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Nozick's "The Tale of the Slave"

bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
"Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.

1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

Let us pause in this sequence of cases to take stock. If the master contracts this transfer of power so that he cannot withdraw it, you have a change of master. You now have 10,000 masters instead of just one; rather you have one 10,000-headed master. Perhaps the 10,000 even will be kindlier than the benevolent master in case 2. Still, they are your master. However, still more can be done. A kindly single master (as in case 2) might allow his slave(s) to speak up and try to persuade him to make a certain decision. The 10,000-headed monster can do this also.

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?"

-- Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia
#UnbanTheMadman

"Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights..."

~ Rush
AnDoctuir
Posts: 11,060
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1/22/2015 4:32:22 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
This is dumb, bossy. This is exactly what I was talking about in that post which inspired you to post this.
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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1/22/2015 9:24:22 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM, bossyburrito wrote:


This is an argument from semantics. Which is fair enough, but I don't think it's even all that powerful in that regard. Simply creating a story and then adding endless caveats until it resembles the world, creating a sort of super-borderline case, while perhaps illuminating if someone holds some kind of absolutist a priori view of government, doesn't do much for those who hold more pragmatic views.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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1/22/2015 9:48:15 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 9:24:22 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM, bossyburrito wrote:


This is an argument from semantics. Which is fair enough, but I don't think it's even all that powerful in that regard. Simply creating a story and then adding endless caveats until it resembles the world, creating a sort of super-borderline case, while perhaps illuminating if someone holds some kind of absolutist a priori view of government, doesn't do much for those who hold more pragmatic views.

It works to show that there is little to no meaningful difference between stage one and stage nine, so that, if anyone rejects stage one, they must reject state nine as well. Even if you're a pragmatist, you have to be self-consistent.
#UnbanTheMadman

"Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights..."

~ Rush
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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1/22/2015 9:49:26 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 4:32:22 AM, AnDoctuir wrote:
This is dumb, bossy. This is exactly what I was talking about in that post which inspired you to post this.

Wait, what? I honestly don't know what you're referring to... I was inspired to post this because I read the book, not because of you, lol.
#UnbanTheMadman

"Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights..."

~ Rush
AnDoctuir
Posts: 11,060
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1/22/2015 10:21:44 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 9:49:26 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
At 1/22/2015 4:32:22 AM, AnDoctuir wrote:
This is dumb, bossy. This is exactly what I was talking about in that post which inspired you to post this.

Wait, what? I honestly don't know what you're referring to... I was inspired to post this because I read the book, not because of you, lol.

There is no way in the wide earth that this thread wasn't what brought you to post this: http://www.debate.org...
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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1/22/2015 11:04:40 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 9:48:15 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
At 1/22/2015 9:24:22 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM, bossyburrito wrote:


This is an argument from semantics. Which is fair enough, but I don't think it's even all that powerful in that regard. Simply creating a story and then adding endless caveats until it resembles the world, creating a sort of super-borderline case, while perhaps illuminating if someone holds some kind of absolutist a priori view of government, doesn't do much for those who hold more pragmatic views.

It works to show that there is little to no meaningful difference between stage one and stage nine, so that, if anyone rejects stage one, they must reject state nine as well. Even if you're a pragmatist, you have to be self-consistent.

The only reason they would need to reject one end of the slippery slope because of the other would be if they rejected the former solely because it had the word 'slave' in it. If we reject it simply for consequentialist reasons stemming from the material conditions of the circumstance, then there's no reason our judgment can't change once all the caveats have been added. Let's say someone offered to put you in jail; now say that this 'jail' is indiscernible from a massive mansion filled with supermodels. Like I said, it hinges on semantics.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,244
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1/22/2015 11:36:21 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 11:04:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 9:48:15 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
At 1/22/2015 9:24:22 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM, bossyburrito wrote:


This is an argument from semantics. Which is fair enough, but I don't think it's even all that powerful in that regard. Simply creating a story and then adding endless caveats until it resembles the world, creating a sort of super-borderline case, while perhaps illuminating if someone holds some kind of absolutist a priori view of government, doesn't do much for those who hold more pragmatic views.

It works to show that there is little to no meaningful difference between stage one and stage nine, so that, if anyone rejects stage one, they must reject state nine as well. Even if you're a pragmatist, you have to be self-consistent.

The only reason they would need to reject one end of the slippery slope because of the other would be if they rejected the former solely because it had the word 'slave' in it. If we reject it simply for consequentialist reasons stemming from the material conditions of the circumstance, then there's no reason our judgment can't change once all the caveats have been added. Let's say someone offered to put you in jail; now say that this 'jail' is indiscernible from a massive mansion filled with supermodels. Like I said, it hinges on semantics.

The point is that they are not fundamentally different, so someone who accepts the argument would have a hard time saying they are fundamentally opposed to slavery.
ford_prefect
Posts: 4,138
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1/22/2015 1:01:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Coincidentally, the transitions between 7-9 are more of an argument supporting rational non-voting, which I completely agree with.
sdavio
Posts: 1,798
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1/22/2015 6:44:02 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/22/2015 11:36:21 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 1/22/2015 11:04:40 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 9:48:15 AM, bossyburrito wrote:
At 1/22/2015 9:24:22 AM, sdavio wrote:
At 1/22/2015 12:49:43 AM, bossyburrito wrote:


This is an argument from semantics. Which is fair enough, but I don't think it's even all that powerful in that regard. Simply creating a story and then adding endless caveats until it resembles the world, creating a sort of super-borderline case, while perhaps illuminating if someone holds some kind of absolutist a priori view of government, doesn't do much for those who hold more pragmatic views.

It works to show that there is little to no meaningful difference between stage one and stage nine, so that, if anyone rejects stage one, they must reject state nine as well. Even if you're a pragmatist, you have to be self-consistent.

The only reason they would need to reject one end of the slippery slope because of the other would be if they rejected the former solely because it had the word 'slave' in it. If we reject it simply for consequentialist reasons stemming from the material conditions of the circumstance, then there's no reason our judgment can't change once all the caveats have been added. Let's say someone offered to put you in jail; now say that this 'jail' is indiscernible from a massive mansion filled with supermodels. Like I said, it hinges on semantics.

The point is that they are not fundamentally different, so someone who accepts the argument would have a hard time saying they are fundamentally opposed to slavery.

It depends on what you consider fundamental. All that is fundamental between them is the label of slavery: I could literally take word, and add endless stipulations until it became something else. And to point out such an extreme borderline case of such a word, to disprove someone, is to not really appreciate how language works. Words are understood by their most common usage. If I say, "I like apples", it is generally understood what I mean to say by that. But you could give me a rotten one, or one made out of plastic, and then say "So you don't really like them! They aren't fundamentally different, since they're both 'apples'..."

What people generally detest in slavery is not the literal power relation which it has in common with modern government, but the conditions under which it happened, along with the fact that they couldn't vote, etc.
"Logic is the money of the mind." - Karl Marx