Criticism of Hoppe's Argumentation EthicsSubmitted by BILL3 on Fri, 07/26/2013 - 11:28
In an effort to salvage Misesian praexology and value-free science approach to social science, while maintaining Rothbard's commitment to the non aggression principle, Hans Hoppe, who I admire for his analysis of democracy, had to chuck natural rights and establish the NAP on the basis of what he called argumentation ethics.
Thie jist of this gimmick is basically that, because during argument we implicitly agree, for the duration of the argument, not to stab or shoot each other, that no conclusions can be valid therefore that sanction any coercion in the structure of society. It is claimed that it is logically inconsistent to engage in rational discussion without also renouncing all forms of aggression in all other areas of society. The idea is further elaborated that there are only two forms of human interaction, violence and non violent argumentation.
First of all, it is not true that humans only have two choices to resolve disputes, violence or argumentation. In real disputes over things, people don't refer the conflict to an academic or peer reviewed argument. They don't choose either violence or argument.
What about compromise, and bargaining? What about treaties, contracts? What about submitting the matter to a higher legal determination?
For Hoppe to argue that conflicts could only be resolved by argument if personal violence is renounced, would make any society ridiculous. Even in a private law society, people would not settle their disputes by argumentation. They would just submit conflicts to an apparatus vested with coercive powers, according to contract, like we do now.
In the real world, when disputes arise over resources or properties, violence is often avoided by a bargain, a treaty, a compromise, a resort to a third party's input, or some binding act between the disputing parties to a make a compromise palatable to both sides, to generate goodwill so that both sides could stomach the resolution. Violence is avoided mainly when an alternative can be found that serves both parties' interests better than violence, with all its costs to winner and loser alike.
Furthermore, the whole concept is flawed in another sense. It says that since we renounce violence as a preliminary before engaging in any argumentation, therefore, to support any violence outside of argumentation is logically inconsistent.
Well then. If we also renounce dishonesty as a prerequisite to argumentation, does that then mean that we also renounce all dishonesty outside of argumentation as a logical necessity?
So then, according to argumentation ethics, businessmen and advertisers engaging in any kind of dishonesty would be acting in ways logically inconsistent with the principles of argumentation. Argumentation ethics would say it is logically impossible to support the use of dishonesty, sleight of hand, sharp business practices in society, when we renounce them in argumentation. It would say advertising and sales violate argumentation ethics. Promoting oneself and one's product or service would have to conform to the strictures of argumentation ethics.
Hoppe states that, because both parties propound propositions in the course of argumentation, and because argumentation presupposes various norms including non-violence, the act of propounding a proposition that negates the presupposed propositions of argumentation is a logical contradiction between one's actions and one's words (this is called a performative contradiction). Specifically, to argue that violence should be used to resolve conflicts (instead of argumentation) is a performative contradiction.
This grasping at straws to reconcile Mises and Rothbard's conflict worldview is obviously untenable, and itself a violation of sound argument. Hoppe should be smart enough to know better, and so by trying to pass this argument under the radar with such dazzling verbal sleight of hand, he basically justifies the use of fraud all throughout society.
That would clearly violate the principle of argumentation ethics.
Well, that last part was sarcasm.
I very much admire Hoppe's economic analysis of democracy. This argumentation ethics business is a shame.