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counter-drone

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  1. A good example might be the color of a horse. The fact that one horse is brown does not imply that every other horse is brown. Brownness is not an essential characteristic of a horse. It is not even a necessary one. Other examples might be whether a horse has a limp, or whether it has been bred for racing. Let's get back to the original issue of "Objectivist" being a subclass of "libertarian" (again, "minarchist" might be better). Every Objectivist believes in his own life as the standard of value, but not every non-Objectivist libertarian shares this belief. However, both groups can be subsumed under a common concept, provided that the concept does not treat the standard of value as an essential. By the way, if we didn't allow units of a concept to differ except in measurement, few concepts would survive. Think of "law", "food", or "method". What I've been trying to show is that there is no single philosophical system behind socialism, just as there is no single philosophical system behind minarchism. I claim that there are many different motivations used by different socialists, with utilitarianism, religion, and social metaphysics being three of the leading views. You counter with the fact that the direct motivation for socialism rests on just one set of political convictions: altruism and the denial of property rights. My response is to ask you to trace these convictions further back. If you do so, you'll find these convictions are based in a variety of philosophical views, including utilitarianism, religious doctrines, social metaphysics, and various others. No particular comprehensive philosophical system is essential to socialism. Rather, socialism has a diverse set of motivations. Since I don't consider philosophical motivation an essential characteristic in all contexts, I can use the concept "socialism" to integrate politically collectivist views which may have nothing in common on a deeper philosophical level. For quick reference, the original sentences were: "Objectivism, utilitarianism, cultural relativism, etc. are not essential to libertarianism (i.e. minarchism). Instead, libertarianism rests on the affirmation of property rights. Thus, the concept of libertarianism does not gloss over important ideological differences." I believe the first two sentences are true, while the third is false. The logic is meant to mirror your view on socialism. Sentence 1) Objectivism, utilitarianism, and cultural relativism are all somewhat common justifications for libertarianism, but the essential characteristics of libertarianism include only the prevention of the initiation of force, the abolition of taxation, and other political principles. Sentence 2) Yes, the affirmation of property rights is an essential characteristic of libertarianism. Sentence 3) Here's the mistake. As with socialism, we can consider libertarianism to be based in a philosophical conviction involving the validity of property rights. If we don't trace this conviction back further, we may think that all libertarians share a similar philosophy. If we do trace it back further, we see a divergence of motivations into Objectivism, utilitarianism, cultural relativism, and many other philosophies sometimes used to justify property rights. Using the Objectivist concept of "evil", I don't think any particular motive is an essential characteristic. From TVoS: "that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil." If you believe a person's motive is relevant in assessing his actions as evil, feel free to disregard this example. I'm not sure whether to agree with you on the use of the word "abstracted", but I think we may agree in principle. Rand gives this example in ITOE: ""Table" is an abstraction, since it designates any table, but its meaning can be conveyed simply by pointing to one or two perceptual objects." The essential characteristics of a concept are used to form an abstraction. Non-essential characteristics, such as the color of a horse or the deeper philosophical motivation of a libertarian or socialist, are not made part of the abstract form into which all units of the concept must fit. But you're right to point out that they're not taken "away", since they remain a part of the concept. They're just not a requirement for inclusion in that concept. This will be my last post for the night. Thanks for a engaging argument on concept formation. This topic has had wider implications than I expected.
  2. You are correct. What I meant was that a concept only requires its units to share some characteristics. I should have just said that what is true of one unit in a concept is not necessarily true of all other units in that concept. You're just taking the discussion back one step. OK, altruism and the denial of property rights are essentials of socialism. What's essential to altruism and the denial of property rights? Utilitarianism, religion, and social metaphysics. You can keep identifying intermediate steps, but you will eventually run into the fact that these philosophical motives are not at all alike. A similar argument could be made for the example of theocracy and religion. I could also turn your argument to the subject of libertarianism and Objectivism, like this: "Objectivism, utilitarianism, cultural relativism, etc. are not essential to libertarianism (i.e. minarchism). Instead, libertarianism rests on the affirmation of property rights. Thus, the concept of libertarianism does not gloss over important ideological differences." If you throw out "libertarianism", you have to throw out "socialism" as well, along with a host of other terms. There's no reason why your means of conceptualizing other political philosophies should be unsuited to conceptualizing your own. When I speak of philosophical motives being integrated away in a concept, I mean that the concept involves such sharply different philosophical motives. You can't really say anything general and non-trivial about the many different motivations for evil.
  3. Characteristics essential to a concept are not always essential to broader concepts encompassing additional concretes. Consider the concept "mammal", defined as (http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_/mammal.html): a class of warm-blooded vertebrate animals that have, in the female, milk-secreting organs for feeding the young [...] This definition does not represent the essential characteristic of man, defined as "a rational animal". Is the concept "mammal" thus invalid or useless? Of course that sentence isn't true. "Libertarian" (or perhaps "minarchist" would be better, see my exchange with David in this thread) is a class of which "Objectivist" is a subclass. Not everything that is true of Objectivists will be true of all libertarians. Any concept omits some characteristics. The characteristics listed in your example sentence are among those omitted from "libertarian". "Libertarian" covers only that which is directly essential to politics, just as "Objectivist" covers only that which is directly essential to philosophy. Are you taking the view that philosophy is always essential, even in areas like politics (philosophy is related to politics, but is not within its scope)? I wonder how this principle can be consistently applied. How can you speak of "socialism" when it rests on such diverse foundations as utilitarianism, religion, and social metaphysics? How can you speak of "theocracy" without differentiating between the goals of different religions? Even the simple concept "evil" would seem like a gross violation of the principle that philosophical motives may never be integrated away. Philosophy is an essential attribute in a general context, but it is not essential in every specific context.
  4. We have no right to their services of government officials. On the other hand, poorly performing government officials have no right to remain in government. I see no violation of a police officer's rights in telling him that he can no longer use force outside of self-defense. Besides, government is a monopoly. An inept government that fails to protect rights is also preventing anyone else from protecting rights. By preventing the formation of a new, more effective government, the inept government is initiating force without justification. I think you're confusing the basic rights of government officials with their extraordinary powers. The freedom to refuse to work is a right. A (near-)monopoly on the use of force is an extraordinary power outside the scope of rights. However, you are right about the problem of time preference.
  5. "A libertarian is a person who holds that liberty is an absolute good." That’s a reasonable definition. If you believe that for reasons of etymology or tradition, the word “libertarian” must be attached to that particular concept, I can live with that. But in popular usage, a libertarian is no more “a person who holds that liberty is an absolute good” than a socialist is “a person who holds that social welfare is an absolute good”. If you choose to reject the popular meaning of a term and use it instead to label another concept, the burden is on you to show that there's something wrong with popular usage. Sometimes, the popular label must be rejected. For example, it may run counter to traditional usage (e.g. “liberal”), or it may not make etymological sense (like your example of a misapplication of “socialist”). But if you go around rejecting terms without a good reason, you hinder attempts at communication without gaining any additional consistency in language. For example, suppose I insisted that cats were dogs and dogs were cats. I would still be consistent, but I would be disrupting communication for nothing. Let’s assume you get to keep “libertarian” for your concept, and I have to go with “gronk” for mine (I would prefer "minarchist"). Instead of attempting to show again that “gronk” is a meaningful integration, I’ll go after “flornt “, “skleep”, and “fralmp,” hopefully showing by analogy that “gronk” is also conceptually useful. A “flornt” is just a secularist, a very useful integration already in widespread use. A “skleep” is pro-choice, another useful concept also in widespread use (but with an unfortunately euphemistic label). A “fralmp” has no widely accepted label yet, apart from the pejorative “Islamophobe”. However, “fralmp” is still a useful integration, identifying a large and growing group of supporters by an important characteristic. In ten years, I predict that you’ll see a concept formed and labeled for “fralmp” as well.
  6. Solution 3 seems potentially dangerous. When you speak of a "right to vote on how things are ran", you are talking about a "right to choose how force will be applied". Basically, the government would be selling the application of force against one's fellow citizens. Sure, some people would try to buy suffrage out of a rational interest in objective law. But they could likely be outbid by those seeking to make money through government force. The system you propose could easily lead to government initiating force on behalf of private parties. I think this would produce something near a dictatorship. By asking the government to appoint its own watchdog, you are effectively asking the government to be its own watchdog. In my view, a constitutionally limited democracy is the best answer to the question you pose, by virtue of its robustness against corrupt policymakers.
  7. I've often heard Objectivists claim that Objectivists and non-Objectivist libertarians should not be grouped under the common name of "libertarian". I'm going to argue that we must have some concept (which I label "libertarian") that unifies these groups according to their common belief in a minimal state. To me, "libertarian" seems like a good name for this concept. As Rand defined it in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, a concept is "a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated according to a specific characteristic(s) and united by a specific definition." Many people are united by a desire for a minimal state, which uses force only in retaliation against those who initiate force. If we treat different people as units and their belief in a minimal state as a defining characteristic, we can arrive at a new concept: libertarian: one who favors a minimal state, which uses force only in retaliation against those who initiate force For now, I offer no justification for choosing the label "libertarian" for this concept. Although the choice of label is certainly important, my point is that the concept is a useful integration. (If you think the label "libertarian" is unacceptable even for the sake of argument, substitute "minarchist," "classical liberal," or something else of that sort. I'm arguing for the concept, not the label.) Now, why is this concept useful? I offer the following sentence as an example. Libertarians oppose farm subsidies. Although the sentence is rather obvious, it has a certain elegance. Through the use of the concept "libertarian," it compresses a vast number of concretes into its subject. Through integration, it allows us to focus on just one important characteristic of the group rather than dealing with all the intricacies of millions of human beings. Now let's see what happens when we fail to make this integration. Suppose we have no concept that unifies all who favor a minimal state; we adopt the common Objectivist view that Objectivists and libertarians are two entirely disjoint sets. Then the example sentence above becomes: Objectivists and (non-Objectivist) libertarians oppose farm subsidies. This sentence has little of its predecessor's elegance. In discussing the opposition between farm subsidies and the advocacy of a minimal state, it must introduce the opposition between Objectists and non-Objectivist libertarians. In the context of politics, such a distinction is irrelevant. We continue down this path at our peril. Suppose that an additional schism erupted among non-Objectivist libertarians. Religious libertarians might object to being lumped in with atheistic ones. They might think that a common label masked too many crucial differences (sound familiar?). If we admit this argument, we must again rewrite our sentence: Objectivists, religious libertarians, and (non-Objectivist) atheistic libertarians oppose farm subsidies. Of course, I don't claim that Objectists and other libertarians are alike in all meaningful ways. However, they are alike in one very important way, which is enough to justify the formation and selective use of a concept which unifies them. What do you think? Is my concept of "libertarian" valid and/or useful?
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