Why should a libertarian care about Hoppe’s “Argumentation Ethics” proof of objective ethics? I’ll be quoting Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s 2016 talk for the Property and Freedom Society to explain the libertarian Implications of Argumentation Ethics.
First, I’ll summarize Hoppe’s proof: All truth claims are raised, justified, and decided upon in the course of an argumentation. The truth of this first proposition cannot be disputed without contradiction. One cannot argue that one does not argue. Argumentation is a purposeful action with the goal of attaining agreement regarding the truth value of an argument. Argumentation is a conflict-free, mutually agreed upon, and peaceful form of interaction aimed at resolving the initial disagreement and reaching a mutually agreed on answer to the truth value of an argument. The norms that make argumentation possible cannot be argumentatively disputed without contradiction. Each person engaging in argumentation must be entitled to self-ownership to be able to independently argue and come to conclusions. Each person engaging in argumentation must be entitled to ownership of prior possessions. Any argument to the contrary is a contradiction, if argumentation is to be a peaceful and conflict-free resolution to disagreement. To deny self-ownership and private property is to deny a person’s autonomy while affirming dependency and conflict and is contrary to the purpose of argumentation.
So, what are the libertarian implications of this proof? Hoppe explains in the video from his 2016 PFS talk and I quote some of his main points below.
Video Notes (Quoting Hoppe)
- “All argumentation has a propositional content. Whenever we argue, we argue about something. This can be argumentation itself, that is, the very subject I have been speaking about so far, or the content can be all sorts of things. They can be matters of fact, or cause and effect, such as whether global warming presently exists and is man-made, or whether or not an increase in the money supply will lead to greater overall prosperity, but they can also be about normative matters. Such as, whether or not the possession; the actual control of something by someone, implies his rightful ownership of the thing in question, or if slavery or taxation are justified or not.”
- “In short, argumentation can be either about facts, or it can be about norms. The source of an argumentation about facts is what I shall call, a disagreement, and its purpose is to resolve this disagreement and effect a change to the better in one’s own factual beliefs, so as to make actions motivated by these beliefs more successful in the future. The source of an argumentation about norms, on the other hand, is conflict and its purpose is to resolve this conflict and effect a change in one’s system of values so as to better avoid future conflict.”
- “Rather than factual disagreements, then, it is the experience of conflicts that motivates most serious argumentation. And, it is argumentation about conflicts that generates our most intense interests. Now, conflicts arise whenever two actors want and try to use one in the same physical means, the same body, the same standing room, the same external objects, for the attainment of different goals, that is, when their interests regarding such means are not harmonious, but incompatible or antagonistic. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Only one person’s will or that of another person can prevail, but not both. Whenever we argue with one another about matter of conflicts then, we demonstrate that it is our purpose to find a peaceful argumentative solution to some given conflict. We have agreed not to fight, but to argue instead.”
- “The task faced by any opponent and proponent engaged in an argumentation about conflict, then, is to find a peaceful resolution not only for the conflict at hand, but also for all potential future conflicts, so as to be able to interact henceforth with one another in a conflict-free and peaceful manner despite and not withstanding each other’s differing interests whether now or in the future.”
- “The definitive answer to this problem is provided by a brief analysis of the logic of action, that is, by method of praxeological reasoning. Logically, to avoid all future interpersonal conflict, it is only necessary that every good, every physical thing employed as a means in the pursuit of human ends, be always and at all times owned privately, that is, be controlled exclusively by one specific person or voluntary partnership or association, rather than another. And that it be always recognizable and clear which good is owned by whom and which is not or owned by someone else. Then, the interests, the plans, and the purposes of different actors can be as different as they can be, and yet, no conflict will arise between them as long as their actions involve exclusively the use of their own private property and leave the property of others alone and physically intact.”
- “How can physical things become someone’s private property in the first place? And, how can physical conflict in the appropriation of physical things be avoided? Now, praxeological analysis also yields a conclusive answer to these questions. For one, to avoid conflict it is necessary that the appropriation of things as means is affected through actions rather than through mere words, declarations, or decrees. Because, only through a person’s actions taking place at a particular place and time can an objective and intersubjectively ascertainable link between a particular person and a particular thing and its extension and boundary be established, and hence, can rival ownership claims be settled in an objective manner.”
- “Not every recognizable taking of things into one’s possession is peaceful and can thus be argumentatively justified. Only the first appropriator of some previously unappropriated thing can acquire this thing peacefully and without conflict, and only his possession, then, can be regarded as his property, for, by definition, as the first appropriator, he cannot have run into conflict with anyone else in appropriating the good in question as everyone else appeared on the scene only later. And any late-comer, then, can take possession of the things in question only with the first-comer’s consent, either because the first-comer had voluntarily transferred his property to him, in which case and from which time on, he then becomes its exclusive owner, or else, because the first-comer had granted him some conditional use rights concerning his property, in which case, he did not become the thing’s owner, but its rightful possessor.”
- “Indeed, to argue contrary to this and say that a late-comer, irrespective of the will of the first possessor of some given thing, should be regarded as its owner entails a performative or dialectic contradiction, because this would lead to endless conflict rather than eternal peace and, hence, be contrary to the very purpose of argumentation.”
- “If different persons want to live in peace with one another, conceivably from the beginning of mankind until its end, and in arguing about conflict they obviously demonstrate that they want to do this, then only one solution exists, that I shall call the Principle of Prior Possessions: all just and lawful and argumentatively justifiable possessions, whether in the form of outright property or as lawful possessions, go back directly or indirectly through a chain of conflict-free and hence, mutually beneficial, property title transfers to prior and ultimately original appropriators and acts of original appropriation or production, and vice-versa, all possessions of things by some person that are neither the result of his prior appropriation or production nor the result nor the result of voluntary and conflict-free acquisition from a prior appropriator or producer of these things, are unlawful and, hence, argumentatively unjustifiable possessions.”
- “Prima facie, the present possessor of the thing in question appears to be its prior possessor and, hence, its rightful owner, and the burden of proof to the contrary, that is, the demonstration that the evidence provided by the status quo is false and deceptive, is always on the opponent of the present state of affairs. He must make his case, and if he can’t, then not only remains everything as before, but the opponent then actually owes the proponent compensation for the misuse made of his time in having to defend himself against the opponent’s unjustified claims made against him, which reduces the likelihood of frivolous accusations.”
- “No one can consistently argue that he is the rightful owner of another person’s body. Now, he can say so, of course, but in doing so and seeking another person’s ascent to this claim, he becomes involved in a contradiction. Hence, it is and can be recognized as an a priori truth that each person is the rightful owner of the physical body that he naturally comes with and has been born with and that he has directly appropriated prior and before any other person could possibly do so indirectly by means of his own body.”
- “I am the lawful owner of my nature-given body with everything naturally in it and attached to it, and you are the lawful owner of your entire nature-given body. Any argument to the contrary would land its proponent in a performative contradiction. For me to say, for instance, in an argumentation with you, that you do not rightfully own all of your nature-given body is contradicted by the fact that in so arguing, and not fighting with you, I must recognize and treat you as another person with a separate body and recognizably separate physical borders from me and my body.”
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