. Of course, all of these services are provided by way of stealing my property and by taking out loans from central banks using me and my descendants as collateral… yet another explicit claim of ownership over myself and all I own.

Someone can attempt to contrive something that looks like, and achieves similar outcomes to government without violating property rights. So far, every time I’ve witnessed such attempts, the attempt either fails to meet so simple a moral standard or is, effectively, a description of AnCapistan. This is how I, myself, became an anarchist. I was a communist out of an Aristotelian notion of positive rights and the need for government to provide them. After a decade or so of trying to explicate and enumerate rights and how they could all be upheld without contradiction, I realized that it is metaphysically impossible to uphold positive rights and that the government can’t even protect one’s negative rights.

TL;DR Government, the absence of anarchy, is ultimately defined by one identifiable function. Every historical example of government presents some feature or behavior unique from or contradictory to another, save one. Interestingly, slavery is defined by the same function which is fitting given the etymological root of the word: kybernan. Government is “the institutionalized denial of property rights.”

Charity: Another Definition

More Definitions? Really? You’ve gotta grant this, at least, when one hears or reads the word “charity”, an idea pops into one’s head which is radically divergent from most other people. I’ve had family members cease speaking to me at thanksgiving for upwards of four years due to this seemingly innocuous term.

Really, though, is charity giving money away, being nice, or the girl you met at the club? Just as I’ve done with honor, justice, ethics, anarchy… I’m going to define a culturally significant term that is vaguely defined at best and likely upset some people along the way.

I’ve previously written on virtue and honor as well as crime, vice, and sin. The common element in each of these cases is the fact that they are performative actions regarding one’s character. If one is virtuous, one tends to do virtuous things, if one is honorable, one tends to do honorable things, etc. So, if one does charitable thins, what do we call them? What are charitable things, anyway?

Typically, I look to etymology and history to inform my understanding of a term. This time is no exception in that regard. However, unlike terms such as “honor”, “charity” seems to be a fairly recent invention. “But right here in my copy of the Vulgate, I see ‘caritas’ something like fifteen times!” Yeah… but “caritas” didn’t have the connotation of “virtuous love” or “philanthropy” until some time in the middle ages; those ideas themselves seem to be something underdeveloped in the ancient world. Rather than fully exploring the philology of charity and losing a chunk of my readership this week, I think it may be more beneficial to simply give a modern definition of the term and demonstrate its role in my understanding of the human condition. We can devote more time to this issue in later posts concerning Scriptural translators’ notes… I have a lot to say concerning that.

If one defines charity as, “maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man”, what results do we get when looking at the term’s use in the vernacular? The least controversial application of this definition, I think, would be when one is speaking of a critical analysis or opinion, for instance “While the author did not pull any punches, his critique of the work was charitable.” In such a case, a “charitable review” would be one that attempts to understand the purpose and perspective of a particular work while also expressing the faults of said work.

Additionally, when one speaks of doing charity or donating to charity, one can see where this definition would apply, if indirectly. If one is compassionate (etymologically: “suffering with”) towards one’s fellow man, they may feel compelled to ease another’s suffering at one’s own expense, even if it is only to treat them with a dignity deserving of a human being at the expense of one’s time and energy. Donating to charity is the same idea, if one step removed from the actual act: one donates to a “charitable organization” so as to aid in that ministry of charity… or, at least, that’s the pretense for it; it could just be an attempt to get a tax break or gain social status. Even in the case of one merely pretending to be charitable (by our definition), they are doing so in order to approximate the appearance of charity as we have defined it.

Even so, why does charity, a modern and loosely-used invention, warrant a role in my list of positive human activities alongside honor and virtue? Would it not be secondary or redundant if one is already an adherent to the non-aggression principle and a pursuer of virtue? Secondary, maybe, but not redundant. I say it is secondary because if I had to choose between an individual who hated me with every fiber of their being but refused to murder me versus a person who loved me unconditionally but felt it would be more humane to murder me, I would choose the non-aggressive asshole over the do-gooder criminal. I just realized this is the easiest way to delineate the libertarian left and libertarian right… but that’s neither here nor there.

Charity is not redundant in the face of virtue and honor. In the same way sin can be considered to be a specific brand of vice, one which is considered less often but can be far more detrimental to one’s happiness in the long run, charity can be considered the equivalent on the side of virtue. Charity is a specific virtue (a habituated act which aids one in the pursuit of happiness/their telos) which is considered less often, or one’s understanding of it is often maligned, but it is crucial to one’s flourishing. This is strange coming from an brutalist egoist/anarchist, isn’t it?

I tend to not write concerning charity for two reasons. The first is that it is one of my weaknesses. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to me… it’s a skill I’ve learned for the sake of bolstering my rhetorical and oratory skills. Charity is also a difficult sell amongst most Objectivists and AnCaps, given the cultural connotation of “giving shit away to undeserving people” and the Objectivist/Capitalist distaste for moochers and looters (which I share). Charity, when defined as above, does not necessitate enabling moochers and may even discourage doing so in many cases.

For example, the effective altruists have had some degree of success in proving that economic principles and employment do far more than just moving money and resources around (they would have more success if they could stop being so statist). The New Work, New Culture movement has also been quite effective in demonstrating an authentic and humane method of lifting the poverty-stricken without subsidizing moochers (they would be more effective if they were to do a little more PR work and learn some Austrian economics). The question at the heart of these sorts of programs is not “how do we get rid of poor people?” but instead “What causes humans to make stupid decisions and how do we provide them with the tools necessary to avoid such decisions?”

These programs are far more charitable and authentic than something so banal and superficial as simply giving money to those that don’t know what to do with it or feeding those that refuse to feed themselves. There is certainly a place for such practices, but such practices must be seated in a much broader framework of genuine human interaction and care. Even communities centered on such ideas, such as Catholic Charities, fail to meet the demands such a framework entails due to a number of limiting factors. Bureaucracy, lack of funds/resources, the crushing onslaught of the disenfranchised overwhelming a small number of volunteers, state regulations… they all serve to inhibit the effective charity of an organization centered on provision as primary care and the supporting framework as a secondary one.

I’m doing my best to avoid sounding like I believe in a silver bullet to cure all ails, but charity can only truly flourish within two concentric cultural movements: a free society and an intentional community within the limits of the Dunbar number. The state and cultural controls exist in such a manner so as to discourage the formation of genuine empathetic bonds between individuals and virtuous behaviors. The slavery of the state aside, a community of sufficient size to exceed the human person’s capability to develop psychological bonds with every member of the community is forced to engage only those that are capable of bringing immediate gains to the individual. Those that are in most need of charity are typically those who have the fewest tangible resources to provide, therefore disincentivizing charity to the poor due to the limitations of one’s mental resources. In a smaller community, however, the very nature of the human mind would compel one to develop a standing relationship with even the most impoverished of one’s community, which is the basis and prerequisite for true charity.

Why does any of this matter to a philosopher or an anarchist? This is barely virtue ethics, barely economics, and would be nothing more than a beneficial side-effect of anarchy. It is important for three reasons. Without charity, one cannot effectively interact with other human beings on an authentic level, which drastically impairs one’s ability to achieve any form of happiness. A common accusation leveled against anarchists and other liberty-minded individuals (which is typically false) is that they “don’t care”. As one would expect, this accusation comes primarily from the left; demonstrating the virtue of charity in its true form would effectively shut down such accusations. Thirdly, charity is absolutely essential to the proper application of justice in a free society.

Authentic human interaction is an issue I discuss frequently enough, so I don’t feel too compelled to comment on it here. However, “not caring” is a common and typically lethal accusation made against freedom-minded individuals, and it really shouldn’t be. Where a liberal (or a “conservative” which is now just a less-racist liberal) feels as if they care about the poor and therefore feel compelled to regulate their poverty, steal from the less poor in order to give a portion to the more poor, and push economically benighted ideologies surrounding vague concepts such as equality or “charity”. In all reality, if they cared about the poor, they would attempt to understand the circumstances of the poor, both on a personal level and an institutional level. Such research would demonstrate the abject and necessary failure of the welfare state and the pernicious influence of feeding moochers.

A mere historical survey of economics will demonstrate that the poor are, in fact, not “getting poorer” but instead have seen a dramatic improvement concerning material wealth, not just in America, but across the entire globe. This is a result of economic prosperity and the very manner in which the world operates. If one were to allow nature to take its course (a-la free markets) without the stifling effects of institutionalized crime (i.e. the state), the material standard of living for all people would be improved much more dramatically and efficiently. It is the welfare state itself that causes a vast majority of the poverty the leftists claim to care about. This economic argument should be a tool in every AnCap and Objectivist’s rhetorical toolbox.

Happy side-effects aside, a more compelling case would be that charity cannot be an institutional and impersonal function, but instead must be a genuine engagement between members of a community. In which case, bureaucratic welfare programs, free markets, and philanthropic donations do not qualify as charity. Instead, one must get out and do charity themselves. Creating a job market for the less-employable (children, reformed criminals, drug addicts, the mentally ill, the elderly, etc.) which accommodates their particular market deficiencies can be an uplifting and profitable venture for all involved. Unfortunately, the leftists “care” and government regulations actively prevent such forms of charity, which have been consistently proven to be more effective than welfare programs and resource distribution.

As mentioned before, justice is restoration of relationships in spite of interpersonal damages. If one is unable to engage those that have done them harm in a manner consistent with understanding and empathy, justice is impossible. In this way, the virtue of charity is required for justice to be realized. Closely related to justice, as well, is the subject of deescalation of conflict. I’ve mentioned before, if in passing, the importance of avoiding conflicts where life, liberty, and property are at stake. Charity is a useful tool in assessing and engaging in situations where conflict is likely to escalate. This is also the basis of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), which is both an incredibly useful rhetorical tool as well as a useful methodological tool for one to simply engage with the world. It is very similar to both stoicism and epicureanism in a lot of ways.

Remember, anarchism is a philosophy of personal responsibility. Without armed thugs forcing everyone to obey the arbitrary dictates of Leviathan, we’re going to have to learn to get along on our own. A great many libertarians and anarchists have a hard time getting along, this is partly due to the tensions that run high between those who pursue truth and those that are willing to simply do as they feel the urge, but it is also due to the manner in which focus rests primarily on intellectual and martial virtues to the detriment of developing social virtues such as charity.

TL;DR: Charity cannot simply be “giving stuff to people that haven’t earned it” and it can’t simply mean “loving people”, it must be a more grounded and virtuous habit. Thus charity, in its modern incarnation, is the virtue or habit of maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man. This virtue is cardinal among virtues, as it stands in direct opposition to sin, which is chief among the vices of man.

By Virtue of… What?

A while back, I discussed honor, but neglected the other elements of the more positive aspects of human action. Where crime, vice, and sin are the trifecta of “bad” human action, charity, virtue, and honor are the opposing trifecta. Today, I am focusing on virtue.

If we were drawing direct comparisons between these two trifectas, I would say that vice is the inverse form of virtue. I defined vice as “any non-criminal activity which would prevent or inhibit the participant from effectively pursuing their telos.” Virtue, as an opposite, is fairly easy to describe by comparison: “a habit of action which aids one in pursuit of one’s telos (or end).”

Since I have already outed myself as a deontologist, it may seem odd for me to be focusing on virtue for a blog post. However, as I mentioned in “New Logo”, the brutalism of a mere prohibition against violating the NAP creates an impoverished ethical framework by which one should live one’s life. Even if I’m not murdering, coercing, or stealing from people, I am not likely to achieve happiness (take your pick of any of the, like, eight Greek words that have different flavors) if I am not pursuing some form of human excellence. Even a hedonist is really pursuing ataraxia (which is something akin to contentedness or tranquility), even if they are unaware of it.
One of the fundamental precepts of both virtue ethics and teleology is the assumption that one will be most happy when pursuing or achieving their end (telos). This assumption is awfully intuitive, and modern psychology seems to be providing pseudo-empirical evidence to bolster such an assumption, so I am reasonably confident in universalizing my own experience of such things. Of course, this virtue ethics/teleology requires a lot more exploration before one can just say “being good will make you happy”, obviously.
For example, one’s telos could be anything. For the last two-and-a-half millenia, lots of stupid people and a few smart people have argued about this very subject. I’m planning on contributing to this mess (and hopefully helping sort some of it out) in my 95 Theses, those chapters are much longer than I could expect someone to read as a blog post or listen to as a podcast, so I’ll have to be brief here.
Aristotle, and anyone who has Aristotelian influences, argues that one’s telos is primarily knowable and possibly even determined by one’s attributes. I say “attributes”, because it is the most philosophically vague term; each philosopher since Aristotle has tried to pin telos to a different aspect of a creature’s being, but they are all related in some way or another to the faculties/functions/attributes/essences of the creature in question. I’m no exception to this accusation. I argue that there are higher-order and lower-order teloi, the higher-order relating to the categorical nature of a thing and the lower-order relating to the specific nature of the thing. A simple example of these things would be that of a hammer; a hammer’s higher-order telos (categorical nature) is to hit things, however, a hammer can be a ball-peen, rubber, claw, sledge… each of which hit in a particular way, are designed to hit a particular material, or have additional functions which do not impede their utility as hitting instruments.
In a similar way, there ought to be higher-order, human teloi and lower-order individual teloi. A relatively less-controversial example of a human telos would be the necessity for growth (mental/physical/spiritual/whatever). An equally less-controversial example of a specific telos would be that of a naturally-gifted doctor; one could have the natural disposition and skill to care for others’ bodies and derive happiness from the pursuit of such, but not every human would be “called” to be a doctor. Just like the case of the hammer, one’s specific teloi can’t come into conflict with their categorical teloi, by virtue of the ontological relationship between one’s essence and existence. In the case of the doctor, caring for others’ (and one’s own) bodies can lend itself to one’s growth and, if pursued appropriately, will even aid in such a pursuit.
In this way, one can establish both a Aristotelian list of virtues which ought to apply to all men and a much more subjective and individualistic list of virtues associated with specific teloi. I wish to reserve the actual list-writing for later (time and space constraints for today’s post), but one can start composing such a list on their own. I would love to discuss such lists with people outside the blog, either in the comments below, via email, or on facebook. These discussions will help revise both the lists themselves as well as the theory we are using to compile the lists. What I want to do here is explore the specific nature of virtue, especially as relates to morality, ethics, and honor.
Virtue, defined as a habit, has quite a lot of baggage associated with it, but what matters for this discussion is to merely define “habit” as a “propensity for particular types of action”. Much like vices are habit-forming, virtues are as well. These habits often contribute to one’s productivity, epistemic rectitude, security/self-sufficiency, humanity, etc. At a minimum, though, they contribute to one’s character in a manner consistent with virtue ethics, existentialism, and a number of other ethical frameworks.
Where morality is a relationship between action and deontological proscriptions, ethics is a series of prescriptions predicated on individual value judgments and an understanding of how the world operates; I explored this in “Morality and Ethics”. Therefore, virtues are an element of ethics, in general. If one values ataraxia, an understanding of virtue would lead them to conclude that developing a habit of temperance (not the puritanical bastardization, but rather the actual meaning of “enough of all things”) will help one achieve ataraxia. If one values eudaemonia, an understanding of virtue would lead one to pursue industriousness or discipline. If one values apatheia, an understanding of virtue would lead one to pursue epistemic rectitude and objectivity.
How does one pursue such virtues? For fear of being branded an Aristotelian, I’d have to say “Fake it ’till you make it.” A praxeologist will tell you that a virtue is expressed in demonstrated preference, and I will tell you that demonstrated preference is, in fact, how one forms preferences in general. Performing an act that is virtuous (practicing one’s art without external motivation is a disciplined action) aids one in forming that particular virtue; doing so consistently will ingrain the habit of doing such… which is the act of possessing that particular virtue. So, if I wish to be magnanimous, I ought to determine what behaviors are magnanimous and do them until such a point in time that it would require effort to refrain from performing those actions. Nietzsche, G.E.M. Anscombe, and Alasdair MacIntyre each have their own particular flavors of virtue ethics, and I recommend that interested readers pursue their works in order to come to a greater understanding of the specifics.
In the mean time, though, I believe that virtue can aid in a great many limit-cases when discussing anarchist morality and ethics. Remember, anarchism is a philosophy of personal responsibility. I have been accused by several people of “wanting to live in a world totally devoid of rules, like some sort of nihilist” and “wanting to live in a world in which I exist alone in the wilderness, like some sort of solipsist”; how a regular reader of this blog could come to that conclusion is beyond me. I may wish to live in a world devoid of crime, AKA a world with no laws and will do what I can to pursue a lifestyle in accordance with such, but the very nature or reality is that of rules; “If I drop this, it will fall,” “If you want to stay alive, you shouldn’t pick fights with people better armed and practiced than you,” and every if-then statement in-between demonstrate this reality. Additionally, if one were to live a solitary existence, they would likely have their time wholly consumed with mere survival and asceticism, rather than a more common teloi, such as that of a profession or of philosophy.
What virtues allow for is reduced friction and uncertainty in an otherwise brutalist reality: in all reality, if something doesn’t violate the deontological proscription against crime, it is morally justified. I may be more interested in living amongst others who pursue and express christian eudaemonic virtues, as opposed to mere brutalists. Conversely, I may wish to live amongst brutalists and be spared the social repercussions of being a libertine amongst Christians. What these virtues allow for is the sort of self-selection mentioned in my post on mereology. Additionally, when one is faced with a limit-case, such as Nazis at your door asking if you are hiding Jews, witnessing a mother (in an anarchist society) abusing her children, abortion in all of it’s controversies, or cases of extreme discrimination, an understanding of virtue can inform one’s actions in such a circumstance. Of course, one cannot produce a categorical moral statement concerning some limit cases (if one witnesses a crime in progress, one does not have a moral obligation to intercede), but one’s own pursuit of virtue may encourage action (courage, honor, etc. would encourage one to intercede).
TL;DR: Virtue is primarily an ethical principle, much like its inverse: vice. It is a principle which dictates “If one wishes to achieve happiness (in whatever form), one ought to engender a habit of X.” This is because a virtue is best defined as “a habit of action which aids one in pursuit of one’s telos (or end)”, and intuition and modern psychology suggest that pursuit of one’s telos is a primary source of happiness for individuals. There exist virtues that are categorically applicable to all humans, and other virtues that apply to individuals, contingent upon their own unique construction. Virtues, while not necessarily necessary, are certainly useful in helping individuals pursue happiness and lubricating the gears of “society”.

Collectivizing Collectives

 

 Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates, confounds Government and society. And so, every time we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of education by the State—then we are against education altogether. We object to a State religion—then we would have no religion at all. We object to an equality which is brought about by the State then we are against equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of corn by the State.

How is it that the strange idea of making the law produce what it does not contain—prosperity, in a positive sense, wealth, science, religion—should ever have gained ground in the political world? The modern politicians, particularly those of the Socialist school, found their different theories upon one common hypothesis; and surely a more strange, a more presumptuous notion, could never have entered a human brain. ~Bastiat

Last week, I denounced the existence of collectives in the name of anarchy. A few commenters requested clarification on this subject for a few reasons. I figured that I ought to shoulder the inevitable burden of addressing collectivism and the philosophical issues therein.

The first order of business is to clarify my specific claim which was made last post. Some people demonstrated a desire to adapt a radical and likely unpopular claim to better jive with their own worldview or better lend itself to discussions with non-anarchists. While I am certainly sympathetic to that desire (see my posts about the Pope), this issue is foundational and, therefore, requires a certain clarity and inflexibility. My claim was not ethical, claiming that one ought to do a particular thing concerning collectives. Nor was my claim a pragmatic one, saying that things would be easier if one ignored collectives in favor of individuals.

My claim is a categorical, unequivocal ontological one. My claim is that collectives do not exist. Collectives posses the same ontology as Xenu, lizard Jews, and human-caused global warming. They are a fairy-tale. As my selected examples of fairy-tales demonstrate, though, some people do insane and violent things in the name of such fairy-tales.

I’m about to get ahead of myself. Before exploring collectives and the results of believing in them, I ought to give a definition of what exactly I mean by the term. Clearly, I’m not claiming that hippie communes, political migrations, cults, or other random gatherings of people are not a thing; these phenomena are easily observed. I am raising the question of their ontological status, though. I hope to make that distinction more clear through this post. When I say “collectives do not exist”, what I am saying is “an entity which exists distinct from and beyond the functioning of its individual components is a metaphysical impossibility”, specifically in the case of agents.

At this point, I expect scientists and pseudo-scientists to reel and accuse me of ignorance. In physics, elementary particles which exhibit certain behaviors can coalesce into a larger particle which exhibits behaviors different from the elementary ones, without an account of how the elementary particles contribute to said behavior. Quarks and protons/neutrons are a widely-known example of this phenomenon. A significant portion of my personal philosophical pursuits have revolved around philosophy of science and epistemology (probably because disillusionment with astrophysics is what drove me to philosophy), but one will notice a lack of such on this blog. This is for a variety of reasons, but if enough people express interest in my 95 Theses, that may change.

Anyway, one such reason is because scientists and science fans are trained to be openly hostile towards philosophy of science. Your reaction to this paragraph may demonstrate this. Protons and quarks are mere instruments. They are concepts which serve a function; specifically, they express regularities in mathematically mediated observations. Because this is the case, it is unnecessary to explain how quarks contribute to the behavior of protons… it may even be impossible to do so within our current paradigm. Another way of saying this would be that quarks are not “real” in the platonic sense; they are a predictor for phenomena in a similar (but more accurate) manner as Aristotle’s teloi or the medieval nature spirits.

Similarly, a biologist will discuss species or evolution in an anthropomorphized or teleological manner, “racists” will discuss statistical trends across demographics in a collectivized way, and sociologists or politicians will speak of “humanity” and “society” as if it were a tangible entity. There are nuanced distinctions between these examples and the physics example as well as distinctions betwixt each other. The primary distinction is the specific relationship between the individual and the whole. Where quarks are a tool to describe regularities when looking smaller than the atom, species, races, societies, etc. are tools to describe regularities when looking at unmanageably large numbers of individual instances.

In both paradigms, one must be very aware of one’s ontology. A long-standing basic principle in establishing ontology is simplicity; something akin to Occam’s Razor. If one can effectively describe, explain, and predict the nature of, say, a falling object using a tool such as gravity, one need not and ought not look for a coincidental explanation such as telos or “gravity spirits”. In the case of collective identifiers such as “species” or “society”, every significant behavior is explained by the behaviors of individual actors “within” the collective.

In other words, “society” or “species” are useful instruments for biologists or economists, but are ontologically superfluous. If, someday, one can determine what “real” object correlates to quarks, quarks would also become ontologically superfluous. This claim renders two significant outcomes.

The first is one of historical and scientific significance: in the same manner that believers in river spirits or flat earth theory are (appropriately) ridiculed, if science is allowed to continue progression, believers in “society” may be faced with similar reactions. Where virgin and child sacrifices used to be offered to spirits, modern-day sacrifices of comparable magnitude are offered to “society”. Such behaviors need to stop.

The second is one of philosophical and practical significance. Obviously, such a claim secures the case I made last week. That aside, one must critically assess one’s belief and rhetoric concerning “society”. For example, a materialist/scientism-ist/pragmatist is faced with a significant challenge. When faced with a choice between identifying the behaviors of material bodies behaving in deterministic ways and the emergent properties of those behaviors or believing in a metaphysical (immaterial) entity which interacts with those material bodies, determining behaviors outside the laws of physics, most often these materialists will opt for the metaphysical option. This is intellectually inconsistent and eminently damaging to the case for materialism.

Materialism aside, people at large seem to consistently believe that “society” possesses attributes contrary to the attributes of its constituent elements. I often argue against such a claim when it emerges in the context of voting and law enforcement. For example, if individuals lack the right to dictate the actions of others (forcing gays to act straight, forcing nuns to buy other people contraceptives, shooting people for driving the wrong car), how can they delegate that right (which doesn’t exist) to a representative, enforcer, or “society”?

The rhetoric concerning “society” oscillates between using “society” as a tool to accomplish personal goals (this is at the heart of electoral debates) and treating “society” as a force of nature to be mitigated and resisted (when one is on the receiving-end of “society” used as a tool). One must look no further than the “anti-war” movements on the right and left only being “anti-war” when the opposing team is in charge of the war.

This accusation goes beyond “society” and applies categorically. “Race” is a useful instrument for identifying genetic similarities amongst individuals and statistically analyzing unmanageably large populations. However, “race” possesses the same ontology as “species” or “society”; it exists as an epistemic tool, nothing more. Even when dealing with teams, gangs, or communities, (that is, associations of choice) one is merely dealing with individuals who may have common goals or proclivities. Such a community lacks ontology distinct from its constituent elements. If there are no individuals called “crips” there is not gang called “the crips”; if there are no police, there is no gang called “the police”. Additionally, with the possible exception of the Borg (TNG only, Voyager kinda’ goofed it) one cannot interact with the collective, only constituent elements of the collective. I will renounce my strong position on the non-existence of collectives if someone will allow me to speak to and shake hand with “society”.

This position, despite what you may think, does not disallow the existence of “communities”. With a very minor degree of re-definition, community can remain. If, by “community”, one means “a collection of strong and interconnected interpersonal relationships”, communities exist everywhere. One needs only be cautious to not assign metaphysical or moral properties it communities which are not appropriate.

My more religious friends may appeal to panentheism or the Body of Christ/Communion of Saints as a counter-argument. This argument doesn’t actually reject either concept; instead, it opens the door for a discussion concerning the nature of such metaphysical concepts and their relationship to the material world. To begin this discussion, I will suggest that such concepts operate primarily as eschatological phenomena and secondarily as an ethical heuristic.

One final note, as I am out of time: this is why such issues are self-defense, the tragedy of enforcement, and the state of war are so morally involved on this blog. Even though the police are such by virtue of a voluntary association centered on the pursuit of criminal activity, I do not believe asymmetric warfare against police as a whole is morally justified, but defending oneself from instances of extortion, kidnapping, coercion, and murder with lethal force is morally justified and ethically encouraged.

TL;DR: Last post, I was not claiming that one should merely behave as if collectives do not exist, but instead making the strong claim that the do not exist at all. Belief in collectives is ontologically and epistemically lazy and such laziness prevents the epistemic rectitude required for ethical action. Increased intellectual rigor with regards to “society” is required if one wishes to improve one’s quality of life or the quality of life of others.

 

Anarchy: A Definition

 

I previously posted “Towards a definition of Anarchy” in an attempt to begin a conversation. Nearly a year later, I feel sufficiently equipped to push that conversation further.

In that previous post, I argued that anarchy is the rejection of institutions predicated on the crimes of coercion, theft, or murder. I explored the cultural and etymological roots of the term “anarchy” as well as the underlying philosophy, and presented a starting place for achieving a working definition of anarchy. That definition has served me fairly well in discussions on social media, in person, and on this blog. Over time, though, I have found it necessary to modify aspects of that definition and explore the necessary conclusions of that definition.

After a year of perpetual discussion about presumed first principles and their results, I believe I must explore the term from two angles: that of its linguistic uses and that of its philosophical importance. I, unfortunately, must explore its linguistic function first, as it will help clarify the philosophical definition.

Anarchy, as a word, can be used to describe a state of affairs. Typically, it is used as a pejorative when it is used in this manner, courtesy of your local propagandists. The state of affairs it references is one in which there is an absence of “archons”: individuals who claim the right to coerce or otherwise harm non-aggressors. The free -I’m sorry- “black” market is a prime example of one such circumstance, such as open-air markets in rural parts of Empire and developing nations. In some rare cases of the pejorative use, it may be accurate; but more often it is a distinct lack of anarchy that is misidentified as such on the news and popular media.

Anarchy can also refer to the philosophy of anarchism or that of anarchists. This is nothing new, of course; I often refer to anarchy as “a philosophy of personal responsibility”. Many assert that anarchism is predicated on the non-aggression principle (the NAP) as its first and only principle. However, as I hope to explore soon, the NAP presents many challenges when taken on its own. In “New Logo” and “Is Property Theft”, I briefly explored the issue of voluntarism as a positive assertion from the NAP, primarily because the NAP is a negative moral claim and, even if the claim is true, the positive inverse statement of that claim is not necessarily true.

Most of the issues arising from using the NAP as a solitary first principle is that its conclusions are either voluntarism or some other conclusion informed by the anarchist’s other philosophical commitments, many of which result in impoverished or absurd worldviews. The fact that the NAP is a negative claim is what causes its dependance on other principles. This dependence is not an issue in itself, it is the theory-ladenness of the NAP’s terminology in every iteration. A prime example of this issue is when “libertarian” feminists start discussing male “micro-aggressions” and criminalizing the act of having a Y chromosome. As I’ve discussed before, if the NAP is to obtain, one’s response to aggression must allow for self-defense, up to and including the execution of lethal force. So, if “libertarian” feminists are to be consistent, they must embrace the perennial feminist slogan of “kill all men”. Somehow, this does not sound like a philosophy predicated on the non-instantiation of force (another way to say NAP).

If anarchy is to be predicated on negative claims, it must either be predicated on claims that are less-susceptible to mixing with bad philosophies than the NAP, or be predicated on a mixture of negative and positive claims such so as to form a complete worldview on its own. Let’s begin with the negative first principles which may be more reliable than the NAP, possibly even axiomatically grounding the NAP itself.

I previously argued that anarchy is the rejection of institutions predicated on crime. That particular claim would be an ethical one. While anarchism may be a moral philosophy, I have found that all moral philosophies must be predicated on some other basis for moral or ethical claims. In “An Economics of Ethics”, I implied that ethical claims are best rooted in ontology and physics while morality must be rooted in ontological claims.

Anarchism is best served, then, in basing itself not in the rejection of particular institutions but, instead, some ontological claim which results in such an ethical proscription. One such commitment would be disallowing collectives from one’s ontology. There is a series of fairly compelling arguments for the non-existence of collectives, but such cases will have to be made elsewhere, as this post is concerned with defining anarchy. For now, I will assert that anarchism is a philosophy which denies the existence of collectives, instead focusing on individuals and individual actions.

This focus on individual action can be informed by one of two suppositions: the existence of objective moral facts or nihilism. In the case of nihilism I must inquire as to why one who finds no meaning or purpose in anything would be motivated to embrace anything more than nihilism; I do not expect a satisfying answer. Even so, the case of a nihilist anarchism does not preclude ethics (as defined in “Morality and Ethics”), as most nihilists that don’t just kill themselves tend more towards epicurean hedonism out of an interest in maximizing one’s own pleasure. In which case, anarchism’s minimum ethical framework may even seem a bit narrow to a nihilist. “Don’t shit where you eat”, the nihilist ethical maxim, requires a degree of virtue and future-mindedness, whereas the NAP is merely a prohibition against a narrow list of actions which could be reasonably be considered crimes.

More reasonably, one could allow for the existence of objective moral facts. In another post, or perhaps, in a book I hope to self publish at the end of this year, I will make an introductory argument for the the existence of objective moral facts. Today, though, If we allow moral facts ontology, we can quickly come to see that objective moral facts can only be proscriptive: categorically disallowing certain behaviors for rationally self-interested individuals while not prescribing any particular actions. I’ve explored this discussion before in “The Dark Side”. As time goes on, I will expand that discussion into an argument in its own right.

I still refer to the NAP as shorthand for my own proscription against crime (coercion, theft, and murder) which could, technically, be considered an ethical proscription which obtains universally. This is due to an anarchist definition of “rights”: namely, a right rooted in the rejection of collectives’ existence and a focus on individual action. Such a definition could be “a delineation of behaviors which one could justifiably defend oneself with any necessary degree of force.” It would, then, be reasonable to assert that provoking one’s right to self defense is inadvisable under all circumstances.

What I am trying to express here is that the NAP (in whatever form) is a result of anarchist first principles, not a first principle in itself. It is certainly a useful rhetorical tool to appeal to the NAP straightaway, as “I think people shouldn’t murder each other” is usually common ground for people. However, if that is the extent of one’s education in anarchism, one will be prone to the mistakes explored earlier. Much like a man that becomes a Christian because “Jesus forgives you,” and leaves it at that, one will be prone to doing stupid things and giving the philosophy to which one claims to adhere a bad name.

Ultimately, anarchism is a moral philosophy. Predicated on certain ontological claims and on an informed understanding of the way the world operates. Anarchism is the conclusion that individuals ought to behave in a manner consistent with personal responsibility and not attempt to place that responsibility on the shoulders of others without their permission. This is primarily a practical consideration, but it is fully complimented by some forms of deontological frameworks, so long as they do not violate the ontological or ethical claims of anarchism. This consideration, I think secures anarchism from mixing with bad philosophies without requiring positive ontological claims.

I propose that a sufficient definition of anarchism (or anarchy, for simplicity) would be as follows: a philosophy predicated on the claim that collectives do not exist, only individuals; the claim that one is responsible for one’s actions, and will face the inevitable consequences of those actions, which results in the claim that one cannot justifiably commit crimes (coercion, theft, or murder) under any circumstances; and the claim that one can and should defend themselves from crimes as well. At first glance, this definition may not seem too similar to the popular conceptions of anarchy, but one can quickly conclude from these claims that governments do not exist, only people do, and those that engage in government activities, such as taxation (theft), enforcement (coercion), and war (murder), are criminals and ought to be dealt with as such. In other words, anarchy dictates that one interact with ISIS, Ted Bundy, and one’s local government bureaucrats and enforcers in a consistent manner.

TL;DR: My original suggested definition of anarchy was a good start, but it certainly needs work. The 2015 model of “Mad Philosopher’s flavor of anarchism” is ultimately little more than an ontological commitment which, if consistently and logically applied, can (and frequently does) result in the rest of the assertions and arguments I have made on this blog over the course of the last year or so. Anarchy is a philosophy predicated on the claim that collectives do not exist, only individuals; the claim that one is responsible for one’s actions, and will face the inevitable consequences of those actions, which results in the claim that one cannot justifiably commit crimes (coercion, theft, or murder) under any circumstances; and the claim that one can and should defend themselves from crimes as well. In other words, one can do whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.

 

Towards a Definition of Property

 

Before I can argue about intellectual property, we must first have a working definition of property at large.

 Property, like the other concepts I’ve tried to define in this blog, is an idea that nearly everyone uses daily without much self-awareness. Of course, the precedent set by previous posts will be upheld here; my definition is going to be functionally approximate to common use, but counter-intuitive. A good starting place would be to identify the common understanding of what property is and what function it serves.

Property, in its common conceptualization, is simply an item, process, idea, or region of space to which one lays claim and society acknowledges said claim. Usually this claim comes in the form of a title, deed, or bill of sale (receipt) issued by the seller or government and the acknowledgment takes the form of deference to property and licensure laws (and all the violence inherent therein). Of course, an anarchist would be disinclined to use such a convention. Before throwing it out, though, we ought to explore the function of such a convention.

What function does property convention serve in contemporary culture? Ostensibly, it is a determining factor in the acknowledgment of rights and liabilities. If some thing is one’s property, one has the right to do with it what one will; if said thing is not one’s property, one can only do with it that which is permitted by the acknowledged owner. Of course, if this rhetoric is to be used as a definition of property, the state is the owner of all property by virtue of laws concerning what uses are allowed for all property. As a function, though, this idea serves as an excellent starting place for defining property.

What could be necessary and sufficient conditions for an item to be considered property, with an eye to producing a functionality similar to that mentioned above? I am not confident that I could fully formulate them here, but I must at least begin the discussion.

One such condition I believe to necessary is the discrete nature of the object in question. This is both a practical and a definitional concern. Where one could indicate a clearly defined object and lay claim to that specific object, it would be nonsense to indicate something nebulous or unconstrained and lay claim to it. For example, I could lay claim to a specific apple as my property and the claim could be easily constrained to the perceptible material boundary of the apple’s flesh, but it would be practically and conceptually impossible for me to crop-dust the line at the DMV and then lay claim to the fart cloud permeating the room and everyone’s nostrils. Another possible example would be for me to fence-in a distinct and limited area of land and lay claim to it and it may be a legitimate claim. Barring that being a legitimate claim, I can at least claim that the fence is my property…. which, given the basics of property rights, would be more or less functionally equivalent to claiming the land inside the fence.

However, laying claim to “all the land between this ocean and the next” or “from sea to shining sea” would be as absurd as, and logically equivalent to, claiming “all the apples”. It may be possible that, by way of trade (purchase) or labor, I may successfully acquire all of the known apples or all of the known land, but this is a circumstantial quality of that claim, not an essential or necessary one. What this means is that an apple or piece of land could be discovered to which I have not yet laid legitimate claim and I would then no longer own all of the apples or land, whereas, a categorical claim to “all the things” would mean that if a new “thing” were discovered, it would automatically be incorporated into my property.

In addition to being a discrete object, one must claim it in order for it to become property. A rock in a forest, unseen by man, may as well be a planet in the Andromeda galaxy: undiscovered, unowned, unimportant. A rock in my hand, though, is mine (unless the rightful owner has handed it to me… whatever). Of course, if two parties lay claim to an object, there must be some principle by which to determine whose claim is legitimate, but that problem should be explored later.

There are those who claim that whatever object is claimed, it must be a limited resource in order to become property. I hear AnCaps assent to that claim, but only because they believe it to be a tautology; all resources are scarce, only the degree to which they are scarce is in question. I also hear liberals and liberal-leaning individuals assenting to this claim. However, I believe this claim is assented to solely because it can serve the liberal agenda of eliminating property; in a post-scarcity world, property couldn’t exist. I am inclined to agree that such a condition for property is tautological, but for a different reason than the AnCaps. In laying claim to portion of even a non-scarce resource (such as a bucket of seawater or a fistful of sand at a beach), one creates a particular type of scarcity. The sand owned by the individual in question is scarce by virtue of being his sand. It can be argued that such a distinction is meaningless, that his sand is indistinguishable from any other which is non-scarce… but the industry of religious and cultural relics would argue otherwise. Of course, this scarcity only exists so long as one cannot lay claim to the entirety of a resource, scarce or not, as I addressed above.

The next condition is complex and may be considered the deciding factor by which property is defined. Property could be considered an object to which one has the most full control over and access to. While this principle sounds straightforward and implies a Hobbesian brutality, it is far more nuanced and just than it sounds. Some examples really are simple and Hobbesian. If I wander into the woods and find our previously undiscovered rock from before, I can pick it up and claim it as my own. It is mine by virtue of being in my hand. If I bring it home and place it in my yard or home, it is mine by virtue of being on my property and in my control. If I were to claim it as mine, drop it in the woods where I found it and walk away, never to return again, anyone could claim the rock because I have forsaken control over and access to said rock.

This is where simplicity breaks down. What happens if I loan said rock to my neighbor, or rent it to a client? I abdicate physical control and access to someone else, how is it different from simply having gifted or sold it to someone else? An easy answer, which I reject, is “contracts”. Contracts, as readers of this blog will know, are as fictitious as the law in my mind. A lease or renter’s contract amounts to nothing more than a promise with a written reminder of that promise. Which, incidentally, serves as an excellent launching point for my suggested solution. So long as my neighbor honors my wishes regarding the rock (contractually state or not), I still exert control over the rock, if indirectly. I may lack access to said rock, depending on the nature of my agreement with my neighbor, but insofar as the nature of that lack is temporary, my control of the rock serves as a substitute.

If my neighbor decides he values my rock more than his friendship with me, he may decide to violate our agreement and claim the rock as his own. In which case, he takes control of the rock and renders my lack of access to it permanent. These two factors being the determining factors of property would render the rock as his property. At this point, the Leviathan of social acknowledgment reawakens and rears it’s many ugly heads. One method by which I could prevent or mitigate such an event would be to publicly establish my claim to the rock before lending it to my neighbor. At which point, if my neighbor steals the rock, I can call upon our community to place social pressure on him to return my property. I could also alert the community that I intend to retrieve my property at any cost, in order to dissuade the virtuous men of my community from interceding on my neighbor’s behalf if such an attempt were to escalate to violence. In this way, the social forces I can bring to bear could still be considered “control”.

There are many technologies that lend themselves to this solution, though. Branding, titles/deeds, third-party records-keepers, smart property, remote bricking, social conventions, etc. have all come from the long-standing intuition of social acknowledgment. Even with such technologies, as a principled anarchist, I believe the utility of such solutions may be insufficient justification in light of the potential for abuse. One can turn to fictitious accounts of the wild west for examples of abuse of the contract/social acknowledgment solution to theft. These flaws are sufficient to encourage me to look for a better resolution, but this is one stopgap measure that seems to parallel the average person’s intuition and lend itself to marketability. Other options have been explored and are in use today. I believe that a small enough community would have no need for such technologies, especially a community centered on anarchist principles. In the case of larger communities, I recommend reading Spooner, Rothbard, or (oddly enough) Proudhon for alternatives. Again, I believe in letting a thousand flowers bloom and seeing what works, but this particular issue and resolution is raised this time for definitional purposes.

The issue of theft gives rise to the last condition I have found to be necessary for a thing to be considered property; legitimacy of claim. My neighbor claiming the rock he borrowed from me as his own is considered an illegitimate claim and, therefore, theft. There is an overabundance of issues and theories concerning legitimacy of claim. Most straightforward of these issues and solutions is that of homesteading. It’s a very involved discussion that I will explore further at a later date. A quick overview, though, is essentially thus: the first person to use or add value to an unowned object has a legitimate claim of ownership. After one establishes such a claim, one may give or sell it to whomever one so desires.

By extension, then, if one purchases property from someone else, one then has a legitimate claim to it. Of course, if the seller has stolen said property, there remains the issue of whether the original owner’s claim or that of the unwitting purchaser is (more) legitimate. Thus far, I have not read or synthesized a categorical answer to this particular problem. Perhaps discussions with you, the readers, will help me to do so. In the mean time, I’m inclined to give the pragmatic case: don’t let your stuff get stolen. If it does get stolen, get it back before the thief sells it. If you fail to do so, there’s little cause to steal it from someone uninvolved in the crime. Maybe, if you ask nicely, you and the new owner can work something out.

This answer is clearly unsatisfying, so I will venture two cases that each have their own flaws, but may prompt appropriate discussion. If ownership is some metaphysical attribute that a person or piece of property has, then the claim of ownership that the original owner makes would be more legitimate than that of the thief or the unwitting purchaser of stolen goods, as theft would not transfer the metaphysical ownership from oneself to a thief… or we wouldn’t call it theft and expect the thief to return the stolen property or equivalent goods. If, in fact, ownership is merely a term we use to describe a practical state of affairs, the purchaser of stolen goods has a legitimate claim to the property by virtue of having engaged in a voluntary exchange of goods, trading something of approximate value for something else of approximate value.

There also arises the issue of homesteading abandoned property, which closely parallels the limit cases of theft. I feel I’ve taken enough of your time this time around, and I believe any satisfying answers would have to be informed by the limit cases of theft and their resolutions, so we’ll save that issue for later. For now, titles, records, blockchains, receipts, deeds, etc. are useful tools to try and avoid finding oneself embroiled in such an issue.

TL;DR; My working definition of “property” is, “any discrete object to which one has access, control over, and a legitimate claim by virtue of homestead or acquisition from the previous owner with the owner’s assent.” This definition needs improvement and exploration, especially in establishing a principled resolution of theft and homesteading abandoned property.

 

Restoring Justice

If someone were to have read my post concerning honor and engaged in critical discussion, they may have accused me of being a non-dualist. Claiming that honor and same are the same thing would sound to many as if I’m saying “good” and “evil” are the same thing. I am not a non-dualist, but you may not believe me after hearing/reading this today. Today, I’m addressing another ancient concept that nobody seems to understand in this, the postmodern era: justice.

You hear about “justice” every day: SJWs demanding that straight white men be burned at the stake for “social justice”, different victims or criminals becoming the focus of “justice for this guy” mobs, in the statist prayer “liberty and justice for all”, justice in music, television, movies, lectures, C-span, everywhere. Reading Plato, one sees justice presented as “giving to everyone what they are owed” which is often interpreted through the lenses of “an eye for an eye” and “repay your debts”. Something often addressed alongside justice, and often used to help define the limits of justice, is mercy. People point to the beautiful occasions in which someone forgives the man who killed that person’s entire family or something and say “faith in humanity: restored”. Christians, inspired by Thomism, love to juxtapose mercy and justice as opposites and then struggle to argue that God can simultaneously possess two opposites to an infinite degree, which is simply absurd.

 

“Blasphemy!” No, not really. It is the very definition of absurdity to simultaneously hold that both A and non-A are true. No amount of special pleading (mystery) or symbolic logic can change that. I’m not saying God isn’t infinitely merciful or just, only that Aquinas made yet another mistake. As a matter of fact, I’m dropping this God talk in favor of philosophical exploration of justice and mercy themselves. Those of my readers that are both intelligent and theologically-minded will be able to follow this line of thought to its necessary conclusion concerning God’s nature.

Most people, as I understand it, believe that justice is either some formless and vapid idea like “equality” or “fairness” or that it means “retribution”. “This guy did something bad, so we have to do bad things to him.” Very few people will argue with that description, only the specific reason for or implementation of it. “That guy raped someone, so we must lick him in a rape cage (prison) for the rest of his life.” “This lady stole some money, so we must take everything she owns or earns until it is paid back… and a little off the top for me.” There’s always arguments as to how far is too far, like the death penalty; “should we murder a murderer?” but rarely is the more fundamental question asked.

Is doing “evil” to “evildoers” justice?

I’ll leaver that question for your rumination while I address mercy. In the ancient world, mercy was a vice that only the most powerful could afford. In the Christian world, it was a benevolent act that even the most impoverished peasant could perform towards even the most powerful king. In the post-Christian world, it’s a meaningless feel-good word for being nice. In each of these eras, the meaning of mercy has been assumed to mean “staying the execution of justice.” Debt forgiveness, governor pardons, jury nullification, victims and their families forgiving criminals, for example. Mercy, then, is shown by those too helpless to extract retribution on those with power. The paradigm case would be millennial SJWs getting jobs and shutting up.

Of course these two concepts are at odds. If justice has been a perennial issue of rights, honor, and morality throughout recorded history and mercy has been a more recent afterthought, it is no wonder that so many are confused, There are lots of exciting logical conundrums which emerge with this juxtaposition of two aesthetically pleasing opposites. I’m not sure I need to explore them right now, as everyone has read a book or watched a movie which hinged on one such conundrum or another. Any Christian that hasn’t wrestled with these problems has not critically assessed their faith. It’s a very real concern: when does one do evil to evildoers and when does one forgive them? I believe I have a solution. I’m not about to take credit for it, as the inspiration at least comes from the first couple centuries AD.

Our understanding of justice and the function it serves is wrong. Mercy, then, is also misunderstood, due to its status as wholly dependent on justice for its meaning. If justice is people getting what they deserved, people ought to do their best to keep their distance from me; as I’ve mentioned in a recent Daily Resource Suggestion, “Nobody deserves anything. If we deserve anything, it is nothingness.” Unsurprisingly, this is a Catholic belief; that’s why theologians are so desperate to make God merciful.

I have intentionally avoided discussing justice from the utilitarian position, as they equivocate justice with political ethics: “Whatever laws and violence are shown to maximize pleasure for the most people, except the obvious answer of ‘none’.” “Justice” as “deterring crime through punishing those that break the law” is a subset of the utilitarian stance. I call it moral/legal equivalence, and that’s all the time I want to waste on it today.

If justice is not retribution or deterrent, if it’s not repaying debts and taking an eye for an eye, what is it? If mercy is not the suspension of justice, what is mercy? Justice is restoration, and it is growth. Mercy is the proper application of justice. Doesn’t make sense? Good.

Justice exists betwixt individuals. If one were to exist alone in the universe, there would be no party for him to injure or be injured by, there would be no party to establish or show justice to. In this way, justice is a concept that is only manifest between individuals. If one is injured by another, whether it be the intentional commission of a crime or an unintentional destruction of property or honor, their relationship is also damaged. If justice were merely returning harm for harm, both parties are rendered worse off than before the execution of justice and their relationship is damaged doubly so. If justice were merely the replacement of damaged goods, justice could not be applied in circumstances in which the damage is incalculable or immaterial such as the loss of a child or the stripping of honor. Justice (or mercy) could not merely be the forgiveness of transgressions between individuals, as whatever harm has been affected is still present and the relationship will remain damaged after the initial act of forgiveness.

Justice, if restorative, would require the growth of all parties involved. If one party were to be harmed by another, for both the property damaged and the relationship between individuals weakened, they must grow beyond the damage done. Harm itself is contrary to growth, even if it allows at times for growth that would have been otherwise impossible, so returning harm for harm is not justice. The replacement or repayment for damaged goods can be incorporated into an act of justice, as it is an attempt at restoring the status of things to their original state. As mentioned above, though, such an action alone cannot be justice and such an action may be impossible as some things are irreplaceable and relationships cannot return to previous states. The same goes for forgiveness, it is necessary but not sufficient for restoration of relationships and statuses.

The specific implementations of justice are contingent upon the circumstances of the injury between parties. What is required to grow beyond a stranger scuffing someone’s shoe is orders of magnitude lesser than what is required to grow beyond a friend or family member murdering one’s family with a chainsaw. In the first instance, a more sincere apology and offer to make amends and a subsequent act of forgiveness and re-polish or replacement of the shoes (by either party) is all that is required. In the latter case, the one concerning a murder most foul, I know not by what means one would grow beyond the loss of one’s family nor if a relationship could be restored after such an inhuman crime, and I hope never to discover the answer.

Such a limitation is not a limitation of justice, but of those that ought to pursue it. Justice is one of the greatest expressions of discipline and the quintessential foundation of community for, without the mutual guarantee of justice, individuals are left to their own Hobbesian devices, unable to even raise a family. This is mercy, the manner in which justice can restore peace, community, and flourishing, how justice allows the growth of community despite the spectre of risk and bad actors.

Clearly, there is a tension between justice and self-defense. If I am obligated to defend myself, my autonomy, and my property at all costs, how can justice be applied once my assailant is dispatched? In some ways, it cannot; whatever relationship my assailant and I had is severed the moment he chooses to commit a crime against me, and it cannot be restored once he is dead. This tension ought to serve as a reminder to avoid exposure to crime and to encourage one to attempt de-escalation before resorting immediately to violence when someone is being an asshole.

TL;DR: Justice is not punishment, nor is it getting even. The only logically consistent description of justice is that it is restorative. Justice is a mutual concession of guilt and effort to grow beyond damages caused. There are limit cases to justice that can and ought to be explored, but first principles and the immediate fallout of those principles ought to be explored first, especially because this understanding of justice has been largely ignored in modern culture.

The Dark Side: Crime, Vice, Sin

Today, we explore the dark side of humanity: crime, vice, and sin.

As readers of previous posts and my facebook page are well aware, I use these terms quite frequently. I have come to realize that, despite my best efforts to contextualize the use of these terms, many people are either unable or unwilling to understand what I mean by crime, vice, and sin. Today, I plan on setting things straight such that I don’t have to explain it quite as frequently.

As can easily be guessed, being a philosopher and an anarchist, I do not believe the contemporary and common use of the term “crime” is valid. As I have expressed already, the laws of man are inherently unjust; as such, the term “criminal” cannot apply to an identical class of things as the term “illegal”, as is commonly assumed in our culture. Instead, I define a crime as any action intentionally or negligently directed at the invasion or destruction of another’s life, liberty, or property. In other words, it is an action which violates someone’s rights or duties.

Easy examples consist of incidents of murder, coercion, and theft. Some such instances of these crimes are difficult to discern outright, as would be the case of unreasonable bank fees, protection rackets, systematic coercion, or deprivation of life essentials. There exist any number of examples that could be presented. It is crucial to have a clearly defined set of necessary and sufficient conditions for what is to be considered a crime for reference in these more veiled instances of crime, given the dire consequences.

I doubt anyone is reading this, let alone anyone accepts or wishes to help me refine these conditions, but I am compelled to attempt a definition. The result should be intuitive, but still analytically sound such as to justify one’s response. I believe that if one demonstrates resolve with regards to performing an action, has a demonstrable ability to perform such an action, and the action in question is an immediate or direct and demonstrable causal violation of someone else’s life, liberty or property, the action in question is a crime. In this way, holding a gun to someone’s head and demanding a particular behavior or taking someone else’s property without consent is a crime. Conversely, making idle threats, wishing cancer at people, and using incandescent light bulbs are not crimes as they do not meet the conditions I have outlined to be necessary and sufficient.

Now is a good time to point out why my definition of a crime possesses more

A handy flowchart I found that explains this reasoning

utility than the non-aggression principle (NAP). The most commonly accepted iteration of the NAP can be and is used to justify coercing, stealing from, and even murdering people for things like using incandescent light bulbs, belonging to a different community, smoking tobacco, driving a car, refusing vaccines, and just about any other non-criminal action that could be considered a nuisance by some. These justifications are logically consistent when using the NAP as one’s initial premise. Of course, attempting to do such things to someone for using the wrong light bulb is, itself, aggression. The issue hinges on people’s definition of “aggression”, and any definition which does not result in counter-intuitive or absurd claims will be equivalent to my definition of crime. A similar issue arises with the less popular objectivist “non-initiation of force” principle.

If I were to simply claim that my definition of crime and prescription as to how to handle it were the extent of moral and ethical reasoning required, we may very well witness a conservative’s nightmare: legions of communist, polygamist, sodomites freebasing coke and praying to Allah simply because it isn’t a crime to do so. Of course, it’s equally likely that we would see a liberal’s nightmare emerge: mobs of tobacco-chewing, corporatist, racist, fundamentalist Christians chugging liters of soda while deforesting the amazon. What I am alluding to, obviously, is that there are courses of action which are not crimes but are not conducive to human flourishing. The main focus of this portion of the post is vice. A vice is any non-criminal activity which would prevent or inhibit the participant from pursuing their telos.

Again, I am guilty of referencing my still-unfinished book. A quick primer is in order. “Telos”, a Greek term which has been at the center of philosophical discourse since Aristotle, essentially means “end” or “purpose”. I argue that any individual is beholden to a certain hierarchy of teloi (plural of “telos”), but that is a discussion best left to my book or later posts. For now, we can simply say that eudaimonia is any individual’s ultimate goal. Another Greek word: “eudaimonia” is a very technical and precise term which, for our current uses, can be reduced to “free and productive flourishing”.

Any activity which would limit one’s freedom, productivity, or well-being can be considered a vice. Addiction, mind-altering substances, dependency, time-wasting activities, body-harming practices, character-undermining activities, prophylactics… essentially the traditional list of vices are good examples of what can be considered a vice.  Now, am I a tee-totaling puritan hellbent on avoiding anything fun? I play video games, drink alcohol, smoke cigars, stay up late, work a 40-hour wage-slave job, and so much more. I am still dependent on others’ skills and resources. I still rely on less-than-perfect activities to sublimate my aggression and discomfort. I still use Google, Facebook, and Windows. In other words, I still have my vices.

As I will likely discuss in an upcoming post, the virtues of prudence and temperance are paramount in flourishing. With regards to handling vice, prudence and temperance are also key. While it would be ideal for people to simply commit to being a taoist or stoic sage, an ascetic monk, or whatever and eschew all vice outright, it is not entirely possible and may, itself, be a vice of sorts. Instead of abandoning the real world for some gnostic exercise in death, most people may flourish best by approaching their own vice from the perspective of a responsible cost/benefit analysis. There is a reason I smoke cigars rarely as opposed to mainlining heroin daily.

Whereas “How do I deal with criminals?” warrants a near-infinite number of discussions, “How do I deal with a vicious person?” is pretty straightforward. If one’s vices are, in fact, vices and not crimes, they ought to be free from coercion, murder, or theft, like any other human being. If their vices are beyond the realm of tolerance, such as someone vigorously masturbating in public, they can be refused service, reprimanded, shunned, etc. The social norm can be enforced without resorting to criminal actions against someone. Social norms, tolerance, and exile are ideas that will be more thoroughly explored when I get around to talking about cities, the Dunbar number, and intentional communities.

If any of my nine readers are Christians, they are likely pulling out their hair and screaming, “SMOKING WEED WILL LAND YOU IN HELL!” I jest. In all seriousness, though, a great many vices and all crimes are sins. If a crime is someone violating another’s rights and a vice is someone preventing their own flourishing, where is sin in this whole mess? I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet. So far, I’ve written very little on relationships. There are a handful of reasons this is the case, but now I’m compelled to do so.

Sin is relational. I can pretend that I have a relationship with you, my anonymous, silent reader. If I start hiding pictures of my manhood in my posts or if every post were to gradually devolve into senseless diatribes against Ronald McDonald and the lizard Jews, I would be damaging my relationship with those of you who expect philosophy from me. I would be sinning against you.

If I am in relationship with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnivalent, omnibenevolent, omni-omni, being… especially one that created me personally for the sake of us coming into full communion with each other… any action which would make me less omni-omni and therefore less able to come into communion with Him would be a sin against Him. The same applies to any action which would otherwise damage our relationship.

TL;DR: If someone is intentionally and willfully acting in direct violation of another’s rights, they are committing a crime. If someone is doing something which prevents or inhibits human flourishing but isn’t a crime, they are committing a vicious act. Sin is any activity which damages a relationship. In this way, sins against God would be actions which damage one’s relationship with God. As always: you ought to defend yourself from criminals, reprimand and ignore vicious people, and avoid sin.

What is the State Of War?

What is war? Can war ever be justified? So many questions and so many emotionally charged readers… lets see how rationally we can navigate this terrain and, consequently, how many people I can piss off in this post.

“War, huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, oh hoh, oh
War huh yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again y’all
War, huh good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me”
~Edwin Starr

War, by the broadest definition, is man killing man. One can argue for qualifiers in order to narrow the application of the term, something like “large numbers of men killing large numbers of men” or “the institutionalized or systematic state of men killing men” or “states fighting states”, etc. While I am sympathetic to the desire to make “war” a technical and precise term, the manner in which the term has been used historically has been intentionally broad and inclusive, with a few exceptions. Instead, qualifiers are typically assigned on top of the term to better explain the circumstance: “civil war”, “guerrilla warfare”, “world war”, “war of X”, “war on X”, etc. It is even said when small numbers of men are involved; when two tribes or gangs consisting of a few dozen engage in killing each other , it is called tribal or gang warfare.

Thomas Hobbes, the architect of contemporary views on the human condition, aptly used the term “state of war” to describe two closely related states of affairs. The first being any situation in which a man attempts to deprive another of their life. The second is an environment or state of affairs in which there is a known disposition for such an occasion. Hobbes then equivocates this second form of a “state of war” with what he calls the “state of nature”: that is, his impoverished view of anarchy. Of course, I disagree with his false dichotomy of either sacrificing any and all rights to a tyrant or living in a perpetual solitary state of war, but his definition of war seems solid enough.

What does a state of war look like, then? Some examples are easy to point out: Nazis marching into Poland, remote-controlled planes dropping “ordinance” on children, and gangs executing people wearing the wrong color, (or an environment where such things are common) for example. There are far less obvious examples to draw on as well, but these tend to be more controversial due to their more discreet nature. I will save those for later.

For now, let’s see whether war is ever justified. As I mentioned very briefly in “Towards a Definition of Anarchy” and hope to addressing detail later, one has a duty to life and a moral obligation to acknowledge and respect others’ duty to the same. It’s a very short axiomatic step to then say war (and the state of war) is categorically unjust. Simple and straightforward, right? Well, yes… but with a qualifier.

I have a duty to live and flourish, and by extension must not inhibit others from doing the same. In a purely rational and robotic world, this would mean that mankind would never encounter or even conceive of a state of war. Of course, experience tells us a very different, more Hobbesian, story. What happens when someone violates their obligation to allow another to live and flourish? What happens when there is a gun in my face? Does one have a duty to live or an obligation to let live? There is only one rationally consistent answer: the would-be-victim has a duty to stop the aggressor from taking the victim’s life. If this means the death of the aggressor, so be it.

It is always tragic when someone is killed; again, in a world of purely rational actors, such an event would not occur. However, it is infinitely more tragic when an innocent person is killed by a criminal rather than the other way around. Why is this the case? When one is innocent of a crime (using Spooner’s definition of a crime), the are to some degree fulfilling their duty to live and flourish. Conversely a criminal is not only acting in direct violation of their duty to live and flourish (from the virtue ethics perspective) which is a vice, but also depriving others of their ability to do so. The engagement in a criminal act is to enter into a state of war, and a systematic criminal rings a state of war with him wheresoever he may go.

We have touched on how one instigates war (by attempting to coerce, rob, or murder someone), but not what the target of said instigator ought to do in concrete terms. Firstly, of course, one ought to take all reasonable precautions to avoid such an occasion: moving to a safer region, locking doors, demonstrating a secure posture in both person and property, and behaving in a virtuous and amiable manner are all good examples. Secondly, one ought to be prepared for such an occasion. Both mental and physical preparedness are required; being able to tactically assess one’s environment at all times, to have the tools needed for security on-hand, and the mental and physical ability to use said tools are a requirement for preparedness.

Thirdly, if or when the first two steps prove to be insufficient, one will find themselves faced with the immediate threat of war. In such a situation, it would seem that there are a series of morally acceptable courses of action. If possible, one must try to defuse the situation before it escalates to violence. One such option would be to simply “talk down” their aggressor… to say something to the effect of “I know you don’t want to do this, let’s work through this together” another option would be to warn the aggressor that if he does not stand down, he will, in fact, be executed on the spot. Diffusing the situation is not always possible, as sometimes war sets in unexpectedly and with great intensity. Easy examples would be when a gang randomly assaults a bystander or when the SWAT team performs a no-knock raid, but I repeat myself. In the event such an action is impossible or fails, there remains the most primordial of dichotomies: fight or flight. If one can successfully flee with one’s life, liberty, and property intact one would be justified in doing so (as long as one later performs one’s due diligence in raising awareness of the instigator’s behavior). However, if any one of the three cannot successfully be secured and one parts with any of the three to any degree (even in the de-escalation phase), one is complicit in the crimes committed against oneself. In the act of turning over possessions or liberties demanded of oneself unjustly, one is enabling and condoning the theft and coercion occurring. Additionally, a compliant victim allows a criminal to pursue theft from others and such a criminal will likely become a repeat customer with regards to a compliant victim. Such is the case with murder as well, excepting the “repeat customer” portion of course.

The remaining and most unfortunately likely course of action available to one forced into a state of war is to fight. In the case of war, the victim of the instigator is thrust into an unjust situation by an unjust actor. How ought one conduct oneself in the state of war? Ultimately, there is only one acceptable answer: with all the fury, power, ferocity, and coldly calculated intent to kill that one can muster. Anything less would be, itself, a criminal and vicious act.

How could pulling punches of “showing mercy” be a crime and a vice? Well, it is quite simple, really. Once every option to avoid a state of war has been exhausted, the intent of the aggressor to commit a criminal act against the victim at any cost has been established. Any degree in which one is derelict in commitment to stopping an aggressor in the most efficacious and efficient manner possible is a degree to which one is complicit in an aggressor’s crime. In this degree one is derelict in combating the aggressor is a degree in which one is willing to allow the aggressor to commit a crime against oneself What’s more, not only a crime against oneself but the aggressor has effectively established the nature of his character to be a criminal one; therefore, allowing the criminal to commit a crime against oneself is to encourage him to commit crimes against others.

Remember, anarchy is a philosophy of personal responsibility, not winner-take-all violence. Those who believe it is their right or ability to act out a Hobbesian liberty (the ability to do literally whatever one wants with no regard to the rights of others) will not live long in truly anarchist society. An easy explanation as to why this is the case is to simply imagine a society in which a majority of people live by the standard outlined here and how such a society would respond to a Hobbesian.

I will follow-up on this post in the near future with regards to how one ought to conduct their affairs when living in an institutionalized state of war.

TL;DR: The state of war is is a state of affairs in which one or more individuals cannot be dissuaded from committing a crime. When one is faced with the prospect of war, one ought to do what one can to avoid it. If one is forced into a state of war, one ought to pursue the most effective and expedient method by which to halt said criminal. Namely, they must kill their aggressor.

There is a further discussion of this topic at about the 1:19:00 mark of Sovryh Tech Ep. 108:

Towards a Definition of Anarchy

From the Greek: “A/An” = “not” + “Archon” =King/ruler”

Throughout Athenian history, the form and function of an “archon” changed in various ways, but all of the meanings and applications of the term shared three things in common:

  • Reverence of the position held, regardless of the actions of the individual holding the position
  • Authority to dictate the actions of others
  • A support structure or institution designed to grant that authority

Because of the close relationship between mythology and political life in ancient cultures, the term archon was used to both describe human actors and intermediary deities/angels/spirits. Excepting instances wherein poetic license was used heavily, the term clearly applied to one or the other type of being; much like our use of the term “love” being applied to loving pie and loving your wife (with the only grey area being “American Pie”). Because of this distinction, I am comfortable in focusing primarily on the word as applies to human archons as apposed to divine archons.

However, it is interesting to note the mythological use of the term, and it does inform the use of the term as applies to humans. In many ancient religions, “archon” was the word applied to spiritual beings responsible for acts of widespread destruction. They typically targeted non-believers. The gnostics, especially, interpreted archons to be any being which acted in such a manner so as to prevent human beings from pursuing individuality, excellence, eudaimonia, or from taking responsibility, but this use was fairly widespread when translating other religious texts into Greek as well.

So, in the interest of crafting a concise, simple, and categorical etymology of the Greek word “archon”, I assert the definition of “archon”is as follows:
“An individual who claims the authority to coercively dictate the behavior of other individuals, especially in cases which cause destruction or prevent other individuals from pursuing individuality, acquiring excellence or eudaemonia, or taking responsibility.”
Of course, a Philosophy is always more complex than an etymological definition of its moniker. I like to make the arbitrary claim that the best philosophies closely match their moniker and I believe anarchy to be an example of this claim. Being an ontologically negative term, “no-archon” can be taken at face value to be a form of either rejecting a claim or to be an enumeration of negative claims. In this case, it is both.

Firstly, it is the rejection of the claim that one has the right or ability to be an archon. Where one may claim to be a monarch, oligarch, tetrarch, etc. they may as well be claiming to be the Messiah or Darth Vader. The same applies to terms which are not explicitly descended from the term “archon”; a republican, democrat, theocrat, etc. is an equally fictitious position to be held. I will address this rejection of belief in archons later.

Secondly, anarchy as a philosophy is an enumeration of negative claims, many of which are ontological in nature. Many times, the dramatic claim of an individual anarchist is, “No gods, No masters”. This claim, while effective and concise is overly simplistic and vague. I contend that the attitude of the motto is accurate, being derived loosely from the etymology of the name and philosophy. A less dramatic but more accurate version would be “no slaves, no masters” or “Man holds no authority over man.” The reasons I wish to avoid “no gods, no masters” is probably fairly apparent; I believe that belief in certain deities is compatible with the tenets of anarchy (that is a matter for later blog posts), and the term “master” has multiple meanings and applications, many of which are not related to slavery; by putting “slaves” alongside “masters”, it demonstrates the particular application of the term “master” which one ought to assume.

So, what does anarchy mean as a philosophy? Clearly, the first negative ontological claim would be that no man has the right to coerce others to behave in a particular fashion and any institution designed for the sake of coercion or predicated upon such actions ought to be done away with. Coercion is a term with many feelings and intuitions surrounding it; many of which, if inaccurate, touch on key elements of it. However, to an analytic such as myself, a clear definition or at least description of the term is required in order to flesh out a legitimate philosophical stance. In the case of coercion, I imagine the definition is something akin to “an action or threat of action which intentionally removes one’s means of achieving flourishing with the intent to compel a particular action.” For example, saying “Do X or I will kill you,” is clearly coercion. A less obvious example would be saying, “Don’t do X (especially where X is a component necessary or beneficial to one’s flourishing) or you will be put in a cage and I will steal your property.” When phrased this way, it is obviously coercion… but it can be less obvious when each piece of that statement is multiplied a thousandfold and spread between millions of pages of legal code. The fallout of such forms of coercion is readily apparent to anyone who looks at certain parts of the public record (or my facebook page).

Equally damaging to human flourishing are the issues of murder and theft. These are both closely related to coercion, but the full relationship between the three is so complex and rich that I do not have the time and space to fully address it in this post, but I will explicitly address it later. For now, I will have to content myself and any would-be readers with a brief examination of the issue as pertains to the definition of anarchy. The root desire which leads to the need to be free from coercion cannot be fulfilled if one is subject to the threat of murder, especially when institutionalized, for the same reasons that one must be free from coercion. Also, by definition, murder is unjustified and an immediate stop on one’s ability to flourish by any defensible standard.

Theft is often the most veiled and insidious of the three issues at hand. Where murder is fairly cut and dried as far as identification is concerned and coercion is infrequently undetectable, theft is more difficult to define and can often go unnoticed indefinitely. However, if one is exposed to institutionalized theft, even indirect and unnoticed theft, they are subject to an institutionalized inhibitor of their freedom and flourishing.

So, then, anarchy is ultimately the rejection of any institution predicated on or designed for the sake of coercion, theft, or murder. There is a multitude of reasons why one would come to embrace such a philosophy and worldview, some of which I will address in later posts. One thing is certain, though: no one who embraces anarchy as defined above does so out of naivete or a desire to perpetuate the same crimes which such a philosophy decries. Anarchy is not a guarantee that people will not commit the crimes of coercion, theft, and murder; the idea that such a thing is possible is utopic and therefore absurd. However, any worldview that does not fundamentally incorporate the anarchist position is a guarantee that people and institutions will commit these crimes. Those that wish to commit these crimes have far easier and safer means by which to accomplish their goals than anarchy. For example, they can become politicians, cops, soldiers, democrats, or middle and upper management at a corporation, thereby granting themselves a secure position which allows them to commit the very crimes they wish to pursue while remaining above social reproach, as opposed to taking on the risk associated with the moniker of freedom from such crimes. That is not to say that all people who choose such careers do so out of the desire to commit crimes with impunity, but these positions certainly encourage such activities and some are predicated directly on these crimes. Before I ramble too far beyond the topic at hand, I should save such ideas for later posts.

TL;DR: In conclusion, I propose the starting place for formulating a categorical definition of anarchy would be “The rejection of any institution predicated on coercion, theft, or murder”. This definition is subject to critique and revision, but so far has served me well.

Is Anarchy a Bad Word?

More and more frequently these days, it seems that when meeting people for the first or second time, I am outed as an anarchist. Usually, it is a mutual friend of my acquaintance and myself that does so (sometimes, I think they get some sadistic pleasure from doing so), but sometimes I am compelled to out myself, especially when so many people ask, “What’s your take on such-and-such political issue?” More often than not, the statement I am an anarchist” is met with incredulity and disbelief. It’s as if I had said, “I’m a racist,” or “I’m a rapist,” or “I shot JFK.” Often, the first thing I’m asked after a moment of stunned silence is, “So, you want an-eye-for-an-eye/Mad Max/The Purge or something?” Sometimes, the more intelligent will ask, “Didn’t anarchists kill Franz Ferdinand and start the World War?” or “But who will build the roads?” Very rarely, someone will say, “I think you mean Libertarian…” or will genuinely attempt to explore the idea with an open mind.

Modern media and education definitely do what they can to tarnish the name of a long-standing and rich philosophical tradition. This isn’t limited solely to anarchy, many concepts necessary to optimal human flourishing have found themselves ridiculed and marginalized by the agents of the state. Today, though, I want to focus on anarchy (as is the case most days). Easy examples of such “brainwashing” is simply the manner in which the term is used in both “informative” and and entertainment realms of media. The word “anarchy” is rarely uttered, which is not itself indicative of any agenda… but when it is spoken, it is without exception, a pejorative term meant to evoke or describe images of violence, destruction, and criminality. A current example would be the way the media describes the Ferguson riots as “anarchy” while flashing scenes of hundreds of grown men looting a dollar store. In entertainment, only the villain can speak the word without spitting it as if it were a profane and venomous curse. The worst culprits are the news agencies and procedural crime dramas; the news agencies reserve the term for radical combatants or rioters in the third-world or the inner cities of America (but I repeat myself), and the self-described anarchists in the procedurals are always the object of ridicule and often depicted as a villainous caricature of sociopathy.

In education, at least K-12, one is likely to hear the dreaded “A-word” once in all 13 years. That one time is the point when the World War, the result of states’ military posturing and nationalistic furor and one of the most devastating events in recorded history, is blamed on the Black Hand, a group of anarchists who killed a politically insignificant duke. The total ignorance of the ways anarchy as a philosophy influenced the American war of independence, the secession of the Confederacy, and the economy of 19th century America, not to mention the history of a greater number of American states is a clear sign that either the history curricula are useless or part of a conspiracy to tell a very specific and pro-state narrative to America’s youth. The recent controversies in Jefferson County, CO are actually hinged on this very issue. It is easy to dismiss such a claim as a conspiracy theory and to say I sound just like that crazy guy you saw on Law and Order, CSI, Bones, Criminal Minds, Blue Blood, Cops, America’s Most Wanted… but one has to admit that the education system definitely assumes the necessity of institutionalized coercion (laws), theft (taxes), and murder (war, police, etc).

The responses I receive upon coming out of the anarchy closet clearly indicates a cultural reverence for the state. This is puzzling to me, as our government has a 12% approval rating from it’s own citizens. I would expect that more people would be open to the suggestion that “maybe the idea of government is inherently flawed” if 82% of Americans disapprove of our particular instance. Especially when taking into account that they simultaneously believe “we are the best nation on earth.” Admittedly, there are a near-infinite number of ways you can structure a government… but the one feature they all have in common is the institutional threat of imprisonment or death to those that do not allow themselves to be robbed or controlled by way of taxation and law enforcement. At the end of the day, all statists agree, whether communist, fascist, republican, democrat, monarchist, or Libertarian, society only flourishes at the business end of a gun. For this reason, the real bad word, which ought to be said with great infrequency and shame is “government”.

How is it that the uptake of freedom-oriented philosophies and movements has not resulted in the reclamation of the word “anarchy”? Well, these philosophies have their own names. With so many agorists, voluntarists, libertarians, capitalists, egoists, and more running around, little attention is paid to anarchy itself anymore. It’s a name that has been left for statists to use as a totem for the evils of freedom to ridicule and revile. Besides, doesn’t “voluntarism” sound so much more pleasant than “anarchy”? The only problem in thinking such things is, admittedly, a philosophical and intellectual one as opposed to a practical or immediate one.

In order to make a compelling and categorical case for any or all of these ideas, though, one has to understand their philosophical underpinnings. The reality of the matter, in all of its complexity can be glossed in one simple explanation. As I addressed in the last post, anarchy is predicated on a negative philosophical claim: namely the rejection of coercion, theft, and murder as well as institutions which perpetrate such behaviors. These other, nicer sounding, philosophies are predicated on a anarchy first and build a positive claim on top of it. Voluntarism, for example, establishes voluntary association as fundamental to the philosophy.

This may seem like semantic nit-picking, but it is an important distinction to make when trying to establish a strong identity in an inhospitable environment such as that found in the first world. The importance isn’t because all the “t”s must be crossed and “i”s dotted, but because all of these positive philosophies of freedom are actually anarchy at their heart, despite their positivist differences. These philosophies, like agorism, are positive assertions built off of the underlying premise of the anarchist principle. So, voluntarism is anarchy + voluntary interaction, or egoism is anarchy + the primacy of the self, or capitalism is anarchy + basic economics, et cetera. In order to best protect ourselves from the war machine of the state, we must learn to get along and collaborate. Doing so is easy if we all realize that we are all anarchists simply building different castles on the same bedrock foundation.

TL; DR: Anarchy isn’t a bad word, government is. Freedom-oriented philosophies need to embrace their roots in freedom, rather than obscuring the fact that they are indeed anarchists.