What makes the non-aggression principle "Right"?Submitted by Molusk on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 12:55
If I see someone coming toward me with an intention to do me harm, a criminal, a sociopath, an enemy, someone operating outside the human social norms or moral law, a predator, I know with no uncertainty this person is bad news. There's a feeling of danger, fear, like with a wild animal. More than that, a feeling of sickness, anger, betrayal, injustice. This person is a deviant, someone with no right, no quarter, no protections. A traitor to human society.
Because I have some presumption or expectation that this enemy and predator should not be an enemy, that I am owed a certain respect by this human, and see them as a common member of some kind of social agreement, or moral law, or community where everyone refrains from breaking these common rules. I feel this person is under an obligation which they're breaking.
But if I did not have this expectation, if I was in a hostile territory and expected no such common treatment, I might regard such a human being just as a predator no different than a wild animal.
I have to imagine that at points in history, this is much how people regarded dangerous humans from other tribes, not with any moral outrage, just with a sense of danger from a predator. In the absence of any expectation of a common law or moral code, in the absence of any mutual obligation or shared interests, there would be no moral outrage.
Perhaps this is wrong. Perhaps people always did or at least should have felt moral outrage at predatory behavior from other humans. Maybe all such behavior is inherently, objectively wrong, regardless of whether people knew or apprehended it. This would presuppose the existence of objective moral obligations on all men toward all other men, and could only be grounded in some higher law giver.
If men are just animals following their natural instincts and dispositions, then there is neither ground for objectivity in right and wrong, nor should there be a sense of injustice or instinctive moral knowledge that all humans ought do such and such.
Historically, such a sense of moral outrage did not always attach to predatory humans, unless they were already within the tribe, bound to some kind of mutually understood code of behavior to which all adhered. It is the shattering of this expectation of common conduct that I think produces the feeling of injustice, moral outrage, and shock.
But such a blow to one's cognitive peace does not in fact provide any objective grounding for the real moral nature of an act. It explains the feeling, or describes it, rather, but it doesn't tell us that the act itself is unjust.
Just because we don't like to feel betrayed, tricked, caught off guard, or in the cross hairs of a self serving human predator, out for himself and running his own game, taking advantage of social arrangements only to abuse and flout them for his advantage... doesn't mean that that person is doing anything morally wrong.
This person is not responsible for our assumption of a common moral law, or some agreement. If he's running his own game, and has his own goals, we can hate him, we can be angry, but he doesn't owe us anything in a world of free, equal individuals with no higher law giver.
Men are their own masters and bosses, define their own moral oughts, personal goals, define what is right and what is wrong, and assuming they have moral obligations to you is just your false assumption.
You may be right in locking them up, destroying them, hunting them down, just like wild animals. But if they are just animals, as on naturalism, and there is no higher moral law, no law giver, and no objective, binding morality, then they are just free agents pursuing their chosen goals.
Even a person who has explicitly made promises, if he then breaks them, is that a standard of immorality? But who says he is obliged to keep promises? Who gives this law?
Is it just because it harms the interests of society? Are we just an injured party, angry and taking revenge? If society is the source of right and wrong, where does that road end? If so, then society also defined and delimits rights.
So what is even meant by right and wrong in terms of the non aggression principle?
Here, we are dealing not just with a code applied to an ingroup where a common moral law is rightly assumed as applying, where a social contract of mutual obligations exists. No, the NAP seeks to extend its domain to all human relations, so that no human ever physically interferes with another without invitation. And if anyone does, it is deemed morally wrong.
What is the argument for this moral system, if it is not given from above, or written in the human heart?
I still have yet to see the argument.
And let's be clear. On atheism and naturalism, which is the predominant view in the higher educated libertarian movement (Mises, Rothbard, Rand, Larken Rose, Adam Kokesh, Molyneaux) as well as the greater western intellectual culture - THERE IS NO HIGHER LAW GIVER. Let's get that clear and not debate it.
More pertinent to the discussion, as perhaps more controversial, is the second point. Let's be truthful and face the facts. There is no such moral system written in the human heart. Not of everyone, not of most, not of a majority. There is no imperative in the human heart, historically or presently, in instinct or logic, that tells a person never to use force to advance one's own interests, one's family, etc.
A hungry man with a hungry child has no moral statement written on his heart to refrain from stealing an apple from a rich man's apple cart, or killing said man, for a meal. And you can take it as far down the road from there as you want. Nothing was written on the hearts of socialist revolutionaries and gulag operators, or German nationalists and camp guards.
Sure, some probably had grave moral misgivings about their actions, deep moral pain and guilt. But by and large, every state and every nation has a large share of people with no moral misgivings about harming others and plenty more who will justify intellectually such actions even if they product bad, vestigial feelings of remorse.
If there is no higher law giver, and there is nothing written universally on the human heart, then how do you persuade people to adopt the radical NAP?
Do you say it's not radical? Don't be obtuse. It would dismantle every existing social arrangement and order, every state, every legal system, democratic or otherwise. It is extremely radical and a departure from all present legal order and international relationships.
So then, how persuade people to adopt a radical departure from the order they know, in service of a moral claim or ethical demand that no person ever physically interfere with another person uninivted? How do you justify the rightness of this claim?
Just say it's right? People are free to disagree, and do.
Appeal to their self interests? That's an appeal to self interest, class interest, or what have you, and is not a justification of ethics.
Appeal to the good of everyone? That is utilitarian approach, and is one step removed in to abstraction than the direct appeal to interests.
I am at a loss to understand or grasp how modern intellectuals, fully enwrapped in atheism and nothing doubting, and fully aware (or should be, anyway) of the psychological and biological nature of human beings, their violence, particularism, irrationality, selfishness, and shortsightedness - how do they come up with morally binding ethical claims and demands, and justify them?
How do they believe them, themselves, or hope to persuade others less blind to the implications that follow obviously from the absence of any law giver and the absence of any internal emotive or logical demands in humans for such ethical imperatives?
Do they even care to be taken seriously? Do they even wish to have an intellectually sound, consistent and defensible position?
Are they just gurus, cult leaders, powerful personalities and witch doctors on the modern stage of the podcast and blog?
Give us something. Give us an argument, at least try.