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[W]hat is the objective basis of politics?

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

That's the thing under contention. It's not a good way of thinking to begin with normative standards of the subject already formed. Just as the field of ethics includes proper systems of morality as well as improper systems of morality, politics should include anything that is political.

I don't see any other way other than starting with what would be good for me. Why else would a body of knowledge be accumulated? There has to be a sense of how things should be like (and what shouldn't it be like) to be motivated to pursue any inquiry.

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2 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Even if the specialized sciences depend for their discoveries on philosophical knowledge (such as the laws of deduction and induction), the latter is still classified as one of the sciences.

Rand defined philosophy as "the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence".

I'm going by the definition of science where everything has to be demonstrated via experiments.

Perhaps I should ask people what they mean by science first.

What I am arguing is that things like deduction and induction are validated without experiments. Similarly, good governance should be discoverable based on philosophical inquiry.

What I run up against are the areas where experiments have not been done but one can logically come up with the answer.

Edited by Easy Truth
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18 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I'm going by the definition of science where everything has to be demonstrated via experiments

In other words, natural science. The common classification of sciences is into three branches: formal (such as logic, mathematics), natural (chemistry, biology) and social (psychology, economics).

I go with Rand in classifying a science as philosophical if it's realistically needed by everyone regardless of their occupation, interests and other considerations. In the essay The Objectivist Ethics she laments the lack of a scientific ethics and arrives at one by observation of facts, not experiments. 

 

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I don't see any other way other than starting with what would be good for me. Why else would a body of knowledge be accumulated?

But you wouldn't begin by knowing what is good for you in the domain of politics. And at the outset, you wouldn't begin by knowing how and if politics is connected to ethics. Not to say that you don't already have political knowledge, it's that Rand didn't articulate a full sense of the foundation of politics, and a clear primary unit is important. 

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

There has to be a sense of how things should be like (and what shouldn't it be like) to be motivated to pursue any inquiry.

For normative conclusions, yes. When we begin inquiry though, we first need a sense of how things are, and hopefully some benefit to continuing that inquiry. To have an objective inquiry, you need some primary unit of study whose nature doesn't depend on how things should be or the way you would like things to be. 

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Perhaps I should ask people what they mean by science first.

In general English is pretty bad for making fine distinctions about knowledge and thinking.

The German word Wissenschaft is closer to what KP is talking about. It's usually translated as science, but is meant to encompass detailed inquiry into pretty much any academic subject. 

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On 4/14/2022 at 2:55 PM, The Laws of Biology said:

Imagine that a freshman student majoring in Physics at a university approached one of his professors and asked, "Sir, what is the objective basis for Physics?"

That's actually easy, although most professors would feel ambushed by such a question.  Measurement is the objective basis of physics.  Measurement itself can be unpacked into a large topic and has epistemology and objectivity embedded within it as premises, with objectivity being a normative standard in itself.  

The objective basis of objectivity is not quite axiomatic (or perhaps it is, offhand I don't recall)  but it must be closely coupled with the axiomatic concepts of Existence, Identity and Consciousness.

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On 4/14/2022 at 12:27 PM, Eiuol said:

I don't think that the basic political unit can be the family.

I agree because it (the choice of family as basic political unit) already seems to be making a value judgement that reproduction is the most important or organizing principle in political activity.  Reproduction should be encompassed by the theory but it isn't quite fundamental enough in my still evolving opinion.

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On 4/13/2022 at 8:48 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

A few things to keep in mind as pertinent to the discussion, either as limiting or informing factors to consider:

 

1.  Metaphysical status of the "individual" versus metaphysical status of a "society" or "collective" (just a group of those individuals).

2.  The distinction between the metaphysically given and the manmade, more precisely, "free-will" of the individual (the way things are in current or past societies are manmade in the sense that they were/are chosen).

3.  Natural philosophy or special sciences (e.g. economics, social sciences) properly deal with what IS, i.e. description, Ethics and insofar as Politics derives from it, and as a branch of Philosophy, is an investigation into "prescription", what  should one do (Ethics), or what kind of society (its nature, attributes and properties) one should try to bring about to live in (Politics), given the nature of Man, the metaphysical significance of the individual, and in consequence of free-will and Ethics (objective morality).  Politics as a branch of philosophy and not special sciences, although informed with descrive knowledges, is itself prescriptive.

Good points to keep in mind.

1. Rand's definition of value is about the actions of "one" and does not reify a collective into existence.  A good example to follow.  Politics is something that "one" engages in, even if it by definition requires some other "one".

2.  Point taken but should be moot, in that a sufficiently low level conceptualization of what politics is would (I hope) capture the behavior of animals without free will.

3.  Yes, but.   Rand needed an objective definition of value to unlock the field of ethics for her reasoning.  I contend a counterpart is needed for a philosophy of politics.

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On 4/13/2022 at 5:22 PM, Boydstun said:

Has anyone read The Politics of Chimpanzees by Frans de Waal?

I have at last ordered From Leaders to Rulers edited by Jonathan Haas.*

 

Thanks Stephen.  The Chimpanzee book, and other of de Waals' works look fascinating (even beyond my interest in the topic of this thread).  The Haas book looks to be too "in the weeds" specific as a kind of meta-history for my purposes.

Might there be any amateur philosophers comparable to Roy Childs publishing their own speculative essays on politics that you might remember from those days?

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On 4/15/2022 at 10:54 AM, Eiuol said:
On 4/14/2022 at 11:23 PM, Easy Truth said:

I don't see any other way other than starting with what would be good for me. Why else would a body of knowledge be accumulated?

But you wouldn't begin by knowing what is good for you in the domain of politics.

Then how would you begin? You are bound by preferences, predefined preferences and they are at the core of value judgements. It's as if you're proposing that Politics is impersonal, like it shouldn't be about you. Then what is it about?

And as for the smallest political unit, it has to start with 2 people, otherwise one would be talking about internal voices within the same person. (which I suppose one could make the case that some voices within the psyche have more authority than others etc.)

In that case, and I have heard this case made, that politics is the study of "power". The dynamics of power, of its accumulation, of its projections, of defenses against it etc.
 

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8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then how would you begin?

I just told you in the post you quoted. And my first post. I mean, I'm not saying anything much different from the usual Objectivist position about objectivity.

8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

And as for the smallest political unit, it has to start with 2 people

You said that already, so I explained why the smallest unit is not necessarily the primary unit for a subject. 

 

 

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The smallest unit would need be minimum three. Two to interact and one to intervene [govern]. 

Consider two individuals on an island (where a quantity of one would need morality the most.)

With two, "might makes right" has nothing to intervene. With three, a potential for a mightiest to be a purveyor of justice exists. (which is an argument for 'might makes right' on the face of it."

Edited by dream_weaver
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3 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

The smallest unit would need be minimum three. Two to interact and one to intervene [govern]. 

I would agree with you Greg, but I would say that two represents the anarchist type of government. Unless you make a case that it does not qualify as a political system.

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4 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Do you have to have law, or something like it, to have a city?

That's an interesting question, because it seems like law doesn't even occur until there are cities. Of course there are small villages before there are cities, but it seems like the earliest example of law only comes from when the population gets big enough. I'm thinking of how in South America, the advanced civilizations always had cities, just as advanced as anything in Europe. Civilizations like the Inca and the ones leading up to it had strong legal systems and robust cities. Same with some North American civilizations. Thinking of people like the Inuit, they certainly had cultural laws or religious laws, but nothing formal or anything demonstrating what is needed for a functioning city. 

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12 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Anarchy is no political system. It would be harder to make a case that a politic would be formed by three on an island.

 

Anarchy is the name for a society without any formal government, but is certainly a type of political system so long as the people participating are consciously and deliberately deciding that they do not want to be governed by the people around them.  Perhaps you expect that a something described as a system has some degree of formality?  

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A people who are consciously and deliberately deciding they do not want to be governed by the people around them? Sounds organized even if not formalized on the face of it.

And should a roving gang of thugs rise in their midst, what then? 

 

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3 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

A people who are consciously and deliberately deciding they do not want to be governed by the people around them? Sounds organized even if not formalized on the face of it.

And should a roving gang of thugs rise in their midst, what then? 

Some systems are weaker than others.  That doesn't make it not a system.

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9 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

And should a roving gang of thugs rise in their midst, what then? 

Then would the implication be that the objective basis for governance is some form of "safety"?

And then is politics a study of "safeness"?

I'm not looking for a yes or no, but a better formulation.

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

I'm not looking for a yes or no, but a better formulation.

The question wasn't really what fundamental consideration one ought to have regarding politics, but what defines or establishes an objective basis to the entire field of politics. Pretty sure everyone here agrees that individual rights is a proper basis for an effective political system.

On 4/15/2022 at 11:06 PM, Grames said:

I agree because it (the choice of family as basic political unit) already seems to be making a value judgement that reproduction is the most important or organizing principle in political activity

In your opinion so far, what do you think is the basic political unit?

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Here's my take on it.  

The big open ended question of ethics is "What should one do?" Rand starts her talk/essay Philosophy: Who Needs It with a science fiction scenario of an astronaut crash landed on an unknown planet and show how the astronaut needs and in fact acts out some philosophy whatever he does or doesn't do.  She affirms elsewhere that one needs ethics stranded alone on a desert island.  Ethics is about "what should one do?".

To make progress toward a rational answer Rand creates some conceptual handles on the problem.  The question is about action, and action has objects and actors.  Only living things need to act.  Living things need to act to gain certain things to continue to live and act further.  She defines value as "that which one acts to gain or keep", with the "one" encompassing any single living organism not just people.  The objective basis of ethics is values.

Ethics is a necessity for people because of their conceptual faculty and volition, but not for plants or animals.  Ethical philosophy is essentially which values are chosen, what standard is used to choose them,  and how they are ordered and organized.

Politics isn't any different from ethics in its objects, by which I mean politics is still about values.  Values are still that which one acts to gain or keep, never a collective.  Politics differs from ethics in its method: more than one individual is acting toward the same value.  Values are still necessarily selfish/egoistic even when working with others to achieve them.  

The ethical standard of value, selection of values, hierarchy of values, in fact the entire code of values stays the same and doesn't change for politics.  There is no separate political code of values just a political means of obtaining them.

All human action comes within the scope of ethics because all action will have some result gained or kept.  Only action taken with others is within the scope of politics.  Politics is a subset of ethics in this way, and is also conceptually dependent upon ethics via the reuse of the concept of value.

"Acting with others" is sufficiently value-free to qualify as an objective basis to defining the scope of politics.  It encompasses everything from robbery, murder and slavery (the other need not be voluntarily cooperating, this is about your values not the other guy's) to family, trading, and voting.  This definition can apply to animals when they act together because the definition is about acting not philosophizing.  

Economics is "acting with others for material values".  Trading, robbery and slavery are within economics as well as politics and ethics.  

The basic political unit is coordinated action by two or more actors.  

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I mean this talk of a "basic political unit" what does it mean? What problem is it solving? There is a question about the foundation of politics and there is a question about the basic political unit. Are those the same thing? What work is the basic unit doing?

 

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6 hours ago, Grames said:

"Acting with others" is sufficiently value-free to qualify as an objective basis to defining the scope of politics.  It encompasses everything from robbery, murder and slavery (the other need not be voluntarily cooperating, this is about your values not the other guy's) to family, trading, and voting.  This definition can apply to animals when they act together because the definition is about acting not philosophizing.  

Economics is "acting with others for material values".  Trading, robbery and slavery are within economics as well as politics and ethics.  

The basic political unit is coordinated action by two or more actors. 

A few thoughts come to mind

Sometimes the greatest "action" is to simply "agree" not to perform certain actions.  Action "with others" need not be collective positive action but can mostly be collective "negative" action allowing individual human action to proceed in accordance with Ethics of those individuals.

The primary conceptual reality of humans is the individual, and that individual human's existence which is why a "value" is defined on that basis.  We need to be careful in avoiding the concept of a "collective value" in the same way we must avoid concepts such as "collective will", "collective consciousness" or "collective rights".  In a sense, the group can pursue and enshrine what is necessary for individual free-will, individual consciousness, and individual rights, but those are not attributes of the group as a group.  A free society is a value to the individuals of the group, we should always be wary to avoid considering what is purported to be of value to the group "as such".

 

Marxist's love to argue that political systems and policies based on freedom "DO nothing", that they are not systems of anything, and achieve nothing... through the lens of a Marxist, which is the mentality of Force, and Authoritarianism, it is as if upon seeing the absence of any rights violations, in the absence of anyone being forced against their will in the name of some alleged goal, then they simply see that nothing is being done... it is as if they need to see the sacrifice of or by someone, to see any value.

 

"Hands off"... FREEDOM itself IS a PROFOUND and necessary value for individual human flourishing.... it is the means by which people flourish, and as such it is one of the goals of a society, pursued "in trust" on behalf of everyone.  Being one of the GOALS of society the MEANS much be limited thereby.

 

Refraining from trampling on your rights, your life?...Doing "nothing" indeed.

 

A collectivist simply does not get it, right down to the root of what it means to be human... not by a long shot.

Just a few thoughts.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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