Mises and Morality



The procedure of this normative quasi science is to derive certain precepts from intuition and to deal with them as if their adoption as a guide to action would not affect the attainment of any other ends considered desirable. The moralists do not bother about the necessary consequences of the realization of their postulates. We need not discuss the attitudes of people for whom the appeal to justice is manifestly a pretext, consciously or subconsciously chosen, to disguise their short-run interests, nor expose the hypocrisy of such makeshift notions of justice as those involved in the popular concepts of just prices and fair wages. The philosophers who in their treatises of ethics assigned supreme value to justice and applied the yardstick of justice to all social institutions were not guilty of such deceit. They did not support selfish group concerns by declaring them alone just, fair, and good, and smear all dissenters by depicting them as the apologists of unfair causes. They were Platonists who believed that a perennial idea of absolute justice exists and that it is the duty of man to organize all human institutions in conformity with this ideal. Cognition of justice is imparted to man by an inner voice, i.e., by intuition. The champions of this doctrine did not ask what the consequences of realizing the schemes they called just would be. They silently assumed either that these consequences will be beneficial or that mankind is bound to put up even with very painful consequences of justice. Still less did these teachers of morality pay attention to the fact that people can and really do disagree with regard to the interpretation of the inner voice and that no method of peacefully settling such disagreements can be found.

All these ethical doctrines have failed to comprehend that there is, outside of social bonds and preceding, temporally or logically, the existence of society, nothing to which the epithet "just" can be given. A hypothetical isolated individual must under the pressure of biological competition look upon all other people as deadly foes. His only concern is to preserve his own life and health; he does not need to heed the consequences which his own survival has for other men; he has no use for justice. His only solicitudes are hygiene and defense. But in social cooperation with other men the individual is forced to abstain from conduct incompatible with life in society. Only then does the distinction between what is just and what is unjust emerge. It invariably refers to interhuman social relations. What is beneficial to the individual without affecting his fellows, such as the observance of certain rules in the use of some drugs, remains hygiene.

The ultimate yardstick of justice is conduciveness to the preservation of social cooperation. Conduct suited to preserve social cooperation is just, conduct detrimental to the preservation of society is unjust. There cannot be any question of organizing society according to the postulates of an arbitrary preconceived idea of justice. The problem is to organize society for the best possible realization of those ends which men want to attain by social cooperation. Social utility is the only standard of justice. It is the sole guide of legislation.

In response to this, Roderick Long writes in Realism and Abstraction in Economics: Aristotle and Mises versus Friedman (PDF):

Whatever else they may disagree on, [Milton] Friedman and Mises agree that an a priori ethics is impossible. Those who defend the possibility of a rationally justifiable ethics, Mises contends, are essentially claiming that moral knowledge is "imparted to man by an inner voice, i.e., by intuition," and fail to recognise that "with regard to the interpretation of the inner voice ... no method of peacefully settling ... disagreements can be found." The parallel between Mises' criticism of a priori ethics and Friedman's criticism of Mises' own a priori economics is striking - and should lead us to suspect that Mises has here fallen into Friedman's own confusion between the private character of an "inner voice" and the public character of logic.

Whether there is any strong connection between a priori ethics and a priori economics, I do not know. It may very well be the case that deduction from axioms is legitimate in one case and not the other. But I am skeptical that much can be learned about the world through non-empirical methods.

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Moral relativism Basis of

Moral relativism
Basis of morality is identify of an individual. Without agreeing to what constitute I vs rest, we cannot even start to talk about morality. From individual you derive natural rights starting with his/her body proper. And then if he/her mixes labor with any previously unowned natural objects then the that becomes the property of that individual. Thus, you derive individual rights and the concept of morality. Thus, morality is to me is simple: Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit murder ...

If somebody says to me that he disagrees with this and each person could have his/her own moral philosophy then I would reply: what does he/she mean by "each person"? Unless you define an individual and his sphere of influence (property) you cannot even conceive of having subjective views.

Thus moral relativism itself require absolute belief in individual identity (otherwise what do you mean by "subjective" beliefs and views?).

Ashish, good analysis. One

Ashish, good analysis.

One point to make, the recognition of discrete individuals as an axiom in modelling social behaviour does not require that you absolutely believe it. One could equally perceive it as a necessary simplification given our current level of knowledge.

In the same vein, physicists recognise gravity as a distinct force when modelling the universe even though there's an ongoing search to try to explain it in terms of something more basic (unifying theories).

David, I have a first draft of my morality framework. Would you prefer I dump it into a comment field for y'all to tear apart, or put it somewhere else?

The problem with Ashish's

The problem with Ashish's argument can be found in his third sentence: "From individual you derive natural rights starting with his/her body proper."

The "is" of self does not imply the "ought" of self-ownership. One can recognize that persons exist without making any normative commitments regarding those persons.

It seems to me this is just another formulation of Hoppe's argumentation ethic, and just as problematic.

"The “is” of self does

"The “is” of self does not imply the “ought” of self-ownership."

Doesn't your argument imply an ought? Aren't you implicitly asserting that anyone who understands the matter properly ought to reach the conclusion that the “is” of self does not imply the “ought” of self-ownership?

In some sense, every

In some sense, every argument intended to convince implies an ought, since the purpose is to persuade another person to change his or her views. But it is a hypothetical--and not a categorical--imperative. The structure is: "If the reasons given in support of my position appeal to you, then you should adopt my position." And not "By the objective nature of reality, one ought to do this or that." One can choose to reject a hypothetical imperative if the subjective conditions do not hold. If I don't agree with your reasons, I won't adopt your position. One cannot choose to accept or reject a categorical imperative, as it is an absolute end in itself, not a means to some other end.

When I say that the "is" of self does not imply the "ought" of self-ownership, what I am saying is that this argument alone does not convince me of anything. Perhaps the existence of human selves does entail the ought of self-ownership, but more reasons need to be given for why this is so, and I am skeptical that any convincing reasons could ever given.

Is there such a thing as

Is there such a thing as sound reasoning, and any reason anyone ought prefer it over unsound reasoning? Or when you identify reasoning as sound are you merely saying you prefer it for no good reason?

Do you think there is there any real reason why anyone should prefer your arguments over mine, Micha?

John said: "Doesn’t your

John said:

"Doesn’t your argument imply an ought? Aren’t you implicitly asserting that anyone who understands the matter properly ought to reach the conclusion that the â??isâ?? of self does not imply the â??oughtâ?? of self-ownership?"

The problem with is-ought in its turn is a logical problem, that means that you're illogical if you derive ought from is. If you only have is-statements among the premises and concludes with an ought-statement, then you have a problem. Your conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. Fortunately, in many cases where this problem arises is there an implicit ought-statement in the premises. In Micha's example it could be that one ought not act against another persons right to self-ownership (an ought that, by the way, seems to be subjective and not objective).

So the questions breaks down to if you want to be illogical or not.

Bernard, hold on a sec. Let

Bernard, hold on a sec. Let me get with Jonathon and Brian and figure out how to do this. BTW, I started writing down some of my own development of morals. I look forward to what you have.

Bernard, Please email it to

Bernard,
Please email it to me at jwilde - at-
catallarchy
-dot-
net
and I will publish it as a guest post.

>>Is there such a thing as

>>Is there such a thing as sound reasoning, and any reason anyone ought prefer it over unsound reasoning? Or when you identify reasoning as sound are you merely saying you prefer it for no good reason?

Sound reasoning is that which can be used to derive predictive power. One should prefer sound reasoning over unsound reasoning if one prefers empirical (objective?) truth over bullshit and self-delusion.

Since that vast majority of the people here prefer truth, it follows logically that we should use sound reasoning.

AHA! Micha, I may have located an OBJECTIVE VALUE.

Consider: Many people lie, and many people consume vast amounts of bullshit, but who PREFERS to be LIED TO? Is a desire to be deceived consistent with intelligence? The primary thing that sets humans apart from other systems is their capacity for information processing. This is a big part of human nature, and is unlikely to change.

People who prefer to be decieved have a preference structure which is at odds with their intelligence, the very system which allows them to have a preference structure!

So now I think we can make the objective moral statement that if we value our own intelligence, we should not seek to be decieved. And if we don't value our own intelligence, we should clearly use some of Colt Firearms fine products to relieve ourselves of the burden of it!

I think this might bridge the logic gap here. JTK, what do you think?

Is there such a thing as

Is there such a thing as sound reasoning, and any reason anyone ought prefer it over unsound reasoning? Or when you identify reasoning as sound are you merely saying you prefer it for no good reason?

You are essentially asking why one should prefer the logical over the illogical. I think it's because logic is a prerequisite of debate, conversation and language. Statements that violate logic are meaningless and do not provide any knowledge about the world.

Do you think there is there any real reason why anyone should prefer your arguments over mine, Micha?

Hopefully they find my arguments more convincing than yours; perhaps mine appeal more closely to their emotions, or fit better with their prior observations and knowledge about the world, or appear more logical.

Since that vast majority of

Since that vast majority of the people here prefer truth, it follows logically that we should use sound reasoning.

AHA! Micha, I may have located an OBJECTIVE VALUE.

I remain skeptical. One should prefer logic to illogic not because the vast majority of people agree, nor because human nature dictates intelligence, but because logic is a necessary prerequisite for any substantive conversation. If one's purpose in an argument is to convey true (or false) information about the world to others rather than meaningless statements, then one must abide by the laws of logic. However, if one's purpose is to confuse, or troll, or just talk for the sake of hearing one's own voice, then one may have no reason to abide by the laws of logic.

However, if one’s purpose

However, if one’s purpose is to confuse, or troll, or just talk for the sake of hearing one’s own voice, then one may have no reason to abide by the laws of logic.

Comment by Micha Ghertner — July 31, 2004 @ 10:36 pm

The question isn't whether a person should use a false argument, rather, the question is whether a person should ever *believe* in something which is false

by false, I mean

by false, I mean contradictory or illogical beliefs

" The problem with

"
The problem with Ashish’s argument can be found in his third sentence: “From individual you derive natural rights starting with his/her body proper.”

The “is” of self does not imply the “ought” of self-ownership. One can recognize that persons exist without making any normative commitments regarding those persons.
"

How can not an individual own him/her self? If not who does? Not another individual without owning himself/herself?

"You are essentially asking

"You are essentially asking why one should prefer the logical over the illogical. I think it’s because logic is a prerequisite of debate, conversation and language. Statements that violate logic are meaningless and do not provide any knowledge about the world."

Well why on earth ought anyone prefer knowledge of the world to nonsense?

To the extent that you reason correctly don't you think that anyone who propery understands your reasoning and has access to the same facts ought to agree with your conclusions? Isn't that implicit in any human argument?

>>The question isn’t

>>The question isn’t whether a person should use a false argument, rather, the question is whether a person should ever believe in something which is false.

Yes, exactly. The start point isn't "It's objectively immoral to lie" but rather "It's objectively immoral to seek to be lied to" in that seeking to be snowed involves working at cross-purposes to one's own intelligence.

In fact, CONSCIOUSLY seeking out lies to believe in is rather rare. How many people think to themselves, "I'm going to listen to Kerry/Bush/Stalin/etc. because he's a better liar." How many theists say to themselves, "I know all this stuff about God, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. is bullshit, but I'm going to believe in it anyway because it makes me feel better."

I propose that intelligence is inconsistent with nonsense and that people who want to enhance their intelligence (the defining characteristic of humans) and consume bullshit have an objective consistency problem.

Now we can finally see some problems with Stalin's position. Stalin's use of terror, coupled with his tremendous political power, created a tremendous incentive for those around him to decieve him. Stalin's behavior created an institutional structure designed to attack his mind.

Now all that is needed is to

Now all that is needed is to show that generating bullshit makes it harder to access clean data.

The CIA historically has had real problems with this. Their job, basically, is to generate huge amounts of misinformation while simultaneously trying to figure out what's actually going on. What ends up happening is that the bullshit from the misinformation department finds its way into the analysis divisions. The net result is that the whole apparatus becomes detached from reality.

How can not an individual

How can not an individual own him/her self? If not who does? Not another individual without owning himself/herself?

We could all own each other, some could own themselves while owning others, etc. We may believe all of these arrangements are wrong, but we cannot simply assume, a priori, that they are objectively immoral.

Well why on earth ought

Well why on earth ought anyone prefer knowledge of the world to nonsense?

You tell me. You're the one who is claiming that this is an "indispensible ought". Some people might find a contradictory world view to be emotionally comforting or in some other way useful for their purposes.

To the extent that you reason correctly don’t you think that anyone who propery understands your reasoning and has access to the same facts ought to agree with your conclusions? Isn’t that implicit in any human argument?

I certainly believe that if I reason correctly, others who understand my reasoning and have access to the same facts ought to agree with my conclusions. But that doesn't make it an objective ought just because I believe they should do it. And while this ought may be implicit in any argument whose purpose is to convey true information about the world, it may not be the case regarding arguments whose purpose is to confuse, troll, annoy, etc.

In fact, CONSCIOUSLY seeking

In fact, CONSCIOUSLY seeking out lies to believe in is rather rare. How many people think to themselves, “I’m going to listen to Kerry/Bush/Stalin/etc. because he’s a better liar.” How many theists say to themselves, “I know all this stuff about God, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. is bullshit, but I’m going to believe in it anyway because it makes me feel better.”

The second phenomenon is much more common than the first, in my experience. It's actually one of the strongest arguments for religious belief.

I still don't agree with your conclusion that intelligence is inconsistent with nonsense. Many highly intelligent people believe in things they know or suspect are false or contradictory (or have no interest in determinining whether or not these beliefs are correct) because these beliefs are emotionally comforting, useful, or in some other way serve a purpose they wish to achieve other than acquiring true knowledge about the world.

We could all own each

We could all own each other, some could own themselves while owning others, etc. We may believe all of these arrangements are wrong, but we cannot simply assume, a priori, that they are objectively immoral.

I don't understand how can somebody own another person without owning himself. It is fairly obvious to me. Ownership requires ability to exercise one's free will and action. If one does not own oneself how can one exercise his free will?

http://ashish.hanwadikar.name/

...We all own each other in

...We all own each other in some socialist paradise.

While I am glad that you are being thorough by listing other possibilities, Micha, I think that the burden of proof should at least fall upon other selves to prove that they own me.

After all, I burst into this world, as did most of the rest of us no doubt, waving tongues, middle fingers, and various other appendages at those in authority, saying "You're not the boss of me!" and "You can't make me!". Can you really fly in the face of that onslaught?

:razz:

...We all own each other in

...We all own each other in some socialist paradise.

While I am glad that you are being thorough and listing other alternatives, Micha, I think that the burden of proof should at least fall on other selves to show that they own me.

After all, I burst into this world, no doubt as did most of the rest of us, waving tongues, middle fingers, and various other appendages at anyone who tried to claim authority, shouting, "You're not the boss of me!" and "You can't make me!"

Are you really going to fly in the face of that onslaught?

:razz:

“We could all own each

“We could all own each other, some could own themselves while owning others, etc.”

"I already gave an example of how this could be the case. Picture pre-Civil War American slavery, with the added stipulation that blacks and whites switch social roles every other Tuesday. "

Micha, your example shows me that you don't use the same definition of ownership as I do. I don't think you have thought this through very deeply. The commonly used definition includes the concepts of exclusion, control, etc.

I don't see how one slave master and twenty slaves can switch places every Tuesday. This brings up all sorts of ludicrous issues. Like which of the twenty gets to sleep in the plantation house come Tuesday. Who gets to sleep with whom? What if on tuesday the 20 slaves sell their last tuesday master to another plantation. What happens the following tuesday? Are the twenty freed because they sold their slave?

Frankly this is a ridiculous example and what I actually asked for was a definition of ownership which works with the concept of "owning each other". The ownership relationship in your example doesn't seem to survive simple transformations like sales, and can't handle anything but one-to-one relationships.

Have you every heard of "greu" and "bleen", ala, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/supplement4.html

These are non-projectable definitions of blue and green. You can read about it above. What is important about non-projectable definitions is that you cannot use them for induction.

I could define a "maslave" and "slavter" similarly so that they are the same as the terms "master" and "slave" where the definitions interchange every tuesday.

In your example lets say, whites are the "maslaves" so on week number one they are the masters and on week number two they are the slaves. Whereas, the blacks are the "slavters" and are slaves on week number one but masters on week number two. So these non-projectable definitions fit your example.

The fact that I can take your example of "owning each other" and combine it with a non-projectable definition of slavery to get something that fits of shows that this concept of yours has real problems.

Funnier yet, since you think switching social roles every Tuesday is a perfectly reasonable operation (and perhaps you think it fair). I could then say, "You know what. It's not fair that the maslaves get the first crack at being the masters. Therefore the social roles aren't fair. Let's do an every tuesday social role switch to even things out. So let's have the slavters and maslaves switch social roles every other Tuesday starting on the second tuesday.". Of course, at first thought this might be fair. Except if you think about it hard you'd realize that this is exactly the situation that existed in pre-Civil War American. On the first week whites get to be maslaves and thus are the masters for week one, and on week two they are the slavters which means they are again the masters ... and so forth.

Sorry if I have been sloppy in my writing above but I am finding it hard to believe I am entertaining this discussion at all. I'm not inclined to go to the effort to make this crystal clear. Hell, you should already know your arguments are strained if you have to resort to examples that flip every tuesday.

"When I say I believe they

"When I say I believe they should adopt my position, I am saying that I want them to agree with me."

How is that a belief? You know what you want.

I ask if you think people should agree with your conclusions when you reason correctly. You say you believe they should, even when you hold no such belief and you must know from experience that I'm obviously not asking if you prefer that they agree with you. Why do you continue to assert you believe what you don't?

"On Mondays, Wednesdays, and

"On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I own you. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you own me. We all own each other in some socialist paradise."

Obviously not a problem if there is no reason one ought prefer sense to nonsense.

Wait a second. Either they

Wait a second. Either they are listening to your argument or admiring your voice. Of course if they are just admiring your voice there is not moral component. That's not anybodies position.

Do you think if one of the jurors in the O.J. trial was just admiring Marcia Clarks breasts while listening to the summation that it counts as listening to her arguments?

It's wors Brian, I

It's wors Brian, I stipulated that the person understood the facts in evidence and the reasoning, and that the reasoning was correct. Which means that the person understood the reasoning was correct.

Whatever else he might be doing is irrelevant, he knows the argument is correct. Yet Micha holds that this is no more reason that he ought to accept the conclusion than if he knew that argument was invalid.

If Micha is correctly representing himself then he is actually nothing like a classical liberal; he reduces ethics to nothing and human action to incoherence.

>>The second phenomenon is

>>The second phenomenon is much more common than the first, in my experience. It’s actually one of the strongest arguments for religious belief.

Most theists are actually Pretty Darn Certain of their belief in God, Jesus, etc., aren't they? Do theists really "know that this God stuff is all fantastical bullshit" and "have faith that Jesus will save them" AT THE SAME TIME? The stuff they believe may be bullshit (indeed, given the many mutually exclusive religions, most of it has to be), but aren't they usually sincere in their belief?

I'm not even sure the statement, "I wan't to believe nonsense" is even coherent.

>>I still don’t agree with your conclusion that intelligence is inconsistent with nonsense. Many highly intelligent people believe in things they know or suspect are false or contradictory (or have no interest in determinining whether or not these beliefs are correct) because these beliefs are emotionally comforting, useful, or in some other way serve a purpose they wish to achieve other than acquiring true knowledge about the world.

To the extent they are doing this, their intelligence has been compromised, hasn't it? We have a word for people who go off and do things on the basis of obviously inaccurate information, and that word is "stupid." We also have a word for people who take action on the basis of information they believe to be wrong, and that word is "insane." Neither seems to be consistent with "highly intelligent."

"I certainly believe that if

"I certainly believe that if I reason correctly, others who understand my reasoning and have access to the same facts ought to agree with my conclusions. But that doesn’t make it an objective ought just because I believe they should do it."

What do you mean whe you say you *believe* they ought to agree with your conclusions? Does this again simply reduce to saying you *prefer* them to agree with your conclusions? You *know* what you prefer, so what are you asserting you *believe* when you say you believe they ought to agree with your conclusions?

When I say I believe they

When I say I believe they should adopt my position, I am saying that I want them to agree with me. This does not mean that they doing anything objectively wrong or immoral by not agreeing with me. If their purpose in listening to my argument is to gain true knowledge about the world, and my argument provides them with that, then they ought to adopt my position. If, on the other hand, their purpose in listening to my argument is to enjoy the sound of my voice, or enjoy the flow of my writing, or for whatever other reason, then there is no such imperitive, not hypothetical and certainly not categorical.

>>Whatever else he might be

>>Whatever else he might be doing is irrelevant, he knows the argument is correct. Yet Micha holds that this is no more reason that he ought to accept the conclusion than if he knew that argument was invalid.

A better statement might be, "If he knows the argument is correct, and he values correct thinking, then he should accept the argument. If he doesn't value correct thinking -- a redundant phrase, really -- then he should stop thinking. Many fine products exist which will assist him in this endeavor."

The statement "rational beings should accept correct arguments" isn't just an objective moral statement, it's a definition. Saying that participants in a rational discussion are morally obligated to reject nonsense is a little like saying that heavy objects are obligated to fall downwards.

JTK phrases it like a moral statement, but it's more reasonable to phrase it like a law of physics: Rational people reject nonsense, irrational people accept it. In rational discourse, nonsense is rejected. Period. Phrasing it as a traditional "ought" statement implies that rational actors have the CHOICE to either accept or reject nonsense. They don't.

How can not an individual

How can not an individual own him/her self? If not who does? Not another individual without owning himself/herself?

What if I lock you up in a metal cage? Do you still own yourself? Or do I own you?

Did antebellum slaves own themselves? Or did their owners own them?

"We could all own each

"We could all own each other, some could own themselves while owning others, etc."

By what reasonable definition of ownership could the sentence above make any sense whatsoever. How can we "all own each other".

Ashish, I don't understand

Ashish,

I don't understand how can somebody own another person without owning himself.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I own you. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, you own me. We all own each other in some socialist paradise.

If one does not own oneself how can one exercise his free will?

Are you claiming that slaves have historically lacked free will? It seems to me you are using multiple definitions of the term "self-ownership", one relating to free will and the other relating to political or ethical freedom.

Jonathon, You can lock me up

Jonathon,

You can lock me up in a cage (I'm not giving permission) but I will not ever think or have emotions as you tell me to, nor can you ever know for sure what my thinking or emotions are. The closest you could come is perhaps Stockholm Syndrome or other brain washing technique, but that means I have internally shut down most of my reasoning processes. You may have a piece of paper claiming title, you may have some say over my actions, you will not ever have full control.

...you will not ever have

...you will not ever have full control.

True. Though he can remove control from you, he cannot gain it for himself.

While I am glad that you are

While I am glad that you are being thorough by listing other possibilities, Micha, I think that the burden of proof should at least fall upon other selves to prove that they own me.

I believe the burden of proof falls on the person making a positive claim, and not the person denying one. I am denying that any objective morality exists, so it is the responsibility of anyone who claims otherwise to prove their case if they wish to convince the skeptics.

How is that a belief? You

How is that a belief? You know what you want.

Because it is an opinion. I choose to describe my opinions as beliefs, you choose to describe them as knowledge of one's own feelings. It's a semantic quibble.

You say you believe they should, even when you hold no such belief and you must know from experience that I’m obviously not asking if you prefer that they agree with you. Why do you continue to assert you believe what you don’t?

I stated my position clearly enough. Like all moral imperitives, this one is hypothetical, not categorical. The only "ought" that exists in this case is the one that can be derived from an if-then statement based on one's individual goals and preferences. If a person wishes to gain true knowledge about the world, then he ought to adopt positions which are supported by facts and logic. If a person does not wish to gain true knowledge about the world, then no such obligation applies.

If Micha is correctly

If Micha is correctly representing himself then he is actually nothing like a classical liberal; he reduces ethics to nothing and human action to incoherence.

Of course, this criticism only applies if you treat classical liberalism as a purely ethical doctrine. I don't, Will Wilkinson doesn't, Randy Barnett doesn't and most libertarian/classical liberal theorists don't. Rather, we consider libertarianism/classical liberalism a political doctrine, which can be arrived at through various methods, only some of which depend upon beliefs in natural rights and objective morality.

Most theists are actually

Most theists are actually Pretty Darn Certain of their belief in God, Jesus, etc., aren’t they? Do theists really “know that this God stuff is all fantastical bullshit” and “have faith that Jesus will save them” AT THE SAME TIME?

Surprisingly enough, many theists are not pretty darn certain of their belief, and this is even true regarding religious leaders like Priests who spend much of their time thinking about these kinds of things. And no, its not that they disbelieve in God while at the same time believing that Jesus will save them; rather, it is that they intellectually disbelieve in God, but recognize useful advantages associated with emotional belief and religious practice.

I’m not even sure the statement, “I wan’t to believe nonsense” is even coherent.

You obviously haven't read any Kierkegaard. :)

To the extent they are doing this, their intelligence has been compromised, hasn’t it?

I don't think so. They are simply using their intelligence for purposes other than acquiring true knowlege about the world. Intelligence has many uses; acquiring true knowledge is only one of them.

By what reasonable

By what reasonable definition of ownership could the sentence above make any sense whatsoever. How can we “all own each other".

I already gave an example of how this could be the case. Picture pre-Civil War American slavery, with the added stipulation that blacks and whites switch social roles every other Tuesday.

TJ, You're absolutely right

TJ, You're absolutely right that 'rational people reject nonsense' is true by definition. That doesn't make it akin to a law of physics however. The laws of physics all make specific claims about the real world which can be tested and demonstrated to be true or false. Things which are true by definition simply repeat the same information twice and so say nothing new about the real world (eg. 'heavier objects weigh more' is clearly true, but it's not a law of physics because heavier objects weigh more by definition, rather than because of something we've discovered about the universe.)

Jonathan, thanks. I'll have this morality essay to you by the weekend.

I believe the burden of

I believe the burden of proof falls on the person making the positive claim.

Okay. Prove you own me. :razz: :razz: :razz:

To be a little more careful:

1) Do you contest the fact that I have free will?
2) Can you make me undertake an act against my will?

No sticks or stones, please. And no deceit, for that matter. Hmmm...

Mark, do you contest that my

Mark, do you contest that my cat has free will, or do you simply dispute my claim to ownership?

I dispute your claim to

I dispute your claim to ownership. This is a cat, after all.

The cat is exercising its instinctive volition, and has agreed to live with you. It can probably come and go as it pleases, and is merely (if I remember the Mark Twain quote correctly), "proving that you have a comfortable home."

I am assuming that you do not keep it in a cage, in which case you are constraining it's actions, and I also assume that it is not stuffed.

Sooner or later, we will have to be more careful about what it means "to own". If you live in some principality that requires the licensing of cats, the cat is probably registered in the courthouse belonging to you (and you are taxed accordingly). If the cat lunges at a pest of a child, you are probably legally liable for damages. But, you do not own the cat in a greater sense than the cat owns itself, as Micha would like to prove.

Okay. Prove you own me. I

Okay. Prove you own me.

I have no need to because I don't need to make any positive claim on those grounds. I don't personally believe that it is just for one person to own another. But I am skeptical of any arguments which claim that slavery is objectively immoral.

1) Do you contest the fact that I have free will?

I don't make a positive claim that you lack free will, but I will demand persuasive evidence for a positive claim that free will exists, especially if someone is trying to construct an argument with free will as a fundamental axiom. The beauty of consequentialism is that it works regardless of whether we live in a free or deterministic world.

On what grounds can we claim

On what grounds can we claim that humans have free will but cats do not? When we say that humans act and humans choose, we have the advantage of being humans, so we know what it feels like to think and choose. But what makes us so sure this sensation of choice isn't just an illusion, and really we are determined to make these "choices" either through instinct, or genetics, or social forces, or whatever. And what makes us so sure that cats don't have this same sensation of choice when they have two plates of food in front of them and "choose" one over another?

Mark, the state in which I

Mark, the state in which I live (UK) does recognise the ownership of animals. My inability to control my cat's actions does not preclude ownership anymore than the inability of slave owners to control the actions of their slaves precluded (or, in some parts of the world, 'precludes') their ownership. Ownership rights vary according to the norms of the system you live in. Most westerners are used to the idea that owning people is ridiculous, but it's not always thus.