Non-aggression Principle (and other dogmas)

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Non-aggression Principle (and other dogmas)

Post by Lay Vegan » Fri May 18, 2018 2:59 am

I’m going to begin this thread by making a disclaimer; I'm *not* a libertarian. Nor is likely that I will ever be one. So if I misunderstand the libertarian position, or the NAP, then apologies in advance.

It’s come to my attention that a lot of libertarian thinkers promote the NAP, which is an ethical stance condemning aggression and violence as “inherently wrong.” Libertarians seem to take this a step further, condemning not just physical violence, but any act of “forcible interference” (taxation, law enforcement, public facilities etc). It seems to be hastily built on some kind of rule-utilitarian presumption that “no aggression” always leads to the greatest good. Which is also ironic, given that without taxation, governments likely wouldn’t garner enough to funds to hire any law enforcement officials, or to construct the public facilities we all use, thus contributing to greater harm in society. While I think this principle has good intentions, I’m not convinced that aggression in and of itself is harmful, or never justified.

If a knife-wielding maniac thrusts his way into my home, and threatens to kill my family and me, why should I adhere to such a rule? Which scenario leads to greater harm; a family of 5 dead and a psychopathic murderer who lives, or a family of 5 alive and one psychopathic murderer dead?

Using the same scenario on property rights, who is the real “aggressor?” The knife-wielding pyscho who violates private property, or the man who shoots the intruder in self-defense? If you say the intruder is the aggressor for violating private property, then the NAP’s focus on physical violence seems superfluous. If you say I am the aggressor for shooting the intruder, then the libertarian stance on not violating property rights seems moot.

Overall, NAP acolytes seem to be more interested in their dogma than they do consequences (good or bad) that entail non-aggression. It’s like intersectionalists valuing blanket equality as “inherently good” despite the many harms that entail economic systems like communism. This is the main problem. NAP is entirely incompatible with any rational consequentialist system concerned with interests or suffering.

Why would anyone adhere to such a dogma? If there are any libertarians or people who follow NAP, I’d love to hear your view.

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Post by mkm » Fri May 18, 2018 5:34 am

I don't claim that NAP or libertarian ethical framework in general are consistent, but in your examples, when someone breaks NAP he (or she) becomes the exception from NAP, so you may be violent against such a person.
Another thing that got my attention was putting forcible interference in "". If you don't think whether things you listed don't count as violence, try for example not to pay taxes. I know, I know, libertarian use public utilities, so they should pay for it (i.e. pay taxes), but libertarians end goal would be probably some form of ruling without the government and without public utilities, and also it's not that paid taxes are spent on these public utilities only (AFAIK it's small fraction of the budget). For example wars are drain for tax money too and for libertarians wars are immoral and they don't want to pay taxes that are spent on that purpose. Compare it to being vegan and paying taxes while government subsidizes factory farming.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm

mkm wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 5:34 am
I don't claim that NAP or libertarian ethical framework in general are consistent, but in your examples, when someone breaks NAP he (or she) becomes the exception from NAP, so you may be violent against such a person.
So if the act of aggression was initiated by someone else, then retaliating with aggression is justified? If so, this makes NAP only slightly more reasonable than deontological pacifism.
mkm wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 5:34 am
Another thing that got my attention was putting forcible interference in "". If you don't think whether things you listed don't count as violence, try for example not to pay taxes. I know, I know, libertarian use public utilities, so they should pay for it (i.e. pay taxes),
Shooting the intruder out of self-defense may be considered "violence" in the dictionary-definition sense of the word, but it's still a justifiable act.
mkm wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 5:34 am
but libertarians end goal would be probably some form of ruling without the government and without public utilities, and also it's not that paid taxes are spent on these public utilities only (AFAIK it's small fraction of the budget). For example wars are drain for tax money too and for libertarians wars are immoral and they don't want to pay taxes that are spent on that purpose. Compare it to being vegan and paying taxes while government subsidizes factory farming.
This is precisely why I don't see the libertarian or anarchist stance as reasonable or compatible with any rational system cornered with interests or suffering. The overall benefits of taxation (a cohesive functioning society with public services and law-and-order) outweighs the harm (violation of property). I don't see "theft" as harmful in itself. When it leads to overall harm, then it should be discouraged, but I don't see theft as inherently wrong. Of course, we can talk about whether or not taxation can be classified as theft, but that's the topic of another thread. I've talked just a tiny bit about the problems of "private" facilities (like roads) here, and why I don't think countries base their laws on these fruitless principles; viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3984&start=20

Again, it's akin to intersectionalists/social justice advocates upholding blanket equality as "good" in and of itself. Fairness and equality usually lead to less harm in society, but there are fundamental problems with economic systems like communism, which is why no society can prosper on such a system. I don't see how any society can function without a government that enforces the law and levies taxes on all its working citizens. A basic necessity that seems to go against the principles of NAP.

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Post by mkm » Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am

Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
So if the act of aggression was initiated by someone else, then retaliating with aggression is justified? If so, this makes NAP only slightly more reasonable than deontological pacifism.
How do you decide which ethical rules are reasonable and which are not?
Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
Shooting the intruder out of self-defense may be considered "violence" in the dictionary-definition sense of the word, but it's still a justifiable act.
Of course.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
This is precisely why I don't see the libertarian or anarchist stance as reasonable or compatible with any rational system cornered with interests or suffering.
Then you just try to confront the libertarian ethical framework with its rules with your "the most rational of them all" framework in which you assume that all that matters are interests and suffering, instead of freedom and non-violation.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
The overall benefits of taxation (a cohesive functioning society with public services and law-and-order) outweighs the harm (violation of property). I don't see "theft" as harmful in itself. When it leads to overall harm, then it should be discouraged, but I don't see theft as inherently wrong. Of course, we can talk about whether or not taxation can be classified as theft, but that's the topic of another thread. I've talked just a tiny bit about the problems of "private" facilities (like roads) here, and why I don't think countries base their laws on these fruitless principles; http://philosophicalvegan.com/viewtopic ... 4&start=20
Your reasoning is correct based on assumptions you have made. Libertarians don't agree with you at the basis.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
Again, it's akin to intersectionalists/social justice advocates upholding blanket equality as "good" in and of itself. Fairness and equality usually lead to less harm in society, but there are fundamental problems with economic systems like communism, which is why no society can prosper on such a system. I don't see how any society can function without a government that enforces the law and levies taxes on all its working citizens. A basic necessity that seems to go against the principles of NAP.
There is still problem of measuring the "overall harm". I see both rules-driven and ad-hoc ethical systems, as having problems with its consequences. To kill one innocence person to safe 20 could be forbidden in the first one, but probably OK in the second one, and it makes me shudder a little bit. On the other hand all hard rules can be exploited and lead to unintuitive consequences.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Sat May 19, 2018 9:18 pm

mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
How do you decide which ethical rules are reasonable and which are not?
Rational ethical systems take into account the consequences of certain actions, as opposed to the intrinsic nature of actions themselves. Such a system determines the “rightness” or “wrongness” of actions by the sum of good or bad consequences any given action brings forward. Actual Consequentialism is just one example. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/ Dogmatic rules on the other hand are essentially “duties” to always be fulfilled, regardless of context. They take into account neither interests nor harm. NAP is the perfect example of this. I think it has good intentions, since violence and aggression tend to produce overall bad consequences, but I don’t see any use in upholding non-aggression as “good” in and of itself. Nor does NAP, or any other dogma, help to resolve conflicts of duty (taxation being a violation of property, but necessary for maintaining a productive government).
mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
Then you just try to confront the libertarian ethical framework with its rules with your "the most rational of them all" framework in which you assume that all that matters are interests and suffering, instead of freedom and non-violation.
Pragmatic Pacifism ;) ;)

On a serious note, I’d totally deconstruct NAP as the core ethical framework of libertarianism, and substitute it with some kind of pragmatic respect of property rights.
mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
Your reasoning is correct based on assumptions you have made. Libertarians don't agree with you at the basis.
Sure, libertarians would disagree that NAP is dogmatic, but I’m skeptical that any society can function on the basis of such a principle. Sometimes, violation of property must occur at some level in order for society to function. Society is predicated on taxation.
mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
There is still problem of measuring the "overall harm". I see both rules-driven and ad-hoc ethical systems, as having problems with its consequences.
I agree that it isn’t reasonable to thoroughly evaluate the overall consequences of every moral decision. And in those specific scenarios, I would make the decision that likely produces the least harm.
mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
On the other hand all hard rules can be exploited and lead to unintuitive consequences.
I’m concerned with ACTUAL consequences that can be measured and observed. Unintended as they may be, they may still lead to less or more harm.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Sat May 19, 2018 9:24 pm

mkm wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:39 am
Lay Vegan wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 4:43 pm
Shooting the intruder out of self-defense may be considered "violence" in the dictionary-definition sense of the word, but it's still a justifiable act.
Of course.
Also, just curious; why would you say this act of violence is justified? Would killing the intruder out of self-defense be justifiable? Why or why not?

This is a perfect example of a conflict of duty that deontological rules (like NAP) fail to resolve.

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Post by mkm » Tue May 22, 2018 5:47 am

Lay Vegan wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:18 pm
Rational ethical systems take into account the consequences of certain actions, as opposed to the intrinsic nature of actions themselves. Such a system determines the “rightness” or “wrongness” of actions by the sum of good or bad consequences any given action brings forward. Actual Consequentialism is just one example. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/ Dogmatic rules on the other hand are essentially “duties” to always be fulfilled, regardless of context.
Is there a significant difference between consequentialism and deontological one that says that the rule to follow is "maximize goodness of outcomes"?

There is also still the problem of measurement. The structure of space of consequences may be such that some outcomes may be incomparable with respect to their "goodness".
Lay Vegan wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:18 pm
Pragmatic Pacifism ;) ;)

On a serious note, I’d totally deconstruct NAP as the core ethical framework of libertarianism, and substitute it with some kind of pragmatic respect of property rights.
I think you can disprove hard propertarianism in libertarian framework, if we assume that for example the rule self-ownership is a part of it. If Bob and Alice use their resources and parts of their bodies to make a baby, then it should be their baby, but on the other hand the baby own itself, and the ownership is exclusive by definition.
So I think it basically even must be pragmatic, as you say.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:18 pm
Sure, libertarians would disagree that NAP is dogmatic, but I’m skeptical that any society can function on the basis of such a principle. Sometimes, violation of property must occur at some level in order for society to function. Society is predicated on taxation.
Sure, some part of libertarians think it's "natural" or some other nonsense. If it can't be substantiated, it's dogmatic, but in that sense every framework is dogmatic to some extent, because no framework emerges from vacuum.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:18 pm
I agree that it isn’t reasonable to thoroughly evaluate the overall consequences of every moral decision. And in those specific scenarios, I would make the decision that likely produces the least harm.
I don't think it helps a lot. Now you have to not only have some tools to assess "goodness" of actions, but also decide which are probable and which are not. These assessments may and will be inconsistent between people. The greatest advantage of consequentialism is also its main problem, though you could probably argue that it just doesn't pretend to not to be ad-hoc like deontological systems.
Lay Vegan wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 9:24 pm
Also, just curious; why would you say this act of violence is justified? Would killing the intruder out of self-defense be justifiable? Why or why not?

This is a perfect example of a conflict of duty that deontological rules (like NAP) fail to resolve.
Some variation of the golden rule. I can do to intruder whatever he tries to do against me, and since the intruder initiated violence and I don't know his motives (except they are malicious), I may overreact.

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Post by Lay Vegan » Wed May 30, 2018 7:29 pm

mkm wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 5:47 am
Is there a significant difference between consequentialism and deontological one that says that the rule to follow is "maximize goodness of outcomes"?
Great question. I've thought about this a lot. I know @brimstoneSalad probably falls somewhere in the altruist/utilitarian camp, so I'd like hear his thoughts on this (also correct me if I make some mistakes).

Although rule-consequentialism and deontology seem similar at face value (because they’re “structured” on rules) they actually differ in essence. Take Kant’s Catagorical Imperative for example:
Kant wrote:Act according to that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will it to become a universal law.


If one cannot wish a maxim to be applied to all reasonable beings, then it cannot be moral. If you cannot allow every person who walks into your store to steal merchandize, then you cannot go about stealing from others’ stores. Ever. Under any circumstance, because theft can’t be universalized. If an act cannot be universalized, then it is not a moral duty, even if it brings you pleasure.

Rule consequencialism on the other hand states that whether or not an action is in accordance with a certain code of rules, that is, rules that are set to bring overall good consequences, would determine the moral worth of that action.

If one’s country is in economic turmoil, and she cannot find employment to feed her starving child, then a rule consequentialist would say she must steal food from the nearby store to save her child’s life. The alternative option would be to respect the property of the store owner, and allow her her child to starve. 


Either of these ethical systems seem similar, but in reality, rule consequentialism is set with a goal in mind, that goal being to maximize utility. But deontological rules, like the Categorical Imperative, are designed to be a goals in themselves. And these duties may or may not maximize utility.
mkm wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 5:47 am
There is also still the problem of measurement. The structure of space of consequences may be such that some outcomes may be incomparable with respect to their "goodness".
Could you elaborate on that?
mkm wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 5:47 am
I think you can disprove hard propertarianism in libertarian framework, if we assume that for example the rule self-ownership is a part of it. If Bob and Alice use their resources and parts of their bodies to make a baby, then it should be their baby, but on the other hand the baby own itself, and the ownership is exclusive by definition.
So I think it basically even must be pragmatic, as you say.
On this note, I wonder what the libertarian stance on abortion is. If babies possess self-ownership, then abortion would certainly violate NAP. But banning abortion could also be deemed an act aggression over the mother's body, and also a violation of NAP.
mkm wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 5:47 am
Some variation of the golden rule. I can do to intruder whatever he tries to do against me, and since the intruder initiated violence and I don't know his motives (except they are malicious), I may overreact.
Agreed.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed May 30, 2018 7:58 pm

That's basically Ask Yourself's belief, that deontology and consequentialism are actually the same, it just depends on the rule.

@Lay Vegan did a good job of explaining the difference.

Kantian deontology tries to be a system to arrive at rules based on universifiability and it only cares about its notion of "contradiction" of means and not about eventual outcome (ends). I don't know how Kant would have responded to a maxim like minimize suffering, if he would even allow that to be called a maxim because it's ends focused instead of a prescription for means. Either way, it would likely result in many of what Kant would see as "contradictions" since no consistent means could be asserted from it. Of course, like Ask Yourself, Kant played a bit fast and loose with the notion of contradictions.

Deontolgy doesn't make a lot of sense, though, so it's easy to deconstruct it and say it can mean anything... but it's pretty well established that it means anything except consequentialism just in terms of how the two are usually referenced as opposing moral theories. It's not clear if it's useful to try to equate them, because they're speaking to very very different approaches, one the means and one the ends.

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Post by mkm » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:07 am

Lay Vegan wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 7:29 pm
Although rule-consequentialism and deontology seem similar at face value (because they’re “structured” on rules) they actually differ in essence. Take Kant’s Catagorical Imperative for example:
(...)
I agree with you said, but it wasn't my question. I know that consequentialism and deontology differ, that's why I proposed a particular deontological system with the rule (maxim?) "maximizing good outcomes". In my view that way you frame deontological system to be basically the consequentialism. @brimstoneSalad identified the point of my question well (though still said that your explanation is ok, while it kind of missed the point), pointing out that such system may not be "proper" deontological one. Is it so?
Lay Vegan wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 7:29 pm
Could you elaborate on that?
We make morally impactful decisions that harm some while benefit others. The problem is: when the sum of benefits outweigh the harms? Do we even can compare them? Why or why not? For example, if I like listening to loud music, but my neighbor values silence, how do we weigh harms and benefits?
Lay Vegan wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 7:29 pm
On this note, I wonder what the libertarian stance on abortion is. If babies possess self-ownership, then abortion would certainly violate NAP. But banning abortion could also be deemed an act aggression over the mother's body, and also a violation of NAP.
There was a topic on abortion and I added my 2 cents in that spirit: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3920

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