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[W]hat is the objective basis of politics?

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Grames,

I think you are right to think of the "basic political unit" as "coordinated action by two or more actors." 

Rand had asked and answered why would one alone on a deserted island need morality. Many would wrongly answer that such a person would not need morality in that situation because morality pertains most basically to how to treat others.

Supposing Rand's question and answer sound, we can ask further whether one on a deserted island would need the concept of rights. No. He or she would not. It is only in the situation you have for "basic political unit" that the concept of rights is needed.

Perhaps "basic political unit" could be identifying the most elementary situation which make rights and politics needed conceptions and areas of thought.

However, the Rand question and answer has a falsity to it. No human is alive and has potential for continued life without having been not alone in the past, in birth and earliest childhood. To think of a solitary human as somehow the home base for thinking about the most elementary nature of morality is as tilted as thinking that morality is only about social relations. 

Rand inverted the concept of justice and of honesty in order to make them at root purely individual egoist virtues in an easy way. That is, her definitions of them fail to notice that they are firstly concepts for social contexts and only reflectively and analogically virtues such as are needed by a solitary person on a deserted island. 

"Coordinated action by two or more actors" may be the fundamental setup for there being rights, justice, and honesty as pertinent moral concepts and the distinctively moral concepts arising together with the political in a broad sense. 

Edited by Boydstun
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I see at least three concepts of politics here.

The broadest, advocated by Grames and Boydstun, covers action coordinated among different individuals.  This requires at least two individuals.  "Coordination" here may be voluntary on the part of each individual or may be imposed by someone against someone else's will, as in rape and dictatorship.

One somewhat narrower, advocated by Dream_Weaver, covers situations in which there is at least a potential for a party to interfere with, or govern, coordination between other parties.  This requires at least three individuals.

The narrowest of the three, advocated by Eiuol, refers to cities in an Aristotelian sense and to law.  This requires considerably more people.

 

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Eiuol's approach raises the question, what are cities and law, do we need them, and why?  Can we answer this without referring to the other two approaches?

All three approaches raise the question, what is coordination, do we need it, and why?

(Here I am borrowing some wording from what Ayn Rand said about values.)

 

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2 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

I see at least three concepts of politics here.

The broadest, advocated by Grames and Boydstun, covers action coordinated among different individuals.  This requires at least two individuals.  "Coordination" here may be voluntary on the part of each individual or may be imposed by someone against someone else's will, as in rape and dictatorship.

One somewhat narrower, advocated by Dream_Weaver, covers situations in which there is at least a potential for a party to interfere with, or govern, coordination between other parties.  This requires at least three individuals.

The narrowest of the three, advocated by Eiuol, refers to cities in an Aristotelian sense and to law.  This requires considerably more people.

 

Perhaps it is the situation noted by Dream Weaver, encompassing and the one Eiuol talked of, that the thing called metanorms in the book Norms of Liberty have their advent. Certainly game theory, from the two-player (ab) to n-player, is pertinent for the enhancement of mutually advantageous coordination at all levels.

Edited by Boydstun
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NOL doesn't have anything to say about a "basic political unit," though. It certainly doesn't try to put a number on it (like saying two or more, of three or more.) Obviously you do need two or more, but just two or even three isn't a political community. There, the concept of a polis, or political community is the proper object of political theorizing. It needs to be sufficiently large that law and customs have a need to be institutionalized.

If there is anything like a "basic political unit," it would be the individual. The argument for this is the same as the argument for individual substances being the most real things. Societies or communities aren't substances in themselves, but are composed of substances. That you would need a "basic political unit," though isn't clear to me. The political community is composed of individuals and the political community is for the happiness of the individuals composing it.

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16 hours ago, 2046 said:

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?

Proper definitions are important for clear thinking.  For politics as philosophy the genus we already knew as human action, a.k.a. ethics.  What I seek to add is an objective differentia.   The definition I propose makes clear that politics is much broader than government or power relations, and has interesting consequences for some of the Objectivist virtues as Stephen Boydstun points out.  There is also the original post at the head of the thread posing the problem in terms of objectivity.

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11 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Rand inverted the concept of justice and of honesty in order to make them at root purely individual egoist virtues in an easy way. That is, her definitions of them fail to notice that they are firstly concepts for social contexts and only reflectively and analogically virtues such as are needed by a solitary person on a deserted island. 

"Coordinated action by two or more actors" may be the fundamental setup for there being rights, justice, and honesty as pertinent moral concepts and the distinctively moral concepts arising together with the political in a broad sense. 

Is lying and learning to lie an inherently political action, requiring the presence of another person and mind? I think so now.  Would a hypothetic child that somehow had language and the ability to think but never had the opportunity to learn about lying to others or be lied to by others have any comprehension of or use for the virtue of honesty?  I think not.

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17 hours ago, Grames said:

Is lying and learning to lie an inherently political action, requiring the presence of another person and mind?

Then is "an inherent political action" an interaction as in  a human interaction?

On 4/19/2022 at 4:56 AM, Boydstun said:

I think you are right to think of the "basic political unit" as "coordinated action by two or more actors." 

It seems it has to be a "rules based" agreement of some sort.

21 hours ago, 2046 said:

If there is anything like a "basic political unit," it would be the individual.

The problem I run into is "An individual makes up a society", but "an individual is not a society". 2 or more people makes up a society and also is a society. Now is a political entity a subspecies of society?

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20 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then is "an inherent political action" an interaction as in  a human interaction?

It seems it has to be a "rules based" agreement of some sort.

The problem I run into is "An individual makes up a society", but "an individual is not a society". 2 or more people makes up a society and also is a society. Now is a political entity a subspecies of society?

Non-human actors are encompassed by the term "actors", so it doesn't have to be a human interaction.   The coordination of that action is significant, so there are principles and rules involved but not necessarily agreement as much political action is informal and to some degree involuntary such as in one's assigned place in a social pecking order.  Social hierarchies are found in most social species.  Some political principles of social hierarchies can inferred by studying non-human social species, such as in The Politics of Chimpanzees by Frans de Waal.

Politics is a branch of philosophy but 'society' is the single word used as a noun to refer to several individuals as a political unit.  Society is defined as "an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity" but also has a usage referring to the whole "aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community."   "Political entity" and "society" are synonyms or nearly so, but "society" has the advantage of being a word and not a noun phrase.

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The lexicon offers the following under politics:

Quote

Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology and ethics—on a theory of man’s nature and of man’s relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice.

For government, the citation from Galt's Speech would lend itself well to mine within.

Quote

The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man’s deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his.

 

Edited by dream_weaver
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On 4/21/2022 at 4:47 PM, Doug Morris said:

If we are to have an objective context for Objectivist political theory, we probably need both an objective definition of politics and an objective definition of government.

I agree.  Rand gives a good starting point for an objective definition.   This presumes a definition for institution.

A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.

“The Nature of Government,”
The Virtue of Selfishness, 107

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Posted (edited)

Continuing to work things out, lets consider virtues.  From the Lexicon": 

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and keep, “virtue” is the action by which one gains and keeps it.

Galt’s Speech,
For the New Intellectual, 121

and then further:  

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

Galt’s Speech,
For the New Intellectual, 128

The virtues most directly founded in ethics and not requiring others as objects of the virtuous action are rationality, productiveness, and pride.  The other virtues are essentially political virtues.  Independence is not a virtue unless there is possibility of being dependent, which requires some other person.  Honesty is not a virtue unless there is a possibility of deception, which requires some other person to be deceived.  Justice is not a virtue unless there is possibility of being unjust to some other person.  Once one has learned dishonesty or unjustness they can be turned on oneself, but they must be first learned from others. 

Comments?

edit:  I forgot integrity.  Upon further consideration it seems redundant.  It seems to be a meta-virtue, a reminder to be virtuous.

Edited by Grames
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I mean if we're going by Rand's honesty, that isn't even what she says honesty is. The pivotal feature of Rand's egoistic honesty versus the conventional account is one's relationship to facts, not to the beliefs of others. 

Independence can be contrasted with dependency, but the moral 'pull' of independence comes from the responsibility one has to oneself.

Justice, in common parlance we often speak of resiliency in terms of not being unfair to too harsh or unjust to oneself. 

Rationality is often a cooperative enterprise and is inherently connected with language use, productivity without others to trade with is impossible, and pride often deals with commitment to one's moral conduct in the face of criticism or disapproval from others, as well as giving and receiving honor from others.

Integrity deals with congruence with one's words and behavior, which far from being a redundancy with "be virtuous" is a sharpening of the focus on something that comes up almost every day in life.

There are a lot more aspects to the virtues from different angles than are accounted for here. It's not easy to just put ones "founded in ethics" over in this basket, or "requiring others" in that basket. If by ethics we mean anything pertaining to our character, then they are all for that. If living well requires others, then they are all for that as well. Rather it seems they all interpenetrate in both individualizing and social ways (as one would expect who knows what logikon and politikon point towards.) We are left asking again, "what was the need for this distinction?" "What problem is it solving?" We may as well divide the virtues into those with even amount of letters and those with odd, or those over six letters long and those under. 

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1 hour ago, Doug Morris said:

No, you still must produce what you need.

You must be honest for yourself, you must be rational for yourself, etc. All of these have the "for yourself" elements. But being in a Robinson Crusoe type scenario isn't a stable pattern of flourishing, the vast bulk productivity takes place in society and with friendships and relationships and trade is paramount.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

But being in a Robinson Crusoe type scenario isn't a stable pattern of flourishing, the vast bulk productivity takes place in society and with friendships and relationships and trade is paramount.

You may be in a situation that is both unstable and unusual, but you still have to do the best you can.

 

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13 hours ago, 2046 said:

I mean if we're going by Rand's honesty, that isn't even what she says honesty is. The pivotal feature of Rand's egoistic honesty versus the conventional account is one's relationship to facts, not to the beliefs of others.

2046, honesty being "one's relationship to facts" is broad enough to encompass simply not being wrong about one's conclusions.  But one can hold a wrong conclusion for any number of reasons that do not involve honesty or dishonesty or evasion.  Being uninformed, making a hasty generalization, making a value judgement on how to spend one's time, methodological errors in calculating - all of those are cured by the commitment to being rational over time which includes rejecting contradictions as one becomes aware of them and always expanding one's knowledge.  Honesty does not prevent error or remedy it.

The object of actions of honesty or dishonesty is other minds, and presentations or misrepresentations of facts are means to that end.  The objects of the virtuous actions of honesty are other minds, and it is on that basis (the object of the action) that distinguishes honesty from rationality.  The object of actions of rationality is existence/reality.

For our convenient reference the appropriate Rand quote on honesty is copied below:

Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud—that an attempt to gain a value by deceiving the mind of others is an act of raising your victims to a position higher than reality, where you become a pawn of their blindness, a slave of their non-thinking and their evasions, while their intelligence, their rationality, their perceptiveness become the enemies you have to dread and flee—that you do not care to live as a dependent, least of all a dependent on the stupidity of others, or as a fool whose source of values is the fools he succeeds in fooling—that honesty is not a social duty, not a sacrifice for the sake of others, but the most profoundly selfish virtue man can practice: his refusal to sacrifice the reality of his own existence to the deluded consciousness of others.

Galt’s Speech,
For the New Intellectual, 129

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It is broad, but the relationship in the relevant sense is of "not faking reality in any manner" (VOS 28 my emphasis), and "loyalty to reality" (Journals 648.) The import of loyalty and not faking carries more weight more than just correspondence, but is about seeking correspondence in appropriate ways. That does not require others to apply.

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2046, is there an inappropriate way to seek correspondence with reality?  What is referent of that idea?

I continue to hold that distinguishing between the objects of the virtuous actions is helpful.

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1 hour ago, Grames said:

2046, is there an inappropriate way to seek correspondence with reality?  What is referent of that idea?

I continue to hold that distinguishing between the objects of the virtuous actions is helpful.

The concept to be placed opposite is seeking correspondence in the appropriate ways as opposed to just having correspondence. I do think there is a concept of seeking correspondence (a long winded way of saying seeking truth) in inappropriate ways. An example might be phlogiston, a substance thought to be released during combustion. They early chemists really were trying to understand something, had various reasons for why they postulated this, and began to abandon the concept after it became clear that there was no such thing and the reasons were methodically bad.

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14 hours ago, 2046 said:

That is not really what the virtues are for, so it sounds like you're talking about something different right now.

The virtues are for living on earth.  A desert island is part of earth.

From the Ayn Rand lexicon:

You who prattle that morality is social and that man would need no morality on a desert island—it is on a desert island that he would need it most.

 

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19 hours ago, 2046 said:

The concept to be placed opposite is seeking correspondence in the appropriate ways as opposed to just having correspondence. I do think there is a concept of seeking correspondence (a long winded way of saying seeking truth) in inappropriate ways. An example might be phlogiston, a substance thought to be released during combustion. They early chemists really were trying to understand something, had various reasons for why they postulated this, and began to abandon the concept after it became clear that there was no such thing and the reasons were methodically bad.

2046, thank you for the example.  Phlogiston is exactly the kind of theory that was created by early scientists trying to apply rationality, and discarded by later scientists also trying to be rational but with more knowledge.  The degree of correspondence or lack of correspondence of this theory to reality had little to do with honesty or dishonesty.  "Seeking correspondence in the appropriate way" means, in my understanding, applying reason to the best of one's ability but is not a  guarantee of being correct.  From the reverse perspective, being wrong is not proof of irrationality or dishonesty or inappropriateness.

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In this view, I'm saying honesty is a principled commitment to never distort, fake, evade, misrepresent, or pretend things are other than what they are. I think that's a pretty straightforward reading of what Rand is saying in both the fiction and the non. Call it the knowledge acquisition view of honesty, or aspect of honesty, as opposed to the conventional "don't deceive others" view or aspect.

A commonplace example might be a person in a relationship that feels bad vibes or more distant behavior from their partner that has been building for a while, but doesn't investigate its source and keeps pretending everything is fine. 

This has nothing to do with the fact that the person may not actually achieve knowledge even after discharge of one's epistemic obligations. But neither does it have to do with refusing to deceive deceiving others. It has more to do with practicing self-deception. The person isn't really seeking correspondence with reality, or if they are, only up to a point. As a result, the ability to acquire knowledge about the relationship or why the person feels a nagging anxiety will be hindered; their wellbeing and happiness will be hindered.

Keep in mind what we're discussing here: whether honesty is just about "not deceiving others" or whether it is an intellectual virtue about one's own relationship towards facts in guiding one's own knowledge acquisition that derives its status as a virtue from the value of knowledge to the virtuous agent. This personal aspect of honesty as I'm highlighting it does not utilize the usual type of arguments about not about damaging reputation or relationships with others or about ill-gotten gains, not being able to get away with it, or any of the social reprocussions, but about making sure your own mind is active and you're not bullshitting yourself ("the unreal can have no value.")

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