Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

If you think that the absence of the superficial features of modern dictatorship ...

A priest caste, writing, and a bureacracy were present in ancient Eygpt, there is nothing modern about dictatorship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Yes, of course" they will answer, they are all slaves of Allah. The very name of the religion "Islam" translates to 'submission'. Islam permits the killing of infidels, but it commands the killing of apostates.

Primitive tribal societies are free by default because they do not have a priest caste, writing, and a bureacracy. They simply can't be dictatorships. Nor do actual primitive tribes act like dictatorships-to-be-waiting-for-technology-of-oppression. Primitive tribes might fight other tribes but they do not kill within the same tribe just for power.

Primitive tribes operate by superstition, which means a religion of sorts. They do very irrational things, because they don't have an objective epistemology. They probably are not systematically totalitarian like more modern ideologies, and I'm sure that some primitive tribes had better and more real world ideas than others, but you probably could only gain freedom by becoming a lone wolf.

I'm sure there was killing within tribes for power. Even families fight over power if they are sufficiently irrational.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The theory of rights has prerequisite background knowledge to understand, and the intuition that one is only free if one's rights are respected also assumes that same context. But freedom is possible without that background knowledge because all it means is the power to act without interference and without permission. Any primitive tribe that was not ruled tyrannically can be said to have some freedom, enough so that their only real limits would be their knowledge and imagination. But lacking writing, those limits would define a small scale life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But freedom is possible without that background knowledge because all it means is the power to act without interference and without permission.

And this is precisely what is not possible, in almost any aspect of one's life, in a primitive society. Typically, a tribal would not be able to choose such important things as his occupation, or his mate(s). If the superstitious beliefs of his tribe happen to call for a sacrifice from him, perhaps involving a painful ceremony or even his death, he will not be able to refuse. If his tribe goes to war, he will not have a choice about whether to fight. If the tribal leader makes a decision which he knows is irrational and will doom the tribe, he will not be able to follow his own judgment instead. Since there is likely no system of property, he will be able to keep any value he produces only as long as the tribal leadership does not demand that he hand it over. If he is unhappy about the tribal leadership, he cannot simply leave the tribe (since this would mean almost sure death whether by nature or another tribe) and it is likely that his only options will be unquestioning submission or violent overthrow. Since there is no system of objective law, he may not even be protected against other members of the tribe who are not part of the leadership, and who decide to initiate force against him. If any of the things I have mentioned does not apply to a specific tribe, it is likely because of the specific nature of their arbitrary superstitions, over which the tribal has no control, and which can change at any time by random chance or the decree of a witch doctor. In the end, the only things the tribal may reliably have control over are some of the details of his everyday life. This is precisely the situation of a citizen of a modern slave state also, except that the modern man will almost certainly have a greater degree of privacy in his everyday life.

Edited by Tenzing_Shaw

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What examples of actual tribes act like that? I can only think of movie depictions of South Sea cannibals forcing virgins to jump into volcanoes. Actual primitive tribes with at least some documentation as to how they actually behaved, such the the Algonquin, the Navajo, Iroquois or Cherokee before they settled did not act like that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And this is precisely what is not possible, in almost any aspect of one's life, in a primitive society. Typically, a tribal would not be able to choose such important things as his occupation, or his mate(s). If the superstitious beliefs of his tribe happen to call for a sacrifice from him, perhaps involving a painful ceremony or even his death, he will not be able to refuse. If his tribe goes to war, he will not have a choice about whether to fight. If the tribal leader makes a decision which he knows is irrational and will doom the tribe, he will not be able to follow his own judgment instead. Since there is likely no system of property, he will be able to keep any value he produces only as long as the tribal leadership does not demand that he hand it over. If he is unhappy about the tribal leadership, he cannot simply leave the tribe (since this would mean almost sure death whether by nature or another tribe) and it is likely that his only options will be unquestioning submission or violent overthrow. Since there is no system of objective law, he may not even be protected against other members of the tribe who are not part of the leadership, and who decide to initiate force against him. If any of the things I have mentioned does not apply to a specific tribe, it is likely because of the specific nature of their arbitrary superstitions, over which the tribal has no control, and which can change at any time by random chance or the decree of a witch doctor. In the end, the only things the tribal may reliably have control over are some of the details of his everyday life. This is precisely the situation of a citizen of a modern slave state also, except that the modern man will almost certainly have a greater degree of privacy in his everyday life.

Having learned about many extant tribal societies from my recent anthropology classes, this describes almost none of them. Parts of it may apply to certain tribes but there are many tribes where nearly none of it does. For example, in a New Guinean tribe portrayed in a video we watched for class, the narrator was explicit about the headman's role in the tribe: the headman has no political authority. He only has the power to persuade. If he cannot convince the other tribesmen to do what he says, there is no way for him to force them to do anything. All he can do is withhold his own cooperation. At one point in the film, a mob is coming down on his village due to some question of sorcery killing the other town's headman or something like that. To stop them, he sits in the middle of the road. Sounds tyrannical to me.

One common feature of tribal life is that it's true neighboring tribes don't tend to get along. But within the tribe there is often little strife at all. People seem to be primarily limited by their physical environment and technology, but there is almost no institutional structure limiting individual action.

Is modern life better than tribal life? Sure. We have more freedom of action because our division of labor is more complex. But you don't need to make out tribal societies to be something they aren't in order to argue this. It's better to stick to the facts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What examples of actual tribes act like that? I can only think of movie depictions of South Sea cannibals forcing virgins to jump into volcanoes. Actual primitive tribes with at least some documentation as to how they actually behaved, such the the Algonquin, the Navajo, Iroquois or Cherokee before they settled did not act like that.

Your sarcasm notwithstanding, here is one quote from Wikipedia:

Cannibalism was widespread in the past among humans throughout the world, continuing into the 19th century in some isolated South Pacific cultures; and, in a few cases in insular Melanesia, indigenous flesh-markets existed.[11] Fiji was once known as the 'Cannibal Isles'.[12] Neanderthals are believed to have practised cannibalism,[13][14] and they may have been cannibalized by modern humans.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism.

Here are some quotes from an article which (ironically) seems to be largely sympathetic to Native American practices:

Indian groups frequently enslaved war captives whom they used for small-scale labor and in ritual sacrifice.

[...]

Some Indians cut off one foot of their captives to keep them from running away; others allowed enslaved captives to marry the widows of slain husbands.

From http://www.slaveryinamerica.org/history/hs...ans_slavery.htm.

I am not interested in debating the specific merits of any given tribe. The principle is that in the absence of reason, brute force is the only recourse. If this principle is true, then history will reflect this fact (which, from all the evidence I have seen, it does). As I said, relatively better conditions in a specific tribe are possible, but are largely a matter of luck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To themadkat:

I missed your post while I was composing my last one, but I think my response to Grames also addresses most of your points. I would like to answer a few of them specifically, however:

Is modern life better than tribal life? Sure. We have more freedom of action because our division of labor is more complex. But you don't need to make out tribal societies to be something they aren't in order to argue this. It's better to stick to the facts.

Do you agree that people in, say, the United States today are much freer than almost any tribals were in the past? If so, note that this is the heart of the current discussion: I am attempting to argue that yes, they have much more freedom. I think you may be missing my point to some extent: violence as such is not so much the issue here necessarily, although some tribes were certainly very violent. The issue is deeper than that, and involves things like a lack of privacy in everyday life, and an absence of the rule of law to protect individuals from each other and from their leadership.

Also, the reason we have more freedom is not primarily because of the division of labor, but because of the rational ideas present in our culture. It is primarily rational ideas that cause freedom and prosperity. Freedom also does cause prosperity to a significant extent, but I think the argument that prosperity causes freedom either ignores a common cause or reverses cause and effect.

But within the tribe there is often little strife at all. People seem to be primarily limited by their physical environment and technology, but there is almost no institutional structure limiting individual action.

I find the claim about there having been little intra-tribal strife to be very hard to believe. Are you saying that people within a tribe initiated force against one another less than people do today? If so, what is the evidence, and the proposed explanation? Of course, people could not simply kill their fellow tribals at will, since this would weaken the tribe and decrease their own chances of survival. Also, punishments may have been very harsh for the same reason. However, what would have stopped, for example, a physically powerful individual with a substantial number of followers from simply taking over the tribe by force, or from having his way with weaker individuals?

Edited by Tenzing_Shaw

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Your sarcasm notwithstanding, here is one quote from Wikipedia

Wikipedia? Really?

I am not interested in debating the specific merits of any given tribe.

Of course you don't. One generally argues from the general to the specific. By limiting the debate to your terms, no one would be able to prove you wrong. Clever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wikipedia? Really?

Yes, really.

Of course you don't. One generally argues from the general to the specific. By limiting the debate to your terms, no one would be able to prove you wrong. Clever.

Please contain the sarcasm/innuendo. If you insist on brining the discussion to that level, then don't expect me to participate. If you have any serious arguments, please make them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am not interested in debating the specific merits of any given tribe. The principle is that in the absence of reason, brute force is the only recourse. If this principle is true, then history will reflect this fact (which, from all the evidence I have seen, it does). As I said, relatively better conditions in a specific tribe are possible, but are largely a matter of luck.

As long as the cannibals are eating their enemies and not each other then even cannibalism does not support your point about individual tribe members being not free.

I would not argue against the principle but rather that there is no absence of reason. People do not need to be trained in syllogisms to be rational; there is a commonsense level of understanding the world and attending to reality that can go pretty far toward creating a reasonable society. The "better conditions" as you describe them are the norm, not the lucky exception.

The Objectivist insistence on reason, rights and a government that defends rights is not equivalent or compatible with Thomas Hobbes' characterization (from Leviathan) of life outside of a strong central state as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." For sufficiently small societies where it is possible to know everyone, or nearly everyone, a strong central authority is neither needed nor desired to secure a good life so no one is imposing their will on the others. The biggest obstacle to freedom in those conditions is not coercion but psychological pressures to conform. You keep alluding to the lack of privacy in primitive societies, but that is far from coercion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So without quoting every second post, would I be right in saying that many of you (if not all) think it's 'ok' to settle on another planet/land (already inhabited by an indigenous population) and upon learning that the planet/land happens to have a mineral that you desperately need, take it by force (since the locals, whose home happens to be resting on top of it all, refuse to give it up) with the intention of killing innocent people?

Edited by Altan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're also conveniently forgetting Cameron's inconsistent writing which focus solely on what is convenient for his plot, not on an actual real and possible scenario:

The floating islands? *ripe* with Unobtainium. That's how they stay afloat.

Mine the islands. Problem solved.

However, Cameron wishes to show us the EVIL of capitalism by ignoring facts of the own world he created, to serve his purpose. It should say something that he can't even close his own loopholes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would probably be best to just go and read those posts yourself.

I did and my question still holds.

But this comment stood out:

Any collectivist society can rightfully be invaded by a capitalist society if it needs to. This is because such a society always exists as an evil slave pen, with no regard for individual rights.

No. No capitalist society has the right to invade another society on the grounds that they are a collecitivist society. What's it to you, me, random goverment x, if said society/government/country is based around a collectivist society? So long as they don't mean harm to any other society/government/country etc, then mind your own business.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're also conveniently forgetting Cameron's inconsistent writing which focus solely on what is convenient for his plot, not on an actual real and possible scenario:

The floating islands? *ripe* with Unobtainium. That's how they stay afloat.

Mine the islands. Problem solved.

However, Cameron wishes to show us the EVIL of capitalism by ignoring facts of the own world he created, to serve his purpose. It should say something that he can't even close his own loopholes.

Theres actually a website out there (I believe its a wiki style site) that has an explanation for why they couldn't mine the mountains. I believe it was too dangerous or something (take away the unobtanium and they fall). This site, from what I remember, has a convoluted reason for every seeming plot hole to exist. In other words, it wasn't that Cameron ignored logical solutions, its that he made the universe bend over backward to force the plot to happen. Even then, it still fails due his absolutely poor writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...