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Moral Theory of Non-aggression

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Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« on: June 19, 2016, 12:48:23 AM »
 

Owl

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Hello there. Libertarianism is a movement based on an ideological principle, namely the Non-aggression Principle (NAP). I decided that the NAP could be expanded from a moral principle into a full-fledged moral theory in order to make it more robust and less ambiguous. Maybe it's not necessary, but I think it does help to break the NAP down into more direct, simple components. I'd like to show you all what I've come up with and ask for your opinions. And I would also like to hear your thoughts on defining property from the perspective of moral philosophy.

Non-aggression Principle: It is immoral to initiate force upon a person without consent.



Moral Theory of Non-aggression

An action is morally wrong if:
  • it is the initial violence or threat of violence upon a person
  • it obstructs without consent a peaceful individual's capacity to use their property as they see fit
  • it facilitates, enables, or causes a non-consensual exchange of value
  • it exerts greater than the minimum required force to provide adequate defense
The Moral Theory of Non-aggression (MTNA) only describes what is morally wrong to do. That is to say that if an action may be described by MTNA, it is immoral, and all other actions, which cannot be described by MTNA, are either permissible or morally right. MTNA assumes impartiality so that no person is implicitly better or worse than others, and each person’s interests weigh equally. I wish to stress that MTNA does not prescribe any obligatory actions which must be committed for this is not its purpose. Essentially, MTNA only describes immorality and does not define what is morally right, nor does it make any attempt.

Thanks for any suggestions or criticisms.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2016, 10:49:53 AM »
 

Mike26

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I think you have some semantic obstructions in this. Labeling your theory Moral... But then describing that it doesn't speak to what is moral seems contradictory. If instead you incorporated the word Morality into the naming it would alleviate this contradiction.

Also the scope of the theory in incredibly small. How it currently reads, the four points listed are the only immoral actions on earth. What about neglect/ negligence? A person neglects their property (land and natural resources) by negligently dumping/ polluting them. Their waste and pollution then pollutes, destroys, contaminates, and informs the neighboring resources and or population... Just a few thoughts.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2016, 03:27:43 PM »
 

Owl

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Neglect would be permissible here for the same reason destroying your own property is permissible, though polluting your own property so badly that it begins to obstruct your neighbor's ability to access and use their own property is considered morally wrong. Though it should be noted that it's the adverse affects of the pollution suffered by the neighbor which would make the act immoral.

The neglect of a child would be different. The child is considered the property of the parents via the consequence of their actions (sex), is also a human being, and is totally dependent on others for survival. So the parents essentially own a fully dependent human being and choosing to neglect it would inflict harm upon it, which violates the theory. The only reason the parents are required to act in this case is because this odd combination of dependency and human ownership causes a moral obligation. This is how paternalism in government policies imposes obligations on tax payers. The difference here is that a sound argument can be made for a parent owning their dependent child, while no decent argument can be made for a community owning an adult.

As for the name, I was wondering about that. The theory only describes action that is wrong. So would it be better to call it an "Immoral Theory?"
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2016, 04:12:55 PM »
 

Mike26

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Or the theory of non aggression and morality. I disagree parents have ownership of their children. They have responsibility for the child, but not ownership of him/her.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2016, 09:44:34 PM »
 

Magnaniman

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The concept of property is derived from ownership of yourself.  If you own yourself, then you also own the products of your time and labor unless agreeing otherwise.

I completely disagree with you about ownership of children.  In fact, I think it's quite the opposite.  If anyone owns anyone, it is children who own some measure of their parents' productivity and attention.  Having children creates an obligation to care for those children because everyone is responsible for their own actions, not because of de facto ownership and dependency.

For instance, if you injured someone in, say, a car accident, you are obligated to make amends by making sure any medical treatment is taken care of and that their needs are taken care of while they heal.  It is the same with children.  You have created a situation in which someone is helpless and unable to take care of themselves, therefore you are obligated to make sure that their needs are met.  Child-rearing is not a loophole that allows someone to create slaves for themselves.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2016, 10:26:32 PM »
 

Mike26

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Magnanimous, I agree with everything u just said except for the use of the word obligated. If instead we use the word responsible for, I believe that would be honest. Obligation implies a demand is being imposed. If a demand is being imposed, then there is a threat of punishment if the demand isn't met satisfactorily.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2016, 01:41:01 AM »
 

Magnaniman

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If my neighbor is intentionally and malevolently starving his or her kids, I will do something about it.  Obligation is the right word.

This is the sort of situation that really puts the NAP to the test.  When people address concerns like this by talking about police alternatives, like dispute resolution businesses, it's a cop out (pun intended).  What will those groups actually do when faced with a genuinely horrible situation?

There are always going to be awful people.  I believe in anarchy largely because I don't want awful people to wield more power than anyone else.  I think that, by building a healthy society, we can decrease the amount of awful people quite significantly, but, to be clear, there are situations where a group of people has to go regulate by busting down some doors, maybe shooting someone, and then setting things right.

Granted, the way that our government is doing that now is quite heinous.  However, when a SWAT team busts into some dude's house and releases half a dozen imprisoned pre-teen girls who have been subjected to unspeakable horrors, I'm totally okay with that.  I recognize that not all police actions are that noble, that there are many grey areas, and that they don't do a good job of finding non-violent solutions, but some people must simply be stopped from doing what they're doing.  Then, what do you do with those awful people once they've been caught?

I recognize the threat, there, of succumbing to mob justice and the possibility of sliding into some sort of Salem-style witch hunt.  I think that the way of life we're talking about decreases the likelihood of situations like that from occurring, but there are times when inaction and pacifism are unconscionable.

In discussions about the NAP, we talk about self defense a lot, but very rarely do we talk about what should be done when we find out that someone else has violated the NAP in the past.  To live by this principle, after its acceptance to the degree that we live in a voluntary society, there is an obligation to adhere to the NAP.  Some transgressions are minor, but, for grievous offenses, there need to be stronger measures than an embargo.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2016, 02:56:51 AM »
 

Owl

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I disagree parents have ownership of their children. They have responsibility for the child, but not ownership of him/her.

Yeah, admittedly it's a little weird. My dilemma here is that I don't really think there are positive rights. By that I mean that no person has the moral right to the goods or services of another person. To say that a child has a right to the resources of the parents would be opening up that philosophical can of worms because this would acknowledge the presence of at least one such positive right, which in turn might validate paternalistic government policies and the whole nine yards.

The NAP implies that there are no positive rights, so we are tasked with describing why it is we must care for our children without a positive right on the part of the child.

Libertarian ethics is founded in the notion of self-ownership and the property rights which follow, so I'm trying to explain parental responsibility through libertarian property theory rather than by just claiming that the child has a positive right. Ultimately, I'm saying that since the child is literally the product of the parents, it belongs to them; it is their child. Since the child is a human being, it has all the negative rights described by the above moral theory. However, it's complete and utter dependency means that if someone doesn't care for it, it will die. Therefore, neglect would result in a violation of the moral theory and the responsibility simply falls on the parents because they created the child in the first place.

Also because of the way this works, the responsibility of the parents to provide for the child diminishes as the child becomes more independent. You can see how children are difficult to fit into a theory with no positive rights.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2016, 03:05:21 AM »
 

Owl

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Obligation implies a demand is being imposed. If a demand is being imposed, then there is a threat of punishment if the demand isn't met satisfactorily.

This is exactly why it is dangerous to grant positive rights to anyone, including children. We must find a way to describe the moral responsibility of parents to care for their children without calling on "obligatory action." The way I have described it, parents are only obligated to provide because it is the only way to avoid harming a person who is helplessly dependent on them. Making excuses for positive rights, moral duties, and obligatory action can be a slippery slope.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2016, 09:21:23 AM »
 

Mike26

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People don't grant other people rights, positive or negative. All people innately have all the same rights. And morality is a facade. Check out Adam's link on NVC in another post.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2016, 11:11:23 AM »
 

Magnaniman

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I don't think it's possible to define morality in a way that everyone can adhere to under all circumstances.  Your theory must be able to account for ways it can be violated in response to being violated, or it is useless. 

As I said before, having children is not a loophole that allows slavery.  For the same reason that you own property, you are also responsible for your actions that result in harm, as well.  That responsibility creates an obligation that must be enforceable through some means.  Government exists because of the legitimate need for determining responsibility and enforcing the resultant obligation.  Voluntarism/anarchy are about finding alternatives to government dictatorship to accomplish these ends, not denying the need for them.

Maybe you're talking about some aspect of philosophy that's just going over my head, but it's clear to me that whatever you're suggesting is absolutely flawed if it asserts that people are born into slavery and frees them from responsibility in the event of wrong-doing.

I said this once before, somewhere on here, and elsewhere:  The only true morality is survival.  That's nature.  Any way of life that places anything else above survival will, eventually or immediately, directly result in the death of that way of life, making those beliefs pointless.  Survival must be the cornerstone of your assertion of morality from which the rest may follow.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2016, 11:26:18 AM by Magnaniman »
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2016, 05:06:49 PM »
 

Owl

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Mike26: If people do have innate rights as you say, then morality and ethics is not a facade. What I'm trying to do is use the non-aggression principle to identify these innate rights.

Magnaniman: It is impossible to create a moral theory of positive rights and obligations which may account for all situations, but I think it's possible to create a moral theory of negative rights which may describe those actions which one person must never take against another person. This is ultimately the point of the NAP. It doesn't prescribe correct action in any given situation, it only restricts what action is permissible in any given situation.

The reason I brought up the "starving your own child" counter-argument to the NAP and my own moral theory is because it does present the issue of the obvious obligation of a parent to care for the child within the framework of a moral philosophy which actively denounces positive rights. Any help in this area from libertarian philosophers would be very much appreciated.

Also, morality and ethics are restraints on guttural instincts which allow us to live good lives (where good is defined by adherence to a given moral theory). I disagree that the only true morality is survival because acting only in the interest of personal survival removes any ethical constraints from our actions. The NAP is an example of an ethical code which restricts certain actions from all interactions as a universal principle. As such, the foundation of Libertarian ethics is not based on survival but based on mutual respect for self-ownership.

(sorry for typos, I wrote this and immediately had to leave before checking for spelling)
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2016, 05:38:24 PM »
 

Mike26

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Morality is a belief that there is such things as right and wrong/ good and evil. Holding this belief says you are the judge of what is right and wrong, in essence claiming your own unimpeachable authority/ deity.

Saying that survival is the only morality... Are you saying continuing to live is good and discontinuing life is bad? Don't the changing of the seasons debunk this theory? Our planet and it's ecosystems work cyclically with times of birth, growth, production, reproduction, death, and rebirth.

When we assert that we can judge what is good and bad, what makes our judgements more valid than another person's. Even the suggested theory of survival morality fails to be universal as many people and cultures celebrate when things and people die.

As far as trying to enforce responsibilities, that's government by definition. We can try and dress it up nice and put lipstick on it, but it's still a pig.
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2016, 06:55:59 PM »
 

FreedomIsOurDestiny

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Also, morality and ethics are restraints on guttural instincts which allow us to live good lives (where good is defined by adherence to a given moral theory). I disagree that the only true morality is survival because acting only in the interest of personal survival removes any ethical constraints from our actions. The NAP is an example of an ethical code which restricts certain actions from all interactions as a universal principle. As such, the foundation of Libertarian ethics is not based on survival but based on mutual respect for self-ownership.


Owl, I agree that the ethics can only be placed on the mutual respect for self-ownership.  If it were based on survival, one would be forced to stop a community that voluntarily chose to stop procreation.  This would be an obvious infringement on their rights as individuals.  Mutual respect would allow for you to speak with them and try to persuade them as long as they were willing to communicate with you.

As far as children, I think calling them property of the parents, even just in infancy, would be a direct violation of the NAP.  I think as humans, we have a large capacity for compassion and we understand that we all begin and likely end our lives in a state of dependency on others.  I do think it is the parents' right to assume responsibility for the caregiving of their child, but if found in a situation where the parents are incapable or unwilling to provide for the child, they would forfeit that right based on the idea that they have put another human in harm's way.  Ideally, another family member, or close friend would be able to assume the responsibilty and in more complicated cases something such as a dispute resolution firm specializing in these matters may be called upon.

“It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

― Mark Twain
 

Re: Moral Theory of Non-aggression
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2016, 07:22:45 PM »
 

Magnaniman

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I didn't say "personal survival."  I said "survival."  That can encompass many things.  It may be the survival of your genetics through your children.  It might be the survival of your beliefs.  It could just mean the survival of the species.  It depends, largely, upon how a person defines the essence of their being.

Also, it does not preclude principled, non-aggressive behavior.  In fact, it encourages it through a process called "enlightened self interest."  While it may be immediately more advantageous for a person to steal, murder, etc., those sorts of behaviors create a large degree of resentment among others that dramatically threaten the perpetrator's well-being in the long run.  So, in the interest of survival, of any sort, the Golden Rule, or some variation upon it (like the NAP), becomes wholly necessary in order to prevent most aggression against oneself.

This way of thinking promotes adaptability, not stagnation.  Yes, the seasons change, so people must learn to change with the seasons in order to survive and perpetuate whatever aspects of themselves that they believe are most important.  If these defining elements of being do not include defending them, they will die, which, ultimately, makes them irrelevant, in practical terms, to the living.

This is why enforcement of responsibilities is necessary.  That is not government, it is survival.  For instance, if someone murders my family when I'm not there to defend them, I will immediately reject any sort of principle or moral theory that asserts that they are ethically protected from any sort of reprisal or punishment.  I'm not saying that anything I would want to do to that person is necessarily justified, but, in general, the idea that "immoral" actions can only be opposed when they are actively in progress is critically flawed.

The methods of determining and enforcing responsibility are entirely up for debate, but, without some sort of mechanism for justice, there is no possible way for this belief system to sustain itself.