tom: Permission problem I think. If you can see this, it's fixed.
bryan: Carolyn: Did you get those questions I emailed you?
caro2: We're clear to start now. Matt Zwolinski is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Arizona, specializing in distributive justice. Thanks for coming today, Matt!
I've got several questions already from Bryan Register. We can open with those, if you like; if you have something else to address first, go ahead.
caro2: Yes, Bryan, I got them.
bryan: I see; sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt while you were still fixing things.
caro2: Are you leaving, Bryan?
bryan: No, of course not. ?
caro2: Well, it's just, you sent questions in email.
bryan: That was just for a quick start; I'm here all week.
agnes: I'm glad you are so aware that there are a plurality of values and notions of liberty. Reading your essay, I had the impression you may imagine a plurality of foundations for rights as well. Don't you think the impass to deal with non-violent crime originates in the fact that O'ism grounds rights and values in the individual biological life?
caro2: Depending on his response, Bryan, I'll insert the second part of that first question. I'll put it in here for everyone else's amusement:
More importantly, it seems that Rand has a response to such a Rawlsian
critique of capitalism. The critique says that a theory is adequate only
if it makes the least well off as well off as they can be, because no
other theory should be adhered to by the least well off. But Rand might
respond with an *Atlas Shrugged* thought experiment. Only the libertarian
society makes the most well off as well off as they can be, and any other
society ought therefore not be adhered to by the most well off. But
should the most well off fail to adhere to a society, then the least well
off will suffer greatly. So in fact only the libertarian society meets
the Rawlsian standard! (This point obviously ties in with your discussion
of the limits on freedom for the poor in a libertarian society; Rand
could respond that the poor are more free to act on their rational
judgment in a libertarian than a society which embraces redistribution of
any kind, because they will have more property in such a society.) Does
such a response strike you as correct, and what would its effect be on
your own argument?
bryan: Does that mean that, in fact, someone's interests *are* going to have to be sacrificed for the benefit of others if we are going to administrate our society according to some theory of justice?
bryan: & if so: Why would, and why should, the victim consent? (Send this depending on his answer to the last one, Carolyn.)
phil: We seem to be jumping into this discussion midstream. This all starts with Matt's questioning Rand's conception of 'force'.
Perhaps we should start there --or get there pretty soon?
I sent an email indicating why I thought Rand's conception was correct.
And why Matt had not successfully rebutted it.
agnes: May I intervene with a comment to your problem that there is an in principle difference between wealth and natural endowments? Wealth is owned on detriment of others, while natural endowments are to be exploited to the benefit of all others.
caro2: That answers Bryan's question.
tom: I think Bryan's further question about why the person being asked (required?) to sacrifice his or her interests should consent is of great interest.
caro2: Why would you think that wealth is owned to the detriment of others, Agnes? And if so, why aren't my natural endowments owned to your detriment?
bryan: I think so too!
caro2: Phil, you might want to repeat your emailed question. Presumably Matt's had time to think about it so tell us wht it is.
phil: carolyn, okay...give me a minute to find it and past it in...
phil: >" .....a right which Alastair has clearly violated by taking his car without his permission. Did the rights-violation involve the initiation of physical force? It seems clear to me that it did not. Alastair encountered no human being in the course of his theft."
QUESTION/COMMENT: Are you not taking the most simplistic and least sophisticated possible interpretation of the word "force"? Do you think this was the one intended by Rand.
For example, the sense in which Rand and Peikoff use the phrase "the initiation of force" clearly indicates their intention that the force can be _direct_ or _indirect_ with regard to the human being who is coerced or whose choices and options are interfered with. Rand's example in "The Nature of Government" of a breach of contract clearly does not require the encountering of a human being in the course of the breach since the aggrieved party may not even be aware of the infringement. The reason she calls this indirect force is because property is kept by mere physical possession rather than by consent.
Note that force does not have to involve the existence or threat of physical content with the victim. The physical element can be directed against property.
>"The point here is that if Objectivists insist upon saying that Alastair initiated physical force, and that the police did not [in apprehending the thief], it can only be because they are using language in a rather unusual way."
QUESTION/COMMENT: Why do you say that? It's not really that unusual a way and certainly not impermissible since it has a basis in the dictionary's usages. If you look in the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, you will find that one of the defnitions of force is "violence, compulsion, or constraint exerted upon or against a person _or thing_." Peikoff and Rand sometimes use "coercion" as a synonym for force. Webster's says that to coerce is "to restrain or dominate by nullifying individual will."
This is perhaps the key meaning of force which underlies the three examples--breach of contract, fraud, and extortion--Rand gives in "Nature of Government": the individual's will, his free choice is nullified. It is _forcibly_ nullified in the sense that, by contrast to persausion, he has been given no choice in the matter.
bryan: Carolyn: I'm satisfied (in a sad way), so don't need to follow up. Post the other question if you think it's timely.
phil: Matt, in your last response are you not adopting a "consequentialist/altruist" standard rather than a "moralist/egoist" one?
If so, how do you defend it?
caro2: OK, anyone else want to followup on this last comment of Matt's? Or shall I move on?
caro2: That's an awfully big question, Phil. Can you ask something more narrow, that would fit in the space of an hour?
phil: I made a mistake, I shouldn't have said "in his last response", but I wonder if his general approach is not "consequentialist"? And if so, how it is defended?
phil: I had assumed Matt would have gotten the email a couple days ago...and extracted my argument.
I'll try to shorten it!
caro2: It's the "how is it defended" part that makes it too broad a question. To be fair, we'd need to give him the whole day, or a week, to defend it. I'm not talking about the emailed question; that one is fine.
bryan: Carolyn: Since we've spent half his session on my questions, I won't be sending any more. Just FYI. 8^)
phil: (shortening my long question) Matt, you criticize Rand's definition of force: (to paraphrase) when a car is stolen no human being is encountered, so no force is initiated against him. But hasn't Rand covered this with her discussions of "indirect" force? The reason she calls breach of contract indirect force is because property is kept by mere physical possession rather than by consent.
The nullifying of someone's will is perhaps the component of force I think you should perhaps focus on.
And: re the term 'physical': force doesn't have to be against the physical person, but it does have to be a physical action.
So on this understanding, isn't Rand's sense of "force" coherent?
agnes: Caro, do you think consequentialism is necessarily altruism?
caro2: Agnes: No, I don't; not only do I think they are completely different, but I also don't see much use for CONSEQUENTIALISM as a species of moral theory; nothing ever seems to really fit into it. The question I put to Matt is a paraphrase of Phil's question. He seemed to lump the two together as one thing (as I think Rand often does); I separated them into two sentences so as not to ask Matt a fallacious complex question.
caro2: Anyone want to follow up on Matt's last response?
phil: Carolyn, I don't consider consequentialism and altruism as the same thing. I was asking whether Matt was accepting either doctrine or both.
phil: Matt, don't you have to go back and defend your moral base before tackling some of the issues in your current paper? don't they rest on how you come down on issues like altruism vs. egoism or a mixture of both?
can you really try to address them separately or without laying out and defining your ethics?
phil: probably the word 'benevolence' can be used for some of the things Matt wants to defend, rather than altruism.
My point is merely that politics rests on ethics and one has to lay out some kind of clearly defined ethics and defend it well before answereing some of the current questions.
Or am I wrong on this?
caro2: No, I think you're right, Phil. You do have to have an ethics before you can defend your politics. I just think that we have to take his context for granted at this point.
agnes: Let me quote a survey result to illustrate you are very right. In an experiment people were asked about the principles they solved moral dilemmas with previously and 49% confessed to have applied an Utilitarian rule, 39% the Goldenn rule and 12% the Kantian imperative.
phil: Okay, Carolyn, I just wanted to have it pointed out-that ethics needs to be layed out first...it might help in revising the paper.
Perhaps my other question --on Rand's definition of force--might be more apt.
caro2: Whose statement are you supporting with your stats, Agnes? You didn't say.
phil: I don't think 'explanatory force' is a primary--why is that determinative?
(And anyway Rand's presentation and explanation of the non-initiation of force principle had tremendous explanatory force for enormous numbers of people.)
But there _is_ a 'background moral theory'. It's unfortunate that you can't explain what you mean by force more simply and have to go back to what you base it on. But if that's the way itis, you can't demand some "simpler" answer.
If you do have to talk about what constitutes ownership and some of these other issues, why would that be a problem?
Nobody said philosophy had to be easy.
jamie: Phil: Are you saying that one cannot have a full theory of politics without having an ethics to support it, or that one should not even talk about politics until one's ethical views are laid out in advanced? It sounds like you are saying the latter.
bryan: Phil: The problem isn't that it's hard, the problem is that accounting for rights-violations with reference to the initiation of force is (apparently; I don't know whether this is actually true because I haven't thought sufficiently about Matt's paper) circular. This is because we end up actually identifying tokens of initiation of force with reference to whether they violate rights, but we were hoping to identify rights-violations with reference to whether they are initiations of force. You can't try to reduce a moral notion, or an unclear notion (rights) to a non-moral notion, or a clear notion (force) if you end up having to explain the clear non-moral notion in terms of the unclear moral notion.
phil: Jamie, I'm saying (at least) that you have to at least have the basics of ethics laid out, for example whether your frame of reference is fundamentally altruist or egoist, before you can address many of the issues Matt wants to address today. I.e., you can't say what is "the good society" until you first say what "the good" means and is.
You can "talk about" politics first ..as a process of discovery. That's fine. But you will find that the central of the issues will require
you to back up a step often
phil: >You can't try to reduce a moral notion, or an unclear notion (rights) to a non-moral notion...
Bryan, are you raising the "is-ought" problem...and claiming you can't get an ought from an is? I.e. all ethics is subjective?
bryan: No, I said that you can't start with an ought, try to justify it based on an is, which you in turn justify based on the same ought that you were trying to justify.
bryan: You didn't get the structure of the sentence. It runs:
You can't try to reduce... **if** you end up having to explain the clear non-moral notion in terms of the unclear moral notion.
jamie: Phil: Okay. I am just concerned that ethical questions might be too broad for a two hour session. We might want to keep focused on the issues Matt is addressing.
caro2: Jamie seconds the motion!
bryan: Speaking of two hours, how long do you plan to run this for, Carolyn? Two hours were up a little while back.
phil: Jamie, I didn't want to spend the hour on the ethical question...but philosophers sometimes tend to sweep hierarchy under the rug in their eagerness to pursue the immediate question.
jamie: Phil: I agree that hierarchy is too often ignored in scholarly debate. However, we need to focus on smaller issues for scholarly papers. If Matt didn't address ethics in a book, then I think it is time to raise objections.
If we were rigidly concerned with hierarchy, then we would quickly start talking about metaphysics. Ack!
caro2: Thank you, everyone! I'm going to eat, but you're welcome to continue for as long as you like. Be nice.
Ok, Matt. You can log back in, and you'll be in the other window. This is all done with mirrors.
matt: Alright. I'm back.
caro2: Phil, you may rake poor Matt over the coals until he begs for mercy now. There's no one to stop you, so it doesn't count as force. :-)
phil: Jamie, I think analytic philsophers get in trouble by this very approach. Witness the current discussion: claims of circularity where no circularity has been proven; uncertainties or ambiguities about the ethical foundation.
It's usually a mistake to "focus on smaller issues for scholarly papers" when the facts of those issues necessitate that you address wider ones.
Is that impossible in two hours? Maybe...but: too bad.
I think Rand was right that you get in difficulties doing philosophy "in midstream" without _constant_ reference to hierarchy and context.
Which is not to say that the topics raised today are not important ones...I just feel like we're floating a bit from point to point.
caro2: Well, at least the metaphysics discussion would be quick, Jamie. "So, what's underneath the entities?" "I dunno."
phil: Carolyn, I think Matt can take it. The question is can I take being raked over the coals by a tag-team of Matt and Jamie and Bryan? :-)
caro2: I think it's pretty clear that Matt doesn't _agree_ with you, Phil. I think you can still have a debate at a lower level, until you come to an impasse, at which point you dig a bit deeper. But not every discussion needs to start at the bottom. Sometimes you start in the middle and investigate in both directions.
phil: Carolyn, I agree with that and have no problem with where any discussion _starts_. Where it _ends_ (ultimately) is what I'm concerned with
phil: Thanks everyone! I've got to have breakfast now...
matt: Sorry folks. Major comupter problems afoot. I'd better go, but like I said, I'd be more than happy to followup on email: mattz_OF_u.arizona.edu
Thanks for participating!