NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on September 23, 2010, 04:39:48 pm
. . . I've never seen generally accepted definitions of these that would clearly imply that  "involuntary nuisances" are not aggression or that "retributive force that exceeds proportionality" is aggression.

It seems like you're trying to play a "gotcha" game here. I'm not playing. It's not too hard to figure out that an extraproportional response to aggression is something other than defensive or restitutive force [...]

I was not playing some sort of "gotcha" game; I don't trust the Potter Stewart standard ("I know it when I see it").  I've encountered some who argue that there is no (theoretical) need to limit the response to some level of proportionality (and what proportion?); I've also seen examples of people who are extremely sensitive to potential "aggression" -- looking at someone too long or too intently (according to their perception and interpretation), is considered aggression by many.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on September 23, 2010, 04:49:08 pm
The set of people who deserve zero aggression are those people who have not aggressed against others. "Groups" are simply collections of people.

OK:  Suppose you have an enemy group:  Any member of the group that trades with you will be executed by other members of the group. [...]  If you stay far away from areas where that group is predominant, they will make demands that you must submit to, and if you conspicuously fail to comply, will raid into lands where they do not have significant membership in order to kill you. 

If I stay far away, how are they going to make such demands?  And once they begin  "raiding lands" that they do not own, is that not aggression? 

J Thomas on September 23, 2010, 06:48:36 pm

I was not playing some sort of "gotcha" game; I don't trust the Potter Stewart standard ("I know it when I see it").

When you depend on "I know it when I see it" then for many people it matters a whole lot who's ox was gored.

But we don't have any good alternative. When people try to make rules that will apply to every case ahead of time, it falls apart. Look at Talmud. Look at the US legal code. Probably there is some way to apply Goedel's theorem, to prove that any legal system which actually covers all the bases will contain contradictions. I haven't done the proof, though.

I say, when people of good will and generous disposition get into disagreements about this stuff, they will find a way to coexist, that's good for both sides. And when people who're looking for a fight or looking for a special advantage get into disagreements about whose rights have been violated then they'll probably end up in a fight. The winner will suffer some consequences to his reputation, people will think he's disagreeable and tough. I can't really predict the results, but he's likely to face more violence when he gets into other situations and people assume he'll be implacable.

It's better if people get a tradition that the right thing is usually to accept arbitration. Then whoever initiates violence instead, in front of witnesses, has some explaining to do. When there are no witnesses and only one survivor then his story might be the only one that gets told....

So, try to listen to the other guy and reach an agreement if you can. Try to agree on an arbitrator and be ready to explain your side reasonably to the arbitrator. If nothing works then you might have no choice but to fight him and he might not agree to any rules. If you won't stand up for yourself then maybe your friends or hid enemies or people who care about justice will stand up for you. Or maybe they won't.

You might think it ought to always be obvious to everybody what's right. I guarantee it won't always be obvious to everybody. If there isn't a final authority that everybody has to obey, then you work things out the best you can.

jamesd on September 23, 2010, 07:48:48 pm
The state does, though, seem necessary to me to achieve these goals:

  • to organize into a single entity an unnaturally large number of people, who are diverse rather than sharing common goals, and
  • to organize a continued and ongoing defense against the depradations of other states.

Regarding your first goal: converting everyone into a Borg unit would be useful to those who run that particular Borg, but some of us diverse unassimilated people have other plans.

The problem that Quadribloc is referring to is the largest public good problem of them all - "the common defense"

Anarchist common defense looks somewhat like guerrilla war, somewhat like high level banditry and piracy - it definitely fails to respect the zero aggression principle.

Brugle on September 23, 2010, 08:17:23 pm
Anarchist common defense looks somewhat like guerrilla war, somewhat like high level banditry and piracy - it definitely fails to respect the zero aggression principle.
Perhaps you need to look up the word "defense".

Government defense (of itself) is definitely banditry (to its subjects).  Why would you think anarchist defense would resemble government defense?


jamesd on September 23, 2010, 08:42:25 pm
OK:  Suppose you have an enemy group:  Any member of the group that trades with you will be executed by other members of the group. [...]  If you stay far away from areas where that group is predominant, they will make demands that you must submit to, and if you conspicuously fail to comply, will raid into lands where they do not have significant membership in order to kill you. 

If I stay far away, how are they going to make such demands? 
A few members of the group are everywhere in the world.  They are all expected to look after the group's interests.  Some of them do - all of them pretend to the group that they do, and to outsiders that they do not - examples being communists and Muslims.

The question you ask assumes the group is a westphalian state that respects westphalian boundaries - but not every statelike group is a westphalian state, and westphalian states do not always respect westphalian boundaries.

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And once they begin  "raiding lands" that they do not own, is that not aggression? 
  It is aggression by some members of the group - who cannot be distinguished from other members of the group.  Again, communists and muslims will cry repression, a complaint that always has some truth in it.

jamesd on September 23, 2010, 08:44:50 pm
Anarchist common defense looks somewhat like guerrilla war, somewhat like high level banditry and piracy - it definitely fails to respect the zero aggression principle.
Perhaps you need to look up the word "defense".

Perhaps you need to look at examples of successful defense by non state entities.  War is hell.  And in anarchy, defenders need to make a profit.


quadibloc on September 24, 2010, 03:15:32 am
I realize that "rights" is a word heavily freighted with emotion, and that merely by suggesting it might be rather an empty word, I am inviting some hostility.  Please know that I am not offering any hostility myself; I'm just saying that I personally find no practical value in the term -- except, as hinted before, as an emotional marker as to how strongly the user feels about the activity designated as a 'right'.  I respectfully request that, before you begin your reply (if any), you tell me if I've even made any sense, here.
Oh, yes, you are making sense. You are expressing a point of view that others have expressed. It's one I don't agree with, but to defend my point of view, I will have to work quite hard, because despite the fact that my point of view which opposes yours on this issue is very widely accepted, that doesn't mean that there is much in the way of solid evidence in its favor.

Most religious creeds, the Declaration of Independence, and, for that matter, the Zero Aggression Principle, take it for granted that "right and wrong", or morality, have objective existence. Thus, a statement such as "Negro slavery was wrong", while it might be false instead of true, is clearly a statement with meaningful semantic content, despite being about morality, which is abstract - just as the statement "All the complex zeroes of the Riemann Zeta function are on the line 0.5 + iy where y is real" is either true or false, even if we don't, yet, know which one it is.

Mathematics, however, can be viewed as a pure application of the rules of logic. Since logic is a useful tool for dealing with the real world, and, for that matter, geometry, arithmetic, and calculus are useful in this manner, the accuracy of mathematical reasoning is, at least in some cases, susceptible to being checked.

There are two ways to think of behavior like lying, cheating, and stealing.

One way is to consider them to be behavior that will cause you not to be well-liked in your community, and that will weaken any society that tolerates them.

Another is to regard them as intrinsically wrong in themselves, period.

It is generally felt by many that the latter way of thinking about them is more useful for encouraging people not to be willing to resort to lying, cheating, and stealing whenever they feel they might not get caught. And so when people raise their children, they will tend to inculcate morality on the basis of the theory of natural rights - or on the basis of the moral code of a revealed religion.

Maybe this is an illusion which imprisons our thinking. However, I don't think just tossing it out, and not replacing it with a clearer view of morality which still leads to much the same place, constitutes progress. If people don't believe that anything is really "right" or "wrong" at bottom, then the only reason for not becoming a tyrant, able to use everyone else as an instrument to one's goals, is that one can't manage to pull it off. My reaction to someone like Kim Jong-Il isn't "Lucky stiff to have achieved what everyone else aspires to", and I don't think it would be a good thing if that was other people's reaction to him either.

terry_freeman on September 24, 2010, 08:19:51 am
<sigh> Always importing the "anarchy == chaos" lie, every chance.

Defense in an anarchic society isn't something we need to speculate about; it happens every time someone defends life, liberty or property without invoking the State. It is estimated that Americans use guns to defend themselves about one million times per year. The number of times defense happens with less vigorous tools and methods is probably much, much greater than that.

Why do hoplophobes know so little about self-defense? They assume that every act of defense must send someone on a one-way trip to the morgue. Therefore, they believe the number of acts of defense must be comparable to the number of deaths.

The reality is, over 95% of the time, defense does not require injuring or killing anyone. It doesn't require a fight, merely a credible declaration of intent. 

Anarchists don't need to utterly destroy would-be invaders; that's the collectivist way of thinking. It's easier ( and far more profitable ) to demonstrate two things: those who initiate force will suffer; those who engage in voluntary non-coercive exchanges will profit. This channels activity into voluntary exchanges which benefit both the would-be invader and the locals. What's not to like?


J Thomas on September 24, 2010, 08:46:23 am

Most religious creeds, the Declaration of Independence, and, for that matter, the Zero Aggression Principle, take it for granted that "right and wrong", or morality, have objective existence. Thus, a statement such as "Negro slavery was wrong", while it might be false instead of true, is clearly a statement with meaningful semantic content, despite being about morality, which is abstract - just as the statement "All the complex zeroes of the Riemann Zeta function are on the line 0.5 + iy where y is real" is either true or false, even if we don't, yet, know which one it is.

Its meaningful semantic content, though is something like "I disapprove of Negro Slavery and I think everybody else ought to disapprove too.".

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Mathematics, however, can be viewed as a pure application of the rules of logic. Since logic is a useful tool for dealing with the real world, and, for that matter, geometry, arithmetic, and calculus are useful in this manner, the accuracy of mathematical reasoning is, at least in some cases, susceptible to being checked.

Mathematics starts from axioms, assumptions which are accepted as true. You can reason about what has to follow from your chosen axioms, and if you accept the axioms and the rules of logic, then the conclusions have to be true whenever the axioms are. Goedel's theorem shows that for any finite group of axioms that's "interesting", either there are some things which definitely cannot be proven true or false from those axioms, or there are some things which can be proven both true and false. We want to avoid the case where you can prove things true and false both. So we're left knowing that for things like the real numbers, we cannot find enough axioms to reason from to settle all the questions.

If you have a mathematical proof, and if you find a real-world example that does not fit the proof, that means either there is a mistake in the proof or else it means the axioms of the proof do not fit the real-world situation you want to apply them to.

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There are two ways to think of behavior like lying, cheating, and stealing.

One way is to consider them to be behavior that will cause you not to be well-liked in your community, and that will weaken any society that tolerates them.

Another is to regard them as intrinsically wrong in themselves, period.

I take the former view. Here is a quick explanation about lying: If you lie and  people find out, they will tend not to trust you again and there may be other consequences for you too. So that's not good. If you lie and you are believed, then you have led people into an alternate universe, they think they are living in a different reality but they are likely to bump into things they didn't know were there. It could hurt them in ways you can't predict ahead of time. This is not something to do to your friends, or potential friends. It might be a good tactic against your enemies. When people catch you lying they are likely to think you class them as your enemy.

Unless you are cultivating enemies, tell the truth as you know it. Sometimes the truth to tell people is "It's none of your business.".

This reasoning generalizes. Try not to tell people anything they won't believe, whether or not it's true. They will think you are lying. But if it's something they need to know then tell them anyway despite the cost to you, and do what you can to convince them.

On a deeper level, you don't know what the truth is. You wouldn't know the truth if it drilled through your skull. Pretty much everything you know is interpretation, and might in fact be poor interpretation. And it isn't a trivial exercise to copy an idea out of one head and into another. People usually do not get the same implications you do. The words don't mean the same things to them. Saying you have to tell the truth is like saying you have to avoid killing anything. You kill bacteria in the air with every breath, they stick to your mucus and die. You can no more tell the Truth than you can say the Word from the beginning the Word that is with God and that is God.

In the interest of telling people things they need to understand, you can't just do a core dump of what you know. To be successful you have to start with what you understand about them, and guess what approach they'd follow easily, and make up a kind of story that they'll like to listen to. Try to design it so they'll get the ideas you want to get across, and not something you didn't intend. I don't do that very well at all, I tend to write the sort of thing I'd read, without paying enough attention to my audience. Particularly I tend to write too long. I'll stop here.

SandySandfort on September 24, 2010, 09:12:38 am
Anarchists don't need to utterly destroy would-be invaders; that's the collectivist way of thinking. It's easier ( and far more profitable ) to demonstrate two things: those who initiate force will suffer; those who engage in voluntary non-coercive exchanges will profit. This channels activity into voluntary exchanges which benefit both the would-be invader and the locals. What's not to like?

In my high school, there was a guy called, "Mick." He was smaller than average, but after one or two incidents, the bullies never bothered him. He was a tough little son-of-a-bitch and would never give up in a fight. To get him to stop fighting back you could either knock him out or kill him, otherwise he kept it coming, irrespective of how much you hurt him. Sure, a larger assailant could eventually put him out, but at what cost? Any "win" against Mick was a Pyrrhic victory. The bully left the field of battle, bruised and bloody. Bullies aren't stupid. It's always easier to find more passive victims. Now think about the Afghans against the British, the Soviets and now the US...

"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin."
 -- Motto of the Texas Rangers.

mellyrn on September 24, 2010, 10:18:28 am
First let me say how much I like this forum.  This is a real breath of fresh air -- you guys think.


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There are two ways to think of behavior like lying, cheating, and stealing.

One way is to consider them to be behavior that will cause you not to be well-liked in your community, and that will weaken any society that tolerates them.

Another is to regard them as intrinsically wrong in themselves, period.

It is generally felt by many that the latter way of thinking about them is more useful for encouraging people not to be willing to resort to lying, cheating, and stealing whenever they feel they might not get caught.

What do those people say to their children when the kids ask, "But why is it wrong?"  When you were a kid, did you feel that "It just is" was a satisfactory answer?

When I was about 9, I did a bit of shoplifting.  My thinking was, "Sharing is supposed to be good; here's this guy with all this candy, and he's not sharing.  I know I am not supposed to just take it [but that was all I knew about it, 'not supposed to'] -- and I know he is 'supposed' to share."  When my kids were about 9, we played shopkeeping games, and they learned that the candy in the guy's store was not, in fact, his to "share".  We played with both large and small profit margins till they got the concept.  I told them that especially the little stores had pretty small profit margins, so a small loss amounted to a disproportionately large hurt.  I should go ask them, now that they're all grown, how it worked out -- though I will say (absolutely blushing with pride) that I once had a tent merchant grab her neighbor merchant to watch her stuff in order to chase me & spouse down to say "Thank you!" for how well our kids had behaved in her store.

My thought in child-rearing was to explain, as best I thought they could understand, why I wanted what I wanted of them.  And if I could not explain -- I revisited my own motives and principles to find out why I was asking for the thing in the first place.  Many times I dropped my request (and grew myself in the process).  This earned me the trust of my kids to the point that one time (ONE), when I was really really uncomfortable with something two of them wanted to do but I couldn't explain even to myself, I just said, "Please don't.  It just makes me really really uncomfortable".  And they didn't; they modified the original plan to something that accommodated both them and my insecurities.

I think people do better when they have a 'why'.  That's when they've made it their own.

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On a deeper level, you don't know what the truth is. You wouldn't know the truth if it drilled through your skull. Pretty much everything you know is interpretation, and might in fact be poor interpretation. And it isn't a trivial exercise to copy an idea out of one head and into another.

Sweet. 

macsnafu on September 24, 2010, 10:35:23 am
. . . I've never seen generally accepted definitions of these that would clearly imply that  "involuntary nuisances" are not aggression or that "retributive force that exceeds proportionality" is aggression.

It seems like you're trying to play a "gotcha" game here. I'm not playing. It's not too hard to figure out that an extraproportional response to aggression is something other than defensive or restitutive force [...]

I was not playing some sort of "gotcha" game; I don't trust the Potter Stewart standard ("I know it when I see it").  I've encountered some who argue that there is no (theoretical) need to limit the response to some level of proportionality (and what proportion?); I've also seen examples of people who are extremely sensitive to potential "aggression" -- looking at someone too long or too intently (according to their perception and interpretation), is considered aggression by many.


On a theoretical level, it's pretty straightforward.  You use enough defensive force to stop the aggression, or if after the fact, you use enough retaliatory force to restore or compensate the victim.  Anything more than that is obviously a new aggressive act, by definition.

On a practical level, I would agree that it can be difficult to tell what is an appropriate or proportionate level of force, but still, these things can usually be approximated.  Staring at someone too hard might indeed be considered "aggression" by some (although I would think it's just a matter of invasion of personal space), but would shooting someone for staring be considered appropriate by any reasonable person? 
I love mankind.  It's PEOPLE I can't stand!  - Linus Van Pelt.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on September 24, 2010, 04:19:49 pm

I was not playing some sort of "gotcha" game; I don't trust the Potter Stewart standard ("I know it when I see it").

When you depend on "I know it when I see it" then for many people it matters a whole lot who's ox was gored.

That's why I always try to use the POS/POVI (Principle of Symmetry/Point of View Invariance) principle.  One can derive the ZAP from it.  I also use it to evaluate penal theory.

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But we don't have any good alternative. When people try to make rules that will apply to every case ahead of time, it falls apart. Look at Talmud. Look at the US legal code. Probably there is some way to apply Goedel's theorem, to prove that any legal system which actually covers all the bases will contain contradictions. I haven't done the proof, though.

Both the Talmud and the US legal code were indirectly designed to be both inconsistent and impenetrable.  I say "indirectly" because neither was truly designed with these as the direct goal; rather there was a total disregard for consistency and clarity.  As Tony Hoare remarked (paraphrased), "A [thing] can be either so simple it obviously has no defects or so complex it has no obvious defects."  He was referring to computer programs, but this applies equally well to other systems.  In law especially, it's worth noting that the US Congress does not even work with the actual laws they are attempting to implement, but rather they work with "high level" descriptions of those laws.  In essence, they work on the design document and leave it to bureaucrats to write the code from them.  Of course, they don't even bother with any reviews to see if the code matches the design.

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[...]
It's better if people get a tradition that the right thing is usually to accept arbitration. Then whoever initiates violence instead, in front of witnesses, has some explaining to do. When there are no witnesses and only one survivor then his story might be the only one that gets told....

So, try to listen to the other guy and reach an agreement if you can. Try to agree on an arbitrator and be ready to explain your side reasonably to the arbitrator. If nothing works then you might have no choice but to fight him and he might not agree to any rules. If you won't stand up for yourself then maybe your friends or hid enemies or people who care about justice will stand up for you. Or maybe they won't.

I heartily approve of arbitration, but what principle(s) should be used in the arbitration -- especially in the case of making the aggrieved parties whole and the question of whether or not "punitive damages" should be included, and if so, how to determine them? 

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You might think it ought to always be obvious to everybody what's right. I guarantee it won't always be obvious to everybody. If there isn't a final authority that everybody has to obey, then you work things out the best you can.

This is entirely in agreement with my position that we need principles to cover penalties, rather than using the "Potter Stewart" approach.

quadibloc on September 24, 2010, 06:50:25 pm
I think people do better when they have a 'why'.  That's when they've made it their own.
Oh, now, I do agree with that.

But a reason why something is wrong still leads to the conclusion that it is wrong. Whereas a reason why something is inadvisable leads to the conclusion that it is inadvisable.

The way I see it, morality can start with some basic first principles.

"You wouldn't like it if someone else hit you" can be used to derive the modest conclusion that hitting someone else without a good reason is inadvisable, or the more ambitious conclusion that it violates the other person's rights, and is therefore intrinsically wrong. So I'm not talking about not giving reasons for behavioral injunctions, but rather whether one couches those instructions in practical terms, rights-oriented terms, or moralistic terms.

One problem with practical reasons for good behavior is that they don't apply if you don't get caught. Another problem is that such language lacks... emotional intensity. Refraining from something because it's wrong, it's evil, it transgresses against another's rights - is something one is more firmly committed to than refraining from something because... it's inexpedient.

The basic principles of right and wrong, to my mind, are:

Not to do injury to others, except
- as a response to injury from those others (to oneself or an innocent third party), or
- a minimal injury required in an emergency (holding an infected person under quarantine, or a suspect in advance of trial)

To include damage to, or deprivation of, a person's property in the definition of injury.

Here, we look at how what belongs to no one can become something that belongs to the person who did work on it to make something out of it. (This is not an exhaustive definition of property, though; we have the right to breathe, even though we haven't improved the air - and, similarly, while you can take land away from trees and animals to make a farm from it, it does not follow that the hunting grounds of indigenous people may be treated in the same way.)

And where other rules are needed, they need to be made in a way that is fair; they can't be written to favor one particular person or group of persons unless there is some prior difference that justifies that.

Principles as basic as this don't really have a 'why'; they're the postulates of morality rather than its theorems.

(I should note, though, that this is a "why" in terms of deductive reasoning. There's also inductive reasoning. Thus, if you tell a child stories about people interacting with each other, treating one another with kindness or with cruelty, and these stories elicit an emotional response, the basic postulates of morality can be derived from these slices of life by inductive reasoning - they tell us about what we feel is right and wrong.)
« Last Edit: September 24, 2010, 06:56:00 pm by quadibloc »

 

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