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A Moral Argument for Minarchy

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Iapetus
Posts: 400
Joined: January 5th, 2015, 6:41 pm
Location: Strasbourg, France

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 7th, 2018, 1:25 pm

Reply to GE Morton:

Perhaps I should re-introduce the distinction (made elsewhere on this forum) between public moralities and private moralities. Historically, moral philosophy has covered a lot of ground, and embraced everything from the foundations of law to cultivation of virtues to one's relationship with God to self-improvement tips. I take a theory of public morality to be concerned with one issue only: rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. All other questions regarding acceptable or desirable personal behavior --- whether one should eat meat on Fridays, attend church on Sunday, donate to this or that charity, "turn the other cheek" if smote, refrain from sex outside marriage, smoke marijuana, peruse pornography, etc., etc., fall within the purview of private moralities. Government should take no notice, neither promoting or suppressing, any private morality, unless one of them conflicts with a rule of public morality --- a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory.


You take public morality to be concerned with rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. But whose moral field? What or who defines that ‘moral field’? Is it a particular authority or is it about consensus? How might consensus be achieved? ‘Moral fields’ differ in time and space, which is one reason why different governments frequently disagree. What you take to be public morality might not coincide with somebody else’s interpretation. A dogmatic theocracy, for example, might take a very different view. You write as if it is a straightforward and clear process to create, “a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory” . I don’t think it is.

I think that you are trying to present what you believe to be a sound, rationally defensible moral theory but I don’t see what is moral about it and I think that the need to present it as such ignores pragmatic necessities. I talked about the need for governments to serve people of all beliefs (though many governments clearly do not agree with that) and you pointed out, quite rightly, that “personal needs and desires” may well come into conflict with those of others. That is one of the reasons why I have a problem with use of the term, ‘morality’. I regard the management of conflict, both internal and external, to be an essential function of government. It involves compromise.

I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here. Are you advocating some sort of moral relativism? Moral nihilism? Or that somehow government is exempt from moral scrutiny?


I don’t accept that there is such a thing as objective morality. I believe that morality is a personal thing, which is why I stated that there are thousands of ‘moral’ views. I should have said billions. A government can certainly set out a set of ‘moral’ rules and commands it if sets itself up as the moral authority. I think that is dangerous. It can also set out a series of principles and protocols – such as are found in a constitution - which are the product of discussion and experience. The processes of law and scientific investigation procede in the same manner. There is no need to call these processes, ‘morality’.

You wrote of “moral scrutiny”. When I mentioned the conflict between the declarations in favour of liberty at the same time as sustaining a slave economy in the government of Thomas Jeffersons’s time you ignored it but, when I addressed the same accusation at the man himself you called it an ad hominem attack. Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 49% owned slaves. I could have made the same criticism of any of these whilst knowing nothing of their personal character.

I wrote, “If a government commits itself to a particular aim, such as improving some aspect of ‘welfare’, then it needs to devote resources to achieving that aim. If, however, that government is also driven by the imperative of frugality, then the two purposes are in conflict”. You replied:

No, they are not. Frugality means not spending money unwisely or unnecessarily. Spending it as necessary to achieve a desired aim is not a failure to be frugal.


You offered a source for a definition. I found it very helpful and I shall quote it, since it is brief, rather than requiring you to search for it elsewhere:

1. Spending very little money and only on things that are really necessary.
2. A frugal meal is simple, inexpensive and not very big.


I did offer further explanation; “Either you allocate sufficient resources or you don’t. If a particular aim is achieved, then the urge to frugality requires that the range of other aims must be necessarily limited. This is not the same thing as working with limited resources. By specifying frugality, a counteracting factor has been introduced. There is a contradiction and a logical flaw”.

It seems to fit in with your definition very well. Your “desired aim” is determined by your frugality. Your “desired aim”, if you wish to be frugal, is bound to limit what you think is “really necessary”. If your “desired aim” is for government to be “simple, inexpensive and not very big”, then frugality will fulfill that aim and vice versa. There will be no requirement that it be tasty, enjoyable or fulfilling. The aims of welfare or freedom or whatever else grabs you will be necessarily and strictly limited.

Well, some substantive objections would be helpful. "Silly" and "strange" are non-responsive.


‘Strange’ was used in the context of ‘context’. You linked ‘rights’ with ‘righteous’ Since both seem to refer to ‘moral’ judgements, I didn’t feel that one helped the understanding of the other. The use “of extraordinarily simplistic and silly beyond belief” was because you mentioned the principle of first ownership without mention that ownership can be claimed, disputed, bought, sold and transferred. It did not come out of the blue; I had previously commended on the issue of ownership. The fact that you have explained yourself subsequently has no bearing on that comment.

There is a serious danger that this conversation is going to drift into uncontrollable side-issues because of the complexity of your original post. If so, I shall rapidly lose interest.

In trying to focus a little, it seems to me that a critical section of your original post is concerned with concepts of liberty:

Not until the early 20th century did advocates for “positive” liberty and material equality begin to appear. The adoption of these novel interpretations of liberty and equality by entrepreneurial politicians and resultant acceptance by the public fostered the spectacular growth of government power in the following decades.

It is worth pointing out that the conflicts alleged between liberty and equality arise only with respect to “positive” liberty and material equality. There is no conflict between those two concepts as understood classically.


I am not desperate to have a discussion about the value of ‘positive’ liberty, of whether or not it is a paradox or whether there is a third way. I understand some of the arguments and the distinctions between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’. This is likely to become extremely complicated because you also claimed an aim to improve welfare and the two directions do not necessarily coincide.

You, as I understand it, would like to live under a government whose ‘proper’ role is, “minimal, typically limited to the rights-defending functions just mentioned, particularly by providing a collective defense against foreign aggressors and a rule of law to secure domestic order and peace (e.g., police, courts, and prisons)”. Please correct me if I have this wrong, but it appears that you are also prepared to consider the merits of an Augmented Minimal State, which includes, “managing natural commons and supplying certain public goods. Unless competently managed natural commons such as public lands, the atmosphere, and major bodies of water succumb to the “tragedy of the commons,” and without certain public goods, such as public rights of way and a sound money supply, many of the advantages of social living are unattainable.”

That is not a society in which I would like to live, nor does it accord with my personal values. Any society to which I could give allegiance would be concerned with helping the more vulnerable members of society. It would not leave health care and education to private initiatives. They would be at the core of government investment because they would be an investment in the long-term future of that society. I would base the principles of that society according to the maxim that, if, prior to ‘arrival’, I had no idea what level in that society I would arrive, whether it be the most deprived or the most advantaged. I would like that society to enable my needs to be met in exchange for appropriate duties and obligations.

Your interpretation is somewhat different:

But since the early 20th century governments in the developed world have also, incrementally, assumed a paternalistic responsibility for the personal welfare of their citizens, taking upon themselves obligations to supply them with food, housing, health care, employment, education, pensions, and even entertainments. In addition they now dole out subsidies to every interest group resourceful and persistent enough to gain the ear of a politician –– for everything from local transit and sewer systems to farmers to favored businesses to rail passengers and television viewers to scientists conducting research of marginal or dubious value to opera companies and dance troupes. Between 1789 and 1930 governments at all levels in the U.S. consumed, on average, about 7% of GDP. They now consume 36%, and the trend continues upward.


I was not being flippant when I asked you, “Is your argument that the world pays too many taxes? Or that governments spend irresponsibily? Are you a survivalist? It sounds as if you are”. I want a government system which is responsible to the needs of the 21st century world, not the 18th or 19th century. Like it or not, the world is now dependent on massive investments which enable, for example, the means by which we are currently communicating. These investments were initiated by government programs, often contracting to private or mixed corporations and thereby generating growth in research in science, technology and in the economy. Many investments are beyond the means of individual countries. CERN, for example, or global positioning networks. Medical advances have gained hugely by discoveries in quantum physics. The cost is astronomical but so are the benefits. On the other hand, when free market capitalism was allowed to grow with very few governmental checks, we ended up in with a global financial crisis and forced government interventions worldwide, the consequences of which we are likely to be paying for the foreseeable future.

The world does not owe anyone a living.


There was a time when seriously wounded soldiers, on returning home from service, were forced to beg on the streets to survive. I would not want to live in such a society today. If part of the taxes I pay goes toward helping people suffering from physical or mental disabilities, then I am happy for them to do so. I live in a state where public welfare is valued. I consider myself very lucky.

I would not want to live under a government dominated by your criteria.

GE Morton
Posts: 407
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 7th, 2018, 9:24 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 1:25 pm

You take public morality to be concerned with rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. But whose moral field? What or who defines that ‘moral field’?
A "moral field" means simply a defined universe where events encompassed by the theory occur. For a moral theory, that will be any enduring social setting where interactions between agents occur. (Compare "gravitational field" or "electromagnetic field").
What you take to be public morality might not coincide with somebody else’s interpretation.
The term "public morality" is not open to interpretation, being a coined term stipulatively defined in a theory. For the purposes of that theory it means what the theory's definition says it means. Nor is a theory rebutted, much less refuted, by the fact that not everyone agrees with it.
You write as if it is a straightforward and clear process to create, “a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory” . I don’t think it is.
I'm not sure how straighforward it is, but there are no logical or conceptual barriers rendering it impossible.
I think that you are trying to present what you believe to be a sound, rationally defensible moral theory but I don’t see what is moral about it and I think that the need to present it as such ignores pragmatic necessities.
Well, if you're dismissing a moral theory because it is not "moral," then you must be relying on some other moral theory inconsistent with the one dismissed, one which adopts different criteria for applying the terms "moral" and "immoral." It is then up to you to articulate and defend that preferred theory.
I talked about the need for governments to serve people of all beliefs (though many governments clearly do not agree with that) and you pointed out, quite rightly, that “personal needs and desires” may well come into conflict with those of others. That is one of the reasons why I have a problem with use of the term, ‘morality’. I regard the management of conflict, both internal and external, to be an essential function of government. It involves compromise.
No, that is not what I said. The problem is not that trying to meet the personal needs and desires of some may conflict with the personal needs and desires of others; it is that trying to meet those needs will conflict with the rights of others. And in any conflict between Alfie's needs and desires and Bruno's rights, Bruno wins (morally speaking). Bruno's rights trump any of Alfie's needs or desires. No compromise is morally acceptable. A victim of a robbery, assault, rape, has no moral duty to "compromise" with his/her attacker.
I don’t accept that there is such a thing as objective morality.
Every moral theory must include one or more moral axioms assumed to be true without proof. One cannot derive "ought" from "is." If, however, one accepts the axioms, then one can derive "oughts" instrumentally, and they will be objective, i.e., in the same sense that, "if one wishes to drive a nail, then one ought to get a hammer" is objective. Whether or not a proposed moral rule is consistent with the axiom(s) and furthers the aims they declare is an objective matter, and can be determined empirically or logically.

In addition to the moral axioms, a moral theory must also make some assumptions about human nature and the moral field (the social setting). Those postulates will also be objective, verifiable empirically.

So the objectivity of the theory as a whole will turn upon the plausibility of the axioms. Those axioms do not assert any objective matter of fact, however --- they propose a goal, a purpose of the theory. If someone does not acccept that goal, then the theory will be moot for him, irrrelevant. If he does accept it, then whether the rules are consistent with and further that goal is objective.
I believe that morality is a personal thing, which is why I stated that there are thousands of ‘moral’ views. I should have said billions. A government can certainly set out a set of ‘moral’ rules and commands it if sets itself up as the moral authority. I think that is dangerous. It can also set out a series of principles and protocols – such as are found in a constitution - which are the product of discussion and experience. The processes of law and scientific investigation procede in the same manner. There is no need to call these processes, ‘morality’.
Methinks you're suspicious of "morality" because of the understanding of it you've just described --- something idiosycratic, nebulous, volatile, or mystical --- i.e., arbitrary. And that is true for much of what has been presented historically under that rubric, and most of what now passes for it in many minds. But that is also true of popular and historical beliefs in many other fields. Those "principles and processes" of yours fall within the scope of morality because they concern human-imposed constraints on human behavior, which is the subject matter of "morality." BTW, you said above you don't "see what is moral" about my theory. So the word must have some substantive meaning for you.
You wrote of “moral scrutiny”. When I mentioned the conflict between the declarations in favour of liberty at the same time as sustaining a slave economy in the government of Thomas Jeffersons’s time you ignored it . . .
No, I did not ignore it. I addressed it, saying, " . . . they [abandoned their own principles] for pragmatic reasons that seemed compelling at the time."
. . . but, when I addressed the same accusation at the man himself you called it an ad hominem attack. Of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 49% owned slaves. I could have made the same criticism of any of these whilst knowing nothing of their personal character.
That would also be an ad hominem response. Neither their characters nor their behaviors are relevant to the soundness of the principles they espouse. The only things relevant to the validity of an argument are the truth of the premises and the logical connection between the premises and the conclusion. No facts concerning the espouser of the argument are relevant.
I did offer further explanation; “Either you allocate sufficient resources or you don’t. If a particular aim is achieved, then the urge to frugality requires that the range of other aims must be necessarily limited.
That is not true either. Frugality imposes no limit on aims. It only implies spending no more on achieving those aims than is necessary, which implies choosing the most economical available means for meeting them. It means, for example, don't buy a new Rolls Royce if a used Beetle will do, and don't spend $1000 for the Beetle if a comparable one can be had for $500.
It seems to fit in with your definition very well. Your “desired aim” is determined by your frugality.
No, it is not. Frugality is concerned with the choice of means, not the choice of ends, provided the ends are not frivolous.
Your “desired aim”, if you wish to be frugal, is bound to limit what you think is “really necessary”. If your “desired aim” is for government to be “simple, inexpensive and not very big”, then frugality will fulfill that aim and vice versa. There will be no requirement that it be tasty, enjoyable or fulfilling. The aims of welfare or freedom or whatever else grabs you will be necessarily and strictly limited.
The "desired aim" of government is to carry out those functions which are morally justifiable. Frugality requires that it pursue those aims as economically as possible.
I am not desperate to have a discussion about the value of ‘positive’ liberty, of whether or not it is a paradox or whether there is a third way. I understand some of the arguments and the distinctions between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’. This is likely to become extremely complicated because you also claimed an aim to improve welfare and the two directions do not necessarily coincide.
The aim of the moral theory I've outlined is to develop rules of interaction between moral agents which permit all to maximize their welfare. It is not an (legitimate) aim of a government, however, to improve anyone's personal welfare; it is only to defend their rights to whatever level of welfare they have righteously attained and their rights to the liberties they must have to further improve their welfare. Goods righteously attained and liberties rightfully exercised are all those which did not or do not inflict losses or injuries on other agents.
You, as I understand it, would like to live under a government whose ‘proper’ role is, “minimal, typically limited to the rights-defending functions just mentioned, particularly by providing a collective defense against foreign aggressors and a rule of law to secure domestic order and peace (e.g., police, courts, and prisons)”. Please correct me if I have this wrong, but it appears that you are also prepared to consider the merits of an Augmented Minimal State, which includes, “managing natural commons and supplying certain public goods. Unless competently managed natural commons such as public lands, the atmosphere, and major bodies of water succumb to the “tragedy of the commons,” and without certain public goods, such as public rights of way and a sound money supply, many of the advantages of social living are unattainable.”
Yes, that is the sort of government under which I would prefer to live. That preference of mine does not, however, bear upon the moral defensibility of that sort of government. Whether or not it is morally defensible depends only upon how compliant it is with the rules of a sound moral theory.
That is not a society in which I would like to live, nor does it accord with my personal values. Any society to which I could give allegiance would be concerned with helping the more vulnerable members of society. It would not leave health care and education to private initiatives. They would be at the core of government investment because they would be an investment in the long-term future of that society. I would base the principles of that society according to the maxim that, if, prior to ‘arrival’, I had no idea what level in that society I would arrive, whether it be the most deprived or the most advantaged. I would like that society to enable my needs to be met in exchange for appropriate duties and obligations.
:-) That is a very Rawlsian formula. The problem with it is that it is not compatible with any moral theory that includes a postulate of Equal Agency --- the precept that all agents in the field have the same moral status, i.e., that they are all have the same natural rights, they are all subject to the same moral rules, and are all entitled to equal protection of any laws enacted to protect those rights and enforce those rules. Rawls proposed that "Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity" (the "Difference Principle"). But Rawls's principle immediately, and obviously, creates a morally privileged class --- "least advantaged persons" --- in violation of the Equal Agency postulate. Those "better off" must become servants of the "less well off."

Now there may be some persuasive moral argument justifying this servitude, though I have not heard it. But such an argument is required; it may not be summarily assumed.

Moreover, choosing moral rules or a role for government according to one's personal values is surely not a valid or workable methodology. Given that everyone's personal values differ, and are in many cases incompatible, such a methodology can only result in "might makes right" decision-making. Nor can we choose the kind of society in which we will live, other than by emigrating to a different one if we deem it more congenial to our "values." A society is nothing but people, and choosing what "society" shall do requires choosing what other people shall do. But no one has any right to make choices for anyone but himself. "Society," BTW, does not provide anyone with health care, education, etc. Actual, individual people provide them. The only question is whether they do so voluntarily, pursuant to their own values, or are forced to do so, to satisfy someone else's values. Again, if you propose the latter, some moral argument will be required (unless you're satisfied with "might makes right").
I was not being flippant when I asked you, “Is your argument that the world pays too many taxes? Or that governments spend irresponsibily? Are you a survivalist? It sounds as if you are”. I want a government system which is responsible to the needs of the 21st century world, not the 18th or 19th century.
The objection to the Nanny State is not the level of taxes per se, but the purposes for which they are collected. Governments must and may collect whatever taxes are necessary to accomplish its justifiable services. The question is, Which of the services they currently provide are morally justifiable? That question arises because to deliver those services governments exert force against moral agents, and the use of force by one moral agent against another must always be justified. And that question can only be answered by appeal to a rational moral theory; it can't be answered by appeal to popular opinion or majority rule or tradtion or to the "will of God."
Like it or not, the world is now dependent on massive investments which enable, for example, the means by which we are currently communicating. These investments were initiated by government programs, often contracting to private or mixed corporations and thereby generating growth in research in science, technology and in the economy. Many investments are beyond the means of individual countries. CERN, for example, or global positioning networks. Medical advances have gained hugely by discoveries in quantum physics. The cost is astronomical but so are the benefits. On the other hand, when free market capitalism was allowed to grow with very few governmental checks, we ended up in with a global financial crisis and forced government interventions worldwide, the consequences of which we are likely to be paying for the foreseeable future.
Your economic history there requires some further research on your part. But that is really a different topic.
The world does not owe anyone a living.


There was a time when seriously wounded soldiers, on returning home from service, were forced to beg on the streets to survive. I would not want to live in such a society today. If part of the taxes I pay goes toward helping people suffering from physical or mental disabilities, then I am happy for them to do so. I live in a state where public welfare is valued. I consider myself very lucky.
Not so lucky are those forced to pay for it. While the world owes no one a living, a government certainly does owe soldiers care and compensation for injuries sustained on its behalf.

Iapetus
Posts: 400
Joined: January 5th, 2015, 6:41 pm
Location: Strasbourg, France

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 8th, 2018, 5:10 am

Reply to GE Morton:

I have tried to keep the conversation relevant to the original post and I have tried to respond assiduously to all significant points you have raised. The conversation is, however, becoming convoluted and one aspect in particular concerns me.

Every moral theory must include one or more moral axioms assumed to be true without proof.


This is becoming a serious block to our conversation and I think it needs to be clarified.

I have no need to accept your assertions if they cannot be demonstrated.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an axiom as, “A statement or proposition which is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true”. I understand that this is a description of common usage and it may not be all-encompassing but it seems to conform to the way you have used the term.

I believe that axioms can be used in certain conversations to save unnecessary discussion. If, for example, clerics were discussing an aspect of the Quran, then, for them, it might be axiomatic that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. But if it is axiomatic for the clerics, it would not be necessarily so for an unbeliever. The presumption would be challenged. Before any other useful conversation could take place, the axiom would need to be demonstrated.

Axioms can be useful where there is agreement on the premise.

We do not have agreement on the premise. You can assert your ‘moral’ theory as much as you like and you can demonstrate that deductions follow from the premises but, if we are not agreed on the premises, then the deductions have little or no intrinsic value.

I do not accept that there is any such thing as objective morality. I have a personal set of beliefs and values which I could call a morality but I prefer to talk of them in terms of ‘beliefs’ and ‘values’. If I call those beliefs and values a morality then there are billions of different ones around the world. Would you be happy to take my assertion that personal morality is the only form of morality which exists as axiomatic? If so, then perhaps we can make progress.

If not, and your argument depends on axioms, then we are done.

GE Morton
Posts: 407
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 8th, 2018, 6:43 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 8th, 2018, 5:10 am

Every moral theory must include one or more moral axioms assumed to be true without proof.


This is becoming a serious block to our conversation and I think it needs to be clarified.

I have no need to accept your assertions if they cannot be demonstrated.
Every deductive theory, Iapetus, in logic, mathematics, science, etc., must begin from some premises --- "axioms" --- that are assumed to be true without proof. Otherwise you enter an infinite regress, and no conclusion can ever be reached.

Moral theories have a special version of this problem --- one cannot derive "ought" from "is." I.e., one cannot derive nornative propositions --- moral principles --- from empirical propositions (facts about the world). A moral theory must have at least one normative axiom.

(Search Wikipedia for "is-ought problem." Or just google for that phrase.)

If a theory in any field is to be convincing its axioms must be so obviously true that no one could rationally or honestly deny them. They must be "self-evidently" true. I take it as self-evidently true that everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach. As mentioned previously a person's welfare is a measure of how successfully he has acquired those things, attained those goals.

I also take it as self-evidently true that at least part of the motivation for devising moral rules --- rules constraining the actions of agents in a social setting --- is to deter agents seeking to improve their own welfare from acting in ways that inflict loss or injury on other agents, i.e., that reduce other agents' welfare. Virtually all moral doctrines, whether philosophical, religious, vernacular, or primitive, include prohibitions against murder, rape, stealing, cheating, lying: "Thou shalt not murder," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," etc.

Many moral theories have other aims as well --- encouraging devotion to God, perhaps, or promoting various personal virtues. So I abstract the welfare-preserving goal from those other goals, and construct a theory --- a theory of "public morality" --- which is concerned only with developing rules governing interactions between agents, the aim being to prevent, or at least minimize, actions by one agent that will cause loss or injury to another. While that may not be the entire goal of morality as it has been understood historically, I take it as self-evident that is not only one of the goals, but the central, primary goal of nearly all moral theories and schema, formal or informal.

But, as I said, if someone does not share that goal --- if someone sees no need for rules prohibiting murder, maiming, rape, stealing, defrauding, etc., then he will have no interest in any moral theory concerned with those actions. But I doubt many would describe whatever theory he does embrace as a "moral theory."

The normative axiom from which I begin, the "Fundamental Principle" --- reads thus: All agents in the moral field should adhere to rules per which goods can be maximized, and evils minimized, for all agents.

You can reject that axiom, but you need to consider the implications of that rejection. You are left with some sort of moral nihilism ("might makes right"), egoism ("What is moral is whatever benefits me"), or emotivism ("if it feels good, do it").
I believe that axioms can be used in certain conversations to save unnecessary discussion. If, for example, clerics were discussing an aspect of the Quran, then, for them, it might be axiomatic that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. But if it is axiomatic for the clerics, it would not be necessarily so for an unbeliever. The presumption would be challenged. Before any other useful conversation could take place, the axiom would need to be demonstrated.

Axioms can be useful where there is agreement on the premise.
An axiom is a premise. It is the "self-evidently true" premise from which the theorems of the theory are derived (see above).
I do not accept that there is any such thing as objective morality. I have a personal set of beliefs and values which I could call a morality but I prefer to talk of them in terms of ‘beliefs’ and ‘values’.
Beliefs may be either true or false. Many personal moralities rest upon demonstrably false beliefs. And a "morality" which merely expresses someone's values is non-rational (because values are non-rational). Thus it cannot be fruitfully debated philosophically.
If I call those beliefs and values a morality then there are billions of different ones around the world. Would you be happy to take my assertion that personal morality is the only form of morality which exists as axiomatic? If so, then perhaps we can make progress.
You should be able to answer that one yourself. Per the definition you cited, an axiom is, “A statement or proposition which is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true”. Unless your personal morality satisfies that definition it is not axiomatic. And unless it is logically coherent and empirically testable it is not rational, either.

The axiom I have above does satisfy that definition.

Iapetus
Posts: 400
Joined: January 5th, 2015, 6:41 pm
Location: Strasbourg, France

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 9th, 2018, 10:20 am

Reply to GE Morton:
Every deductive theory, Iapetus, in logic, mathematics, science, etc., must begin from some premises --- "axioms" --- that are assumed to be true without proof. Otherwise you enter an infinite regress, and no conclusion can ever be reached.


Yes, theories derive from premises. If we are unable to agree on the premises then we shall be unable to agree on the conclusions. But we may agree to assume a premise without proceeding through the process of verification or proof and call that an axiom. Mathematicians do it all the time. It is possible, through various manipulations, to demonstrate mathematically that two plus two does not necessarily equal four. But for most purposes it does and mathematicians proceed on that basis and progress may be achieved. That agreement still leaves space to return and examine possibiities if the axiom does not hold. The axiom is an agreement, not an absolute.

Moral theories have a special version of this problem --- one cannot derive "ought" from "is." I.e., one cannot derive nornative propositions --- moral principles --- from empirical propositions (facts about the world). A moral theory must have at least one normative axiom.


I know about the ‘is/ought’ problem. I have discussed it many times. To assert that premises have no requirement to be demonstrated or proved is simply an assertion. A classic example of this is the Kalam Ontological Argument, the second premise of which states that ‘the universe began to exist’. But we don’t know that to be the case. It could be eternal. Both statements appear to contain impossibilities. But, by taking the first assumption – ‘began to exist’ – and calling it axiomatic a manipulation can be achieved whereby a ‘creator’ is required. The premise must be examined and tested.

I take it as self-evidently true that everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach. As mentioned previously a person's welfare is a measure of how successfully he has acquired those things, attained those goals.


What you are saying is that these things are self-evident to you. They are not self-evident to me. I think that your definition of welfare is weak, particularly in the context of our discussion. I have no intention of writing an essay about this so I quickly googled definitions of welfare. These are the first ones to come up:

Help given, especially by the state or an organization, to people who need it, especially because they do not have enough money.

Receiving financial help from the state because you are poor or have not been employed for a long time.

Physical and mental health and happiness.

The general state of health or degree of success of a person, business, country etc.


Will you accept that the prime purpose of a government is to assure physical and mental health as an axiom?

What you have done is to define welfare in terms which are convenient for the development of your particular proposal. Would you be happy to incorporate these other concepts of welfare and call it all axiomatic?

Nearly every time that you write that something is ‘self-evident’, I could validly transpose ‘I believe’. What is self evident to you might even – sometimes – appear self- evident to me. It does not follow that it is self-evident to everybody else, yet a government necessarily comprises more than you and me. I might well accept many of the things you state without granting them the same significance. For example:

… a theory of "public morality" --- which is concerned only with developing rules governing interactions between agents, the aim being to prevent, or at least minimize, actions by one agent that will cause loss or injury to another. While that may not be the entire goal of morality as it has been understood historically, I take it as self-evident that is not only one of the goals, but the central, primary goal of nearly all moral theories and schema, formal or informal.


The first four of the Ten Commandments.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.


Not a word about not keeping slaves.

Do you think that God’s priorities coincide with yours?

The normative axiom from which I begin, the "Fundamental Principle" --- reads thus: All agents in the moral field should adhere to rules per which goods can be maximized, and evils minimized, for all agents.


I shall try to keep this as brief as possible. Your statement contains so many things which are open to interpretation and disagreement that it cannot possibly be considered as a reasonable premise, whether axiomatic or not. I have already told you some of my objections to the term ‘moral field’ and I do not intend to go over them again. You did, in fact, offer an alternative term – ‘social setting’ – which I certainly accept as more neutral. As to ‘agents’; do these refer to humans or to humans and some animals? Greta might well be interested in your response. All humans? Jefferson certainly didn’t go along with this. To those humans with voting rights, because these are the only ones who have influence on government? To an educated minority? Are slaves ‘agents’? If you think so, do you have evidence that everybody agrees? Since when is the maximization of goods self-evidently the primary aim when, acccording to some definitions, it should be health and education? Do you think that everybody agrees on usage of the term ‘evil’, particularly when many definitions link it with supernatural sources? When, for some people on this site, their particular concern about evil is fornication, and others do not even accept this as a moral concern?

I could write so much more. If a single sentence can be subject to so many sources of debate, then how does it clarify anything and how can it possibly be considered as a useful premise, let alone something which is ‘self-evident’ or axiomatic?

You can reject that axiom, but you need to consider the implications of that rejection. You are left with some sort of moral nihilism ("might makes right"), egoism ("What is moral is whatever benefits me"), or emotivism ("if it feels good, do it").


I have considered the implications of that rejection. Recognising the dangers of dogmatism, of trying to avoid impose one’s views on others. Your alternatives are nonsense. I hold my personal views and can stand up for them, argue for them and, if necessary, fight for them. It doesn’t require me to be a nihilist. I believe strongly in the necessity for altruism, have discussed it on this site and have been interested enough to have researched possible sources for this trait. If you think that my beliefs are driven by emotivism, then you had better be prepared to back that up, because my understanding is that the two of us are trying to engage in reasoned discussion.

I could equally argue that inventing ‘isms’ is a cheap way of expressing a narrow and unjustified view.

I am also a member of a number of social groupings and value social cohesion. I therefore submit myself to rules, laws and conventions, many of which I many not be in total agreement. I do so because I value social cohesion more. Not to the exclusion of everything else, but to a great extent. I therefore recognise the need to accept compromise. My personal ‘moral’ views must, to some extent, bend to the needs of the many. If you like, that is another of my ‘moral’ views; the need to accept compromise when necessary.

Beliefs may be either true or false.. And a "morality" which merely expresses someone's values is non-rational (because values are non-rational). Thus it cannot be fruitfully debated philosophically.


I have never claimed that beliefs must be based on reason or logic. Many are undoubtedly the result of inheritance, upbringing, personal experience and so on. I don’t therefore, accept that beliefs may be either true or false. If somebody is scared of the dark then there may be many reasons for this but they don’t necessarily have to be about what is demonstrably true or false. There are, of course, aspects of those beliefs which are susceptible to reasoning and philosophical debate and these vary from person to person. They are not likely to represent the totality of the belief system.

That is why I am unable to place much significance to your statement that, “Many personal moralities rest upon demonstrably false beliefs”. That statement is far more dependent on your personal definition of morality than anything else and that is only of the reasons why I have problems with the term. For, a start, you have given no examples to illustrate precisely what you mean. I think you are also manipulating the term, ‘morality’ to serve your own purposes and I shall explain why. If you look up a dictionary definition of ‘morality’ then you will find variations around a common theme:

“a particular system of values and principles of conduct”.

Given that the definitions describe common usage and are not absolute, the implication is that the values are intrinsic to the morality and that principles derive from the values. Whether the values are rational or not, they are part of the morality. Some aspects may not be susceptible to philosophical discussion. Tough. It does not follow that they have no value, nor that governments must not respond to them.

I asked, “Would you be happy to take my assertion that personal morality is the only form of morality which exists as axiomatic?”

You should be able to answer that one yourself.


I could, but I asked you. It is self-evident to me that my morality is my morality. It may well be the case that this is true for everybody on the planet. It I went up to somebody else and asked them if their personal morality was their personal morality then it is highly likely that they would say yes. Yet, at least ten times on this site, I have asked individuals for an example of objective morality and I have never received anything which I consider convincing. So I would say that, as far as anything can be ascertained, personal morality is axiomatic on the basis that it is established, accepted and self-evidently true. And objective morality isn’t.

But, again, that would depend on how we define ‘morality’ and, as has become abundantly apparent, that is far from fixed.

The axiom I have above does satisfy that definition.


No, it certainly does not.

GE Morton
Posts: 407
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 9th, 2018, 10:00 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 9th, 2018, 10:20 am

Every deductive theory, Iapetus, in logic, mathematics, science, etc., must begin from some premises --- "axioms" --- that are assumed to be true without proof. Otherwise you enter an infinite regress, and no conclusion can ever be reached.


Yes, theories derive from premises. If we are unable to agree on the premises then we shall be unable to agree on the conclusions. But we may agree to assume a premise without proceeding through the process of verification or proof and call that an axiom. Mathematicians do it all the time. It is possible, through various manipulations, to demonstrate mathematically that two plus two does not necessarily equal four. But for most purposes it does and mathematicians proceed on that basis and progress may be achieved. That agreement still leaves space to return and examine possibiities if the axiom does not hold. The axiom is an agreement, not an absolute.
You're side-stepping the issue there, Iapetus. Axioms are not "agreements." They are propositions which cannot be rationally or honestly doubted. Though all workers on a theoretical problem may agree on them, their truth is not a mere convention. They agree on them because no one can produce, or even conceive, a counterexample or a scenario where they could be false.

Sometimes propositions are offered as axioms which do, indeed, leave room for doubt. Perhaps the most famous example is the 5th Postulate in Euclid's geometry: "If a straight line crossing two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if extended indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles." This is equivalent to, "For a line AB and a point C not on AB, exactly one line can be drawn through C parallel to AB." Several mathematicans rejected that axiom as not self-evident; it looked like a theorem which should be proved. If it is false, then there are two alternatives: NO lines can be drawn through C parallel to AB, or MORE than one line can be so drawn. As it turned out, all three possibilities were equally defensible. Adopting either of the alternatives gives rise to one of the non-Euclidean geometries.

"But we may agree to assume a premise without proceeding through the process of verification or proof and call that an axiom."

We can't do that forever, Iapetus. If there is a "process of verification and proof" for the proposition, then it is NOT an axiom, no matter what we call it. Such a proof would have to rely on other propositions, which either also require proof or are accepted as true without proof. If the former you launch yourself into an infinite regress.

BTW, if a mathematician undertakes to "demonstrate mathematically" that 2+2 does not equal 4, he will have to derive that result from some other propositions, eventually reaching some that cannot be rationally doubted and hence require no proof --- those will be the axioms.
I know about the ‘is/ought’ problem. I have discussed it many times. To assert that premises have no requirement to be demonstrated or proved is simply an assertion.
Well, it is an assertion whose denial invalidates all deductive reasoning. If there are no propositions which can be accepted as true without proof then all reasoning sets up an infinite regress, and no conclusions can ever be reached.
A classic example of this is the Kalam Ontological Argument, the second premise of which states that ‘the universe began to exist’. But we don’t know that to be the case. It could be eternal. Both statements appear to contain impossibilities. But, by taking the first assumption – ‘began to exist’ – and calling it axiomatic a manipulation can be achieved whereby a ‘creator’ is required. The premise must be examined and tested.
You are correct. That proposition is not an axiom, regardless of what some call it. Like Euclid's 5th Postulate, it is open to doubt.
I take it as self-evidently true that everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach. As mentioned previously a person's welfare is a measure of how successfully he has acquired those things, attained those goals.


What you are saying is that these things are self-evident to you. They are not self-evident to me.
Well, that is indeed a fundamental disagreement. If you have known people (other than the dead) who have no interests --- who need nothing, desire nothing, have no goals --- then you live in a different universe than me. Is that what you are claiming? I'll certainly admit that my theory will have no application in such a universe. Nor would any other moral theory. But I'm pretty sure that proposition of mine (above) will be self-evident to everyone in this universe.
I think that your definition of welfare is weak, particularly in the context of our discussion. I have no intention of writing an essay about this so I quickly googled definitions of welfare. These are the first ones to come up:
A definition stipulated in a theory cannot be "weak." It can be vague, but I think the meaning I gave it was quite clear: the word is used in the theory to denote the extent to which someone's interests are satisfied. Common synonyms are "well-being" and "quality of life." I also mentioned that it is the meaning assumed throughout welfare economics. Any meanings it may have in other contexts are irrelevant.
Will you accept that the prime purpose of a government is to assure physical and mental health as an axiom?
Certainly not, since that proposition is far from self-evident. BTW, it's not clear exactly with what you disagree in the quoted proposition. Are you disagreeing with the assertion that everyone has interests, and therefore that assertion is not self-evident, or are you just quibbling over the use of the word "welfare"? The meaning assumed for that word is not "self-evident." It is not a proposition at all. It is just a definition, to which "true," "false," and "self-evident" do not apply.
Nearly every time that you write that something is ‘self-evident’, I could validly transpose ‘I believe’. What is self evident to you might even – sometimes – appear self- evident to me. It does not follow that it is self-evident to everybody else, yet a government necessarily comprises more than you and me.
No, Iapetus. Whether or not some proposition is self-evident is not a subjective matter; it is not modified by "to me" or "to him." To be sure, anyone may claim, or even believe, that a proposition is not self-evident, or that it is false, but then the burden is upon him to produce an example or counterexample. E.g., if you assert there are, or may be, persons with no interests, it is up to you to produce such a person. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." If even you cannot you cannot produce such a person, or articulate a coherent falsifying scenario, then the claim is self-evident, even to you. You are simply refusing to admit it.
Do you think that God’s priorities coincide with yours?
I have no idea what God's priorities might be, since I have no idea who "God" is. Nor do I have any idea how that question bears on this discussion. The Biblical quotations I offered were simply illustrations of constraints common to many religions and moral traditions, not an endorsement of Judeo-Christian ethics.
The normative axiom from which I begin, the "Fundamental Principle" --- reads thus: All agents in the moral field should adhere to rules per which goods can be maximized, and evils minimized, for all agents.


I shall try to keep this as brief as possible. Your statement contains so many things which are open to interpretation and disagreement that it cannot possibly be considered as a reasonable premise, whether axiomatic or not. I have already told you some of my objections to the term ‘moral field’ and I do not intend to go over them again. You did, in fact, offer an alternative term – ‘social setting’ – which I certainly accept as more neutral.
Feel free to substitute the latter term for the former. "Field" is a more general term used in many theories to denote the arena in which the phenomena considered by the theory occur, or play out (the "universe of discourse"). For moral theories that is a social setting. You spend much time quibbling over terms ("moral field," "welfare," "agents") which have uncontroversial, accepted meanings in moral philosophy, economics, or some other germane discipline, or are stipulatively defined in the theory.
As to ‘agents’; do these refer to humans or to humans and some animals?
Again, this is a term widely understood among moral philosophers. This may help:

https://philosophyintrocourse.com/intro ... and-regan/
Since when is the maximization of goods self-evidently the primary aim when, acccording to some definitions, it should be health and education?
False dichotomy, since health and education are themselves goods. You seem to have forgotten the definition of "goods" given earlier ("That which an agent seeks to acquire or retain"). The only question is how those goods rank in a particular person's hierarchy.
Do you think that everybody agrees on usage of the term ‘evil’, particularly when many definitions link it with supernatural sources? When, for some people on this site, their particular concern about evil is fornication, and others do not even accept this as a moral concern?
I've also stipulated a definition of that word, namely, "That which an agent seeks to avoid or be rid of." What things count as evils depends, of course, on the interests and values of the agent, just as does what counts as a good.

You can reject that axiom, but you need to consider the implications of that rejection. You are left with some sort of moral nihilism ("might makes right"), egoism ("What is moral is whatever benefits me"), or emotivism ("if it feels good, do it").

I hold my personal views and can stand up for them, argue for them and, if necessary, fight for them.
But can you defend them rationally? I.e., with a valid argument that does not ultimately reduce to "might makes right"?
I believe strongly in the necessity for altruism, have discussed it on this site and have been interested enough to have researched possible sources for this trait. If you think that my beliefs are driven by emotivism, then you had better be prepared to back that up, because my understanding is that the two of us are trying to engage in reasoned discussion.
Is this a logical or physical/biological necessity? If it is logical, then a logical argument deriving it from self-evident premises is required. If it is physical, then some empirical evidence is required.

"Altruism" can denote either an emotional state or attitude, a behavior with certain motives, or a moral principle. If you are urging it as a moral principle then a rational moral argument for it, founded on self-evident premises, is required. If you are urging it as an attitude or motive you will be seeking to persuade others to adopt a sentiment or temperament you think desirable. Rational arguments are rarely effective in such endeavors. Force is never effective.

Most people, BTW, are altruistic to some extent --- most of them act for others' benefit from time to time, for certain others. Are you proposing that persons be forced to act altruistically in situations and toward persons specified by you, regardless of the urgings of their own sentiments?
I have never claimed that beliefs must be based on reason or logic. Many are undoubtedly the result of inheritance, upbringing, personal experience and so on. I don’t therefore, accept that beliefs may be either true or false. If somebody is scared of the dark then there may be many reasons for this but they don’t necessarily have to be about what is demonstrably true or false. There are, of course, aspects of those beliefs which are susceptible to reasoning and philosophical debate and these vary from person to person. They are not likely to represent the totality of the belief system.
There are indeed some beliefs --- expressible in propositions --- which are non-cognitive, i.e., which have no determinable truth values. E.g., "The universe and everything in it is doubling in size every second." Most beliefs, however, do have truth values. If someone's fear of the dark is based on some belief he holds that belief will almost certainly be either true or false; e.g., either demons prowl the world at night or they don't. But if he lives in a jungle inhabited by noctural predators his belief may well be true, and his fear justified.
If you look up a dictionary definition of ‘morality’ then you will find variations around a common theme:

“a particular system of values and principles of conduct”.

Given that the definitions describe common usage and are not absolute, the implication is that the values are intrinsic to the morality and that principles derive from the values. Whether the values are rational or not, they are part of the morality.
It is certainly true that values and moral principles have been closely intertwined thoughout the history of philosophy. As I said earlier, moral philosophy has covered a lot of ground throughout its history. But the difference between values and moral principles has been acknowledged and sorted into two different disciplines, axiology (theory of value) and deontology (theory of moral rules or principles).

https://www.britannica.com/topic/axiology

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethi ... tological/
Some aspects may not be susceptible to philosophical discussion. Tough. It does not follow that they have no value, nor that governments must not respond to them.
That is, of course, question-begging. If you claim they have "value," you must 1) either specify to whom they have value, and explain why anyone else must act on that subjective value, or 2) argue that they have "intrinsic value," and then explain how one determines what "intrinsic value" something has and what that value is. And of course, if such a subjective morality is not amenable to philosophical discussion (rational analysis and validation) then the only means of settling disagreements --- which will be profuse and perpetual, is "might makes right."
It is self-evident to me that my morality is my morality. It may well be the case that this is true for everybody on the planet.
I'm sure it is, just as "A is A" is true for everyone on the planet. The question here, of course, is not whether A is A, but whether one's personal morality is rationally defensible. But of course, if one dismisses that criterion then any "morality" is defensible --- but only if one has a big enough gang or enough guns.
The axiom I have above does satisfy that definition.


No, it certainly does not.
I've just started a new thread, "A Theory of Public Morality."

https://onlinephilosophyclub.com/forums ... =3&t=15854

Perhaps we can shift this discussion there and you can tell me which of the postulates you think false (if any).

Iapetus
Posts: 400
Joined: January 5th, 2015, 6:41 pm
Location: Strasbourg, France

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 10th, 2018, 9:42 am

Reply to GE Morton:

You're side-stepping the issue there, Iapetus. Axioms are not "agreements." They are propositions which cannot be rationally or honestly doubted. Though all workers on a theoretical problem may agree on them, their truth is not a mere convention. They agree on them because no one can produce, or even conceive, a counterexample or a scenario where they could be false.


I have certainly not side-stepped this issue but I am wary of straying far from the original post. I offered you two plus two equals four, which I would have thought was fairly basic. Under non-standard constraints, the result can be different. In mathematics, axioms are often thought of as constraints rather than as true without proof. If, according to propositions of logical thought, the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, they do not in a relativistic universe.

I am, however, happy to accept, for the purposes of our discussion, a definition you offer:

They agree on them (axioms) because no one can produce, or even conceive, a counterexample or a scenario where they could be false.


If we apply this definition to your ‘axiom’:

I take it as self-evidently true that everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach. As mentioned previously a person's welfare is a measure of how successfully he has acquired those things, attained those goals.


I don’t have to deny that people have interests and goals and I am not ‘reluctant to admit it’. But that is only a part of the overall statement. The second sentence is contingent on information outside of the statement and subject to interpretation. Moreover, this is how you have chosen to define welfare. You might well argue that you have explained that choice and that it is directed towards your particular argument. If so, then I am not happy with that particular emphasis given to the term. That is not how I see welfare and it does not conform to the definitions I offered. If you say that those definitions are encompassed by your interpretation of the terms ‘interests’ and ‘goals’, then that requires further discussion. And then there is the teensy little quibble that your association of ‘person’ consistently with the male of the species might irritate some people. An argument that it is a convention betrays personal preferences. I might well be prepared to accept many of the points you want to make, but I will certainly not accept them on the basis of your assertion that they are something which they are not.

A definition stipulated in a theory cannot be "weak." It can be vague, but I think the meaning I gave it was quite clear: the word is used in the theory to denote the extent to which someone's interests are satisfied. Common synonyms are "well-being" and "quality of life." I also mentioned that it is the meaning assumed throughout welfare economics. Any meanings it may have in other contexts are irrelevant.


If the development of a theory is dependent on a definition which is 'weak' or imprecise, then what follows is also likely to be unclear. Synonyms such as ‘well-being’ and ‘quality of life’ are similarly subject to a huge range of interpretations. As it is in relation to ‘welfare economics’. Its meaning in other contexts is only irrelevant in terms of the proposition you want to make. If you say that is the only proposition which matters because that is the one which you are proposing, then I will say that it needs to be judged against systems with different parameters and different priorities. If you argue that your proposals are consistent with your parameters and it is this which makes it ‘moral’, then that may or not be the case but it is not an argument which then makes that form of government acceptable to me.

If it gets you to, “The world does not owe anyone a living”, then, as far as I am concerned, I want to avoid it like the plague.

I have no idea what God's priorities might be, since I have no idea who "God" is. Nor do I have any idea how that question bears on this discussion. The Biblical quotations I offered were simply illustrations of constraints common to many religions and moral traditions, not an endorsement of Judeo-Christian ethics.


It’s another one of your ‘self-evidents’. You wrote:

I take it as self-evident that (the aim being to prevent, or at least minimize, actions by one agent that will cause loss or injury to another) is not only one of the goals, but the central, primary goal of nearly all moral theories and schema, formal or informal.


Many people take the Ten Commandments as the basis for their “schema, formal or informal”. The first four of those commandments refer to commitment to God. None forbid slavery. I don’t think that the “central, primary goal” is readily apparent. I am rather surprised that I needed to spell this out.

Feel free to substitute the latter term for the former.


In which case, you may have been moving towards the construction of an axiom but you haven’t achieved it.

With regard to the other points, it is clear that a discussion is necessary. With regard, for example, to the point about whether or not animals are included, you chose not to answer but, instead, directed me to a site where you expect me to read a whole lecture which addresses, in part, “prerequisites that would enable them (agents) to control their own behavior”. This is extremely annoying. Either you have a point to make or you don’t. If you want to direct me somewhere for supplementary information, then that is another thing. I didn’t read it all and it certainly did not seem to close off all possibilities for discussion. It does absolutely nothing to convince me that what you have is axiomatic.

The conversation is evolving into a discussion, not just about the nature of an axiom, but of your ability to construct one. It is detracting from the main points of the original post. I am going to question anything you assert without evidence. I may agree or disagree with you but I shall judge it on its inherent merits, though I am rapidly losing enthusiasm.

You can reject that axiom, but you need to consider the implications of that rejection. You are left with some sort of moral nihilism ("might makes right"), egoism ("What is moral is whatever benefits me"), or emotivism ("if it feels good, do it").


I have considered the implications of that rejection. Because I object to your use of those ‘isms’ (and still do), it doesn’t mean that I need a lecture on each of them, as if I am ignorant. I don’t have to be a moral nihilist, nor an egoist, nor an emotivist. Or, at least, no more than you or anybody else.

I gave ‘fear of the dark’ as a brief example of feelings which do not necessarily appeal to logic or easy rationalisation. I did not need you to try to explain that particular example. It added very little and I found it patronising.

That is, of course, question-begging. If you claim they have "value," you must 1) either specify to whom they have value, and explain why anyone else must act on that subjective value, or 2) argue that they have "intrinsic value," and then explain how one determines what "intrinsic value" something has and what that value is. And of course, if such a subjective morality is not amenable to philosophical discussion (rational analysis and validation) then the only means of settling disagreements --- which will be profuse and perpetual, is "might makes right."


‘Might makes right’ seems to be one of your fallback posit!ons. But that is a possible outcome of any discussion, whether it is logical and reasoned or otherwise. I doubt that there are many demagogues who have been particularly interested in the finer points of philosophy. And if you know of one, then please don’t provide me with a history and sources.

Which brings me to the basis for governmental principles. There are several governments which claim to be based on ‘moral’ principles. Many are theocracies. Their principles may follow from their premises and you or I may criticise those premises. But they call themselves ‘moral’ and they are confident enough of their position to use that justification as a basis for dictating policy and asserting dogmas. I would not want to live under any such régime. The ‘moral’ tag would do nothing for me.

Then there are governments where a ‘moral’ core is less easy to discern. The UK is unusual in western governments in maintaining an established church, though this link is becoming increasingly tenuous. There is no specific written constitution and the principles are tied up in case law and ongoing discussion. Yet the parliament has been remarkably durable. Rather than through precise and clearly-defined moral principles, it is the ability of many governments to respond to the wishes of the population which has assured their survival. This response is as much pragmatic as it is moral.

A single, morally-stated basis is not a prerequisite for sound government. Nor is it a guarantee.

GE Morton
Posts: 407
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 10th, 2018, 8:58 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 10th, 2018, 9:42 am

I have certainly not side-stepped this issue but I am wary of straying far from the original post. I offered you two plus two equals four, which I would have thought was fairly basic. Under non-standard constraints, the result can be different. In mathematics, axioms are often thought of as constraints rather than as true without proof. If, according to propositions of logical thought, the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees, they do not in a relativistic universe.
You're still quibbling over words. Mathematical theorems are derived from other theorems, and ultimately from the axioms --- propositions assumed to be true without proof. The only "constraints" are the other theorems and axioms of the system. One may, of course, adopt other axioms and derive different theorems, just as with non-Euclidean geometries. But that system will still derive from axioms taken to be true without proof.

BTW, your relativistic universe is described by a non-Euclidean geometry (Riemannian geometry).
I am, however, happy to accept, for the purposes of our discussion, a definition you offer:

They agree on them (axioms) because no one can produce, or even conceive, a counterexample or a scenario where they could be false.


If we apply this definition to your ‘axiom’:

I take it as self-evidently true that everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach. As mentioned previously a person's welfare is a measure of how successfully he has acquired those things, attained those goals.


I don’t have to deny that people have interests and goals and I am not ‘reluctant to admit it’. But that is only a part of the overall statement.
No, it is not. That is the entire statement asserted to be self-evidently true. There is a period after it. The second statement is just a definition of how the word "welfare" will be used --- and, I might add, how it is used by almost everyone else discussing this topic. "Welfare," "well-being," "quality of life" are measures of the extent to which someone has attained "the good" or a "good life" as he defines it. And that, in turn, is a function of the extent to which he has obtained what he would like to have, done the things he wished to do, reached the goals he set for himself. But if you don't like those words feel free to adopt any other you like to denote that measure.

So answer the question, please: is, "Everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach," self-evidently true or not?
Moreover, this is how you have chosen to define welfare. You might well argue that you have explained that choice and that it is directed towards your particular argument. If so, then I am not happy with that particular emphasis given to the term. That is not how I see welfare and it does not conform to the definitions I offered.
There is no "emphasis" on that term. And a term defined stipulatively in a theory does not have to conform to any other definitions. That is why the definition is given --- to make clear how the word will be used in that context.
And then there is the teensy little quibble that your association of ‘person’ consistently with the male of the species might irritate some people.
Omigod. The only persons who will be irritated are those who have been indoctrinated in the silly dogmas of political correctness. Their faddish peeves have no bearing on the soundness of the theory, and I have no interest in pandering to them.
If the development of a theory is dependent on a definition which is 'weak' or imprecise, then what follows is also likely to be unclear. Synonyms such as ‘well-being’ and ‘quality of life’ are similarly subject to a huge range of interpretations.
You don't seem to get it, Iapetus. If a term is stipulatively defined in a theory, that is the meaning it must be given when analyzing or critiquing that theory. Any meanings or "interpretations" it might have outside that theory are completely irrelevant. Moreoever, nothing in the theory is dependent upon that or any other particular word. It is dependent upon the meanings of those words --- namely, the meanings given them in the definitions.
Its meaning in other contexts is only irrelevant in terms of the proposition you want to make. If you say that is the only proposition which matters because that is the one which you are proposing, then I will say that it needs to be judged against systems with different parameters and different priorities.
No, it does not. No deductive theory needs to be "judged against" another theory or system. It only needs to be internally consistent and derived from true premises, as does any rival theory or system.
If you argue that your proposals are consistent with your parameters and it is this which makes it ‘moral’, then that may or not be the case but it is not an argument which then makes that form of government acceptable to me.
Whether a theory is judged "acceptable" or not by someone is beyond the control of the theorist, if that judgment is based on non-rational factors, such as prejudices or other emotional reactions. The theorist is only responsible for making sure his argument is valid.
With regard to the other points, it is clear that a discussion is necessary. With regard, for example, to the point about whether or not animals are included, you chose not to answer but, instead, directed me to a site where you expect me to read a whole lecture which addresses, in part, “prerequisites that would enable them (agents) to control their own behavior”. This is extremely annoying. Either you have a point to make or you don’t. If you want to direct me somewhere for supplementary information, then that is another thing. I didn’t read it all and it certainly did not seem to close off all possibilities for discussion. It does absolutely nothing to convince me that what you have is axiomatic.
I directed you to that site because you were fussing about the definition of "moral agent." Throughout this discussion you've done a lot of that --- quibbling over terms widely used and understood in the literature. It is tedious to have to explain terms familiar to any freshman philsosophy student.

BTW --- No, animals are not moral agents. They are moral subjects (or "moral patients"). I didn't answer that before because it has nothing to do with this topic.
That is, of course, question-begging. If you claim they have "value," you must 1) either specify to whom they have value, and explain why anyone else must act on that subjective value, or 2) argue that they have "intrinsic value," and then explain how one determines what "intrinsic value" something has and what that value is. And of course, if such a subjective morality is not amenable to philosophical discussion (rational analysis and validation) then the only means of settling disagreements --- which will be profuse and perpetual, is "might makes right."


‘Might makes right’ seems to be one of your fallback positions. But that is a possible outcome of any discussion, whether it is logical and reasoned or otherwise.
No, it is not --- not if the parties to the discussion are committed to resolving their disagreements via reason, and accepting conclusions logically drawn or supported by evidence, even when contrary to their initial beliefs. Force is the resort of persons who have abandoned reason or are incapable of it.
I doubt that there are many demagogues who have been particularly interested in the finer points of philosophy.
I certainly agree with you there.
Which brings me to the basis for governmental principles. There are several governments which claim to be based on ‘moral’ principles.
Virtually all of them do.
Their principles may follow from their premises and you or I may criticise those premises. But they call themselves ‘moral’ and they are confident enough of their position to use that justification as a basis for dictating policy and asserting dogmas. I would not want to live under any such régime. The ‘moral’ tag would do nothing for me.
Nor for me. Not unless the moral theory they embrace is based on true premises, its conclusions are valid, and the policies they enact logically follow from them. Simply declaring their policies to be moral doesn't make them so.
Yet the parliament has been remarkably durable. Rather than through precise and clearly-defined moral principles, it is the ability of many governments to respond to the wishes of the population which has assured their survival. This response is as much pragmatic as it is moral.
The longevity of a regime is not evidence of its moral worth. Nor is its compliance with popular wishes. Majorities can be as tyrannical as any despot.
A single, morally-stated basis is not a prerequisite for sound government.
I'm not sure what counts as a "sound" government, but without a moral basis it cannot be a moral one.

Please answer the question above: is, "Everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach," self-evidently true or not?

If it is, then we can discuss how to get from there to the "Fundamental Principle."

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Greta » October 10th, 2018, 11:55 pm

A minarchy is a certainty, depending on whether you count control and regulation of the people by unelected private companies (banks, insurance companies, Big Pharma and Big Energy) to be not actually governance. This privatisation process will continue as governments are increasingly overmatched by a growing multinational private sector and thus forced out of their regulatory role and into partnership.

As population increases, regulation always increases. It will be done by government, the private sector or both. That is inescapable unless global populations start decreasing.

Besides, the US is losing its taste for democracy, and I can't see freedom and a genuine free vote surviving the next time the Repubicans start a war to to shore up support before a general election.

It's game over, GE. I don't see why you are so desperately advocating for what is seemingly already happening at pace. You might as well advocate for a warmer world, fewer ecosystems and a growing human population while you're at it.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 11th, 2018, 4:20 am

Minarchy is less taxation, less public services, less education, which leads to more inequality. More inequality means less demand. Less demand means less supply. Less supply = less profit. Less profit means diminishing production, smaller and fewer corporations.

Result one fat bastard with all the wealth and the rest of the world in abject poverty.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 11th, 2018, 8:17 am

Reply to GE Morton:

So answer the question, please: is, "Everyone has interests --- things he wishes to acquire, things he wishes to do, goals he hopes to reach," self-evidently true or not?


I have never denied the existence of axioms. I have no problem with your statement and I agree to accept it as axiomatic. I am quite prepared to accept that it is self-evident to me. I am unable to speak for anyone else. You can assert that it does not matter if I am unable to speak for anyone else because the statement has a cohesive unity. We can, then, ‘quibble over words’ and I am thoroughly fed up with it. Words have meanings and usages. I have no difficulty in envisaging somebody picking you up on what you mean by ‘things’. You can then explain that you are not simply refering to physical objects but to information, feelings and so on and lots of concepts not contained explicity within your ‘self-evident’ statement. Then we have to determine what is explicit and what is validly implicit. And it could occupy a whole post and we will argue up our own backsides and I don’t want to do that any more.

I wrote, “And then there is the teensy little quibble that your association of ‘person’ consistently with the male of the species might irritate some people”.
Omigod. The only persons who will be irritated are those who have been indoctrinated in the silly dogmas of political correctness. Their faddish peeves have no bearing on the soundness of the theory, and I have no interest in pandering to them.
I knew how to press your button and your tirade and resort to ‘political correctness’ tells me a great deal about your intolerances. If I am ‘quibbling with words’ then so are you. There was a serious point that I made, again in relation to the meanings and usages of words. If you wish a statement to be broadly acceptable – even axiomatic or ‘self-evident’, then you had better make sure that there is no source of quibble or debate about interpretations. I have already given you examples – particularly in relation to the issue of slavery - of when the definition of ‘person’ was by no means clear.
You don't seem to get it, Iapetus. If a term is stipulatively defined in a theory, that is the meaning it must be given when analyzing or critiquing that theory. Any meanings or "interpretations" it might have outside that theory are completely irrelevant. Moreoever, nothing in the theory is dependent upon that or any other particular word. It is dependent upon the meanings of those words --- namely, the meanings given them in the definitions.
I do get it. The theory is related to its own definitions, as internally defined. That does not give you a free ride. In your very first definition, for example, you took:

“proper” in the above question to mean “morally justifiable.”


Yet that does not help me to understand what you mean by ‘morally justifiable’ and my interpretation might well be different from yours, particularly as I have told you that my understanding of ‘morally’ relates only to personal belief. If I am to stick to the spirit of the ‘internal definition’, then I have to make an interpretation of your meaning, which I might get wrong.

Furthermore, even if your definitions were so clear as to preclude all necessity for interpretation – which they certainly are not – then it would only demonstrate that the theory is consistent with its definitions. It says nothing about the value or acceptability of the theory itself.

Then we get to the premises:

1. Government is force.


Your development of that concept is, “an institution which promulgates and enforces laws”. If that is your interpretation, then it is no wonder that you arrive at minarchy! You have defined one of a range of consequences of its many functions and focused largely on the constraints available, including torture. Neither have you linked this employment of force to any purpose or benefit! You have selected this interpretation in order to arrive at a conclusion you wish to support, which I suspect is paying as few taxes as possible.

You could have started with something such as:

Government is the direction of affairs of a state or community.

Government is the activities involved in controlling a country, city, group of people etc.

Government sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state.

Government is rule by the people, for the people.


There could be a thousand others and every one could be open to debate. None of these definitions would, on their own, be adequate but they would certainly encompass far, far more useful meaning than yours!
2. The use of force by one moral agent against another is morally wrongful ….
I cannot find any preceding definition of ‘moral agent’. All I can find is “equality of moral agency and status, and equal protection of the law”. This argument is a development of your first premise, which is useless.

3. Any wrongful use of force by one moral agent against another creates a master-slave relationship between the agents involved.


‘Wrongful’ in this context needs to be examined. Whether or not this involves a “master-slave relationship”, you have made absolutely no mention of aspects such as social consensus and mutual protection which define the appropriateness of any use of force. It is completely devoid of social context.

4. A master-slave relationship is a prima facie violation of formal equality.


This is a clever way of saying that more powerful beats less powerful.

Conclusion:

No government more extensive than the Augmented Minimal State is compatible with the principle of formal equality. Anyone who seeks a more extensive State will have, per force, abandoned that principle.


The argument starts with nonsense and it ends with nonsense. You have tried to argue about ‘formal equality’ without any proper consideration of the social and economic forces which encourage it or militate against it. You have started with the premise that the government employs force without any consideration of why this might be so.

It is why, when I asked, "What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?" You replied:
It has no legitimate role. The role of the people in that case is to overthrow that government and establish a new one that secures their freedom.


You recognised no social or economic role which might contribute to improvement of freedoms. No function beyond control.

If it is, then we can discuss how to get from there to the "Fundamental Principle."


No.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 11th, 2018, 10:25 pm

ThomasHobbes wrote:
October 11th, 2018, 4:20 am
Minarchy is less taxation, less public services . . .
Yes.
. . . less education . . .
Not necessarily.
. . . which leads to more inequality.
More material inequality, perhaps. Or rather, fewer coercive, costly, and futile schemes to reduce natural inequalities, an endeavor for which no coherent moral argument has ever been advanced (that I know of).
More inequality means less demand.
No, it does not. Aggregate demand depends only on the total wealth in the system. How it is distributed is irrelevant.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 12th, 2018, 2:21 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 11th, 2018, 8:17 am

I have never denied the existence of axioms.
You denied the existence of axioms as self-evident propositions, and declared that they must be demonstrated:

"I have no need to accept your assertions if they cannot be demonstrated . . . If, for example, clerics were discussing an aspect of the Quran, then, for them, it might be axiomatic that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. But if it is axiomatic for the clerics, it would not be necessarily so for an unbeliever. The presumption would be challenged. Before any other useful conversation could take place, the axiom would need to be demonstrated."

And of course, if a proposition is self-evident then it needs no demonstration. But you have now, apparently, changed your mind:
I have no problem with your statement and I agree to accept it as axiomatic. I am quite prepared to accept that it is self-evident to me.
You can assert that it does not matter if I am unable to speak for anyone else because the statement has a cohesive unity.
I'm not sure what that means. I've never used the phrase "cohesive unity." If someone else claimed that proposition was not self-evident I'd give him the same answer I gave you: "You must live in a different universe from me."
I have no difficulty in envisaging somebody picking you up on what you mean by ‘things’. You can then explain that you are not simply refering to physical objects but to information, feelings and so on and lots of concepts not contained explicity within your ‘self-evident’ statement. Then we have to determine what is explicit and what is validly implicit. And it could occupy a whole post and we will argue up our own backsides and I don’t want to do that any more.
In philosophy, and in English common speech, "thing" is the universal noun. It can be used to denote utterly anything. For the purposes of that proposition a "thing" is whatever an agent desires, seeks, pursues, assigns a value. I.e., whatever he invests any effort, time, or resource to acquire or retain. Everything from a earning college degree to climbing Mt Everest to visiting New Zealand to buying a beach house to marrying his sweetheart to winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics to becoming a father to owning an original Picasso. Or just watching a certain movie. Or anything else.
If you wish a statement to be broadly acceptable – even axiomatic or ‘self-evident’, then you had better make sure that there is no source of quibble or debate about interpretations.
I have utterly no interest in whether any statement of mine is "broadly acceptable." I am only interest in making sure it is true. If it is, and someone does not "accept" it for some irrelevant reason, such as that it conflicts with or affronts some dogma he has internalized, it is his problem, not mine.
I do get it. The theory is related to its own definitions, as internally defined. That does not give you a free ride. In your very first definition, for example, you took:

“proper” in the above question to mean “morally justifiable.”


Yet that does not help me to understand what you mean by ‘morally justifiable’ and my interpretation might well be different from yours, particularly as I have told you that my understanding of ‘morally’ relates only to personal belief. If I am to stick to the spirit of the ‘internal definition’, then I have to make an interpretation of your meaning, which I might get wrong.
I answered that question earlier (more than once, I think). An act is morally justifiable if is permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A government is morally justifiable to the extent its acts are permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A sound, rational moral theory is one which begins from premises that are either self-evident (the axioms) or are empirically verifiable, and the theorems of which are logically derivable from the verifiable premises or the axioms.
Then we get to the premises:
Yay! Finally, an actual query into the argument.
1. Government is force.


Your development of that concept is, “an institution which promulgates and enforces laws”. If that is your interpretation, then it is no wonder that you arrive at minarchy! You have defined one of a range of consequences of its many functions and focused largely on the constraints available, including torture. Neither have you linked this employment of force to any purpose or benefit! You have selected this interpretation in order to arrive at a conclusion you wish to support, which I suspect is paying as few taxes as possible.

You could have started with something such as:

Government is the direction of affairs of a state or community.

Government is the activities involved in controlling a country, city, group of people etc.

Government sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state.

Government is rule by the people, for the people.
The premise quoted ("Government is force") is not a definition of government. It is a statement of its essential property --- the property which distinguishes it from all other social institutions, which property is implied by every one of the other characterizations you list. Look at them again: "direction," "controlling," "power," "rule" --- all of them imply force. Hence, an inquiry into when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory.
2. The use of force by one moral agent against another is morally wrongful ….
Let's restate the entire premise: "2. The use of force by one moral agent against another is morally wrongful, unless the force is applied to resist force being brought against oneself or another moral agent, or to prevent the imminent or further use of force or to rectify or secure restitution for a loss or injury previously inflicted by force, by the agent currently being forced."
I cannot find any preceding definition of ‘moral agent’. All I can find is “equality of moral agency and status, and equal protection of the law”. This argument is a development of your first premise, which is useless.
Surely you're not still quibbling about the meaning of "moral agent." Even after I've given you a link with such a definition? No definition is given in that essay because everyone familiar with contemporary moral philosphy will know what it means. Nor am I sure to what "argument" you're referring there. The entire essay is the argument. Moral agency has nothing to do with the first premise (stated above).

Are you, perhaps, still harping on "moral agent" in order to avoid having to confront whether premise #2 is true or false? Is it, in your view, true or false?
3. Any wrongful use of force by one moral agent against another creates a master-slave relationship between the agents involved.


‘Wrongful’ in this context needs to be examined.
It is examined, in the premise itself. It asserts that force by one moral agent against another is always wrongful, unless exerted for one of the reasons given. Do you disagree?
Whether or not this involves a “master-slave relationship”, you have made absolutely no mention of aspects such as social consensus and mutual protection which define the appropriateness of any use of force. It is completely devoid of social context.
That is true. Force is not made morally legitimate because there is a "social consensus" in favor of it. Popular opinion has no bearing on, no relevance to, the morality of any act, by any agent. Making such an argument is an example of the ad populum fallacy. You seem to be attempting to transform mob rule into a moral principle.

When one person imposes his will upon another by force, he becomes a master, the other a slave, for the duration of that relationship. Do you disagree?


This is a clever way of saying that more powerful beats less powerful.
??? What the premise says is quite clear --- a master-slave relationship is a violation of formal equality. Do you disagree?


The argument starts with nonsense and it ends with nonsense. You have tried to argue about ‘formal equality’ without any proper consideration of the social and economic forces which encourage it or militate against it.
Formal equality is not affected by any "social or economic forces." Only material equality is. Either all agents in the field have the same status in the eyes of the theory, and are subject to the same rules, or they are not. Were the theory to apply different rules to different classes of people, whatever may be the criteria for so classifying them, then it would not be formally egalitarian. Neither does any system of laws which adopts such classifications.
You have started with the premise that the government employs force without any consideration of why this might be so.
Oh, I did explain why this is so --- it is because people demand free lunches, and the only way government can deliver them is by forcibly seizing resources from someone.


No.
You are not interested in examining the validity of that principle?

You can't defeat an argument by declaring that it "starts and ends with nonsense," Iapetus. You need to show that one or more of the premises are false, or that the conclusion does not follow from them. Which premise is false?

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Burning ghost » October 13th, 2018, 4:27 am

Morton -

I cannot see anything I outright disagree with in what you’re saying. What is, to your mind, the most common opposition to what you’re saying, and/or what do you believe to be the weakest point in what you’re saying?

Without being pedantic, to the point of being obtuse, I cannot see much wrong with teh gust of what you’ve set out.

Maybe you can recall where you’ve disagreed with me previously so we can find something to learn fro each other?
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Burning ghost » October 13th, 2018, 4:35 am

I do additonal question in reference to “master” and “slave.” Are you in any way taking this idea from Aristotle’s “Politics”? If so it is best to outline the different context in which he used the term “slave” and “master” which are obviously quite alien to us in modern society being equated with The Slave Trade of recent centuries.
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