Rothbards natural rights theory is sound, it is essentially the same in content as Hoppe’s from my perspective. Hoppe’s preface of TEOL is glowing with admiration for Rothbard. Hoppe is a disciple of Rothbard writing in the tradition.
Rothbard only fails in his defense of ‘natural rights’, not in his expositions of them, of what they entail, of how they are to be understood. He provides a tour de force in these areas.
Rothbard falls short by relying on the Aristotelian teleology, and appeal to the ‘objective’ value of ‘life’ which he said could not be contradicted. He comes close to, without reaching the Hoppean stance… From my perspective he is groping in the direction of it without seeing what it is. Naturally without it, he flails and seems weak to his critics.
Hoppe’s approach appeared novel to Rothbard, and excited him. Hoppe provides the superior defense.
The above is comment from a Mises Forum discussion. I would clarify that Rothbard fully accepted Hoppe’s argumentation ethics with open arms. Calling it a major breakthrough. I would also agree with him in that:
- "…As a natural rightser, I don’t see any real contradiction here, or why one cannot hold to both the natural-rights and the Hoppean-rights ethic at the same time. Both rights ethics, after all, are grounded, like the realist version of Kantianism, in the nature of reality. Natural law, too, provides a personal and social ethic apart from libertarianism; this is an area that Hoppe is not concerned with…"
"…My very first step in the following chain of reasoning, then, has been called “the a priori of argumentation” by such philosophers as Jürgen Habermas and K.O. Apel. […] With this step I lose, once and for all, the company of philosophers like Habermas and Apel. Yet, as will become clear immediately, it is directly implied in the previous step. That Habermas and Apel are unable to take this step is, I submit, due to the fact that they, too, suffer, as do many other philosophers, from a complete ignorance of economics, and a corresponding blindness towards the fact of scarcity. The step is simply this… […]
- Apel and Habermas are essentially silent on the all-decisive question of what ethical prescription actually follows from the recognition of the “a priori of argumentation.” However, there are remarks indicating that they both seem to believe some sort of participatory social democracy is implied in this a priori. The following explains why nothing could be further from the truth.”
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, EEPP, pg 335
"Argumentation Ethics states that no moral (or I argue more specifically legal; it is about property rights and the justifiability of aggression, after all) argument against the NAP can be successfully justified in discourse without performative contradiction in the act of doing so. The above looks like just another typical failure to understand AE followed by a straw man attack on things that no one actually claims. Of course, a person is capable of running around shouting about how they cannot run and shout but in that case it is harder to find people to take them seriously. So in summary, AE shows certain minimal conditions under which claims about rights can or cannot possibly be successful as valid arguments according to the laws of logic (non-contradiction). It never claims that people are incapable of making invalid and internally contradictory arguments. They certainly are known to do so regularly.”
"The relevant axioms, in the sense of irrefutable starting places, are non-contradiction, action, and argumentation. The first appropriation principle is something that logically follows. I personally have also been taking this in the direction of "self-ownership" (which is a confusing concept anyway) being a special case of the first-appropriation principle, which is the more precise and universalizable concept. Also, the word “homesteading” seems a little silly to me, as it has such strong historical associations with government-run farm and ranch land parcelling programs, and we are trying to talk in this context about timeless and universal social principles.”
- AEN: In applying this a priori approach to ethics, were you attempting to supplant natural rights.
- HOPPE: No, not at all. I was attempting to make the first two chapters of Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty stronger than they were. That in turn would provide more weight to everything that followed. I had some dissatisfaction with rigor with which the initial ethical assumptions of libertarian political theory had been arrived at. Intuitively, they seemed plausible. But I could see that a slightly different approach might be stronger. Murray never considered my revisions to be a threat. His only concern was: does this ultimately make the case? Ultimately, he agreed that it did.
"Hoppe’s most important breakthrough has been to start from standard praxeological axioms (e.g., that every human being acts, that is, employs means to arrive at goals), and, remarkably, to arrive at a hard-nosed anarcho-Lockean political ethic. For over 30 years I have been preaching to the economics profession that this cannot be done: that economists cannot arrive at any policy conclusions (e.g., that government should do X or should not do Y) strictly from value-free economics.
In order to come to a policy conclusion, I have long maintained, economists have to come up with some kind of ethical system. Note that all branches of modern “welfare economics” have attempted to do just that: to continue to be “scientific” and therefore value-free, and yet to make all sorts of cherished policy pronouncements (since most economists would like at some point to get beyond their mathematical models and draw politically relevant conclusions). Most economists would not be caught dead with an ethical system or principle, believing that this would detract from their “scientific” status.
And yet, remarkably and extraordinarily, Hans Hoppe has proven me wrong. He has done it: he has deduced an anarcho-Lockean rights ethic from self-evident axioms. Not only that: he has demonstrated that, just like the action axiom itself, it is impossible to deny or disagree with the anarcho-Lockean rights ethic without falling immediately into self-contradiction and self-refutation.
In other worlds, Hans Hoppe has brought to political ethics what Misesians are familiar with in praxeology and Aristotelian-Randians are familiar with in metaphysics: what we might call “hard-core axiomatics.” It is self-contradictory and therefore self-refuting for anyone to deny the Misesian action axiom (that everyone acts), since the very attempt to deny it is itself an action. It is self-contradictory and therefore self-refuting to deny the Randian axiom of consciousness, since some consciousness has to be making this attempt at denial. For if someone cannot attempt to deny a proposition without employing it, he is not only caught in an inextricable self-contradiction; he is also granting to that proposition the status of an axiom.”
Some humor for Conza.
"…It is not difficult to detect that both a priori axioms—of action and argumentation—are intimately related. On the one hand, actions are more fundamental than argumentations with whose existence the idea of validity emerges, as argumentation is only a subclass of action. On the other hand, to recognize what has just been recognized regarding action and argumentation and their relation to each other requires argumentation, and so, in this sense, argumentation must be considered more fundamental than action: without argumentation nothing could be said to be-known about action. But then, as it is in argumentation that the insight is revealed that—while it might not be known to be so prior to any argumentation—in fact the possibility of argumentation presupposes action in that validity claims can only be explicitly discussed in the course of an argumentation if the individuals doing so already know what it means to act and to have knowledge implied in action—both the meaning of action in general and argumentation in particular must be thought of as logically necessary interwoven strands of a priori knowledge.
What this insight into the interrelation between the a priori of action and the a priori of argumentation suggests is the following:
- Traditionally, the task of epistemology has been conceived of as that of formulating what can be known to be true a priori and also what can be known a priori not to be the subject of a priori knowledge. Recognizing, as we have just done, that knowledge claims are raised and decided upon in the course of argumentation and that this is undeniably so, one can now reconstruct the task of epistemology more precisely as that of formulating those propositions which are argumentatively indisputable in that their truth is already implied in the very fact of making one’s argument and so cannot be denied argumentatively; and to delineate the range of such a priori knowledge from the realm of propositions whose validity cannot be established in this way but require additional, contingent in formation for their validation, or that cannot be validated at all and so are mere metaphysical statements in the pejorative sense of the term metaphysical.
Yet what is implied in the very fact of arguing? It is to this question that our insight into the inextricable interconnection between the a priori of argumentation and that of action provides an answer:
- On a very general level, it cannot be denied argumentatively that argumentation presupposes action and that arguments, and the knowledge embodied in them, are those of actors. And more specifically it cannot then be denied that knowledge itself is a category of action; that the structure of knowledge must be constrained by the peculiar function which knowledge fulfills with in the framework of action categories; and that the existence of such structural constraints can never be disproved by any knowledge whatsoever.
It is in this sense that the insights contained in praxeology must be regarded as providing the foundations of epistemology. Knowledge is a category quite distinct from those that I have explained earlier—from ends and means. The ends which we strive to attain through our actions, and the means which we employ in order to do so, are both scarce values. The values attached to our goals are subject to consumption and are exterminated and destroyed in consumption and thus must forever be produced a new. And the means employed must be economized, too. Not so, however, with respect to knowledge—regardless of whether one considers it a means or an end in itself. Of course, the acquisition of knowledge requires scarce means—at least one’s body and time. Yet once knowledge is acquired, it is no longer scarce. It can neither be consumed, no rare the services that it can render as a means subject to depletion. Once there, it is an inexhaustible resource and incorporates an everlasting value provided that it is not simply forgotten. Yet knowledge is not a free good in the same sense that air, under normal circumstances, is a free good. Instead, it is a category of action.
It is not only a mental ingredient of each and every action, quite unlike air, but more importantly; knowledge, and not air, is subject to validation, which is to say that it must prove to fulfill a positive function for an actor within the invariant constraints of the categorical framework of actions. It is the task of epistemology to clarify what these constraints are and what one can thus know about the structure of knowledge as such.
While such recognition of the praxeological constraints on the structure of knowledge might not immediately strike one as in itself of great significance, it does have some highly important implications.”
"Since considerations such as these are irrelevant in order to judge the validity of a mathematical proof, for instance, so are they beside the point here. In the same way as the validity of a mathematical proof is not restricted to the moment of proving it, so is the validity of the libertarian property theory not limited to instances of argumentation. If correct, the argument demonstrates its universal justification. (Of all utilitarian critics only Steele takes up the challenge that I had posed for them: that the assignment of property rights cannot be dependent on any later outcome because in this case no one could ever know before the outcome what he was or was not justified to do; and that in advocating a consequentialist position utilitarianism is [strictly speaking] no ethic at all if it fails to answer the all decisive question “what am I justified to do now?” Steele solves this problem in the same way as he proceeds throughout his comment: by misunderstanding what it is.
He misconceives my argument as subject to empirical testing and misrepresents it as claiming to show that “I favor a libertarian ethic” follows from “I am saying something,” while in fact it claims that entirely independent of whatever people happen to favor or utter “the libertarian ethic can be given an ultimate propositional justification” follows from “I claim such and such to be valid, i.e., capable of propositional justification.” His response to the consequentialist problem is yet another stroke of genius: No, says Steele, consequentialism must not involve a praxeologically absurd waiting-for-the-outcome ethic. His example: Certain rules are advocated first, then implemented, and later adjusted depending on outcomes. While this is indeed an example of consequentialism, I fail to see how it should provide an answer to “what are we justified in doing now?” and so escape the absurdities of a waiting- for-the-outcome ethic.
The starting point is unjustified [Which rules? Not only the outcome depends on this!]; and the consequentialist procedure is unjustified, too. [Why not adopt rules and stick to them regardless of the outcome?] Steele’s answer to the question “what am I justified in doing?” is “that depends on whatever rules you start out with, then on the outcome of whatever this leads to, and finally on whether or not you care about such an outcome.” Whatever this is, it is no ethic.”
not, as the mentioned critics seem to think, a proof that means to
show the impossibility of certain empirical events so that it could be refuted by empirical evidence. Instead, it is a proof that it is impossible to justify nonlibertarian property principles propositionally without falling into contradictions. Whatever such a thing is worth (and I’ll come to this shortly), it should be clear that empirical evidence has absolutely no bearing on it. So what if there is slavery, the gulag, taxation? The proof concerns the issue that claiming such institutions can be justified involves a performative contradiction. It is purely intellectual in nature, like logical, mathematical,or praxeological proofs. Its validity, like theirs, can be established independent of any contingent experiences. Nor is its validity in any way affected, as several critics—most notoriously Waters—seem to think, by whether or not people like, favor, understand, or come to a consensus regarding it, or whether or not they are actually engaged in argumentation.
"Second, there is the logical gap between “is-” and “ought-statements” which natural rights proponents have failed to bridge successfully—except for advancing some general critical remarks regarding the ultimate validity of the fact-value dichotomy. Here the praxeological proof of libertarianism has the advantage of offering a completely value-free justification of private property. It remains entirely in the realm of is-statements and never tries to derive an “ought” from an “is.”
The structure of the argument is this:
- (a) justification is propositional justification—a priori true is-statement;
- (b) argumentation presupposes property in one’s body and the homesteading principle—a priori true is-statement; and
- (c) then, no deviation from this ethic can be argumentatively justified—a priori true is-statement.
The proof also offers a key to an understanding of the nature of the fact-value dichotomy: Ought-statements cannot be derived from is-statements. They belong to different logical realms. It is also clear, however, that one cannot even state that there are facts and values if no propositional exchanges exist, and that this practice of propositional exchanges in turn presupposes the acceptance of the private property ethic as valid. In other words, cognition and truth-seeking as such have a normative foundation, and the normative foundation on which cognition and truth rest is the recognition of private property rights.”
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economics and Ethics of Private Property
"In general, I am moving in the direction of a one-step argument in which self-ownership is not treated separately from homesteading, but as a special example of homesteading such that there is a single unified justification of both “self-ownership” and homesteading of external resources. I think the key to resolving this issue more clearly is once again better applying the subject/object distinction, in this case to the precise meaning of “self.”
In this view, the act of making use of one’s own physical body before anyone else does as part of the natural process of human development is simply the prototype of a first-appropriation (“homesteading”) act. The whole body is a “relevant technological unit” in Rothbard’s sense, a natural unity for appropriation by an actor (Let’s say you are hunting and kill a deer. If a stranger shows up and tries to arbitrarily claim a section of it, which part of the deer is yours? The whole deer; not just the patch where the arrow struck! That would be another application of the RTU idea).
Now, in the idea of self-ownership, who is doing the appropriating of the “self”? Can the “self” appropriate the “self?” What does that mean? This is where this literature has sometimes gotten confusing. The answer is there, but it’s not always clarified as well as I think it could be.
Much of the confusion stems from a double meaning attached to “self” (sorting this out is also a resolution path for the larger “mind-body problem” controversy, as Ken Wilber has suggested). To unpack this, I define the “self” as the subject, the actor. That subject can claim the physical body associated with itself, which is the “self” as an object, that is, “empirically” measurable in the physical world. Thus, the human being considered as an acting person is a SUBJECT and not any kind of physical “object.” An acting person is not just a body, not just an empirical object, like a kidney or a stone (or a kidney stone…). A subject as contrasted with a physical object is not measurable or claimable as property at all. This (subject) “self” is an intangible like an idea (the basis of anti-IP thought too, is that ideas are not scarce objects and can therefore not be properly owned). The acting person has a physically observable aspect, but is not reducible to physical substance. We are subjects-and-objects by nature.
This is why I try to bring in Ken Wilber to re-emphasize the importance of better refining our differentiation of the interior perspective of a subject (an acting person) and the exterior perspective of an object, which can be a non-bodily external “object” or a bodily “object” such as a particular part of the body in just the same sense. AE [Argumentation Ethics] is talking about subjects making statements and the nature of justifiability of claims so made. It bridges subject/object in that it treats claim-making as a physical action, which it is, rather than a disembodied one, which is impossible. It depicts a subject making use of physical resources (objects) to make propositional claims. Such resources include the acting person’s physical body, etc. In contrast to this necessary dualism, two flavors of reductionism will get you either “an object making claims” (an internal contradiction) or “a subject making claims without any physical means for making them” (an absurdity).
Actually appropriating physical objects through a process of action and claiming is a different layer from having a consciousness capable of acting/claiming. The prototype of appropriation, as I said, is using and claiming one’s own physical body. It may already be evident from the above that I am working to develop this into a one-step argument, whereas Hoppe’s presentations have been multi-step, in that self-ownership is given first and then the justifiability of other appropriations are based on it in step two. However, if we maintain a clear subject-object duality of personhood the whole way through, “self-ownership” (meaning an acting subject’s ownership of its own physical body) is not any different from any other case of homesteading scarce physical resources; it is just another result of the acquisition by an actor/subject of a physical resource, in this case, the acting subject making use of the physical body that is associated with that subject in “a subject/object duality pair” (that is, “a person” ☺). This has also been harder to see, because relative to the case of a truly external resource such as an apple, a subject is uniquely positioned to make use of and claim the physical body uniquely associated with itself, the alternative being some kind of fantastic neurobiological remote control system (although guardianship of someone incapable of acting, as below, is a more realistic alternative).
So we actually embody methodological dualism because we are more or less integrated subject/objects. Yet in theorizing, we always have to go back to asking which perspective we are talking about or taking. We may have been missing that self(own-body)-appropriation is just another case of homesteading, simply because it is so obvious that it is hard to even reflect on it. The physical body is one case of first appropriation in which it is basically impossible for it to be otherwise. (I say, “basically” because, in extremis, one could imagine a hypothetical human who was born, but never developed in such a way as to be able to discernibly act or make choices. Such a person would never develop the ability to “take over” the reigns of their own life from their initial caretakers and would presumably remain a ward of a parent or guardian).”