Rothbard on Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics
This is an excerpt where he discusses Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s argumentation ethics.
- Nevertheless, by coming out with a genuinely new theory (amazing in itself, considering the long history of political philosophy) Hoppe is in danger of offending all the intellectual vested interests of the libertarian camp. Utilitarians, who should be happy that value-freedom was preserved, will be appalled to find that Hoppean rights are even more absolutist and “dogmatic” than natural rights. Natural rightsers, while happy at the “dogmatism,” will be unwilling to accept an ethics not grounded in the broad nature of things. Randians will be particularly upset because the Hoppean system is grounded (as was the Misesian) on the Satanic Immanuel Kant and his “synthetic a priori.”
Randians might be mollified, however, to learn that Hoppe is influenced by a group of German Kantians (headed by mathematician Paul Lorenzen) who interpret Kant as a deeply realistic Aristotelian, in contrast to the idealist interpretation common in the United States.
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.
— Murray N. Rothbard, Beyond Is and Ought
“The attempt to disprove the action-axiom would itself be an action aimed at a goal, requiring means, excluding other courses of action, incurring costs, subjecting the actor to the possibility of achieving or not achieving the desired goal and so leading to a profit or a loss.
And the very possession of such knowledge then can never be disputed, and the validity of these concepts can never be falsified by any contingent experience, for disputing or falsifying anything would already have presupposed their very existence. As a matter of fact, a situation in which these categories of action would cease to have a real existence could itself never be observed, for making an observation, too, is an action.”
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method
- Libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life… Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.
— Myth and Truth About Libertarianism
That is essentially libertarianism in a nutshell. The above definition provides the big tent perspective. As long as you are attempting to apply the non-aggression principle there can be general agreement about most conclusions. However, what one bases their justifications on does matter otherwise the agreement is merely superficial. There is no problem with fellow travelers who differ with their epistemology as long as they are radical abolitionists.
Put simply libertarianism begins from first principles with the concept of self-ownership, and original appropriation which necessarily leads to the non-aggression principle. The a priori of argumentation, or argumentation ethics offers the praxeological proof which establishes self-ownership as an axiom. It serves as a negative critique of justifiable norms. It bounds the scope of norms that can be consistently justified without pain of contradiction.
- 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.” — Hoppe, Economics and Ethics of Private Property, p345.
- My entire argument, then, claims to be an impossibility proof. But 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 [such as the existence of non-libertarian societies-RPM and GC]. Instead, it is a proof that it is impossible to justify non-libertarian property principles without falling into contradictions … empirical evidence has absolutely no bearing on it. — Hoppe, p406.
Libertarianism is meta-normative, it establishes what you have a right to do. It does not say what you ought or should do. In this sense, being an axiomatic-deductive legal theory based on action it is not a part of ethics at all. , , , .
I thought I would recommend some of the not so well known but nevertheless mind-blowing journal articles that should be read by everyone in the movement, especially by those outside it. This is the third in a series of many.
“Causation and Aggression” by Stephan Kinsella and Patrick Tinsley
- Praxeology and Legal Analysis: Action vs. Behavior
- Aggression and the Implicit Concept of Causality
- Complicating the Picture: Causation, Cooperation, And Human Means
- “Mere” Speech-Acts And Aggression
- Cause-In-Fact, Proximate Cause, And Action
- Reinach and Causation
In the context of legal analysis, one important praxeological doctrine is the distinction between action and mere behavior. The difference between action and behavior boils down to intent. Action is an individual’s intentional intervention in the physical world, via certain selected means, with the purpose of attaining a state of affairs that is preferable to the conditions that would prevail in the absence of the action. Mere behavior, by contrast, is a person’s physical movements that are not undertaken intentionally and that do not manifest any purpose, plan, or design. Mere behavior cannot be aggression; aggression must be deliberate, it must be an action.
Here Stephan Kinsella clears up and clarifies some advanced aspects of libertarianism. Some questions to investigate:
- Why we should concern ourselves with A’s intent? If we objectively determine that A’s actions caused the death of B, what should it matter what A intended to do—or whether A intended to do anything at all?
- Consider the following case in which an aggressor employs an innocent human as one of his means. A terrorist builds a letter-bomb and mails it to his intended victim via courier. The courier has no idea that the package he is delivering contains a lethal device. When the addressee dies in an explosion after he opens the package, whom should we hold responsible?
- What about the defense that speech cannot be aggression since it does not actually invade others’ property borders?
- The same question is asked in a variety of situations: did the general kill people, using his troops as means to this end? Did the manager use his employee as a means to attain some end? Did the wife kill her husband by using her lover (or a hired hit-man) as the means to attain this goal? If some one votes in favor of socialism (or speaks out in favor of it), are they a cause of the ensuing acts of aggression by state agents?
This is an excerpt from Action-Based Jurisprudence: Praxeological Legal Theory in Relation to Economic Theory, Ethics, and Legal Practice by Konrad Graf, pg 44. Understanding this helps comprehend the structure of reality and its categories. Certain fields of knowledge fall within certain sectors.
Note on “objective, intersubjectively ascertainable”
The term “intersubjectively ascertainable” mentioned in Hoppe’s work and also employed by Kinsella, might appear synonymous with “objective,” with which it is often paired. However, these terms carry an important, but subtle distinction. It is helpful here to refer to Wilber’s four-quadrant model (2006, 18–26), which I will now briefly describe, relate to Misesian concepts, and apply to this distinction.
In this model, an interior–exterior axis crosses with an individual–plural axis to create four quadrants of possible perspectives. These are the interior-individual (subjective), interior-plural (cultural), exterior-individual (objective), and exterior-plural (social/natural-science/systems). Various fields of knowledge are most at home in particular quadrants, while each quadrant is associated with distinctive forms of knowledge. In this view, human beings, for example, stand as both wholes and parts (“holons”)—both individuals and components of plurals—with both exterior and interior aspects. These aspects are both discrete and inseparable—all of them must be present for us to be the kind of beings that we are.
I thought I would recommend some of the not so well known but nevertheless mind-blowing journal articles that should be read by everyone in the movement, especially by those outside it. This will be the first in a series of many.
If you’re just starting out it is probably best to study the classics and introductory books. However, understanding the framework of knowledge, praxeology — the science of human action — and where the two important fields of economics and jurisprudence (political philosophy) reside is very helpful. This is the most cutting edge article out there that exists today.
Action-based legal theory is a discrete branch of praxeology and the basis of an emerging school of jurisprudence related to, but distinct from, natural law. Legal theory and economic theory share content that is part of praxeology itself: the action axiom, the a priori of argumentation, universalizable property theory, and counterfactual-deductive methodology. Praxeological property-norm justification is separate from the strictly ethical “ought” question of selecting ends in an action context. Examples of action-based jurisprudence are found in existing “Austro-libertarian” literature. Legal theory and legal practice must remain distinct and work closely together if justice is to be found in real cases. Legal theorizing was shaped in religious ethical contexts, which contributed to confused field boundaries between law and ethics. The carrot and stick influence of rulers on theorists has distorted conventional economics and jurisprudence in particular directions over the course of centuries. An action-based approach is relatively immune to such sources of distortion in its methods and conclusions, but has tended historically to be marginalized from conventional institutions for this same reason.
I don’t think the above will be bested in a very long time. It is a big read for a journal article, but do not let that put you off. It is well worth it. If you’re not a fan of reading online, I would suggest printing it out - which can be done very easily for around $5. It’s something you will come back to often. A one stop shop for understanding Austro-Libertarianism in one read.
Praxeology says that all economic propositions which claim to be true must be shown to be deducible by means of formal logic from the incontestably true material knowledge regarding the meaning of action. Specifically, all economic reasoning consists of the following:
- an understanding of the categories of action and the meaning of a change occurring in such things as values, preferences, knowledge, means, costs, etc;
- a description of a world in which the categories of action assume concrete meaning, where definite people are identified as actors with definite objects specified as their means of action, with some definite goals identified as values and definite things specified as costs. Such description could be one of a Robinson Crusoe world, or a world with more than one actor in which interpersonal relationships are possible; of a world of barter exchange or of money and exchanges that make use of money as a common medium of exchange; of a world of only land, labor, and time as factors of production, or a world with capital products; of a world with perfectly divisible or indivisible, specific or unspecific factors of production; or of a world with diverse social institutions, treating diverse actions as aggression and threatening them with physical punishment, etc; and
- a logical deduction of the consequences which result from the performance of some specified action within this world, or of the consequences which result for a specific actor if this situation is changed in a specified way.
Provided there is no flaw in the process of deduction, the conclusions that such reasoning yield must be valid a priori because their validity would ultimately go back to nothing but the indisputable axiom of action. If the situation and the changes introduced into it are fictional or assumptional (a Robinson Crusoe world, or a world with only indivisible or only completely specific factors of production), then the conclusions are, of course, a priori true only of such a “possible world.” If, on the other hand, the situation and changes can be identified as real, perceived and conceptualized as such by real actors, then the conclusions are a priori true propositions about the world as it really is. 
Such is the idea of economics as praxeology. And such then is the ultimate disagreement that Austrians have with their colleagues: Their pronouncements cannot be deduced from the axiom of action or even stand in clear-cut contradiction to propositions that can be deduced from the axiom of action.
~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Economic Science and the Austrian Method, pg 25.
Study Praxeology | PraxGirl
Praxeology is a science that studies the logic of human action. It is qualitatively distinct from Psychology, Ethics, Technology and History. It is the newest of all sciences (biochemistry or neurobiology are just new branches of the old science of biology). This is because of the specific knowledge which had to be understood before Praxeology could be formulated. Understanding Praxeology reveals powerful conclusions about what must happen when a person acts.
Rothbard on Conspiracy Theory
An excerpt from a speech called “The Current State of World Affairs” by Murray Rothbard - Q & A. Recorded at the 1989 Texas State Libertarian Conference.
The Conspiracy Theory of History Revisited:
- […] There are, of course, good conspiracy analysts and bad conspiracy analysts, just as there are good and bad historians or practitioners of any discipline. The bad conspiracy analyst tends to make two kinds of mistakes, which indeed leave him open to the Establishment charge of “paranoia.”
First, he stops with the cui bono; if measure A benefits X and Y, he simply concludes that therefore X and Y were responsible. He fails to realize that this is just a hypothesis, and must be verified by finding out whether or not X and Y really did so. (Perhaps the wackiest example of this was the British journalist Douglas Reed who, seeing that the result of Hitler’s policies was the destruction of Germany, concluded, without further evidence, that therefore Hitler was a conscious agent of external forces who deliberately set out to ruin Germany.)
Secondly, the bad conspiracy analyst seems to have a compulsion to wrap up all the conspiracies, all the bad guy power blocs, into one giant conspiracy. Instead of seeing that there are several power blocs trying to gain control of government, sometimes in conflict and sometimes in alliance, he has to assume – again without evidence – that a small group of men controls them all, and only seems to send them into conflict.[…]
Deductive legal theory, when properly applied in a given context, objectively and descriptively defines the parameters of what justice is in relation to questions of property rights, contracts, torts, and other legal matters. This yields a deeper-than-expected foundation for the traditional libertarian insistence on not mixing law with morality and the corollary opposition to “legislating morality.” Legal theory is a discrete field that, like Mises’s conception of economic theory, can provide descriptive, categorical input for use in “ought” considerations, even as legal theory and ethics remain distinct in foundations, scope, and method.