Thursday, July 5, 2018

Argumentation Ethics steelman

Summary of argumentation ethics
When I argue I presuppose everything that argumentation requires me to presuppose. I might not articulate or consciously believe these propositions, and indeed I may deny them with my words, but I must act in a way that does not violate them. If I fail to act to make them true, I am no longer arguing; I am reciting, meditating, propagandizing, indoctrinating, coercing, fighting, or just engaging in some activity other than argumentation.

If during the course of an argumentation I arrive at a conclusion that contradicts one of my presuppositions, that contradiction invalidates my argument, by the same logic as would apply if I could derive a contradiction from assumptions I have made explicitly. 

According to Hans-Hermann Hoppe, argumentation presupposes some private property proposition (PPP). A criticism of self-ownership or private property involves the denial of PPP. By arguing that private property is inferior or wrong or should be eliminated and replaced with something else, I violate what I presupposed by engaging in argumentation and thereby create a performative contradiction. This contradiction refutes my criticism.

What is PPP?
Hoppe discusses the presuppositions of argumentation in this talk. Here is a long quote:

The praxeological presuppositions of argumentation, then, i.e., what makes argumentation as a specific form of truth-seeking activity possible, are twofold: a) each person must be entitled to exclusive control or ownership of his physical body […] so as to be able to act independently of one another and come to a conclusion on his own, i.e., autonomously, and b), for the same reason of mutually independent standing and autonomy, both proponent and opponent must be entitled to their respective prior possessions, i.e., the exclusive control of all other, external means of action appropriated indirectly by them prior to and independent of one another and prior to the on-set of their argumentation.
“Any argument to the contrary: that either the proponent or the opponent is not entitled to the exclusive ownership of his body and all prior possessions cannot be defended without falling into a pragmatic or performative contradiction. For by engaging in argumentation, both proponent and opponent demonstrate that they seek a peaceful, conflict-free resolution to whatever disagreement gave rise to their arguments. Yet to deny one person the right to self-ownership and prior possessions is to deny his autonomy and his autonomous standing in a trial of arguments. It affirms instead dependency and conflict, i.e., heteronomy, rather than conflict-free and autonomously reached agreement and is thus contrary to the very purpose of argumentation.”

We can construct a version of PPP by rearranging Hoppe's description quoted above.

PPP: “[I am] entitled to exclusive control or ownership of [my] physical body […] so as to be able to act independently of [others] and come to a conclusion on [my] own, i.e., autonomously and for the same reason of mutually independent standing and autonomy, [both I and my interlocutors are] entitled to [our] prior possessions, i.e., the exclusive control of all other, external means of action appropriated indirectly by [us] prior to and independent of [others] and prior to the on-set of [this] argumentation. [I] seek a peaceful, conflict-free resolution to whatever disagreement gave rise to [our] arguments. 

Why is PPP presupposed by argumentation?
Argumentation presupposes that participants make up their own minds and participate fully in an effort to resolve a disagreement by arriving at an agreed conclusion by peaceful means. This requires them to act and think independently of others in a relevant sense, not subject to duress or other forms of influence from anyone. If participants in an argument lack this quality of independence, they cannot pursue the purpose of argumentation, they cannot truly resolve their dispute and come to agreement. In the extreme, if I hold a gun to your head and tell you what arguments to listen to or to make, we will never really come to agreement. I cannot force you to believe something. Every influence aimed at a purpose other than finding genuine agreement may lead the process off the true path. If I can “win” an argument by threatening violence or offering bribes, this derails real argumentation. We fail to,persuade or even understand each other. Argumentation presupposes that participants rise above such counterproductive distractions and motives. When they fail to do so, argumentation itself fails.

I am entitled to exclusive control of my body in the sense that it is common knowledge that no one else may control my body without my permission. If others could control me or were entitled to control me, this would count as duress.

Why must critics of liberty and private property deny PPP?
Critics of private property proclaim that no one is entitled to certain kinds of prior possessions. They seek to violently confiscate others' prior property, not to resolve their disagreement peacefully. So they contradict "I seek a peaceful, conflict-free resolution".

I still consider this blog entry a draft. Any helpful suggestions left in the comments will be used to improve future versions.


David Burns said...

One might argue that propagandizing and indoctrinating are subcategories of arguing. Hmmm... Maybe I should delete those from the list.

David Burns said...

When the subject of argumentation is a property dispute, so that the proponent and opponent are both claiming ownership of the same item, this seems like an obvious exception to the presumption that participants must be entitled to their prior possessions. The point of the dispute is to establish who really owns the disputed item. Once we admit this possibility, advocates of socialism can frame their advocacy as a similar challenge of who owns what and how ownership works.

David Burns said...

A briefer candidate version of PPP, quoted from Hoppe: “everybody has the right of exclusive control over his own body”. I haven't found a direct quote about homesteading, but perhaps Hoppe would accept this: everybody has the right to acquire unowned objects and make them theirs, and to exchange objects they own with others.

It seems to me that a tyrant can stipulate that everyone owns their bodies. So long as the tyrant owns all the land, food and water, the self-owner might as well be a slave. So the norm regarding property acquisition is the critical one.