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defining "initiation of force"

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Tom Rexton
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Assuming that it is just a phrase--a "qualified instance" of a concept, as it is called in the index in ITOE, then the concept must be "force" and the qualifier "initiation".

Right.

Force would then be defined as "an intentional, physical act on the body or property of an individual against his will."
My own definition of force (in a political context) is:

Short version: Physical contact without consent.

Long version: Physical contact made by one person, or by a physical object within his control, with the person or property of a second person, without the second person's consent.

The "initiation of force" would then be the use of force against an individual who has not initiated force himself; otherwise, such an act would be a form of retaliation.  But you see, I still can't find way to avoid using the term to "characterize" it.

Try "Making physical contact without consent ... FIRST."

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How about: "initiatory coercion"

And if you want to define coercion: "an action taken against the will of another which causes material damage to his person or property"

It doesn't have to. If someone enters your home without your consent when you are away, watches your TV, plays with you dog, cleans up after himself, and leaves, he has still initiated force against you.

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Re: graphein and Greek: the difference is in the type of grammar, not the concepts. The English words "write", "writes", "wrote", etc. are all variations on one concept. When you conjugate a verb you are not changing concepts. You are designating when and by whom (and in what mood, etc.) that concept (that action) takes place.

Greek is a synthetic, inflective language, so the variations are more elaborate than in English, but the difference is just one of grammatical structure. Greek sticks with one word with dozens of combinations of endings and principle parts; English for the most part uses helping verbs and pronouns.

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Re: graphein and Greek: the difference is in the type of grammar, not the concepts. The English words "write", "writes", "wrote", etc. are all variations on one concept. When you conjugate a verb you are not changing concepts. You are designating when and by whom (and in what mood, etc.) that concept (that action) takes place.

Greek is a synthetic, inflective language, so the variations are more elaborate than in English, but the difference is just one of grammatical structure. Greek sticks with one word with dozens of combinations of endings and principle parts; English for the most part uses helping verbs and pronouns.

Thanks for the clarification, Matt. I just want to note that, in principle, what you describe could not be otherwise, lest the language itself would not have developed to any degree of sophistication. To underscore: the main purpose here of language is not in communication, but as an essential cognitive tool, and if the structure does not fit that purpose it simply will not evolve. Dave being a linguist, I wonder if he is aware of primitive forms of language that confirm this?

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Long version: Physical contact made by one person, or by a physical object within his control, with the person or property of a second person, without the second person's consent.

Technically speaking Betsy, if a complete stranger were to put water on your burning house, that would fit this definition. I have always thought of the initiation of force in a negative light, but this definition makes it more ambiguous.

Now it can be assumed that you give consent to anyone who would wish to put the fire out that is burning down your house, but assumption of consent seems hazardous.

Am I missing something or is the definition?

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Right.

My own definition of force (in a political context) is:

Short version: Physical contact without consent.

Long version: Physical contact made by one person, or by a physical object within his control, with the person or property of a second person, without the second person's consent.

Try "Making physical contact without consent ... FIRST."

I did thought of that, and now I feel rather stupid for following a mistaken, unecessary, and torturous lead into circular definitions when I should have just tried to clarify my understanding of "initiation". :dough:

You see, I was thinking of "initiation" as the starting of a process and that confused me because I couldn't figure how and where does one mark the beginning of this process (the process being the act of force). After having looked at the definition of "to initiate", I realized now that it's as simple as you said:

Agent X initiates force against individual Y if X is the first to use force.

Then I thought, what if Y had initiated force against individual C many years ago, was convicted of a crime, sentenced to prison, has served his time and is now free? Why is it that if X uses force against Y, X is initiating force? I am certain that it is an initiation of force; I just can't explain why Y cannot be said to have used force first, when Y certainly did use force against C before X used forced against Y.

My basic questions (which I believe isolate the crux of my problem) are thus:

1. What is it that makes X's use of force not a part of the series of uses of force begun when Y attacked C, and therefore classifies it as the first of a new, different series?

2. More generally, what is it that makes some uses of forces a series and others another, different one?

If I know the answer to either question, I can use it to integrate a given number of uses of forces into a series (or seperate them into different series), order them temporaly and easily determine who used force FIRST. I can thereby determine who initiated force.

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To underscore: the main purpose here of language is not in communication, but as an essential cognitive tool, and if the structure does not fit that purpose it simply will not evolve. Dave being a linguist, I wonder if he is aware of primitive forms of language that confirm this?

I certainly reject the popular assertion that the purpose of language is communication: language is man's fundamental tool for cognition, and any communication that happens to take place is a tertiary side-effect. There is no credible evidence that any language is so primitive that some form of cognition is not possible, using that language. Where specific languages differ is in their "efficiency" in formulating a given statement, so that in Saami, the one word chuoivvat expresses the idea "yellowish-brown reindeer". Of course, given how marginal reindeer are to our lives, it's no surprise that we have to use three words for their one.

You said:

The value of the word lies in it being a perceptual symbol that is easily retained and recalled
which I almost agree with. The difference is not obvious to speakers of English since those easily retained and recalled symbols often happen to be words, but as Ancient Greek (and many other languages show), that symbol is often not a word, it is (to use the jargon) a morpheme, i.e. a meaningful part of a word. If the concept can be separated from the exact grammatical means of expressing that mental unit, then the Greek vs. English problem may evaporate. The main point that I would like to make about concepts and words is that economy is made possible when particular identifications are conventionalised. The actual form of the conventionalisation might be a word, less than a word, or more than a word (for instance "look up", as in "look up the answer", is two words but one concept). My intent is to read through "The Role of Words" in the next couple of days to see if this clarifies the matter for me, and to see whether the foregoing is consistent with Rand's view.
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I have already conceded that the "initiation of force" is a phrase, not a concept.  But my problem remains.  See post #20 above.

[edited, wrong link]

The Initiation of Force is not a concept? How did you lose that argument?

Anyway, wouldn't you consider that someone who commits an act of fraud against someone else, has initiated force against him? Likewise, someone who steals something from someone else, without any physical contact with the victim, has initiated force against the victim? Therefore, it seems to me that the initiation of force is a much broader concept. I think the initiation of force occurs when someone's Rights are violated. If so, then you first have to define individual rights, but you don't have any circular references. An act of aggression is the act of violating an individual's rights. The Initiation of Force is an act of aggression not taken in retaliation to a previous act of aggression, nor in defense against an act of aggression.

Craig (Houston)

Craig (Houston)

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The Initiation of Force is not a concept? How did you lose that argument?

The issue in earlier posts has been this: Can a concept have a phrase as its label, or -- as Ayn Rand observes in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 10-11, 163-164 -- should a single percept, a word, be the label?

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Certain concepts can be designated by more than one word. Take just the three examples:

"get together" (to assemble)

"put up with" (to tolerate)

"turn into" (to become)

The meaning of each phrase is NOT the conjoined meaning of the constituent words. Instead, each phrase designates a unique concept. There are many in all kind of languages: they're called IDIOMS.

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Now it can be assumed that you give consent to anyone who would wish to put the fire out that is burning down your house, but assumption of consent seems hazardous.

Am I missing something or is the definition?

What you label as an "assumption" is simply the necessary context which saves all ideas from being considered as out-of-context absolutes. Clearly we would all recognize that a man suffering a heart attack will not be expected to offer consent before the paramedics will start to save his life. Even when he is sleeping we define man as a rational animal.

Context is implicit in all definitions, ideas, principles, etc.

p.s. I like your new avatar. Did you make it yourself?

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Context is implicit in all definitions, ideas, principles, etc.

(snip)

p.s. I like your new avatar. Did you make it yourself?

Well, the one thing that stands in opposition to that idea is that people have been sued before for trying to help others. <_< "Good Samaritan" laws generally protect such people, but not everyone actually does want help when you might reasonably think they would.

I think the definition could be clarified by adding something like "harmful" (as interpreted by the person against whom the contact is being made) at the beginning. While context is implicit, is it not the purpose of defining terms to provide as much clarity in communication as possible?

As to the avatar, thanks! I designed it for a hat and some shirts. I will probably discard it though as my avatar in favor of some other original graphic as it has been suggested it may confuse folks about my identity and that of OO user "AisA".

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I think the definition could be clarified by adding something like "harmful" (as interpreted by the person against whom the contact is being made) at the beginning.

Then instead of defining an act, you are defining a consequence, and "as interpreted by the person" would lose all objectivity in the definition.

While context is implicit, is it not the purpose of defining terms to provide as much clarity in communication as possible?
Clarity in understanding and grasp of reality, more than clarity in communication. But, regardless, as I said previously, we cannot treat these definitions or principles as out-of-context absolutes, so the implicit or explicit context we bring to our definition carries forth with it. One can almost always dream up contexts or borderline cases where it is difficult to apply, but more important is the normal context associated with the definition.

As to the avatar, thanks!  I designed it for a hat and some shirts.  I will probably discard it though as my avatar in favor of some other original graphic as it  has been suggested it may confuse folks about my identity and that of OO user "AisA".

Ha! I just happened to noticed that myself. Maybe you can sell it to him! <_<

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Technically speaking Betsy, if a complete stranger were to put water on your burning house, that would fit this definition.

That may be correct, and correctly so. Consider the parallel case where Smith wants to destroy a structure in the most efficient way he can, so he torches it, and snotnosed ELF jerk neighbor violates his rights by putting the fire out. The act itself isn't the whole story, and mens rea or its lack could distinguish the helpful neighbor and the jerk neighbor.

Now it can be assumed that you give consent to anyone who would wish to put the fire out that is burning down your house, but assumption of consent seems hazardous.

I don't think it's hazardous, it's simply not guaranteed. As Stephen sez.... sometimes the situation is unclear, sometimes it's clear. I would say that if Smith wanted to destroy his building and lit it without posting announcements like "Please don't extinguish the fire, I really do want to burn this sucker down", then Jones has not committed a wrongful act in putting out the fire. On the other hand, imagine a piles of leaves on Smith's lawn, burning well away from anuthing of interest. Then the reasonable man would conclude the Smith intends to burn the leaves, and if Jones squelches the fire, we have evidence of mens rea to initiate force.

What you can get from this is that the law should come down on initiation of force (Betsy's definition) plus the intend to do wrong. BTW, if you can point to any cases where a person was successfully sued for a helpful act, that would help a larger agenda of mine (I'm looking for researchable cases). Email or whatever info appreciated.

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Then instead of defining an act, you are defining a consequence, and "as interpreted by the person" would lose all objectivity in the definition.

Well, this takes me back to the concept of initiation of force as I understood it to be used by Ayn Rand. Didn't Ayn Rand always use that concept in a negative fashion? And if that is the case, shouldn't any effort to define it also include some description of negativity as it appears that is how it's intended?

Is there such a concept as a positive "initiation of force"?

I am geniunely getting confused now, I'm not being facetious. <_<

However, when I said "as interpreted by the person", I meant in terms of seeking action through the justice system, not as in acting on it range of the moment, short of self defense where life is threatened. Why can't someone determine for themselves whether they were wronged or were victimized by someone else's act?

To go back to the example of Roark and Dominique. Any complaint or prosecution which would have arisen from that would have come from Dominique's determination of whether she wanted to have sex with Roark or not; whether she thought she was a victim or not. Proving the case in an objective court may not pan out, but in rape cases, that's what it comes down to in terms of prosecution. Did the person acted upon believe they were harmed? She wanted to have sex with Roark, therefore there was no crime. Had she not, she would have been a victim. She considered whether the act was harmful or not.

About the avatar: I spoke with AisA and he has no issues about confusion and my avatar. :D

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RationalCop, I think this is getting more complicated than it deserves. First, recall that Betsy defined "force," unqualified by initiated or retaliatory. It is that definition that you questioned, but you did so by describing a particular form of force you had in mind. Second, the "belie[f] they were harmed" cannot be the criteria for the classification of the initiation of force. The key is consent, not an evaluation of the consequences.

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Long version: Physical contact made by one person, or by a physical object within his control, with the person or property of a second person, without the second person's consent.

Technically speaking Betsy, if a complete stranger were to put water on your burning house, that would fit this definition.  I have always thought of the initiation of force in a negative light, but this definition makes it more ambiguous.

Now it can be assumed that you give consent to anyone who would wish to put the fire out that is burning down your house, but assumption of consent seems hazardous.

Perhaps, but necessary.

Usually, proving the initiation of force comes down to consent, since physical contact is usually much easier to prove. Consent is what distinguishes love-making from rape or assault and battery from a boxing match.

As Stephen pointed out, that is determined by the context. When the issue is in doubt, the law relies on the jury's evaluation of what the average "reasonable man" will have consented to in various contexts. I know if my house were burning and a stranger threw water on it without asking me, I would consent to him doing that -- and I'm as reasonable as they come.

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RationalCop, I think this is getting more complicated than it deserves. First, recall that Betsy defined "force," unqualified by initiated or retaliatory.

You are absolutely correct. I'm not sure at which point I conflated Betsy's definition into the defintion sought by the original poster, but that's what I did. :( She was defining only one element of that phrase or concept. My apologies for the confusion. I should have realized that if she was defining the whole concept, that it lacked at least one other element as well (initiation).

Regarding the "evaluation of harmed" vs. "consent" issue, I'm thinking more on concrete examples after which I will follow up.

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Regarding the "evaluation of harmed" vs. "consent" issue, I'm thinking more on concrete examples after which I will follow up.

Okay, I'm with you now Stephen.

Two things kind of hung me up on the actual phrase "initiation of force", (as opposed to just "force");

1) My occupational experiences tend to make very legalistic when defining terms, particularly when defining them in a political sense or when law is involved.

2) Quotes like;

"All the things that make the initiation of physical force evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative." - Ayn Rand, VOS, The Nature of Government, pg. 126. (my bold emphasis)

It appeared to me that when she used that particular phrase, initiation of (physical) force, it was meant in one context, an evil context.

However, I understand what you mean about consent and I capitulate.

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... My occupational experiences tend to make very legalistic when defining terms, particularly when defining them in a political sense or when law is involved.

I know I have said something similar to this before, but it is worth saying again. I am thrilled to know that someone as thoughtful as you -- and as caring about doing right -- is on the job policing. This is very difficult and very dangerous work. I for one salute you and thank you for your service.

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I know I have said something similar to this before, ...

I appreciate your kind words.

There are many others as thoughtful as I, but many are caught up in bad philosophy. One of the things that pleases me about seeing a newer generation of police officers is that many are "thinking types" as I sometime refer to them. While they bring other issues to bear with them, they at least think moreso than feel their way through situations. They question things they are asked to do. This is a double-edged sword sometimes because they occasionally don't know the right time and place, or the appropriate manner in which to present their challenge. Questioning authority has never really been the mainstay in policing circles, which has in the past lead to poorly thought out but entrenched methods of operation.

At any rate, one of the best things about my position is that I can have an impact on the newer guys and how they look at things. On my department and speaking for myself, I consider the platoon sergeant to be the best rank. You are still directly involved with the guys on the street, but the upper echelon tends to give you some credit for not being a moron. :thumbsup:

Enough of my ramblings....

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