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Problem with action axiom proof and UPB proof


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79 replies to this topic

#1
shiinee

shiinee
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Hello folks,

I was discussing the action axiom (i.e. "Human action is purposeful") with my boyfriend today and we ran into a point of confusion concerning its proof as provided by the Mises Institute and Praxgirl. We have been debating for several hours now on whether this constitutes a substantive objection and whether it has already been addressed. At this point we decided to turn to the clever (and extraordinarily handsome) readers here for further input.

I am going to quote at length from a blog post I found which states my objection very well:


A question occurred to me while I was reading a passage by George Selgin, explaining why (many) Austrians hold Ludwig von Mises's praxeological method to be the most valid form of all economic reasoning. Following Immanuel Kant, it basically boils down to a belief that the human action axiom cannot be refuted, because, as per Selgin (pg 22):


To meaningfully deny the "action axiom" (i.e., the claim that people act purposefully) is difficult. Denial of the axiom's empirical validity involves a purposeful act on the part of skeptics. It therefore confronts them with the uncomfortable choice of either conceding the issue or proclaiming that their own disagreement is purposeless. Thus, any denial of the action axiom is self-contradictory.

Am I the only that sees an obvious philosophical objection to this? It extrapolates from a single (contrived?) instance and purports to have shown that the same rules must hold for all human actions over all of time. Near as I can tell, this is done without further justification.

To put things differently, just because I act purposefully at this one particular moment in time (i.e. by denying the action axiom), how does rule out the possibility that I may have acted in a non-purposeful way at any other moment? Indeed, I would think that if someone did try to deny the action axiom, their position would very likely be based on past events and experiences that are completely independent of the present “catch-22” moment. You could easily argue that framing things in such a way – to assume that people act must purposefully at all times, or not at all – is a false dichotomy that invalidates the claim to (strict) apodictic truth.

At best – or worst, depending on your position – it therefore seems to me that denying the action axiom is only momentarily self-contradictory, not an exhaustive set that is valid over all time.

A rather laboured analogy:


MARIO: "Hey Luigi, are you awake?"
LUIGI: "No."
MARIO: "A-ha! But you have to be awake, since you just answered me. So... Proof that you don't sleep!
LUIGI: "Huh?"

Etcetera.

Anyway, this seems such an obvious objection to me that I can't shake the feeling that a) someone has already proposed it (to possible counter-argument), or b) I'm wrong in an even more obvious way. So, followers of Mises: Hit me with it!

This is the exact same issue I have with the argument Stef has made numerous times in favor of UPB: essentially, "By debating with me in pursuit of truth, you demonstrate that truth is preferable to falsehood-- therefore, I conclude that truth is a universally preferable concept."

Personally I agree with the action axiom, and UPB, on an intuitive basis -- both seem correct, but I can't justify my intuition here with a logically rigorous proof. Since these are basic foundations of my personal philosophy(!), I would like to be absolutely convinced.


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#2
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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Seriously, guys, we've been going at this for hours, and she's genuinely managed to get me to see the fundamental problem -- it's a categorical logical problem:

We both accept the fact that X (member of set S) contradicts proposition P in attempting to disprove P, but for us, it just does not logically follow that P applies to the entirety of set S.

She's not the only one with this doubt. After a conversation at length with shiinee, I have come to think the exact same thing -- uhhh, in acting to try to disprove the human action axiom, one definitely contradicts the action, but that contradiction only specifies oneself in that very instant, not all actions of all people.

And I have the exact same problem with Stef's proof for UPB, whose proof is exactly argumentative like this one -- id est, "By debating, you are proving that you find truth preferable" and then he makes this inexplicable jump to "you are proving that truth is universally preferable".

Even though I intuitively find UPB and the human action axiom true, I would like to have some form of definite proof. So we're genuinely searching for answers here.

 

And, please, let me be the second to state that I intuitively accept both the action axiom and the proof for UPB.  It's just that I would also like to have some rational, closed case, logical proof for both, that did not rely on this logical error.

The discussion is being mirrored in /r/anarcho_capitalism.


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#3
Mcattack

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I think it is similar to the Decartes deamon problem.

 

A person can come out of the cave of "reality is all an illusion created by my mind," for an instant to debate with someone but then they can easily return to the cave and act as if the existance of reality is generated by their mind.

I think the same holds true for UBP, people can come and go from debating truth then claiming they were just making opinions.

 


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#4
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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I think it is similar to the Decartes deamon problem.

 

A person can come out of the cave of "reality is all an illusion created by my mind," for an instant to debate with someone but then they can easily return to the cave and act as if the existance of reality is generated by their mind.

I think the same holds true for UBP, people can come and go from debating truth then claiming they were just making opinions.

 

Can you draw a rigorous parallel between the daemon problem and this problem?

Remember we're looking for rigorous answers.


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#5
kablamos

kablamos
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@shiinee This is the human action axiom as Mises proposed it.

"Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego's meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person's conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary"

Now momentarily ignoring determinism/free will, I certainly find this correlates with how my mind works and given that I accept the existance of other conciousnessess and the concistancy of reality I am satisfied that this applys to said other conciousnessess. This however has nothing to do with the arguementation based arguement for human action which requires that you first accept the above for it to be a proof and is therefore pointless. I find arguementation based arguements to be ugly and fruitless for this reason.

I am happy with determining truth for myself and if others have intellectual integrity and sufficient knowledge and reason let them join me, if not then they can go flip them selves.


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I have left Freedomain Radio because I value truth and constructive debate and have found both hard to come by on this site. I have learned much from my time here but increasingly I was frustrated by what I saw as Stefan and many of his followers' inabillity(or lack of desire) to admit to being wrong, mostly in realm of ethics but I also hold significant differences in other areas. In short, spending time here was no longer of sufficient value to me. It is my heartfelt hope that you too will come to such a juncture. Life on the other side, for me at least, is immeasurably better and I have no reason to believe that it would be otherwise for others. So for now, keep questioning! and may we meet someday, two, free of all but will and reality.  Amos.


#6
Mcattack

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Like Decartes I don't think it can be proven deductively, it is individuals actions that inductively, and complicitly prove it.

 

 


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#7
gmkd

gmkd
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Hi, Shiinee

This is known and not really an objection. A "human" is defined as and object capable of puposfull action, and by the act of denile you are affirming it's existance. You are not making an empircal statement about what objects are human and what objects are not, only the such "humans" exist and act.

Hope this helps.

 


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#8
RestoringGuy

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There is distinction between quantifiers.  "For all" and "there exists".  By denying existance of one thing, it shows that the "for all" quantifier is falsified, but it does not deny "there exists".  If I claim there exists just one purposeless human action, then that should not allow me to conclude my claim itself is purposeless. 

To apply logic to UPB is futile.  It has already been said that UPB morality is not as rigorous as the physical sciences, it only needs to be subject to rigor on the order of biological science.  In one podcast, I paraphase, I believe Stef says there could be a fly with 12 wings but it's "not statistically significant".  I take this to mean "universal" is technically a weak standard (weak compared to mathematics standards).  So in UPB the abbreviated use of the word "universal" is somewhat bogus.  It is not "true universality" as logicians have been using.  In set theory and logic, the word universal applies to a objects of a particular class without any exception.  In logic even one exception always will destroy the claim.  It is straightforward tautology that "for all x P(x) is true" is equivalent to "it is not the case that there exists x such that P(x) is false".

Yet in UPB "universal" is apparently not meant logically but more of a rough statistical claim.  I am not entirely satisfied with that answer, because it seems to borrow words from the wrong domain.  It seems more rigorous to just leave out the U.

 

 


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#9
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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There is distinction between quantifiers.  "For all" and "there exists".  By denying existance of one thing, it shows that the "for all" quantifier is falsified, but it does not deny "there exists".  If I claim there exists just one purposeless human action, then that should not allow me to conclude my claim itself is purposeless. 

To apply logic to UPB is futile.  It has already been said that UPB morality is not as rigorous as the physical sciences, it only needs to be subject to rigor on the order of biological science.  In one podcast, I paraphase, I believe Stef says there could be a fly with 12 wings but it's "not statistically significant".  I take this to mean "universal" is technically a weak standard (weak compared to mathematics standards).  So in UPB the abbreviated use of the word "universal" is somewhat bogus.  It is not "true universality" as logicians have been using.  In set theory and logic, the word universal applies to a objects of a particular class without any exception.  In logic even one exception always will destroy the claim.  It is straightforward tautology that "for all x P(x) is true" is equivalent to "it is not the case that there exists x such that P(x) is false".

Yet in UPB "universal" is apparently not meant logically but more of a rough statistical claim.  I am not entirely satisfied with that answer, because it seems to borrow words from the wrong domain.  It seems more rigorous to just leave out the U.

 

 

Yeah, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the methodological foundation of UPB,while quite intuitively true to me, simply has no logical support. The problem, "you debate, therefore you have demonstrated the existence of preference, therefore you have demonstrated universal preference" (non sequitur in the last conclusion), I am coming to believe that no one can solve it...


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#10
gmkd

gmkd
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----------------------------------------Update---------------------------------------------------

There is distinction between quantifiers.  "For all" and "there
exists".  By denying existance of one thing, it shows that the "for all"
quantifier is falsified, but it does not deny "there exists".  If I
claim there exists just one purposeless human action, then that should
not allow me to conclude my claim itself is purposeless. 

To apply logic to UPB is futile.  It has already been said that
UPB morality is not as rigorous as the physical sciences, it only needs
to be subject to rigor on the order of biological science.  In one
podcast, I paraphase, I believe Stef says there could be a fly with 12
wings but it's "not statistically significant".  I take this to mean
"universal" is technically a weak standard (weak compared to mathematics
standards).  So in UPB the abbreviated use of the word "universal" is
somewhat bogus.  It is not "true universality" as logicians have been
using.  In set theory and logic, the word universal applies to a objects
of a particular class without any exception.  In logic even one exception always
will destroy the claim.  It is straightforward tautology that "for all x
P(x) is true" is equivalent to "it is not the case that there exists x
such that P(x) is false".

Yet in UPB "universal" is apparently not meant logically but more of a
rough statistical claim.  I am not entirely satisfied with that answer,
because it seems to borrow words from the wrong domain.  It seems more
rigorous to just leave out the U.

 

 

Yeah, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the methodological
foundation of UPB,while quite intuitively true to me, simply has no
logical support. The problem, "you debate, therefore you have
demonstrated the existence of preference, therefore you have
demonstrated universal preference" (non sequitur in the last
conclusion), I am coming to believe that no one can solve it...

Have a look at
Argumentation Ethics which is praxeologicly rigore. 

http://blog.mises.org/13557/hoppes-argumentation-ethics-again/


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#11
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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 Have a look at
Argumentation Ethics which is praxeologicly rigore. 

http://blog.mises.org/13557/hoppes-argumentation-ethics-again/

We will.

Update: the first paragraphs quoted by Jeffrey Tucker were written by a personal friend of mine (Juan Fernando Carpio, who also happens to be the dude who introduced my last ex-girlfriend to me), and I completely intuitively agree with him there, however that does not respond to the questions we set forth here, because he has the same problem we pointed above:

The opposite of the statement "self-ownership is valid for everyone" is not "self-ownership is valid for no one".  But argumentation ethics commits exactly this error, right?  In saying "a person denying self-ownership affirms self-ownership through his action", they magically omit the categorical qualifiers.  In truth, a person P attempting to refute self-ownership is only affirming self-ownership for himself and perhaps his interlocutor, but that's about it -- P's dumb error doesn't affirm anything universal

-------------------------

In the meantime, more in detail, the specific objection to UPB:

 

- UPB expert: truth is preferable to falsehood

- UPB denier: no, truth is not preferable to falsehood, because (not important)

- UPB expert: a-ha! you depend on truth being preferable to falsehood in order to set forth that assertion

And that's fine and dandy, I agree to that.  The problem is, there's nothing in the argument remotely similar to "truth is preferable to falsehood universally, for all men, across all time" there.  That's the "rabbit ouf of a hat" that is sort of implicitly transformed from "you and me" to "everyone".  Looks like a sleight of word, now that I've been studying argument mapping...

You'd think that the following restatement would cure this problem, but it doesn't:

- UPB expert: truth is universally preferable to falsehood

- UPB denier: no, truth is not universally preferable to falsehood, because (not important)

- UPB expert: a-ha! you depend on truth being universally preferable to falsehood in order to set forth that assertion

- UPB denier: no, not really, I only depend on truth being preferable to falsehood *during this debate*, and *only for you and me*, which is quite the smaller claim than your initial claim.

See how the concept of self-detonating statements doesn't cure the logical problem?


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#12
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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In essence, what I am saying is this:

Argumentation ethics allows to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one".  It, however, does not allow to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one, except you and me".  Thus, argumentation ethics does not logically prove the axioms arising from it.


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#13
gmkd

gmkd
  • 91 posts

In essence, what I am saying is this:

Argumentation ethics allows to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one".  It, however, does not allow to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one, except you and me".  Thus, argumentation ethics does not logically prove the axioms arising from it.

Argumentation Ethics shows that only the norm every person owns it's own body can be argued without contradiction.


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#14
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
  • 764 posts

Argumentation Ethics shows that only the norm every person owns it's own body can be argued without contradiction.

See, this contention of yours is the very same thing I am seeking to prove.

The problem is, I can't -- e.g. I can propose a counterexample norm "You and I own our bodies, but everybody else does not" which is entirely non-contradictory by argumentation ethics' requirements, and handily refutes your proposition "only the norm every person own his body can be argued without contradiction".

So, can you help me prove it?  If not, I'd appreciate if you didn't clutter the conversation by insisting on contentions without any supporting reasons.  It isn't very helpful to share your conclusions with me, but not tell me the reasons for your conclusions.


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#15
gmkd

gmkd
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Argumentation Ethics shows that only the norm every person owns it's own body can be argued without contradiction.

See, this contention of yours is the very same thing I am seeking to prove.

The problem is, I can't -- e.g. I can propose a counterexample norm "You and I own our bodies, but everybody else does not" which is entirely non-contradictory by argumentation ethics' requirements, and handily refutes your proposition "only the norm every person own his body can be argued without contradiction".

So, can you help me prove it?  If not, I'd appreciate if you didn't clutter the conversation by insisting on contentions without any supporting reasons.  It isn't very helpful to share your conclusions with me, but not tell me the reasons for your conclusions.

OK, I apologize if I missed you point.

First, for every given resolution of a given conflict only the NAP can be justified in debate to resolve it, do you agree with this?

 


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#16
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
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Argumentation Ethics shows that only the norm every person owns it's own body can be argued without contradiction.

See, this contention of yours is the very same thing I am seeking to prove.

The problem is, I can't -- e.g. I can propose a counterexample norm "You and I own our bodies, but everybody else does not" which is entirely non-contradictory by argumentation ethics' requirements, and handily refutes your proposition "only the norm every person own his body can be argued without contradiction".

So, can you help me prove it?  If not, I'd appreciate if you didn't clutter the conversation by insisting on contentions without any supporting reasons.  It isn't very helpful to share your conclusions with me, but not tell me the reasons for your conclusions.

OK, I apologize if I missed you point.

First, for every given resolution of a given conflict only the NAP can be justified in debate to resolve it, do you agree with this?

 

I intuitively agree with the NAP, but the NAP results from UPB or argumentation ethics, which themselves I can't prove.


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#17
gmkd

gmkd
  • 91 posts

Lets for a moment assume that it is so, and argumentation implies the NAP. That means that if we have a conflict, say over your car, we must assume the NAP.

Now, if I argue that person X does not own his body, I am assentialy claiming that I can act (say, attack him) in a way that cannot be justified (due to our premise). Yes?


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#18
Jose Perez

Jose Perez
  • 895 posts

Sorry, if I am misled. I skipped a lot here and I am a bit sleepy, but thought this might help for now: "universally preferable" comes from the fact that anyone (generic person X) who *argues* truth, ethics... must prefer truth,behaviour... In reality they can prefer whatever the heck they want, no?

Isn't that the reason Stef chose "preferable" and not "preferred"?


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#19
gmkd

gmkd
  • 91 posts

Universallity is derived from the fact that arbitrary distinctions of moral categories, by the nature of being arbitrary, cannot be justified, and so are inconsistent with debate.


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#20
RestoringGuy

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  • 1054 posts

Universallity is derived from the fact that arbitrary distinctions of moral categories, by the nature of being arbitrary, cannot be justified, and so are inconsistent with debate.

I think so far in discussions nobody denies that moral categories are by necessity bound by imperfection, inexactness, exceptions, less than totally rigorous reasoning, or some combination of all these things.  In so doing, we introduce an arbitrary distinction of what's "good enough" to be universal.  Therefore, even when we abandon perfection and admit we don't need it, the very argument that "arbitrariness causes inconsistency" seems irrelevant and the debate must proceed despite all that.

In other words, in our debates we each individually rely on an arbitrary level of tolerance for error.  In so accepting and admitting such arbitrary tolerance, we can no longer point to the arbitrary as use it to derive what is inconsistent in a logical sense.  Some factual inconsistency is now totally expected and entirely within bounds of accepted reasoning.  It's not a comfortable way to go, but it seems inevitable if we admit moral reasoning that is less than an exact science.  I would rather go in the other direction (pure axiomatic deduction), but it seems too challenging.

 


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#21
gmkd

gmkd
  • 91 posts

Universallity is derived from the fact that arbitrary distinctions of moral categories, by the nature of being arbitrary, cannot be justified, and so are inconsistent with debate.

I think so far in discussions nobody denies that moral categories are by necessity bound by imperfection, inexactness, exceptions, less than totally rigorous reasoning, or some combination of all these things.  In so doing, we introduce an arbitrary distinction of what's "good enough" to be universal.  Therefore, even when we abandon perfection and admit we don't need it, the very argument that "arbitrariness causes inconsistency" seems irrelevant and the debate must proceed despite all that.

In other words, in our debates we each individually rely on an arbitrary level of tolerance for error.  In so accepting and admitting such arbitrary tolerance, we can no longer point to the arbitrary as use it to derive what is inconsistent in a logical sense.  Some factual inconsistency is now totally expected and entirely within bounds of accepted reasoning.  It's not a comfortable way to go, but it seems inevitable if we admit moral reasoning that is less than an exact science.  I would rather go in the other direction (pure axiomatic deduction), but it seems too challenging.

 

 

You are confusing the application of principles, which can be inaccurate with their definition, which can and should be accurate.


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#22
FreedomWins

FreedomWins
  • 2098 posts

Argumentation ethics allows to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one".  It, however, does not allow to argumentatively refute a person who says "Self-ownership is valid for no one, except you and me".  Thus, argumentation ethics does not logically prove the axioms arising from it.

Well, if you just want to talk about unfounded opinions, great, there's a possibility you might just arbitrarily limit it to two people. But then there are no proofs anywhere anyway and no validity.

If you're talking about valid statements, there must be a foundation to self ownership that's not completely arbitrary and so it's unlikely to apply just to you two, unless you two are completely special from everyone else in some reasonably relevant way.

This sort of reasonable foundation that takes away complete arbitrariness is a very important requirement to any person who wants to understand something, and it's particularly important with something that's not physical like morality.

It's completely reasonable to reject the idea that there's some principle we just haven't seen that applies to just two people or whatever, even if that's not completely logically airtight. This principle of reasoning is very successful at avoiding error, rejecting a lot of nonsense. It's either the basis of or similar to the basis of strong atheism.


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#23
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
  • 764 posts

[font=" 'Times New Roman', serif; font-size: 12pt; text-align: left"]Lets for a moment assume that it is so, and argumentation
implies the NAP. That means that if we have a conflict, say over your car, we
must assume the NAP.[/font]

Now, if I argue that person X does not own his body, I am
assentialy claiming that I can act (say, attack him) in a way that cannot be
justified
(due to our premise). Yes?

Dood, why are you asking me questions about the NAP, when I have already said that I accept the NAP presumptively?  If it's to prove argumentation ethics, I can't accept that course of action because that would be circular.


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#24
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
  • 764 posts

Mmmmm...

...I haven't seen anything convincing yet, in the form of a logical argument, that will help me bridge the jump from particular principles (such as the ones we assume in a debate, thus can't deny in a debate) to universal principles.  In fact, I feel like nobody wants to address this particular point.

I'm stuck. :-S


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#25
MrCapitalism

MrCapitalism
  • 1512 posts

In fact, I feel like nobody wants to address this particular point.

I can tell you that I have no desire to attempt to address this point to you,

if that helps.

 


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#26
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
  • 764 posts

In fact, I feel like nobody wants to address this particular point.

I can tell you that I have no desire to attempt to address this point to you,

if that helps.

 

Well, your post can mean a number of things, so I'm not sure what you mean.

If what you're saying is that you don't want to address the point with me, I can totally understand that.  I myself didn't want to address it, until the logical inconsistency bothered me too much, and then I came here with the questions.

I can see that, at least, both Brian Macker and Brainpolice (the last name not held in very high esteem here) have the exact same objections, but just like me, they both intuitively accept the NAP, the action axiom, and most other moral principles derived by UPB, all the while being capable of disagreeing with the logical substantiation of UPB and praxeology.  Hell, even Roderick Ling says "[color= #111111; font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Sans', Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 22px]I accept universalisability, but I think it needs to be grounded in something; it’s not a self-evident starting-point.".  Apparently this point of contention has been a HUGE thing in the Mises circle, and I didn't even know, heh.[/color]

Now, if what you're saying is that you don't want to address the point with me,... why not address the original poster then?


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#27
Stefan Molyneux

Stefan Molyneux
  • 19755 posts

Bring it up in the call in show :)


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#28
shiinee

shiinee
  • 11 posts

We'll do that, probably after making some argument maps, such that we can more effectively share what we mean.  It's a tricky topic, as one can guess!


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#29
shiinee

shiinee
  • 11 posts

Does the call-in show happen tomorrow?


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#30
shiinee

shiinee
  • 11 posts

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]

[/font]
[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]"Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego's meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person's conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary"[/font]
[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]

[/font]

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]

[/font]
[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]This is known and not really an objection. A "human" is defined as and object capable of puposfull action, and by the act of denile you are affirming it's existance. You are not making an empircal statement about what objects are human and what objects are not, only the such "humans" exist and act.[/font]
[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]

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[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]It sounds like Mises defines human action to be purposeful, rather than requiring any form of proof that it is. This probably would have been satisfactory to me had I never heard an attempt to construct a proof of the action axiom :P That I have encountered arguments in favor of it suggests that I am not the only one who craves a more explicit defense.[/font]

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[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]To apply logic to UPB is futile. It has already been said that UPB morality is not as rigorous as the physical sciences, it only needs to be subject to rigor on the order of biological science. In one podcast, I paraphase, I believe Stef says there could be a fly with 12 wings but it's "not statistically significant". I take this to mean "universal" is technically a weak standard (weak compared to mathematics standards). So in UPB the abbreviated use of the word "universal" is somewhat bogus. It is not "true universality" as logicians have been using. In set theory and logic, the word universal applies to a objects of a particular class without any exception. In logic even one exception always will destroy the claim. It is straightforward tautology that "for all x P(x) is true" is equivalent to "it is not the case that there exists x such that P(x) is false".[/font]

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"][font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]Yet in UPB "universal" is apparently not meant logically but more of a rough statistical claim. I am not entirely satisfied with that answer, because it seems to borrow words from the wrong domain. It seems more rigorous to just leave out the U.[/font]

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[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]RestoringGuy, now that you bring up this point, I think I have heard Stef mention this standard for universalizability. Like you I find it unsatisfying, because I see moral theories such as UPB belonging to the domain of philosophy, which demands a higher standard of rigor than the sciences. One cannot simply grant an exception for a 12-winged fly when determining the basis of morality.[/font]

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"][/font]It's true that not all philosophy is based in logic... Aristotle actually argued that philosophy should in fact not aim to exhaustively address all circumstances, but concentrate on the majority thereof. So Stef's attitude here (as I understand it) is not unprecedented, but it clashes with my perhaps naive expectation of rigor from philosophy.[/font]

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[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]If you're talking about valid statements, there must be a foundation to self ownership that's not completely arbitrary and so it's unlikely to apply just to you two, unless you two are completely special from everyone else in some reasonably relevant way.[/font]

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]This sort of reasonable foundation that takes away complete arbitrariness is a very important requirement to any person who wants to understand something, and it's particularly important with something that's not physical like morality.[/font]

[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]It's completely reasonable to reject the idea that there's some principle we just haven't seen that applies to just two people or whatever, even if that's not completely logically airtight. This principle of reasoning is very successful at avoiding error, rejecting a lot of nonsense. It's either the basis of or similar to the basis of strong atheism.[/font]
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[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]I agree that whatever ethical principle I adopt should be universalizable. I am not truly considering the example given (that self-ownership is limited to two particular people), and indeed it should be dispensed with as a philosophy in and of itself. Its only purpose here is to serve as a counterexample to a particular style of argument which purportedly justifies the action axiom and UPB. In this circumstance it cannot be dismissed, because it demonstrates a logical gap in a supposed proof.[/font]

 


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#31
gmkd

gmkd
  • 91 posts

"[font=" 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium"]It sounds like Mises defines human
action to be purposeful, rather than requiring any form of proof that
it is. This probably would have been satisfactory to me had I never
heard an attempt to construct a proof of the action axiom :P That I have
encountered arguments in favor of it suggests that I am not the only
one who craves a more explicit defense."[/font]

 

Indeed he defines it so. The "proof" of the action axiom is not a proof in the formal sense. It only shows that the action axiom is presupposed by anyone claiming otherwise. (Not that it is metaphisicly true)


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#32
RestoringGuy

RestoringGuy
  • 1054 posts

You are confusing the application of principles, which can be inaccurate with their definition, which can and should be accurate.

I don't see what you mean.  Except for exact science, definitions of objects and actions seem inaccurate to some extent.   When we apply principles to those objects and actions, the inaccuracy remains.  Can you give specific examples to the contrary?  As I understand, principles are derived from reality.  For instance, gravity is an idea that is formed in our minds by witnessing objects that behave a certain way (falling).  When we apply the principle to other objects, we predict merely what will happen. 

If our moral principle we have learned fails to work in some instances (fails in its predictive ability or power to make the world different somehow), then we are tolerant of the error by retaining the imperfect principle we have previously derived from experience.  We are accepting the error for the sake of knowing a simpler principle rather than a more complex one.  Learning "horses have four legs" is easier than learning the true and exact rule nature provides.

If there is a statistically "insignificant" flaw with a moral principle, we seem reluctant to abandon the principle for the sake of perfection.  I don't know if that's good or bad, but it remains a problem as we will each have different tolerance for what degree of philosophical error is acceptable.  I do not feel I am confusing application of principle with definitions, because we seem to continually refine our principles by the act of trying to apply them.  Sometimes we tweak our principles to better fit reality, carving out exceptional cases.  Other times, we say what the heck, call the error a fluke, and cling to an imperfect idea for the sake of mental sanity.

 

 


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#33
FreedomWins

FreedomWins
  • 2098 posts

I agree that whatever ethical principle I adopt should be universalizable. I am not truly considering the example given (that self-ownership is limited to two particular people), and indeed it should be dispensed with as a philosophy in and of itself. Its only purpose here is to serve as a counterexample to a particular style of argument which purportedly justifies the action axiom and UPB. In this circumstance it cannot be dismissed, because it demonstrates a logical gap in a supposed proof.

You seem to be wanting a proof with no empirically-based premises, only allowing for purely logical proofs. However, logic itself is empirically-based. It feels so right to us and was developed in the first place because everything real always exhibits these logical rules.

As any logician and a lot of mathematicians can tell you, there are other systems of logic that are quite different in character and operation. The one we use in arguments (classical logic) we use because it corresponds empirically to reality and we're trying to (or at least want to claim we're trying to) figure out reality in our debates.

And so, if we're going to expect moral ideas to adhere to the extreme, in terms of the level of evidence for it, empiricism of logic, there's nothing wrong with expecting them to adhere to other extremely empirical principles, such as requiring them to be universal at least as far as the subjects with the same relevant characteristics.


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#34
PatrickC

PatrickC

    London Meetup organiser

  • 3278 posts

Does the call-in show happen tomorrow?

Yes.. 2pm EST I believe...

Ruddo, I would suggest asking Stef if you are free at all.. I think it's a great question myself..


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#35
Rudd-O DragonFear

Rudd-O DragonFear
  • 764 posts

Sure.

The basis for my question will be this (formally stated):

http://www.reddit.com/r/Anarcho_Capitalism/comments/noz04/problem_with_the_proof_of_the_human_action_axiom/c3b10vw

Note that, despite my misgivings, I intuitively accept the statement "truth is universally preferable".  All I did is refute the usual contention that, in attempting to refute "truth is universally preferable", one necessarily is affirming universal preferability.


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