Thursday, February 28, 2008

Argumentation Ethics, Socrates Style

So it appears once more that I'm a jerk. I got into a debate about Hoppe's Argumentation Ethics, and it seemed like we were talking past each other. Accordingly, I pulled the most obnoxious stunt I can think of: a Socratic-style dialogue. Because Argumentation Ethics are relevant to some people, I figured I'd repost my argument here. Enjoy!

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Socrates: "I've had it with those darn crows eating all my corn! Oh yea, by the way, I grow corn now. Jones, I need you to go out in the field for me to scare away the crows. They won't come near if you're out in the field."

Jones: "No way, Socrates! I don't want to guard your corn."

Socrates: "Fine, then. What if I just tie you up and mount you on a pole in my field? That would scare the crows away too."

Jones: "I suppose you could do that, but it wouldn't be right."

Socrates: "This has nothing to do with right and wrong. You can try to stop me if you'd like. But I don't see any reason why your interest in not being tied up is inherently more important than my interest in scaring away the crows, such that I would be wrong to try to scare off the crows at the expense of you being tied up."

Jones: "But don't you see? You're arguing that you aren't wrong in trying to tie me up! In order to argue, you must presuppose that you have the right of self-ownership, which includes the right not to be tied up. As ethical systems, by their nature, should apply to all people, your act of arguing demonstrates that you would be wrong not to accept my right to self-ownership. Accordingly, you ought not to try to tie me up."

Socrates: "Hold on, Jones. You're getting ahead of yourself. Let's get out in the open that I agree that ethical systems should apply to all people; if I have the right to self-ownership, then you do too. We agree on that, right?"

Jones: "Yes. And by arguing, you demonstrate that you own yourself. Therefore, I own myself, and you shouldn't tie me up."

Socrates: "I don't think so. I don't need to own myself in order to argue. If you wanted to scare crows away, you would be perfectly within your limits to try to tie me up, and I would be just as well within my limits to try to stop you."

Jones: "But that's not what I said. If you didn't own yourself, you would certainly be able to argue, but you would have no right to do so."

Socrates: "When you say that I would have "no right to argue," do you mean that I would not be justified in attempting to argue if I didn't own myself, or that other people would have no duty to let me argue without interfering?"

Jones: "What's the difference, Socrates?"

Socrates: "Well, for starters, the second one is false. I don't need to presuppose that I will succeed in arguing in order to try to argue. In a few minutes, I will try to tie you up. If you didn't act to stop me, I am reasonably certain that I would succeed. But perhaps your interference will cause me to fail. That doesn't mean that it is somehow inconsistent of me to try to tie you up, does it?"

Jones: "I guess not. But that doesn't mean that you would be justified in tying me up!"

Socrates: "Well no, not if "being justified" means that I have the right not to be interfered with. Just as it's okay for me to try to tie you up, it's okay for you to try to stop me. To argue otherwise would be contradictory. But as I said, when I argue, I don't need to presuppose that I have the right not to be interfered with."

Jones: "Okay, so what's your point?"

Socrates: "Earlier you said that if I didn't own myself, I wouldn't have the right to argue. If when you say "have the right to argue," you mean that I have the right to not be interfered with, then it's true that if I didn't own myself, then I wouldn't have the right to argue. But just as I don't need to presuppose such a right in order to try to tie you up, I don't need to presuppose that I have such a right in order to try to argue."

Jones: "Okay, but what if we define "right" a different way? You suggested an alternative way earlier, didn't you?"

Socrates: "That's right, Jones, I did. You said that if I didn't own myself, I would have no right to argue, and I wondered if you meant that I would not be entitled to try to argue if I didn't own myself. Is that what you meant?"

Jones: "Well what if it is?"

Socrates: "Think about it this way: if I am entitled to try to tie you up, then clearly you don't own yourself, right?"

Jones: "That's right."

Socrates: "But even if I am entitled to try to tie you up, surely you are entitled to try to stop me, right?"

Jones: "I think that's clearly true, Socrates."

Socrates: "So in the same way, if you are entitled to try to stop me from arguing, then clearly I don't own myself. But even if you are entitled to try to stop me from arguing, I am surely entitled to try to argue. Therefore, I need not own myself in order to be entitled to try to argue."

Jones: "But..."

Socrates: "But nothing. My arguing is in no way inconsistent with my view that I do not own myself, and that you do not own yourself either. Accordingly, I think I'll tie you up now."

Jones: "Bummer."

THE END

6 comments:

Brainpolice said...

For what it's worth, I enjoyed this.

Danny Shahar said...

It's worth a lot; thanks!

Anonymous said...

That was fantastic ^_^

www.mueblesennavarra.com said...

Well, I don't really think it may have success.

Guy Kedem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guy said...

This mostly proofs you don't understand the argument.

See my introduction: https://argumentationethics.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/argumentation-ethics/

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