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Initiation of the Use of Physical Force

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It is wrong to initiate the use of physical force against another person. It is wrong to approach some random fellow and punch him in the face. But the injunction applies much more broadly. It is an injunction not only against direct physical assault but also against theft, fraud, and breach of contract. Let us see how that can be.

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“Physical force means what it does in physics.” Well, no. The context of moral proscriptions against initiating the use of force person-to-person is a teleological context. Force there means more than what it means in physics. The physics of force in a teleological context is part of the physical story, a necessary part, but not the whole of its physical character. Force against life and its specific features and causal organization is more than time rate of change in momentum. Physical force within which the role and character of thought and choice enter into the moral proscription against initiation of force is physical force specifically as it disrupts physical life processes in the human, social case.

 

I expect you agree.

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“Physical force means what it does in physics.” Well, no.

I won't argue about definitions. You can define physical force to mean a cupcake, if you want to.

 

But the reason why Ayn Rand made it a point to say "physical force" rather than just force is precisely to make it clear that she meant that the only way to violate rights is through the use (or credible threat of use) of the things physics defines as "force".

She wasn't attempting to define force in a different context. She was attempting to describe the connection between Ethics and the material world. Specifically, she described the connection between individuals rights (a concept defined in Ethics) and force (a concept defined in physics).

Force there means more than what it means in physics.

Ok, then give an example of something that is "physical force" in the context of Ethics, but isn't force in physics.
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Following this thread.

 

Stephen Boydstun is correct that physical force in the context of individual rights means more than it does in physics.  Defeating the free will of a person is the necessary context that makes the application of physical force immoral.

 

Of course, initiation is also a criterion.  The use of physical force in self defense is always moral.

Edited by Grames
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This is certainly one of those concepts given to semantic confusion and failure to integrate the entire context.

 

If I pick an orange from my neighbor's tree (it has a lot of them so what could it hurt) and I didn't get permission, and the tree was next to the sidewalk so I could just grab one as I walked by... is this "initiating physical force"? Yes, it is. It's not beating somebody up with your fists or brandishing a weapon, but in this context it is absolutely "initiating physical force".

 

It's important, however, to understand that no average lay-person, police officer, etc. etc. would not use the term this way. It's certainly a valid concept and useful in the context of certain philosophical principles, but it's important to be careful of the context. Many a "talking past each other" conversations happen because a slight misalignment of context, and this particular term is a common culprit.

 

(On that note, introducing physics, in my opinion, makes this confusion more pronounced...)

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Following this thread.

 

Stephen Boydstun is correct that physical force in the context of individual rights means more than it does in physics.  Defeating the free will of a person is the necessary context that makes the application of physical force immoral.

 

Of course, initiation is also a criterion.  The use of physical force in self defense is always moral.

Same question to you too, then: give an example of something that is "physical force" in the context of Ethics, but isn't force in physics.

[edit]I might be misunderstanding you two. I read "means more" to mean "it's a wider category". You could be saying "has more meaning" (as in "it's a narrower category").

In that case, my question is pointless. But I still disagree with what you're saying. In Ethics, a violation of rights isn't the equivalent of "physical force". It's the equivalent of "using physical force AGAINST a person", where the "AGAINST a person" part is actually defined in terms of individual rights (the logical connection between violation of rights and physical force is that the latter is a necessary condition of the former, not any kind of equivalence).

But, again: the physical force Rand is talking about is the same exact concept defined in physics.

Edited by Nicky
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This is certainly one of those concepts given to semantic confusion and failure to integrate the entire context.

 

If I pick an orange from my neighbor's tree (it has a lot of them so what could it hurt) and I didn't get permission, and the tree was next to the sidewalk so I could just grab one as I walked by... is this "initiating physical force"? Yes, it is. It's not beating somebody up with your fists or brandishing a weapon, but in this context it is absolutely "initiating physical force".

 

It's important, however, to understand that no average lay-person, police officer, etc. etc. would not use the term this way.

I think any layperson who has studied three months worth of middle school Physics would describe taking an apple off a tree as the use of physical force. Any tree: Ethics and Politics have nothing to do with it, it's physics: to move an apple, you use force.

If it's the neighbor's tree, then you're using the physical force AGAINST the neighbor.

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I think any layperson who has studied three months worth of middle school Physics would describe taking an apple off a tree as the use of physical force. Any tree: Ethics and Politics have nothing to do with it, it's physics: to move an apple, you use force.

If it's the neighbor's tree, then you're using the physical force AGAINST the neighbor.

 

 

Well, yeah. My point exactly, but one notch closer in context: some people get "use of force" in the moral/political context, but a more nuanced usage of the term escapes them.

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If individual rights are the physical manifestation of a rational morality, the initiation of force is not only illegal, but immoral. To my mind these rights are the last line of defence - the bare minimum - of a rationally functioning society. But one cannot (nor should) legislate against immoral behaviour. Such immorality encompasses an array of acts, from lying about, or to, a person - to so-called "hate speech" - to manipulating human, emotional vulnerabilities to gain power over them. For want of a better term, I call this 'psychological force'. Anything in fact, that impedes or interposes in the volitional outcome (the 'justice in reality') of another individual. "Force" has elements more subtle than the physical alone.

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This thread, and the one on Prof. McCaskey's site, is a perfect example of how when one assumes a concept without the contextual knowledge of its generative context (such as the ontological issues debated in physics over the introduction and meaning of force ) it can influence the philosophical/broader application of those concepts...... How would Hertz answer this question as opposed to Boscovich? What you don't know can hurt you!

Edited by Plasmatic
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If individual rights are the physical manifestation of a rational morality, the initiation of force is not only illegal, but immoral. To my mind these rights are the last line of defence - the bare minimum - of a rationally functioning society. But one cannot (nor should) legislate against immoral behaviour. Such immorality encompasses an array of acts, from lying about, or to, a person - to so-called "hate speech" - to manipulating human, emotional vulnerabilities to gain power over them. For want of a better term, I call this 'psychological force'. Anything in fact, that impedes or interposes in the volitional outcome (the 'justice in reality') of another individual. "Force" has elements more subtle than the physical alone.

This is exactly correct.  There are plenty of actions and situations that can be morally evaluated and analyzed on the basis of rights, but are impossible to evaluate in a legal context.  Examples are: how one goes about juggling multiple girlfriends, courtesy, gossip.

 

What the redundant phrase "physical force" does is make objective which rights can be legally protected, separating them from the incidents of hurt feelings which are necessarily subjective.

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