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Interpersonal Utility Comparisons

Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?
J.Kenyon
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2/25/2011 10:53:07 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to be murdered?
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 10:55:53 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:53:07 AM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to be murdered?

At best, that justifies me hiring a security detail.
Zetsubou
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2/25/2011 10:57:20 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
>don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions
>don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature
>accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons.

You've wiped out any normative ethics you could abide by. As a nihilist you can't prove murder ought to be prohibited - you've jus shown that just now.
'sup DDO -- july 2013
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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2/25/2011 10:59:17 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:55:53 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:53:07 AM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to be murdered?

At best, that justifies me hiring a security detail.

Hmm, true. I suppose there's also the possibility you might want to go on a massive killing spree ala Patrick Bateman, so a legal prohibition on murder could hypothetically work against you.

I don't see how the problem of IPCU's changes anything for you. As an amoralist, what difference does it make to you whether or not a particular policy maximizes utility?
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
It just made me realize that I can't even rely on practical normativity to enforce a ban on murder, since that relies on an assumption of the victim's utility loss being greater than the murderer's utility gain. At best, I could argue some kind of implicit social contract being explicitly enforced, but goodness knows that's not a good argument.

Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 11:01:53 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:59:17 AM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:55:53 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:53:07 AM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to be murdered?

At best, that justifies me hiring a security detail.

Hmm, true. I suppose there's also the possibility you might want to go on a massive killing spree ala Patrick Bateman, so a legal prohibition on murder could hypothetically work against you.

I don't see how the problem of IPCU's changes anything for you. As an amoralist, what difference does it make to you whether or not a particular policy maximizes utility?

If you see utility as a practical thing, rather than as a moral thing. It's more about personal utility than total utility. :P
J.Kenyon
Posts: 4,194
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2/25/2011 11:02:57 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.

Fück yeah, dawg!
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 11:12:35 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
If we can say that about murder, though, what else is there to apply the principle to? I mean, we might be able to say that we shouldn't advocate a position on the environment, for example, because we can't compare utility gained by massive polluters to utility lost by victims of pollution. There are certain intuitive assumptions we'd like to make that we really can't. It's just a question of which side you're on.
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 11:15:25 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:12:35 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If we can say that about murder, though, what else is there to apply the principle to? I mean, we might be able to say that we shouldn't advocate a position on the environment, for example, because we can't compare utility gained by massive polluters to utility lost by victims of pollution. There are certain intuitive assumptions we'd like to make that we really can't. It's just a question of which side you're on.

Maybe we should say that it doesn't matter, and that evaluations of utility can be misguided. It's in the long-term of the victims to seek an end to pollution just the same as the polluters. They might profit from it in the short-term, but destroying the environment tends to get pretty sh*tty.
J.Kenyon
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2/25/2011 11:20:22 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:15:25 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2011 11:12:35 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If we can say that about murder, though, what else is there to apply the principle to? I mean, we might be able to say that we shouldn't advocate a position on the environment, for example, because we can't compare utility gained by massive polluters to utility lost by victims of pollution. There are certain intuitive assumptions we'd like to make that we really can't. It's just a question of which side you're on.

Maybe we should say that it doesn't matter, and that evaluations of utility can be misguided. It's in the long-term of the victims to seek an end to pollution just the same as the polluters. They might profit from it in the short-term, but destroying the environment tends to get pretty sh*tty.

What if the polluter dies before the deleterious effects of his activities become apparent? What if he's a sadistic bastard like Dr. Evil and he wants to nuke the rain forest?
Cody_Franklin
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2/25/2011 11:30:36 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:20:22 AM, J.Kenyon wrote:
At 2/25/2011 11:15:25 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2011 11:12:35 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
If we can say that about murder, though, what else is there to apply the principle to? I mean, we might be able to say that we shouldn't advocate a position on the environment, for example, because we can't compare utility gained by massive polluters to utility lost by victims of pollution. There are certain intuitive assumptions we'd like to make that we really can't. It's just a question of which side you're on.

Maybe we should say that it doesn't matter, and that evaluations of utility can be misguided. It's in the long-term of the victims to seek an end to pollution just the same as the polluters. They might profit from it in the short-term, but destroying the environment tends to get pretty sh*tty.

What if the polluter dies before the deleterious effects of his activities become apparent? What if he's a sadistic bastard like Dr. Evil and he wants to nuke the rain forest?

I'm probably going to try to stop him. That's about it.
JustCallMeTarzan
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2/25/2011 5:04:03 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:

Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Easy - by recognizing that it's more utile for the victim if he were to remain alive rather than be killed, just as it is more utile for you the murderer to refrain from killing rather than kill. There's no interpersonal comparison - just the recognition that "no murder" is a more utile rule evaluated individually from each actor's position.

OR...

Interpret moral rules as pro/prescriptive, not normative or emotive. Thus "no murder" is just a rule with no moral import - moral import comes from violating or adhering to the rule. As a nihlist, you wouldn't need a moral basis for making the rule, but you would also be unable to morally chastise or praise those who did or didn't follow it.
Danielle
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2/25/2011 8:09:16 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.

What if I was a nihilist and didn't see the utility in respecting your property (or anything)? I don't see how being an anarchist solves the problem to your question.
President of DDO
PARADIGM_L0ST
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2/25/2011 8:25:07 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.:

If you keep reducing anything to what can be objectively proven, then you reduce everything to zero. You couldn't even prove yourself real because you could just keep shifting the goal posts with semantics. The question is not whether one can do this in a game of semantics, the question is can you actually live consistently within the framework you've erected?

Everything on paper is great, it's whether it can be applied in the real world. That's all that matters.

Anarchists routinely cite the interference of government as a negative, and that property rights should be respected (apparently, just because). Well, as nihilist, on what basis can the argument withstand any scrutiny?
"Have you ever considered suicide? If not, please do." -- Mouthwash (to Inferno)
PARADIGM_L0ST
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2/25/2011 8:27:05 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 8:09:16 PM, Danielle wrote:
At 2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.

What if I was a nihilist and didn't see the utility in respecting your property (or anything)? I don't see how being an anarchist solves the problem to your question.:

Nor do I. It just seems to convolute it even more.
"Have you ever considered suicide? If not, please do." -- Mouthwash (to Inferno)
Cody_Franklin
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2/26/2011 4:29:28 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 5:04:03 PM, JustCallMeTarzan wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:

Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Easy - by recognizing that it's more utile for the victim if he were to remain alive rather than be killed, just as it is more utile for you the murderer to refrain from killing rather than kill. There's no interpersonal comparison - just the recognition that "no murder" is a more utile rule evaluated individually from each actor's position.

It's more utility for the victim to stay alive than to die, yeah, but you would have to measure that against the utility of the murderer, which is impossible, to determine which side to take.

Additionally, you can't blanketly say that that it's less utility for the murderer to murder. You don't know what the value structure of all murders (and potential murderers) is like. :P

OR...

Interpret moral rules as pro/prescriptive, not normative or emotive. Thus "no murder" is just a rule with no moral import - moral import comes from violating or adhering to the rule. As a nihlist, you wouldn't need a moral basis for making the rule, but you would also be unable to morally chastise or praise those who did or didn't follow it.

Prescriptive and normative are just two ways of saying the same thing. :P Even if we go with an individual utility measure, though, the problem lies in the fact that a government isn't necessary to protect me from being murdered. I could just as easily hire a cadre of mercenaries. On its own, selfish concerns don't necessarily justify a legal monopoly.
Cody_Franklin
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2/26/2011 4:30:53 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 8:09:16 PM, Danielle wrote:
At 2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.

What if I was a nihilist and didn't see the utility in respecting your property (or anything)? I don't see how being an anarchist solves the problem to your question.

It's more of an anarchist-by-default, thing. Nihilism means that I can't justify moral bans, and pragmatic concerns don't require a government. My word choice--trapped--is as it is for a reason.
Cody_Franklin
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2/26/2011 4:34:41 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 8:25:07 PM, PARADIGM_L0ST wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.:

If you keep reducing anything to what can be objectively proven, then you reduce everything to zero. You couldn't even prove yourself real because you could just keep shifting the goal posts with semantics.

It's not a semantic problem. Semantics are just a middleman for our philosophical problems, since language is a middleman between our raw reason and communication of ideas (though it's a middleman which tends to muddy up pure reason). It's really a problem of metaphysics. Of epistemology. Of ethics and politics.

The question is not whether one can do this in a game of semantics, the question is can you actually live consistently within the framework you've erected?

I really don't know. What would it even mean to take it to its logical conclusion?

Everything on paper is great, it's whether it can be applied in the real world. That's all that matters.

Anarchists routinely cite the interference of government as a negative, and that property rights should be respected (apparently, just because). Well, as nihilist, on what basis can the argument withstand any scrutiny?

As a nihilist, I don't subscribe to the notion that property rights exist. They're a convenience.
tvellalott
Posts: 10,864
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2/26/2011 7:08:34 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to die?
"Caitlyn Jenner is an incredibly brave and stunningly beautiful woman."

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Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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2/26/2011 7:18:50 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 7:08:34 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to die?

Seems to justify hiring bodyguards, though--not erecting a whole government.
tvellalott
Posts: 10,864
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2/26/2011 7:35:41 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 7:18:50 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:08:34 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to die?

Seems to justify hiring bodyguards, though--not erecting a whole government.

Punishing murderers doesn't constitute erecting a whole government.
"Caitlyn Jenner is an incredibly brave and stunningly beautiful woman."

Muh threads
Using mafia tactics in real-life: http://www.debate.org...
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Cody_Franklin
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2/26/2011 7:40:29 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 7:35:41 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:18:50 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:08:34 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to die?

Seems to justify hiring bodyguards, though--not erecting a whole government.

Punishing murderers doesn't constitute erecting a whole government.

Law requires a monopoly on force. :P Everything else is just a polite way of referring to competing gangs.
tvellalott
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2/26/2011 7:43:23 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 7:40:29 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:35:41 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:18:50 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/26/2011 7:08:34 AM, tvellalott wrote:
At 2/25/2011 10:47:40 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
We were having a conversation about this in the "Sustaining the Poor" thread, and an odd thought occurred to me.

We say (among other reasons) that one problem with obligating a person to steal from a man with a buffet to give to a man dying of starvation is that interpersonal comparisons of utility are impossible.

If that's true, we would have to be consistent in our application of that principle for its use to be legitimate. That being the case, what basis do I have for demanding a legal ban on, say, murder? I don't subscribe to any deontological prohibitions on it, and I don't think that rights are an inherent part of our nature (convenient social constructs, really). We could say "well, no one really wants to be murdered, so it makes sense"; however, that is countered by proposing a scenario in which we conclude that we can't compare the utility gained by the murderer to the utility lost by the victim. Since I, as a nihilist, have no moral principles to appeal to, and accept as a fact the impossibility of utility comparisons, how can I say that murder needs to be legally prohibited?

Because you don't want to die?

Seems to justify hiring bodyguards, though--not erecting a whole government.

Punishing murderers doesn't constitute erecting a whole government.

Law requires a monopoly on force. :P Everything else is just a polite way of referring to competing gangs.

LOL. I agree. Who should control the monopoly on force? Private agencys?
Libertarianism is some crazy sh!t, it just might work.
"Caitlyn Jenner is an incredibly brave and stunningly beautiful woman."

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TheSkeptic
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2/26/2011 9:04:56 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
Justifying some form of government, any really, is pretty hard if your bound by obligations to moral nihilism. It's the same troubles I've faced with since I become one (and still am).
J.Kenyon
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2/26/2011 9:09:46 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 9:04:56 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
Justifying some form of government, any really, is pretty hard if your bound by obligations to moral nihilism. It's the same troubles I've faced with since I become one (and still am).

Why would you want to justify the existence of the state?
innomen
Posts: 10,052
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2/26/2011 9:18:20 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/25/2011 11:01:06 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
It just made me realize that I can't even rely on practical normativity to enforce a ban on murder, since that relies on an assumption of the victim's utility loss being greater than the murderer's utility gain. At best, I could argue some kind of implicit social contract being explicitly enforced, but goodness knows that's not a good argument.

Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.

Cody you're just wrong on this. Societies that have adopted similar value systems have had horrific results. The social contract aspect is an understatement in the net result in a society holding to the concept of inherent rights and even dignity of man. These are the very principles that comprise humanity and an enlightened society. I understand your dilemma, but this is where a strictly logic based system of behavior is problematic to a society at large. Even a Jeffersonian model of libertarianism depends on the principles of the inherent rights of man.

A while ago you said in a thread that you will respect no man until he earns your respect, and i have a problem with that too. It is a crappy credo upon which to base a society, and you will be less happy.
PARADIGM_L0ST
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2/26/2011 9:25:18 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 4:34:41 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 2/25/2011 8:25:07 PM, PARADIGM_L0ST wrote:
Guys... I think I may have just trapped myself into being an anarchist.:

If you keep reducing anything to what can be objectively proven, then you reduce everything to zero. You couldn't even prove yourself real because you could just keep shifting the goal posts with semantics.

It's not a semantic problem. Semantics are just a middleman for our philosophical problems, since language is a middleman between our raw reason and communication of ideas (though it's a middleman which tends to muddy up pure reason). It's really a problem of metaphysics. Of epistemology. Of ethics and politics.:

Isn't what you're postulating a truth-conditional semantic? For instance: "Truth-conditional theories of semantics attempt to define the meaning of a given proposition by explaining when the sentence is true. So, for example, because 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white, the meaning of 'snow is white' is snow is white."

The same thing applies to your nihilism in tandem with anarchy. You make it true only by the virtue of modes of speak, not because it necessarily is.

The question is not whether one can do this in a game of semantics, the question is can you actually live consistently within the framework you've erected?

I really don't know. What would it even mean to take it to its logical conclusion?:

That's kind of my point. If it was taken to its logical conclusion, without any deviation, it would mean.... nothing. That's the inherent problem that I see.

As a nihilist, I don't subscribe to the notion that property rights exist. They're a convenience.:

Then by what rationale does one have to defend property rights? Indeed, the term "rights" suggests that it is more than a mere convenience. Even if it's only a mere convenience, I assume you would fight over that convenience. The entire premise behind anarchism, when you strip it all away to the bare minimum, is that it's "wrong" of government to use force or coercion to achieve its ends.

That strikes me as being at odds with nihilistic philosophy.
"Have you ever considered suicide? If not, please do." -- Mouthwash (to Inferno)
PARADIGM_L0ST
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2/26/2011 9:26:56 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 2/26/2011 9:04:56 AM, TheSkeptic wrote:
Justifying some form of government, any really, is pretty hard if your bound by obligations to moral nihilism. It's the same troubles I've faced with since I become one (and still am).:

Exactly.
"Have you ever considered suicide? If not, please do." -- Mouthwash (to Inferno)