Saturday, June 7, 2014

Property and Objective Morality

This isn't particularly new, I'm merely repairing the categorical imperative.

1: Justification of morality per se.
2: Not-property is invalid.
3: Security.
4: The moral consequences of preferences, promises, and self-defence
5. Community consequences of moral preferences.
6. Government briefly.
7. Coercion defined exactly.
8. God, tyrants, physics, and prudence.
9. Soundbite and miscellaneous comments.


Humans are similar enough that stating that one need or need not justify their actions implies that all of them need or need not justify their actions in the same way. Put another way, arguing about whether humans should have prescriptive norms is not useful. It is like arguing whether humans should have two arms: they do in fact have two arms, and no amount of rhetoric will change that fact. In either case, we see that the categorical imperative is not high philosophical theory, but a humble consequence of humans being embedded in biology.

It turns out the argument that humans need not justify their actions is self-defeating. It turns out that given that humans form norms, there is a correct norm, which is property defined as reasonable expectation of control.

The search for objective morality has been similar to the research on the problem of induction; it looks for a positive proof or argument that morality obtains. The searches are misguided for a similar reason.

When I claim that I need not justify my actions, either unilateral actions or actions upon you, I become ontologically committed to the position that you need not justify your actions either. Therefore, I become ontologically committed to the position that you may unilaterally, without justification, form a norm that you do need to justify your actions, which ontologically commits you to believing I need to justify my actions. Therefore, assuming my assertion is true, it justifies believing my assertion is false.

The belief that actions need not be justified is self-contradictory.

The statement [morality & !morality] reduces to [morality & morality], which is always true. The search for justification of morals per se will, as Hume intuited, never be successful. It's just that I cannot safely believe the opposite, and so by process of elimination, morality must obtain.


Specific norms can be self-contradictory in the same way, so let's talk about reasonable expectation of control.

Property cannot be mere control as there would be no need for the word 'property,' it would simply be a synonym. Second, it would make theft meaningless - theft would simply be one valid transfer of property - and theft is not meaningless. Property is at least the expectation of control, which theft deliberately violates.

Let's talk about theft without loss of generality. If theft is the norm, then objects will be swiftly destroyed, until nobody can uphold the norm. I know where my wallet is and I control it. If instead pickpockets were endemic, I would not expect to control my wallet. I would therefore not acquire a wallet in the first place, and thus neither would the pickpockets. If theft is not suppressed directly, then it suppresses the objects it preys upon until it suppresses itself.

Similarly, as per Kant, deception cannot be a norm, because it can only exist parasitically on trust.

If property were merely expectation of control, then the thief would be proving me wrong. I thought I had property rights in my wallet, but I didn't because hey look, there it goes. Wave to the wallet, it's having a vacation. If I take the wallet back, ditto. To define theft, I must define property as reasonable expectation of control. Conversely, if I leave my wallet on a boulder all day and expect it to still be there when I get back, I'm insane. While it would be nice if I could, as a matter of fact I can't, and therefore it's not reasonable.

Note that under REC, the thief creates the normative contradiction by stealthily changing the arrangement of facts, and can, at any time before the theft, release the contradiction. This is an asymmetry you can hang moral asymmetries on.


Property can grow: the act of changing an expectation from insane to reasonable is the action of securing. I could chain my wallet to the boulder.

If it were possible to physically prevent all theft, vandalism and so on, we would do so. But what man makes, man can unmake. You can chain your wallet to the rock, and I can bring bolt-cutters. We need a system of rules to know when an invalid, self-defeating norm has been advocated. This too is covered by 'reasonable.' When a reasonable amount of security has been applied, it is invalid to circumvent it.

In philosophy 'reasonable' is a weasel word. If I didn't have to use it, I wouldn't. Nevertheless, in practice e.g. English Common Law seems perfectly capable of defining 'reasonable.' Once established, the specific boundaries are not important, only that they exist. More generally, an ancap security firm would tell subscribers in advance what they will and will not consider secure, and thus what they will and will not insure.


That not-property is invalid means all norms either subsume themselves under property or are themselves invalid. This is a surprisingly flexible condition.

Reasonable expectation of control implies that whatever your preferences are, you can attempt to arrange your property such that it upholds and advances them. Preferences that can be validly upheld in this way are called values. All preferences that must infringe on someone else's property are invalid. Since this logical property of the definition of property rights covers all conventional crimes, I call this set of logical properties of the world 'morality.'

Murder is violating your property rights in your body, (technologically inalienable, incidentally) and if it is justified for me to murder you, then it must be equally justified for you to murder me first. And so on for fraud, vandalism, rape, battery, and even rudeness.

Here's the surprising ones:
It is not valid to proselytize without an invitation. I have the right to control the contents of my brain and so do you. If I want to believe what are lies and heresies from your perspective, then I'm entitled to do so, even if your proselytizing would change my mind, and even if it would be better for me if I changed my mind. (Real intellectual property, not the unsecurable nonsense the MPAA claims.)

Promises are morally omnipotent with regard to my property. If I say you can kill me, then it is impossible to murder me. I agreed to it. Incidentally, you have full permission to proselytize to me about anything.

Absent promises and thus contracts, self-defence is absolute and unlimited. Such extremes aren't usually necessary, but they are justifiable. In a Hobbesian state of nature, if I so much as swear in your vicinity, there is no moral reason you can't immediately blow my leg off and leave me to bleed to death. By so swearing, I have stated that I don't need to justify intrusions on your otological property, which implies I don't need to justify intruding on your property generally, and thus by symmetry you have no need to justify intruding on my vital property. Any action to prevent further intrusions is justifiable.

I have not signed a contract stating I won't blow your leg off for no good reason. I have not sworn or even suggested it. We are in fact in a Hobbesian state of nature, morally speaking. I think this is bad. A main reason I wish to fully develop a theory of morality is to fix things like being in a Hobbesian state of nature.


In a community who all share the same preferences, (almost) fully arbitrary religions can be justified within property rights. There is nothing Islamic that Muslims cannot validly do to each other. If you believe you should be able to swear at me without repercussion, and I believe the same, then when I swear at you the self-defence logic is not tripped. If either of us wish to claim it's wrong to be sworn at, we don't have a leg to stand on.

The problem appears when multiculturalism obtains. Muslims think they can treat Christians in the Muslim way, and Christian believe they can treat Muslims the Christian way. Both are invalid. Understandable perhaps, but immoral.


Government briefly:

If I had signed a contract saying I had to pay taxes, then taxes would be completely fine. Predictable etc. I can reasonably know how much of my income will be garnished. I didn't. The government is entirely indifferent to what I prefer. By symmetry I should be able to be entirely indifferent to what government prefers. They use violence to make this not the case. Thus it must be valid for me to use violence to change their mind. Unwise, perhaps, but valid.

Every government has used a theory of legitimacy, and they were all lies.   It's as if they have already intuited this theory and feel the need to pre-empt such objections. Every government has tacitly admitted it was illegitimate.

Because government is morally parasitical in the way that lies are, it becomes physically parasitical. It's inherent to the enterprise. Historically, there have been several moral advances, and in each case they have made the adoptees richer. In some cases, vastly richer. Having the first morally righteous government should follow this pattern.


Coercion can be precisely defined. It is any trespass of the principles of property rights. It is to deliberately interrupt the expectation of control. Physical violence may or may not be moral violence, but if it is, it's coercion. All coercion is inherently parasitic and self-negating.


Let's talk about God for a bit.

Many have wanted morality to be self-enforcing. But if it were self-enforcing, it would merely be prudence.

If God sends you to Hell, He converts the good to the prudent by force. Walking backwards from this ideal, what if an earthly entity wishes to grant themselves the power of immorality by force? If you don't have enough force to stop them, then they win. Turns out physics is unjust, because if it were just, there would be no need for morality, neither the fact of it nor a theory of it.

For morality to be able to restrain a tyrant, it would have to be meaningless. Put another way, there's broadly two kinds of humans: ones that don't need a theory of morality because they are basically decent and kind, and ones that will reject any theory because they're basically vicious. In any possible situation, the latter kind must be restrained by force. At the individual level, the purpose of a theory is for edge cases (me) and to cut off the rhetorical escape routes used by the latter kind.

Intriguingly, you must understand that morality might be a thing to be bound by it. If it never occurs to me that actions might need a justification, then I don't need to justify my actions. For example, Adam and Eve before they ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. It won't ever occur to me that actions upon me might need justification either. Thus, livestock.


Taking sections 4 and 5 together, morality is this: do not unto others as they would have you not do unto them. Where 'self' and 'other' are defined on secured property rights. If we're talking variants on the Golden Rule, this is beyond Platinum and into Osmium or something.

This theory is mainly consistent with English Common Law and various other existent social arrangements. As in physics, the plan is not to try to overturn everything we know, but to know it more deeply and precisely, so we can take it farther and error-check what we've done so far.
Similarly, as per section 9, morality is a logical property of actions, rather than something you can physically experiment on. As a result, there can be no evidence aside from philosophy that a thing is moral, immoral, or amoral. I feel this property is a necessary condition for any theory that claims to be moral; that it can be violated without obvious consequences. (Trying to disobey gravity is just unwise.)
Nevertheless, I believe I've found Hume's Is. To repeat: non-justification is self-contradictory and/or humans form norms anyway, the fact humans are sufficiently similar, and the fact that humans have preferences. The logic has reached a state where if I do happen to be wrong, it most likely can be repaired.

Morality does require free will in some sense. Calling a rock immoral is just dumb; it can't do other than what it in fact did. This is useful backwards; if you can't negotiate with an entity to make it act otherwise than it naturally does, then it isn't a moral entity.

The combination of flexibility and power surprises me.

It worries me somewhat that it is purely anarcho-capitalist. Of course an ancap is going to work out that ancap intuitions are all correct. Nevertheless if it were purely tribal I should be able to find a logical or empirical inconsistency, and I cannot. For example there are no inconsistencies between my definition of property and what is normally called property, for sub-example taxes are treated as government property but not called such, again as if they already intuit the theory.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

This ancap can be uncapped. The USG can coerce you to pay taxes, and you do not have a reasonable expectation to be able to resist their power, then that tax is not your property. Effectively, coercion is moral if irresistible. Same true for a large band of robbers, until other people raise an army to defeat them, robbing people is moral because they have no reasonable expectation to be able to resist the robbing.

Same thing put in a different way. The USG has a big military, and has a reasonable expectation to be able to defend its land. Thereofore, the land is their property. Therefore, they can charge rent. They do not need a contract. Staying on USG land as opposed to moving to Dubai is common law contract by behaviour.

A good argument could be made that since they own the land, not you, all taxes should be Georgian. So just land rent, not taxes.

A third way is the following. You are assuming no accepts norms that are not universal: no one accepts that Bob may pickpocket but no one else may. But suppose Bob pickpocketing and no one else has actually some beneficial effect. Like, Bob pays soldiers to protect you from killers.

So people pull a Schelling. Let's just have one Bob. Who should that be? Let that be the richest dude, because he will also use his own money to pay soldiers so we have to contribute less.

And then the richest dude is a king and has a state.